Half Moon Bay drone shot

Cruising the California Coast: A Half Moon Bay Day Trip

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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.

Half Moon Bay drone shot

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.

Half Moon Bay beach in California

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.

Half Moon Bay drone shot

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!)

Half Moon Bay drone shot

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.

Half Moon Bay day trip in California

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.

Half Moon Bay drone shot

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.

Surfing in Pacifica, California

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.

Surfing in Pacifica, California

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.

AcroYoga on Half Moon Bay

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?

Half Moon Bay drone shot

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.

Half Moon Bay drone shot

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.”

Half Moon Bay drone shot

“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.”

Half Moon Bay, California

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.

Half Moon Bay drone shot

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.

Mustard fields in Half Moon Bay, California

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.

Half Moon Bay drone shot

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.

Sunset in Half Moon Bay, California

Planning a California vacation? I have plenty of added ideas here:




Planning a Day Trip to Half Moon Bay, California
Planning a Day Trip to Half Moon Bay, California
Planning a Day Trip to Half Moon Bay, California
  • April 16, 2018

    Also, one of my favorite spots to get away in the Bay Area. I went there often (except during pumpkin patch season) and never tired of the feel of this town or this coast.

    • April 27, 2018

      I will forever associate HMB with pumpkins!

  • April 16, 2018

    Gorgeous drone shots! Every time I read your posts and see you doing yoga at every location it reminds me how much I love yoga and how much more I should incorporate it in my weekly routine!

    • April 17, 2018

      Thank you! I’ll admit, I don’t do yoga nearly as much as I should: only 1-2 classes a week, and even that is tough to squeeze in! My life goal, however, is DO MORE YOGA.

  • April 21, 2018
    grace s

    I visited Half Moon Bay a few years ago! It didn’t wow me but the drive was something else. And yes to being married to Calfornia natives who will go swimming when you are in a sweatshirt at the beach!!

    • April 27, 2018

      The town itself is cute, but it’s the beaches that are impressive. Did you visit any of them?

  • May 16, 2018

    The half moon bay coastside is a vast and secluded western-most region of San Mateo County in Northern california. It has sandy beaches, redwood forest and open species.

  • June 8, 2018

    I miss the days I used to live in San Francisco. Love everything about California, and Half Moon Bay—most of all. It used to be my lovely escape when I got sick of the daily routine. Your classy post evokes a kind of nostalgy, so I’m determined to come back for a holiday soon. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.
    Doing yoga at the beach must be so indulging. I must try this as well.

    • June 8, 2018

      I miss the days San Francisco used to be, well, San Francisco. Nowadays, it’s too polished, too expensive, too ornery. A great place to visit still, but I can’t imagine living there again!

  • June 7, 2019
    Sarah Allen

    Where are the pictures in the post taken. Especially the rock formations in the middle of the water?

    • June 8, 2019

      Hi Sarah,

      They’re at Martins Beach, just south of HMB, a very special place to us but one that is embroiled in a private property battle—it’s gone back and forth from being public to private to public again. It was open to the public last we were there in 2018, but I’d definitely check before you go out there. Good luck!

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