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Starting in Half Moon Bay, the most convenient form of transportation is by car; however, for those who enjoy a little exercise and have plenty of time, biking is a great alternative. Several visitors we ran into had biked from other towns or even all the way from San Francisco (we would not recommend this unless you are an expert road biker); biking from town to town is a breathtaking, sustainable and rewarding way to see this stretch of the Pacific Coastline.
If you arrive earlier than the 3:30 pm check in time at Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel, take the opportunity to explore Half Moon Bay. Even though the town is small, it has much to offer, including miles of footprint-free beaches to explore.
At 3:30, head toward Point Montara Lighthouse located on the coastline along California Highway 1. The turn into the hostel is hidden and very easy to miss. Drive slow and don’t beat yourself up if you miss it the first time. Once you’re checked in and settled into your room or bunk take the next couple hours to explore the property. A thin trail leading to a private beach reserved for guests can be found behind the lighthouse. Views of waving knee-high grasses clinging to the edge of a sepia tone beach are seen through thick glass windows in every building. Board games and books surround a crackling fireplace in the main office building as well as two full kitchens and dining areas. If you happen to be visiting during a holiday, see what the hostel has planned. Many holidays are celebrated at the hostel and guests are welcome to join in. Keep an eye on Point Montara’s Facebook page as they are regularly hosting events, including a Halloween celebration that is a favorite among community members.
As the sun dips into the ocean and the evening fog starts to hug the bay, your stomach may start to remind you of its favorite past time. Luckily, there is a selection of restaurants to choose from, including one we discovered that is said to be a local favorite: Barbara’s Fish Trap. This little harbor-side hot spot is where you will find the freshest and most flavorful seafood for a fraction of the cost of most fine dining establishments.
Take a refreshing walk on the wharf after dinner and then head back to the warmth of Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel for a rejuvenating night’s sleep (side note: we have stayed at a few hostels and countless hotels and this little hostel was by far the most comfortable).Phone:(650)728-7177Address:16th Street and Highway 1 Montara, CAPrice:Dorm Bed: $27; Private Single/Double Room: $74; Private Triple Room: $101Phone:(650)728-7049Address:281 Capistrano Rd. Half Moon Bay, CAPrice:$11-$30 a plate
Start the day with a coffee and scone at Caffe Mezza Luna located on the water in Half Moon Bay. Head south on Highway 1 and turn right on Capistrano Road. This is where you’ll find Half Moon Bay Kayaking Company, seafood restaurants and the Coastside Trail. We would suggest continuing the morning with a bike rental at Bike Works and a leisurely ride up the Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail. At the end of the trail is a long stretch of empty beach that will turn hours into minutes as tide pools are explored and wildlife is watched. Head back and grab a sandwich at Gherkin’s Sandwich Shop, a shop where every sandwich craving can be satisfied.
If you are feeling the need to stretch your legs, head up the road a few minutes to McNee Ranch State Park where a web of trails will take you over and around the sea cliffs above Montara and Half Moon Bay.
If the moon is full, head over to the Half Moon Bay Kayaking Company and catch their full moon dinner and paddle. Enjoy a nice dinner at Sam’s Chowder House or Half Moon Bay Brewing Company with a local guide and a small group. Watch the sun set over the water and kayak under the moonlight in Pillar Point Harbor. If clouds are shrouding the moonlight, bioluminescence may be visible in the water.Phone:(650) 560-0137Address:Harbor Village 240 Capistrano Rd Half Moon Bay, CAPrice:Under $10Phone:(650)726-6708Address:520 Kelly Ave., Half Moon Bay, CAPrice:$10 an hour or $40 for 24 hoursPhone:(650)728-2211Address:171 8th Street Montara, CA 94037Price:$10 - $15Phone:(650)726-8819Address:Hwy 1, Montara, CA 94037Price:FreePhone:(650)773-6101Address:2 Johnson Pier, Half Moon Bay, CA. 94019Price:$25 per hour for a single seater kayak
On the last full day at the bay, wake up with the sea gulls and drive down to Año Nuevo State Park for an intriguing and up close look at the secret lives of elephant seals. The earlier the tour the more activity you’ll see from the two-ton elephant seals. You'll also have a smaller the group to walk with (be sure to register online beforehand, or you might get stuck with a huge group in the middle of the day).
