by Bella Martinez

I knew I was almost there when I saw the fog sitting over the hills like a thick blanket. Driving up and over the hill, the gray haze enveloped the atmosphere, and the temperature dropped five or ten degrees. I rolled down the windows, and the smell of pine and eucalyptus filled the air.

These are the sensations of entering Half Moon Bay, CA- the happiest place on earth to me growing up, and even still to this day. My grandparents moved here when I was five years old. I called this place home for a few weeks out of every summer for over a decade, until they moved back down to Southern California a couple of years ago.

My sister and brother feel the same way as I do about the quaint little farm town that is HMB, so we decided to roadtrip up for the weekend along with my husband who had never been. With an AirBnB and babysitters on lock, we were good to go.

Half Moon Bay is known for a few things, like Mavericks and pumpkin farms. It’s about half an hour south of San Francisco, and a nice place to encamp if you’re visiting NorCal but don’t want to stay in the bustling city.

The weather is funny in NorCal. Mark Twain said “San Francisco’s weather patterns have confounded those who live there and those who visit for as long as there’s been a San Francisco”, and it’s true with temperatures in the 60s nearly year round. One of the funniest things about it, is that cities East of Half Moon Bay, like Burlingame, San Mateo and Palo Alto are at least 10 degrees warmer on average, sunny and only a 15-30 minute drive away. If you’re planning on visiting HMB or SF, prepare to be cold.

Day 1

We arrived around 3PM, and decided to go hike the Burleigh H. Murray Ranch trail. My sibs and I had been on this hike a few times, and loved it because it ended at an abandoned dairy barn that was built in the 1800s. I thought this would be an exciting thing to show my husband, since most of our usual hikes don’t have spectacles that are out of the norm.

It’s about a half an hour hike from the trailhead to the dairy barn, and is marked by streams, small valleys, old wood bridges and eucalyptus groves. This time around it was much more overgrown than in years past, and the barn doors were chained shut. I had been inside the previous times I’d come. The inside has not been maintained in what looks like over a century, literally. Last time I’d come, I went through a cupboard and found old cans, boxes and tools that looked to be from the 1900s- 1920s at least. If you’re able to get inside, you may be spooked out as it is very dark, dilapidated and old, but also fascinating. We hiked back and planned on dinner.

I had to visit my favorite sushi place, Main St Sushi. HMB is teeming with locally sourced foods, being a farming and fishing town, meaning that the sushi is very fresh and insanely delicious. I’ve eaten through the menu over the years and must say that I highly recommend everything. Be sure to leave room for green tea ice cream.

After dinner we walked up and down Main St, and reminisced about the memories we’d made here. While on our walk, the sound of live jazz cajoled us into Cafe Society, where they were serving a wide range of drinks. I later learned that Cafe Society’s motto is “For the love of good coffee, conversation & jazz”. Words to live by in my book.

Day 2

Saturday was to be devoted to the city, so we headed to Arlequin in Hayes Valley for coffee and croissants. One of the points my grandfather made about our trip to SF was, “You have to go to Arlequin”. It was one of he and my grandmother’s favorite stops before going to the Symphony and Opera House, which are a stone’s throw away from this location.   

We then drove to Golden Gate Park, and made the mistake of setting out on foot rather than biking to get around. I highly recommend you bike, as it is a very large park. Our first stop was the Japanese Tea Garden, and being Asian culture- enthusiasts, we loved it! If you like koi fish ponds, Asian architecture, serene bonsai gardens and tea shops with great views, be sure to visit.

Japanese Tea Garden
Japanese Tea Garden

Our next destination was the Botanical Garden, then the Bison Paddock, where giant bison roam around on a large, enclosed field. If I’ve done my research correctly, I believe the first bison to call Golden Gate Park home moved in, in 1890. Since then these magnificent creatures have grown in numbers, roaming the land and making for a beautiful spectacle to bystanders.

After Golden Gate Park we ate at Submarine Center. I ordered the original super classic submarine and had a bite of the meatball and cheese steak sandwiches. All were fantastic, and I could see why this place came to me as highly recommended.

To end the day, we shopped ‘till we dropped in Union Square, and this may have been my favorite parts of the trip. My top spots were Neiman Marcus for its beauty, Sephora for its size and Nordstrom because it’s five floors of a whole lotta Nordstrom. The following day I wore a new dress I picked up from Zara and a beret from H & M. By the way, berets are super in right now and I never want this trend to end.

Neiman Marcus skylight in all its glory

Day 3

On our last full day, we said hello to our friends at Calvary Chapel Half Moon Bay, then drove to Burlingame which is a quick ride over the hill without traffic. There we waited in line behind eager brunchers to be seated at Crepevine- a restaurant with crepes and a gamut of other  delicious offerings. You can find a Crepevine in many cities across NorCal, and it’s no wonder why. The food here is simply amazing.

Burlingame
Dress: Zara; Beret: H & M; Shoes: Target

We walked around, stepping into La PanotiQ for a caffeine fix and set off back into the big city. At my husband’s insistence, we went to the Patagonia store where he and my brother bought a couple shirts and hats at a steep price.

Afterwards, we moved onto the must-sees of SF like Fisherman’s Wharf where we enjoyed all of the sights and smells of freshly reeled in seafare, Chinatown and Ghirardelli Square. As much as these places are must-sees, they are also very touristy. If you want to live like a local in San Francisco, I’d say you should skip these spots and go see a show at the Symphony, a game at AT&T Park or visit lesser known attractions like Twin Peaks and the SFMOMA.

Hun Buns in the wild
My husband and I looking cute #CityByTheBae

Following our final full day of fun, we drove back to Half Moon Bay, where we had dinner at It’s Italia on Main St.

I Left My Heart

Before our drive back, we had breakfast at 3-Zero, said hello to the baby chicks at the local Feed & Fuel, and stocked up on coffee at Half Moon Bay Coffee Company. On our way out of town we pulled off at Repetto’s Pumpkin Patch and picked a few pumpkins. A last morning well spent.

I left with a longing to return, and am already planning my next trip back.

Burleigh H. Murray Ranch: 305 Higgins Canyon Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019; (650) 726-8819. https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=535

Sushi Main St: 400 Main St, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019; (650) 726-6336. https://www.sushimainstreet.com/

Cafe Society: 522 Main St, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019; (650) 713-0800. https://www.cafesocietyhalfmoonbay.com/

Arlequin: 384 Hayes St, San Francisco, CA 94102; (415) 626-1211. http://arlequincafe.com/

Japanese Tea Garden: 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94102; (415) 752-1171. http://japaneseteagardensf.com/

Botanical Garden: 1199 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122; (415) 661-1316. https://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org/

Bison Paddock: 1237 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94121; (415) 831-6818. http://sfrecpark.org/destination/golden-gate-park/the-bison-paddock/

Submarine Center: 820 Ulloa St, San Francisco, CA 94127; (415) 564-1455. http://www.submarinecenter.com/

Crepevine: 1310 Burlingame Ave, Burlingame, CA 94010; (650) 344-1310. http://www.crepevine.biz/

3-Zero: 9850 Cabrillo Hwy, Moss Beach, CA 94038; (650) 728-1411. http://www.3zerocafe.com/

Half Moon Bay Coffee Company: 20 Stone Pine Rd a, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019; (650) 726-3664. http://www.hmbcoffeeco.com/

Repetto’s Nursery: 12331 San Mateo Rd, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019; (650) 726-6414. http://www.repettonurseryflorist.com/

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