8 Things To Do In Half Moon Bay

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I have taken several road cruises to Half Moon Bay, but I never seem to exhaust the things to do in this charming coastal city.

Based on my past excursions, I’ve rounded up the top 8 things to do in Half Moon Bay.

My selection suits everyone whether you’re traveling alone, with your partner, or with the little ones.

1. Explore the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

The Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is 15 minutes north of Half Moon Bay and is the most visited park in San Mateo County.

It has one of the largest densities of marine life on the Pacific Coast, besides its impeccable geology with the siltstone in the tide pools dating back 3-7 million years ago.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Luckily, our visit coincided with a full moon. The tide pools’ water levels were low and teeming with sea stars, abalone, seaweeds, urchins, crabs, and limpets.

We took turns naming these creatures, with our little son taking the crown after identifying a nudibranch, a type of sea slug.

Our premium subscription to the National Geographic Channel is paying off.

Away from the water, we took a scenic stroll on the Dardanelle Trail (leashed dogs are allowed) to explore Cypress Grove. We spotted the harbor seals lazing around on the beach and the shorebirds on the horizon.

Also, our visit coincided with the whale migration season.

As such, we could see the occasional spouting of the California gray whales was visible across the Pacific.

2. Tour the Lemos Farm

Lemos Farm is Half Moon Bay’s farm version of Disneyworld off San Mateo Road.

The amusement park features vibrant farm themes and the boys had a time of their lives.

We took the $25 Gold Kid’s Pass that gave them unlimited access to:

  • Train Rides – a quaint train adventure of the vast and scenic ranch
  • Hay Rides – 10-minute ride onboard the largest hay truck on the HMB coast
  • Car Barn Rides – a memorable self-drive for kids around a circuit course
  • Pony rides – the circle ring was more fun than the hand-led ride
  • Farm Slide – an enormous, inflatable slide inside a barn
  • Barn Jumpers – separate jumpers for kids 2-4 and 5-8 years
  • Haunted house – scary and non-scary versions to cater for
  • The Farm Dig Zone – the kids operate a hydraulic digging machine with a touch of a button
  • Petting Zoo – fun and educational feeding of baby goats, sheep, pigs, and bunnies

Proudly young at heart, I couldn’t sit out on the goat yoga. It was more fun and refreshing than I thought.

We had lunch on-site (the Barn Deli), and their 16-slice family pizza was so delicious that we ordered a second as the kids kept coming back for more.

From our experience, don’t make any other plans when visiting Lemos Farm.

The kids had so much fun at the Pumpkin Patch Festival that they slept a few minutes after we hit the road. We had to reschedule our sunset harbor tour for the next day.

3. Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park

Experience the unrivaled beauty of Half Moon Bay coastline as the blue sky and the Pacific stretch into the horizon to create a magnificent backdrop.

On the advice of one of the locals, we stayed till dusk to witness one of the most breathtaking sunset views.

Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park
Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park

As if the picturesque views weren’t enough, we were able to catch a glimpse of the migrating whales, seals, and dolphins dancing in the waves.

We settled at one of the picnic spots to enjoy the salty breezes as the kids ran around and built sand castles at the adjacent small public beach.

While the 115-foot Pigeon Point Lighthouse is closed off to the public, an onsite visitor center showcases exhibits and the history of one of America’s tallest and oldest lighthouses.

On our next visit we plan to stay in the old lighthouse staff quarters that are now beautiful retro lodges.

4. Hike the California Coastal Trail

The Coastal Trail explores the rugged landscapes of Half Moon Bay and weaves through the majestic cypress and eucalyptus rainforests down to the stunning coastline and beaches.

California Coastal Trail
California Coastal Trail

A round trip takes under two hours; however, the elevation is mild and the terrain manageable making it suitable for all ages.

Here are some of the reasons why we chose this trail:

  • Kid and stroller-friendly
  • Dogs allowed but must be on a leash
  • Partially paved with very little mud
  • Convenient beach access
  • Wheelchair accessibility
  • Moderate difficulty rating

We opted to walk in order to take in the picturesque coastal views rather than the biking or horse riding tours.

