Coastside Beaches to Barbeques to Tide Pools
Planning a day at the beach this summer or fall? Whether you’re escaping the inland heat in August or enjoying an October day on the coast, with high clouds and warm temperatures, San Mateo county beaches offer something for everyone.
From Esplanade Beach in the north to Año Nuevo State Reserve in the south, there are about 28 beaches. If you want to satisfy your curiosity about tide pools, find a trail to walk, bike or skate along, climb sand dunes, swim or surf, you’ll find it here. This is not a comprehensive list but it will serve as a starting point for finding a place to play in the sand and surf.
Beaches for barbeques
Pacifica: Pedestal BBQs are available at the Pacifica Pier park. There are no other fires or BBQs allowed on Pacifica beaches.
Half Moon Bay: Francis State Beach has pedestal BBQs overlooking the ocean. Portable BBQ pits are allowed at Francis and San Gregorio beaches. No beach fires are allowed on any beaches.
Beaches for camping
Half Moon Bay: Francis State Beach, off Highway 1, has campsites for tents and recreational vehicles. Surfer’s Beach on Highway 1 also has sites for RVs.
Beaches for dogs
Pacifica: Dogs are permitted off leash at Esplanade Beach. The beach entrance is at the end of Esplanade, north of Manor Drive. All other Pacifica beaches allow dogs on leash.
Montara to Pescadero: Dogs are allowed on leash with the exception of Half Moon Bay State Beach (Francis, Venice and Dunes Beaches), where dogs are allowed in the campground on leash, but not on the beach. See more information at www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=531.
Beaches for fishing
Pacifica: Some say the Pacifica Pier is the best fishing pier in the state for number and quality of fish caught. This pier is also the state’s number one producer of pier-caught salmon, according to www.pierfishing.com/pier_of_the_month/pacifica.html. Rockaway Beach is also a popular surf-casting spot. See www.coastsidefishingclub.com for information on trips and weather, as well as discussion boards.
Montara: Montara State Beach is good for surf-casting.
Half Moon Bay: There are many sport fishing charter boats available at Pillar Point Harbor just north of Half Moon Bay. Google fishing in Half Moon Bay for information.
Beaches for kayak launches
Neil Hooper, an experienced kayaker, said, “The best options for most casual kayakers (i.e., those who have not had formal training and may not be in the habit of using even basic safety gear or suitable clothing, but are going to go out anyway) are all inside Pillar Point Harbor. There are four excellent launch points:
• In front of the wildlife refuge at the end of Princeton Avenue.
• In front of California Canoe & Kayak and the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club at the end of Vassar Street (except at very high tide).
• In front of Half Moon Bay Kayak Co. inside the marina.
• In front of the Beach House just south of the launch ramps.
See www.coastviewsmag.com for more suggestions.
Beaches for surfing
Pacifica: Pacifica State Beach is the most popular surf spot.
Montara: Try Gray Whale Cove and Montara state beaches.
Half Moon Bay: Pillar Point Marsh and shoreline. Follow the trail around the point to the breakwater and tide pools. Catch the famous Mavericks wave just west of the point. Surfers Beach is close by, near the Pillar Point Harbor. Dunes, Venice, and Francis are also popular beaches for surfing.
South of Half Moon Bay: San Gregorio, Pomponio, and Bean Hollow state beaches are also good for surfing.
Surfline.com has continuously updated surf forecasts with photos and live surf cams. Even if you are not a surfer it’s great fun to visit. Surfing photos and videos are also posted on www.surfingcal.com/ california-state-beaches.html.
Beaches for swimming
San Mateo County swimming areas are popular for swimming, bodysurfing, diving, or just splashing in the surf. But use caution. Many beaches are off limits for swimming because of the danger of riptides.
According to an article in the San Mateo Daily News on May 22, 2008, “San Mateo County’s coastal beaches and Bayside water play spots received generally healthy ratings in an annual scorecard of California beaches contaminated by fecal bacteria, which can pose a threat to human health.” To find areas closed because of contamination, visit www.co.sanmateo.ca.us and see the health department beach water closures.
Beaches for tide pools
Pescadero: Bean Hollow State Beach, also known as Pebble Beach, has tide pools and a self-guided nature trail. For more information, visit www.parks.ca.gov.
Moss Beach: Fitzgerald Marine Reserve has tide pools, and there are docent tours on weekends. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/9l97m.
We hope you will be inspired to get to the beach, breathe in some fresh air, and discover new areas or visit your preferred places again. A complete list of all the county beaches can be found at www.califmall.com/beach/BchSanMateo.html. And one of the best places we found for brief beach descriptions is the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce site at www.halfmoonbaychamber.org/visiting_hmb/beaches.html. It does not include the beaches north of Half Moon Bay.
Results of a fun survey we did among staff and friends to find some beaches that we really like for a variety of activities.