After you’ve worked up an elephant seal-sized appetite, head over to Duarte’s Tavern in Pescadero and enjoy fresh oysters, green chili soup, grilled sandwiches and the world’s best olallieberry pie (no joke, this is the best berry pie we have ever had, and we’ve tasted a lot of pie). Save a little room for the next destination though.
Next, head a little deeper into Pescadero to Harley Farms Goat Dairy for fresh, award winning goat cheese and a fun visit with friendly goats. The people at Harley Farms are happy to show off their organic farm and edible garden, and free tastings are available at all times. For a truly delicious and memorable night, sign up for a monthly farm feast held in the upstairs loft. The dinner features local organic meats, vegetables, bread, and of course cheeses all prepared by a gourmet chef on the premises (this dinner is wildly popular and takes place only once a month. Check out their website to schedule a dinner and plan your visit accordingly).
Pescadero and surrounding towns have an abundance of antique shops, boutiques, bakeries and other fun places for explore and discover. Take some time and do a little adventuring before hitting the road again.Phone:(650)879-2025Address:1 New Years Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060Price:$7 tour fee. $10 parking feePhone:(650)879-0464Address:202 Stage Road, Pescadero, CAPrice:$10 - $20Phone:(650)879-0480Address:205 North Street, PO Box 173, PescaderoPrice:$10 - $50 Cheese shop items. $150 farm dinners
The first day of our production voyage started with a six hour drive from Los Angeles, California to Half Moon Bay. Judging from the size of the area and the moderate distances between each destination, we decided driving would be the quickest, easiest and least expensive option for transportation. Our first stop was Hostelling International’s Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel to check in and get situated in our private room. The next steps were to organize camera gear, investigate the premises and track down a local restaurant for dinner.
Based on recommendations from a few locals, we decided to check out Barbara’s Fish Trap for dinner. A small colorful restaurant perched next to the water, Barbara’s Fish Trap was a welcome surprise. Everything on Barbara’s menu was freshly caught, locally sourced and mouthwateringly delicious. Even the soup crackers and butter packets were from local organic producers. Located just a few minutes drive south from the hostel, this tiny restaurant satisfied each of our requirements for a sustainable and memorable eatery.
The rest of the evening was spent charging camera gear and testing certain aspects of our room such as electrical outlets, toiletries (the hostel was stocked with recycled toilet paper and paper towels), signs of sustainable upkeep, and other details concerning comfort and entertainment.Phone:(650)728-7177Address:16th Street and Highway 1 Montara, CAPrice:Dorm Bed: $27; Private Single/Double Room: $74; Private Triple Room: $101Phone:(650)728-7049Address:281 Capistrano Rd. Half Moon Bay, CAPrice:$11-$30 a plate
The next morning, we woke up with the salty ocean fog, checked out of our cozy room and headed for a large parking lot on Capistrano road next to the harbor. Here, we unloaded Seabiscuit (Chris’ road bike) and bits of camera gear for his morning excursion. Before the neighborhood had brewed its coffee, he strapped a small backpack to his back and took off down the Half Moon Bay Coastside Trail. The next few hours for him were spent pedaling down a meandering trail overlooking the ocean and stopping to photograph hawks and scenic landscapes.
Meanwhile, I had hopped back in the car and was headed 40 minutes down the road toward Año Nuevo State Park. The park was home to wide assortment of critters; however, I was most excited about witnessing the secret lives of elephant seals.
After a mind-blowing morning of elephant seal phenomena, I drove back up to Half Moon Bay to meet Chris, who had enjoyed every minute of riding the coastside trail. We enjoyed a snack and a chocolate gelato shake at Caffe Mezza Luna before heading back up the road for a scenic hike on McNee Ranch Trail.
