One of the magical things about California is the cute beach towns lining the coast along Highway 1. Away from major cities, life here is a little more laid back and there’s a bit more authentic local culture to experience. When you stay at HI Point Montara Lighthouse hostel, you not only have access to your own little slice of the Pacific coast, but you’re also close to more than a few quaint hamlets where you’ll find good food, sweet beaches, and all kinds of shopping, from boutique clothing to fresh-from-the-farm produce. Pack your bags and your sense of adventure because there’s some exploring to be done!
This is the hostel’s hometown and it’s perfect for strolling around quiet suburban streets after you’ve checked in. There’s one little market where you can get your supplies, and in the morning you can come back for a coffee and mingle at Here Comes the Sun, a rustic spot with an ocean-facing patio. On the other side of the highway, Montara State Beach is a great place to view the sunset, while Gray Whale Cove beach is sweet for spotting the giant mammals in the ocean.
Half Moon Bay
For a small town, Half Moon Bay packs a surprising amount of awesomeness for travelers. From sites on the National Register of Historic Places (the Robert Mills Dairy Barn and the James Johnston House) and sites in pop culture (the Ritz-Carlton hotel was in an American Pie movie), to world-class surfing contests and pristine beaches, Montara has a little something for everyone. Check out Main Street for good restaurants and a book and music store, or trade the pavement for sweet nature at the Fitzgerald Marin Reserve and nearby beaches.
Just a little north of Half Moon Bay, El Granada sits pretty with its unique streets fanning out in circles towards fabulous park lands. Originally developed as a seaside resort for San Franciscans, the town is now more of a sleepy haven from which you can explore Quarry Park, which has a vista point with amazing views, and Rancho Corral de Tierra. Word on the street is that Creekside Smokehouse in El Granada is the go-to spot for smoked fish.
Pacifica is a bit of an underrated gem since most people shy away from the seemingly endless blanket of fog covering the six-mile stretch along the coast. But they’re missing out on great beaches with perfect surfing waves, trails along breathtaking bluffs, and excellent mountain biking routes crossing the hillside that surround the city. Visitors will also be spoilt for good lunch options, including the locally loved Salada Beach Café and Breakers Café.
Nothing says quintessential beach town more than Princeton-by-the-Sea (it’s in the name!), where you can get freshly caught Dungeness crabs or fish sold right off the boats docked at the Pillar Point Harbor. Across the road is the “village center” with a bookstore and other shops, and where on Sundays you might happen upon a farmer’s market or an artisan fair. Pick up a gelato at Mezza Luna Caffe to enjoy as you walk along Pillar Point Beach or the stunning Pillar Point Bluff Trail.