With its long coastline and mild weather, this area has always been prime real estate. When Spanish missionaries set up shop along the coast in the late 1700s, this had been indigenous Ohlone territory for thousands of years. Developed as a beach resort in the early 1900s, Half Moon Bay today is the main coastal town between San Francisco (29 miles north) and Santa Cruz (49 miles south). Its long stretches of beach still attract rambling weekenders and die-hard surfers.
Half Moon Bay spreads out along Hwy 1/Cabrillo Hwy, but despite development, it’s still relatively small. Downtown, the main drag is a five-block stretch of Main St lined with art galleries, antiques shops, cafes and restaurants. For aquatic pursuits and seafood restaurants, detour to Pillar Point Harbor, about 4 miles northwest of downtown, off Hwy 1.