McNee’s picturesque and challenging trail really worked up an appetite, so we decided to try out another local suggestion before we ventured on to San Francisco: Gherkin’s Sandwich Shop. With dozens of combinations to choose from and ingredients to build our own masterpiece sub, Gherkin’s was a huge success. The sandwiches conquered our Hulk-sized appetites and each bite deliciously predicted the satisfaction the next bite would bring. We couldn’t resist trying the fried Gherkins as well. The little fried pickles were tasty but a bit oily, not quite as dream inducing as the wicked pickles at the Oak Creek Brewery in Sedona, AZ.
With full happy stomachs, we headed for San Francisco, only an hour from Half Moon Bay. Soon, we were weaving our way through the steep crowded streets to Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel hosted by Hostelling International. This hostel would be our home base for the remainder of the visit. It was a Thursday when we arrived and that meant $3 pasta dinners at the hostel’s Cafe Franco. Thursday also meant that a free pub crawl tour was scheduled. We settled into our private room, scarfed down a bowl of pasta and headed out for the tour. Unfortunately, our long day caught up with us before the tour had ended and we decided it was best to get a full night’s sleep instead of visiting the last two pubs.
One other circumstance that turned out to be less than ideal was the room we were given at Fisherman’s Wharf Hostel. Adjacent to the dishwashing station at the cafe, our room was noisy and hard to sleep in. The beds were lumpy and lacked support. The heater didn’t heat the room adequately and the windows were old enough to let the cold night air inside. A lack of electrical outlets also made is difficult to prep for shoots as we had to charge all of our gear at the front desk.Phone:(650)726-6708Address:520 Kelly Ave., Half Moon Bay, CAPrice:$10 an hour or $40 for 24 hoursPhone:(650)879-2025Address:1 New Years Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060Price:$7 tour fee. $10 parking feePhone:(650) 560-0137Address:Harbor Village 240 Capistrano Rd Half Moon Bay, CAPrice:Under $10Phone:(650)728-2211Address:171 8th Street Montara, CA 94037Price:$10 - $15Phone:(650)726-8819Address:Hwy 1, Montara, CA 94037Price:Free
Day three began with a complimentary breakfast at Cafe Franco that included bagels smeared in peanut butter, apples, oranges, hard boiled eggs, cereal, coffee, and tea. We navigated the crowded bathrooms and common areas and without wasting any time, we were ready to explore San Francisco.
The only thing we had scheduled for the day was a free Chinatown walking tour at 1pm. The rest of the day was free to explore and investigate a few places we had heard about during our research. We followed a few pigeons from the hostel to Fisherman’s Wharf and the Maritime Museum. We toured old steamboats and tall ships until the smell of freshly brewed coffee could no longer be ignored. Following the smell, we found The Buena Vista and were surprised to discover that it really did live up to its reputation for serving perfect Irish coffees. From there, we hitched a ride on a cable car and made our way deeper into the throng of people until we found the City Center hostel.
From the City Center hostel, we met up with Anthony Jones, a master tour leader and coordinator of projects and events at Hostelling International San Francisco. Anthony took us and a small group of visitors to Chinatown, where we happily checked off every aspect of a sustainably run tour. The tour brought us down back alley streets and into welcoming Buddhist temples and fortune cookie factories. We learned about Chinatown’s intricate history and modern culture and we even learned how to make traditional tea from a professional. We couldn’t have been more excited to have found this gem of a tour and we highly recommend it.
Taking a $2 bus back to our hostel, we recharged our camera gear, took showers (the best time to take a shower at a hostel is mid afternoon; no one will be there and the hot water will be plentiful), and prepared for another evening. We had plans to meet an old friend for dinner at The Grove restaurant and we were excited to learn more about the sustainable travel options San Fran had to offer. The Grove really hit the spot with creamy mac and cheese, BLT sandwiches, heaping salads, giant chocolate chip cookies and an assortment of coffees and teas.
