See massive waves and giant pumpkins in this cozy Bay Area beach town.
A short drive south of San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is popular among surfers, owing largely to Mavericks, a big-wave surf area off the coast of nearby Pillar Point that gets waves measuring upwards of 60 feet. Even if you aren't into surfing, you'll find something to enjoy here, be it exploring downtown or wandering along the golden sands at Half Moon Bay State Beach. Nearby points of interest include the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, home to all sorts of water birds, as well as Año Nuevo State Park, best known for its resident seals.
San Francisco Peninsula
Stretching from San Francisco down to the southern reaches of San Mateo County, the peninsula offers miles of forests and marshlands, not to mention plenty of sandy beaches. Although it’s close to the city, this region offers plenty of opportunities to get out in nature, from surfing at Montara State Beach to camping among the redwoods at Butano State Park.
One of the prettiest stretches of the California coastline, Big Sur features a mix of dramatic cliffs, old-growth forests, and ample hiking and camping options, with a mix of public and private campgrounds, a few right along the coast.
Sonoma and Napa Wine Country
On the other side of San Francisco sit the twin counties of Napa and Sonoma, where much of California’s best wine is produced. The area is also rife with hot springs, including Boyes Hot Springs, Calistoga, and Agua Caliente.
The Mendocino Coast
North of Sonoma County, the Mendocino Coast features a mix of forest and open cliffs along with a mix of cute towns and protected state beaches and parks. It's also home to Glass Beach, which owes its name to its massive amount of colorful glass, tumbled into pebbles by the ocean’s waves.
Half Moon Bay is best visited on weekdays, as weekends can get crowded with Bay Area visitors. The weather here is pleasant year-round, with highs in the 60s most months and lows in the upper 40s, though Winters can be rainy. Summers are the driest and warmest, and weather remains pleasant well into October, when the annual Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival, one of the oldest festivals in the state, takes place.