Half Moon Bay is a beautiful coastal town on the Pacific coast in San Mateo county, California..A young couple we met during our Baja sea voyage had talked much about the big waves at the challenging surf spot called the “Mavericks” at Half Moon Bay. There was many stories about the big waves and they can be as high as 50 feet certain times of the year. Our two friends were avid surfers who had brought their surfboards with them on their sailboat as they explored the waters off Baja coast in Mexico. Naturally, their tales about this special coastal town piqued my interests.
I left San Jose where I was staying around eight in the morning, headed north on Highway 280 and took Highway 35 west. Highway is also called the San Mateo Highway. It is scenic drive that traverses the Santa Cruz mountains. Needless to say, scenery along the way was magical with the Santa Cruz mountains still shrouded with the morning fog. The view was simply breathtaking. It was early December and along Route 35, I saw a dozen plant nurseries with yards full of Christmas trees for sale. Colorful Christmas ornaments and trinkets decked the front of each nursery. It was a very pretty sight.
After driving for 20 minutes, I arrived at the town of Half Moon Bay around 9am. The drive over the mountains had invigorated me..At the junction of San Mateo Highway and Cabrillo Highway (Highway 1), I turned right and headed north. Scenery on both sides of the rural road was quaint and soon the Pillor Point Harbor and its breakwater came into view. Pillor Point Harbor at Princeton-by-the-Sea is a popular destination for tourists and location for much of the town’s fishing commerce. I took the exit for the harbor. Parking was free and plentiful at the pier. It was quiet and still very early on a weekday. I like the tranquility.
I was not disappointed as I was greeted by the beautiful scenery. Armed with my Canon 10D and Tamron 18-250 Di-II zoom lens, I spent a leisure morning walking on the beach, enjoying the sea breeze and watching the waves wash ashore. At the pier, fishermen were unloading their catch and seagulls waited patiently to get a piece of the action. There were many sailboats, salty fishing boats, trawlers, and deep sea fishing boats. It was still a wintry morning but the sun was breaking out of the morning clouds. A wooden sign at entrance to the harbor reads “Johnson Pier”.
I did a lot of photography. The sea breeze felt really good and I told myself I must come back soon again. Having grown up on the tropical island of Penang and lived near the coast in Southern California before I moved north, the ocean always has a special place in my heart. The sea was deep blue in color, big waves were breaking on the rocks as if announcing its warm welcome to me. There were a few boats at anchor inside the breakwater. I can see how in the summer one could bring your beach chair and enjoy a book or two on the weekends. The hours went by quickly, and I was feeling famish. The new Crab Landing Seafood and Steak House with its panoramic view by the pier was beckoning me. It had just opened a month ago I read. Its menu selection is fantastic, ranging from sushi, fresh oysters, delicious appetizers, soups and fresh salads to seafood and many house specials. I ordered green salad with vinaigrette dressing, a glass of Pino Gris that was heavenly, and an order of house specials that day – Chicken Satays!! yum!! I am particularly picky about Asian food being Asian and know what they should taste like. I have to tell you the Satays were simply delicious. The meat was very tender and grilled to the right amount. As for the dipping peanut sauce, it was filled with chunky peanuts and it just a tad spicy which is how I like it. There is no questions those Satays were the best I have had for a long time. The sourdough bread was fresh from the oven, tasted perfect with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and butter. Service was excellent. If you are looking for a treat, go there.
According to US Census data, Half Moon Bay has just under 13,000 people. It enjoys mild weather throughout the year, typical of central California. One can expect some rain between November and April. However, as in many northern California cities along the coast, its weather can be foggy and overcast during the winter months. Besides the Harbor Village at Princeton-by-the-Sea, and its upscale shops, Oceano Hotel & Spa and the Crab Landing Restaurant where I had my wonderful lunch, Half Moon Bay has a Ritz Carlton, the Pillar Point Inn and a famous Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, known for its homemade beer, nightlife, and ocean views. The city is popular with locals and tourists due to its close proximity to San Francisco, Santa Cruz and the Bay area’s Silicon Valley. In October each year, the town hosts the annual “Art and Pumpkin Festival”. In November and December, many flock to the town plant nurseries on San Mateo Highway for the Christmas trees, ornaments and trinkets. On weekends, during the open season, fresh fish is available for purchase from the local fishermen at the harbor. Fishing and tourism are the town’s main industries. A bit of trivia, Half Moon Bay was known as San Benito and Spanishtown in the old days. The city has a long tradition in rural agriculture farming and has its roots in the 18th century, when the Spanish settlers first arrived in the coastal town.
If you are like me and love to visit small coastal towns, you have to visit Half Moon Bay. Remember to bring your camera and don’t forget to treat yourself to lunch at the Crab Landing Restaurant