On the bus ride back to the hostel, we took note of the myriad coffee shops, ethnic eateries, shopping districts and entertainment venues that blanketed San Fran’s small center. It would take years to investigate everything in the city; in just one day, we had found a week’s worth of Immersion-approved adventures.Phone:(415)447-5000Address:499 Jefferson St, San Francisco, CAPrice:$5 entry fee for docked shipsPhone:(415)474-5044Address:2765 Hyde St, San Francisco, CAPrice:$15-$30Phone:(415)474-5721Address:685 Ellis Street San Francisco, CAPrice:Free
The next day started with cereal, yogurt and apples at Cafe Franco and was followed by a brisk morning walk through the fog to Crissy Field Park, a favorite beach park among locals and dog owners. We had the morning to explore the city before jetting over to Oakland for an authentic, cream-filled doughnut at Doughnut Dolly and an Italian feast at Pizzaiolo. From Crissy Field, we walked to the Golden Gate Bridge and took in its grandeur before the masses arrived. Next, we buzzed over to Golden Gate Park and rode an elevator to the top of Hamon Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the city. From there, we would have been able to see the tea gardens below as well as vast expanses of the city if hadn’t been for the fog.
We packed up our gear at noon and headed for Oakland and Temescal Alley. For an hour, we strolled through small shops that had been crammed into a tiny alleyway. Clothing stores and vintage book stores hid in the corners of the alley while jewelry shops adorned with air plants took up more real estate. We tried a coffee at one of the shops, but it didn’t leave much of an impression. The next stop, however, left our taste buds stunned. Doughnut Dolly, known for its fluffy fresh pastries filled with jams, spicy chocolate cream or vanilla bean "naughty" cream, quickly became our favorite Temescal Alley shop.
Around the corner, several cafes and restaurants were opening their doors and serving lunch. This seemed like the part of town for hungry stomachs to gather, especially since one of the best Italian restaurants in the area was only a few steps away.
Pizzaiolo would be our main feature in our first issue and we couldn’t believe how incredible the night turned out. When we arrived, the staff was sitting in the dining room listening to the evening’s select dishes. The chef had been prepping the new recipes all morning and her sou chefs were bringing them to life in the kitchen. We tried bites of each dish and set to work interviewing staff members and photographing the magic. From three in the afternoon until eight, we captured every moment that transpired in the small restaurant, from cocktails being ordered to the happy guests to every drop of sauce that was wiped off the edges of porcelain plates.
At eight, we met with three authors and editors of Civil Eats, a commentary and investigative website on the current food movements. We learned valuable lessons about starting up magazines and shared stories until late into the night.Phone:(415)561-7690Address:1199 East Beach San Francisco, CA 94129Price:FreePhone:(415)750-3600Address:Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118Price:FreeAddress:49th St between Telegraph and Clarke St. Oakland, CA 94609Phone:(510)652-4888Address:5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CAPrice:$15 - $50
The last day of our production trip took us from San Francisco at the crack of dawn to Pescadero, close to Half Moon Bay, where we had an appointment with the managers of Harley Farms Goat Dairy. The small organic farm became known to us after an extensive search of the county’s certified ecotourism destinations. After further research, we couldn’t wait to see the farm for ourselves. We tested fresh, creamy goat cheese slathered over French bread baked earlier in the day by a local bakery. We played with baby goats, drank in the natural beauty of the coastal meadows and laughed over award winning cheese, all activities that were free for visitors to take part in.
The second stop for the day was Duarte’s Tavern, a local favorite known for an outstanding olallieberry pie (no kidding: it was the most delicious berry pie that has met our lips). This last stop was a perfect end to a beautiful and productive trip. After going non-stop for five days, we were more exhausted than we had anticipated. We had plans to continue investigating before making the six hour trek back home; however, we could barely get our eyes to focus on the road. A quick nap was needed before deciding to drive home.Phone:(650)879-0480Address:205 North Street, PO Box 173, PescaderoPrice:$10 - $50 Cheese shop items. $150 farm dinnersPhone:(650)879-0464Address:202 Stage Road, Pescadero, CAPrice:$10 - $20