There's a secluded cove beach on the hostel grounds, as well as several beaches nearby that are ideal for swimming, surfing, jogging, horseback riding, and windsurfing. Nearby Montara State Beach is a popular spot for sunbathing, strolling, nature study, and picnicking. Grey Whale Cove State Beach is nestled beneath the sheer cliffs formed at the base of Mount Montara, where the end of the Santa Cruz mountain range plunges into the Pacific, It's a favorite for surfing and whale watching (and clothing-optional sunbathing).
The gray whale northern migration season from March - May is a great time of year to visit us. Watch the majestic animals spout, sound, spy-hop, and breach from the boardwalk behind our fog signal building. The gray whale makes one of the longest mammalian migrations, averaging 10,000 - 14,000 miles round trip. Mothers and calves travel very near shore on the northbound migration.
Note: Many guests consider the migration the most spectacular event of the year, so reservations are highly recommended during the season, especially for weekend stays.
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Hostel guests can walk directly from the hostel along a bluff-top trail to the main entrance of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a spectacular four-mile stretch of protected California coastline. During low tides, a colorful array of starfish, crabs, mussels, abalone, sea anemones, and other marine animals are exposed and visible in tide pools.
From the hostel, guests can hike through the tiny town of Montara to the base of Mount Montara, also known as McNee Ranch, and nearby San Pedro Valley Park. This area marks the end of the Santa Cruz mountain range, which literally falls into the ocean at Devil's Slide Rock. Where the mountains truly meet the sea, this is the only undisturbed coastal mountain habitat for more than 100 miles of coastline.
There are several biking and hiking trail options of varying difficulty and distance. From the north peak of the mountain you can view stunning vistas of the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Farallone Islands and Golden Gate Bridge over 25 miles away.
Pillar Point Harbor and Marsh
Located just four miles south of the hostel, Pillar Point Harbor is your gateway to surfing, kayaking, fishing, and whale watching boat tours. For unmatched views of the harbor and the coastside, be sure to follow the trail around the point, to the breakwater and tide pools on the far side. California sea lions bask on the jagged offshore rocks, and surfers catch the famous Mavericks break just west of Pillar Point.
Although tiny, Pillar Point Marsh is a paradise for lucky bird watchers, who have sighted nearly 20 percent of all North American bird species here. Look for great blue herons, snowy egrets, and red-winged blackbirds at this unique marsh, which is fed by both fresh water and salt water.
An excellent bike trail runs from just south of the hostel all the way to the coastside town of Half Moon Bay. There are also good mountain biking trails throughout the coastside, running along bluff tops and up to the summit of Mount Montara.