A rustic, sleepy village a quick trip from San Francisco, Half Moon Bay comes alive with fruit and veggie festivals, big wave surfers and lots and lots of golf. It’s an ideal getaway from The City and a family vacation where the kids can play in the sand and pick pumpkins in the same day.
Atmosphere: Many people stay in Half Moon Bay for a wedding at the Ritz-Carlton or to watch big wave surfers tempt fate at Mavericks, a spot north of the harbor.
Parking and Entrance: Head to Half Moon Bay State Beach via the Francis Beach entrance at the end of Kelly Avenue. There you’ll find the visitor center, bathrooms and a campground. Park in the day use lot or for free on Kelly Avenue (look out for no-parking signs). You’ll need to walk downhill in between sand dunes to access the narrow beach.
Nice Walks and Views: Take the stroller along the Coastside Trail that runs from the state beach to Pillar Point Harbor. It’s back from the ocean (and the low bluff) so it’s perfect to let your toddler get some exercise. Just watch out for bikes!
Activities for Toddlers: The ocean is cold all year here, so it’s unlikely your toddler will be doing much wading. However, he’ll be enthralled by the fisherman hauling their catch off boats in the harbor, then selling live fish right from the dock.
Bathrooms: Use the bathrooms just off the parking lot at Francis Beach or sneak into the campground with a few quarters for a hot shower.
Perks for Parents: Surfers and thrill-seekers will get a rush watching big wave surfers at Mavericks, where winter swells can create waves up to 80 ft. high. An invitation-only contest is held each winter, but its time and date are announced only 24 hours in advance.Even if you do head over there, it requires a mile hike up a hill to the bluff, and is not exactly a kid-friendly event.
Where to Stay with Kids: Half Moon Bay is famous for the Ritz-Carlton and romantic bed and breakfasts on Main Street; with a baby or toddler, though, you may want to try Oceano Hotel and Spa as a good compromise between luxury and family-friendly amenities. While the hotel itself is in Pillar Point Harbor, the beach is within walking distance and kitchenettes are available. (280 Capistrano Rd.)
Baby-friendly Restaurants: Milk-intolerant babies (or their parents) will love the lactose-free clam chowder at Barbara’s Fish Trap, a touristy seafood restaurant also in the harbor.
(281 Capistrano Rd.)
What Else to Do: Stay during the right time of year to catch the Art and Pumpkin Festival, stroll through fields of Christmas trees or flowers, or let the others play golf while you get your caffeine fix on Main Street.