Tuesday, January 18, 2022

My “Happy Birthday” Paradise in Half Moon Bay

By Lina Broydo

While the pandemic has no plans to disappear for now and my hibernation prevents me from traveling to Europe, I find myself taking very short outings in the vicinity of my home. This week: it’s Half Moon Bay. Named by “USA Today” as one of the 15 “Happiest Seaside Towns” in America, Half Moon Bay is a place where life is supposedly a “smiley face”. It certainly makes me happy to be there, somewhere over the mountain of the San Mateo Road (Hwy 92) and only a thirty minutes’ drive from my home in Los Altos Hills, where I am welcomed by miles of white sand beaches, spectacular coastline along the blue and green Pacific Ocean, redwood forests, beautiful state parks, and colorful fields of wild and cultivated flowers. The lovely place where the memories of my best “Happy Birthday” celebrations with my family and our four-legged friend Kona, became an annual gathering. And it’s coming up again…

It’s a place of joy for a modern explorer like me as I watch the harbor seals, otters, jellyfish, and migratory birds all gravitating to this tranquil life in this stunning slice of the Golden State’s Half Moon Bay, which boasts an unrivaled combination of coastal town friendliness, charm, and natural beauty.

Dating back to the 1840s, the community that is today called Half Moon Bay (which derives its name from the crescent shaped harbor), is the oldest community in San Mateo County. The result of old and new, where fifth-generation local farm families of the region’s colorful history remain deeply integrated into this little paradise on earth.

The small town also known as Princeton-by-the-Sea was laid out in 1908 and is noted for its streets named after famous colleges. A short drive ahead is The Pillar Point marsh, a well known bird-watching area, as well as the home of the legendary Mavericks surf spot.

Everyone here is casual – the hikers, horseback riders on the beach, fishermen, kayakers, the families with kids in strollers, and the dogs who, together with their adoring owners, appreciate the town’s hos-pet-ality. (sorry, my sense of humor is a bit rusty these days..)

The local restaurants offer a gourmet journey featuring seafood, vegetables and fruits as well as locally produced cheeses and wines, creating the farm-to-table experience. Starting with aromatic coffee and freshly baked muffins (try the pumpkin) at Moonside Bakery and Café, located on the town’s picturesque Main Street, followed by lunch at the popular Sam’s Chowder House with spectacular ocean views (Lobster Roll, voted by NBC’s Today Show as one of the “Top 5 Best Sandwiches in America”) located on Cabrillo Hwy with an additional entrance from the beach. And they are dog friendly!

Enjoy a nightcap in a comfy chair beside the fire pit and an ocean sunset at the Moss Beach Distillery Seal Cove Patio, a one time favorite of author Dashell Hammett. Or listen to the sounds of waves rolling onto the beach while enjoying top-caliber jazz and classical musicians performing at Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society; either way, it’s a grand finale to my fulfilling visit to the dreamy Half Moon Bay.

With my often repeated motto of “You don’t have to go away to get away” – . my regular mid-week or a weekend escape to Half Moon Bay does not include an overnight stay, but just in case you are exhausted by the miles of energetic hiking in the fresh air or decide you want an extra taste of local wines and a visit to the Goat Farm with a delicious lunch at the historic Duarte’s Tavern family owned restaurant in the neighboring Pescadero, you may decide to spend a night in one of many hotels, inns, and B&Bs. The accommodations range from the luxurious Ritz Carlton Hotel to the unique stay at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, one of the tallest and most photographed lighthouses in the country, which is now a hostel. Some hotels welcome visitors with their adored pooches, even the posh Ritz Carlton (for an extra charge). And since it is my birthday, I asked my family to gift me with a Ritz Carlton’s $100 all-day relaxing spa experience certificate. Is it too much to ask for this Birthday girl?

For additional information visit visithalfmoonbay.com or halfmoonbaychamber.org.

Photos by Lina Broydo.