Following our time in the North Bay of San Francisco last month, SVV and I took up residence in our friend’s spacious city apartment in the Mission for the second half of our trip (thanks, KC!). And even though we had four nights there, I felt like we needed at least four more just to revisit all of our old haunts. But there’s one thing we made a priority, and that was taking a Half Moon Bay day trip.
Getting Around the Bay Area
Having a car in San Francisco can be one big headache: It’s either an arm and a leg to park overnight or you have to comply with very strict street parking rules (including paying attention to street cleaning times, which are always very random), something we learned the hard way living there and racking up too many parking tickets to count.
On our second day in San Francisco, we picked up our rental, which we got for a steal—under $300 for a full week from Enterprise—so technically had a car for the duration of our trip.
But we knew we’d be turning it in early to avoid the hassle of driving around in circles waiting for a spot to open up only then having to move it every two hours we were stationary, so we planned our day trip to Half Moon Bay for the first weekday then turned in the car early. (Shoutout to the Enterprise team at the Civic Center/Tenderloin location for being amazing humans and giving us a long list of recommendations to check out while in town!)
Sadly, there’s no real public transportation method to get you up and down the coast, so if you want to see a bit of Highway 1 (or the Pacific Coast Highway), you’re going to need a car. I always recommend renting from a location within a city and not at the airport to save money on those airport taxes.
And let me just say if you are only going to rent a car for one day, make it a weekday. Despite the sunny, relatively warm weather, our beach day in North California was blissfully empty. There was literally nobody there.
Cruising Down Highway 1
Our first house together in the Bay Area was in South San Francisco, meaning Pacifica was just over the hill. SVV surfed there often, and my Bikram studio was located there, as well, so we popped down to the crescent-shaped Pacifica State Beach en route to Half Moon Bay to snap some photos.
Despite the sunny day, it was cold out. I was bundled up in a long-sleeved shirt, a vest and a furry sweater on top, and yet these surfers were out there in the 60-degree water in just a seven-millimeter wetsuit. Bold! I could never be a surfer.
We didn’t stay long (see: freezing outside!) and, from there, headed further south to the famed Mavericks and the town of Half Moon Bay. This was always—and still is—our favorite part of the Bay Area, and you can see why from this little video of our drone footage I put together.
We spent a glorious four hours on this hidden beach (sorry, you’re not getting a name from me!) with NO ONE ELSE THERE. How that can still happen in a state with nearly 40 million residents and even more tourists is beyond me.
But this is the exact spot we were the moment my brother-in-law texted that my niece Charlotte was born at 3:07pm, and I’ll forever cherish that. I’m thinking I need to blow up some of these aerial shots for her nursery—what do you think?
It’s an interesting thing, the Pacific Ocean. If you gave me the choice, nine times out of 10, I would pick the balmy waters of the Gulf, warm enough to swim in 75 percent of the time and devoid of great white sharks that just feel as if they’re lurking behind every seal-laden rock.
But I see the appeal of the Pacific, I do. As SVV says: “The Gulf is tame and predictable—unless you count hurricanes. The Pacific Ocean is alive, breathing and will smack you in the face if you turn your back on it. There’s something exciting about that.”
“There’s a reason I would go surfing six days a week after working on my feet all day. It’s cleansing and invigorating. It’s constantly being churned. It’s full of life on a level that’s just not seen anywhere with warm water. That cold water breathes energy into the environment, and you can’t ignore it when you’re in the ocean.”
And go swimming he did, despite it never getting above 65 out that day. I stayed bundled up on the shore while SVV let his ocean-loving California roots be known.
After we’d soaked up all the sun our pallid winter skin could take, we headed back to the town of Half Moon Bay, but not before making an impromptu stop in the mustard fields that flanked the sea cliffs. You think it’s the ocean that gives all of Northern California its color? You haven’t seen the half of it.
We concluded our day trip with a stop at the local brewery (duh) and both agreed that while we miss the easy access to places like Half Moon Bay, we don’t miss the harsh realities of day-to-day life in San Francisco. In other words, for those who have asked if we are happy with our decision to move to Tennessee six years ago, absolutely.
But we will continue to visit Northern California every year or so, particularly now that there’s a direct flight from Nashville to SFO on Virgin America/Alaska Airlines. And for those of you also making the journey, if you’re looking for the most perfect day trip from San Francisco, you can never go wrong with Half Moon Bay.
Planning a California vacation? I have plenty of added ideas here:
- Windswept + Wild Down Highway 1
- A Detour to Point Reyes National Seashore
- A Magical Weekend in Muir Beach
- Planning a Family Vacation to Santa Cruz
- Sunny Days on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk
- Planning the Ultimate California Road Trip
- Art and Food in San Francisco’s Mission District
- Berkeley in Bloom: 24 Hours in the East Bay
- Skiing Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Resort