Half Moon Bay Beaches

Half Moon Bay Beach
Half Moon Bay Beach. jorkshire/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

At Half Moon Bay State Beach, you get three beaches in one park. These fun beaches to visit are all around the town of Half Moon Bay: Francis Beach, Venice Beach and Dunes Beach. Each beach has a separate parking area and different amenities.

The Half Moon Bay coastline is dramatic, and all three of the beaches are beautiful. They're also protected and have some restrictions. That's because we humans share them with a tiny, endangered bird: the western snowy plover. To survive, the adorable little bird needs everyone's help. Leave your dogs at home or keep them on a leash, so they don't disturb the nests. Obey all signs that ask you to stay away and respect the rules about bonfires.

All of the beaches are also subject to seasonal fog that's so common it has a name: June Gloom. It can also happen in May and July and once in a while turns August into Fogust. If you're planning to go during those months, use the June Gloom guide to find out more.

What is There to Do at Half Moon Bay State Beach?

You can walk, run or ride bikes on the three-mile-long Coastside Trail. It connects the three beaches and continues north to Pillar Point Harbor. 

Fishing is also popular at Half Moon Bay. You may catch rockfish or striped perch.

Surfing conditions vary but can include record-breaking monster waves offshore that are best left to the professionals. If you want to go surfing, check the surf report here.

Swimming is not a good idea around Half Moon Bay. There are no lifeguard stations, and going into the water could kill you. The Half Moon Bay State Beach website warns: "The ocean water is very cold year round. Even a short swim can cause cramps or hypothermia (a life-threatening condition which occurs when your body temperature drops below normal). In addition, strong rip currents can pull even the most experienced swimmers off shore."

Half Moon Bay Events

  • It's not held at the beach, but the annual Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival brings so many visitors that the roads get gridlocked, making the first weekend of October an inconvenient time to go to the beach.
  • The annual Mavericks surf contest is held nearby, but the big waves are so far from the shore that you won't see anything from the beach. Get more information here.

What You Need to Know Before You Go to Half Moon Bay State Beach

Because the Half Moon Bay State Beaches are really three beaches in one, it can get a little confusing. Unless a specific beach is mentioned below, these tips apply to all three of them.

  • All beaches charge a state park entrance fee to get in, which includes parking.
  • If it has rained recently, you may want to check the water quality in case runoff has made the beaches unsafe. See current conditions here.
  • No beach fires are allowed on any of the beaches (for the sake of the plovers)
  • Dogs are allowed in the campground and day-use picnic area only, but not on the beaches. They must be on a leash.
  • No food is available at any of the beaches, but there are plenty of places to eat in the town of Half Moon Bay.
  • The park has one all-terrain beach wheelchair with balloon tires which let it go on the beach without sinking into the sand. It's available at no cost and can be checked out at the Francis Beach entrance.

Francis Beach

  • Francis Beach has a campground with 52 sites. Some are suitable for tent camping. Others can accommodate trailers and RVs. 
  • The campground doesn't have hookups, but it does have a dump station and coin-operated showers

Venice Beach

  • Venice Beach has flush toilets and outside showers

Dunes Beach

  • The name might make you guess that there are sand dunes at this beach and you would be right. You'll take a steep sandy trail through them to reach the beach
  • Restrooms are available at the parking lot

How to Get to Half Moon Bay State Beaches

Half Moon Bay State Beaches Website

The beaches are west of California Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay. Exit at:

  • Kelly Avenue for Francis Beach
  • Venice Boulevard for (you guessed it) Venice Beach
  • Young Avenue for Dunes Beach