Eventually, it was the right choice since a long-legged, long-eared jackrabbit crossed our path, sending the white-crowned sparrows into a frenzy.

We were also able to photograph some endemic birds near the Ritz Carlton golf course.

5. Go Surfing at Mavericks Beach

The Mavericks is hands down the best surf spot in Half Moon Bay.

An underwater rock ledge near the shore acts as a ramp propelling incoming waves up to 60 feet.

Seasoned surfers worldwide fly in during winter storms to test its monstrous waves and partake in the annual surfing competition.

Mavericks Beach
Mavericks Beach

Mavericks Beach rarely gets crowded (except for contests), making it conducive for all surfers, with several establishments offering surfing classes for beginners, including kids.

If you want to avoid getting wet, stroll the beach or set up a picnic as you watch surfing enthusiasts test the waves. 

The water is freezing cold, so ensure you carry the proper gear or get one from the many surf shops that populate the beach.

If you are new to Mavericks, engage the friendly shop attendants to understand better where and when to catch the big waves.

6. Bird-Watching at the Pescadero Marsh Preserve

The Preserve is part of the Pescadero State Beach and the largest tidal wetland in Half Moon Bay.

It boasts an abundance of unique flora and fauna due to its diverse habitats ranging from dense riparian woods to freshwater marshes and coastal scrubs.

Pescadero Marsh Preserve Bird-Watching
Pescadero Marsh Preserve

As avid birders, this trip was long overdue and was awestruck by the sheer number of endemic birds surrounding the confluence of the Butano and Pescadero Creeks.

We also spotted a few migratory birds, the Eurasian widgeon, great blue herons, and Townsend’s warblers.

Based on our day-long excursion, some of the best bird-watching spots were:

  • Sequoia Audubon Trail
  • The lagoon at the confluence of the creeks
  • Round Hill Trail alongside the banks of Pescadero Creek
  • North Marsh Observation Point

Besides the birds, we struck gold with a rare sighting of the endangered Francisco garter snake and California red-legged in the marshes.

7. Discover the Dinosaurs of Spanish Town

Catch Highway 92 and cruise east of downtown Half Moon Bay, and you’ll find yourself in a ‘prehistoric’ town with giant dinosaur sculptures.

The children loved it, and we took a few snaps to commemorate our visit and, if I am honest, boast about it to their mates.

The drive was worth it, and the experience with these metallic freaks of nature was so surreal.

Besides the dinosaurs, Spanish Town is home to many local artisans selling magnificent handcrafted antiques, and the dinosaurs are actually for sale.

While they were too big to carry home, we bought a beautiful garden pot from one of the artisans.

8. Horseback Riding on the Beach

My partner is an ardent horse lover and jumped at the first opportunity to go horse riding on the beach.

The SeaHorse Ranch is the sole operator in the area, and she gleefully made our reservation two weeks before our travel date and got the cheaper 2-hour early bird tickets.

Horseback Riding on the Beach
SeaHorse Ranch

Prepare for an epic adventure, from the gorgeous flora on the Coastal Equestrian Trail down to the sandy Poplar Beach.

We spent around 20 minutes paddling on the beach and its shallow waters while taking in the sights of the beautiful coastline before taking the rugged trail back to the ranch.

No previous horse riding experience is necessary, and if you have kids above 7, tag them along for this unforgettable family outing.

The charming guides at the SeaHorse Ranch will pair you with a suitable horse and provide any assistance, including complimentary helmets if you do not bring your own.

SeaHorse Ranch Rides and Pricing

  • Early Bird Special – $85 for 2 hours
  • Trail and Beach –  $110 for 1½ hours
  • Trail only – $100 for an hour

P.S. All bookings are made online

Final Word

Half Moon Bay has plenty of places to explore and thrilling activities, but visiting the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve was the most favorable thing to do in Half Moon Bay.

With tons of family fun naming marine species, the scenic Cypress Grove, incredible medieval landscapes, and beautiful bluff tops overlooking the Pacific, what’s there not to love?

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