Situated only a few miles’ drive down the coast from San Francisco on scenic Highway 1, Half Moon Bay is blessed with natural beauty and options for the upscale international traveler. Winter and early spring here are predominantly sunny and provide an ideal time to see natural spectacles that simply cannot be experienced elsewhere.
Devil’s Slide. Take the coast road up over the notoriously steep and winding crest of Devil’s Slide pass, then watch for glimpses of the ocean beaches below. Devil’s Slide’s spectacular scenery features in the 1960 film noir thriller Portrait in Black starring Anthony Quinn.
Ano Nuevo State Park. Each winter, massive herds of elephant seals flock to this rocky outcropping off the California coast. Reservations can be made to view them directly opposite the craggy sea stacks and ledges where they sun themselves. You’ll see females carefully shepherding their new calves, while males engage in battles for dominance, or sometimes just a better spot on the beach.
Mavericks’ Beach surf contest. The only continental big wave surfing contest in America is held here each winter. Waves up to 50 feet high erupt periodically and draw famous surfers from around the globe on a day’s notice. Due sneaker waves, the closest spot for fans is local pubs or a jumbo video screen about a mile away that displays the event live in High Definition, as it is streamed live at thejayatmavericks.com.
Whale Watching. Whale watching cruises can be chartered around the Bay Area. Whale watching from nearby beaches and cliff areas is free with a good set of binoculars. Gray Whale Cove State Beach is sheltered and picturesque, surrounded by cliffs that drop abruptly into the Pacific Ocean. A steep trail leads down to the beach where gray whales are often seen close to shore. Watch out for nude sunbathers in the summer!
Ritz Carlton Resort. The Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay, offers a magnificent backdrop for the quintessential Northern California coast vacation. Some cottages offer wonderful views, and there are suites that include a private terrace fire pit. Surrounded by a stellar golf course that abuts the dramatic coastline, this resort makes a stunning base for your next getaway. After a day sightseeing in the area, relax on the terrace and watch the sunset (even in the winter months), for an incredibly soothing and romantic interlude before a gourmet dinner at one of the on-site restaurants. Locally sourced seafood is plentiful at a variety of oceanfront restaurants in nearby Princeton-by-the-Sea.
Costanoa. The Ritz Carlton resort includes a full-on glamping eco-adventure option. Stay in a rustic ‘tent’ with high-end luxury fittings, sumptuous bedding and personalized service for about $180 per day.
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