Think Half Moon Bay, and you likely think pumpkins, but it’s so much more. Winter is a special time of year along this part of the coast. It’s cool and typically clear, making it a perfect time to day trip from San Jose. Just be sure to bring a jacket—it’s beautiful, but usually chilly.
Take the leisurely drive from San Jose up Highway 280 North to Highway 92 West, and you’ll soon find yourself winding your way over the Santa Cruz Mountains and down through the coastal farm valley that leads into Half Moon Bay. As you get close, watch for the famous horse at Lemos Farm, painted to reflect the changing seasons or holidays. You never know what it will be wearing next.
A great place to begin your day is at Raman’s Chai, arguably the best in the Bay Area. Order the original and don’t ask to change anything. Raman knows what he is doing. While sipping on the comfort of cardamom and honey, jump onto Highway 1 North to Pillar Point Harbor, where Dungeness crab season would normally be in full swing at this time. Even with the season postponed because of harmful algae blooms, though, you can still stroll the wharf and feel the bracing coolness of winter along the coast.
There are several restaurants around Pillar Point Harbor that serve great chowder and other fare, and it’s still fun to see the fishermen and boats in action. Mavericks Surf Shop is also right there at Johnson Pier. Learn who Jeff Clark is and get a T-shirt to prove it!
Just up the street, stop at Half Moon Bay Brewing Company for fish tacos and pale ale. Or indulge in fried artichoke hearts as you sit outside at one of the fire pits and listen to conversations take place among locals and tourists. After a bit of relaxing, head back south about five miles down Highway 1 to take a walk along Poplar Beach, or follow the cliffs. The dramatic views and scenic horizons can bring a sense of calm to anyone suffering from too much Valley hustle.
After soaking in the natural beauty of the coastline, head to Main Street for some retail therapy. A collection of quaint shops, including the Half Moon Bay Wine and Cheese shop, await your perusing. The shop owner is T. J. Rodgers (founder of Cypress Semiconductor), who’s also the owner and winemaker for Clos de la Tech, a winery known for its Pinot Noir. At Rodgers’s shop, you’ll also find a nice selection of wines from vintners of the Santa Cruz Mountains as well as other California regions. And the tasting bar provides a way to sip and discover a new varietal or producer before buying a bottle.
No trip to Half Moon Bay is complete without a stop for sushi at Sushi Main Street (actually located on Mill Street), which has one of the most unique and beautiful settings you’ll find along the coast. It’s a feast for all your senses. Order whatever looks appealing—it’s all excellent.
If you are in the mood for a sandwich instead, stand in line with the locals at the San Benito House Deli. They make their own old-world-style bread to create enormous, delectable feasts for the hands (turkey on olive-walnut bread is this writer’s go-to). Enjoy it outside on the patio, where you’ll often find a fire pit burning and a musician playing.
Half Moon Bay is a tranquil, incredibly scenic coastal destination that’s easy to get to, provides respite from the buzz of Silicon Valley, and offers great food and drink. Head there once, and you’ll be making plans for your next trip back. And when you do come back, consider hiking at McNee Ranch, just north of town—afterward, you might have to stop by the Brewing Company again to quench your thirst with another pint of pale ale!
Places to Visit in Half Moon Bay
Written by Janikke Klem
Photography by Daniel Garcia
Article originally appeared in Issue 7.5 Serve