A Guide To Half Moon Bay Restaurants- Where To Eat & Drink

If you’re looking for a small beach town where the air is clean and crisp, the locals are passionate about their community, and the seafood is as fresh as can be, Half Moon Bay is it.  I was lucky enough to grow up in this beautiful, idyllic, close-knit town. So, if you’re looking for what (and where!) to eat in Half Moon Bay, read up, straight from a local.

Table of Contents

Lobster Rolls @ Sam’s Chowder House

photo credit: Visit Half Moon Bay/ Kevin Henney

We can’t talk about food in Half Moon Bay without talking about Sam’s. Sam’s has won numerous national awards and is a really popular spot.  For seafood lovers, Sam’s is one of the top restaurants in Half Moon Bay known for its delicious seafood dishes.

You have to try their deliciously fresh and famous lobster rolls and the clam chowder.   They have indoor and outdoor dining, and both offer beautiful views of the ocean.  From there you can walk down the path to the beach for a walk along the water after you eat.  Be aware that there are a fair amount of stairs involved.  

They currently only take reservations on weekdays, so expect a wait on weekends.

“I want to feel calm and at ease. Like someone who lives in Half Moon Bay, California, and makes hummus from scratch. Instead, I feel like I’m a contestant on some awful supermarket game show where I’ve got sixty seconds to hurl my shopping cart down the aisles, piling it with as much as possible before the buzzer goes off.”

~ Augusten Burroughs

A Drink @ Old Princeton Landing Public House and Grill (OPL)

Local brothers serving local food.  They have a lot of visitors there, but it’s also a local hangout spot (known as OPL to locals). They often have live music.  It’s casual and relaxed, and a popular place for locals to gather.

It’s a close walk to the beach, and is a very relaxed place to grab a drink and hang out.  They have a full bar and beers on tap.

You’ll definitely want to try some of their food while you’re there.  It’s a great place for lunch.  Their poke bowl is wonderful, as are their breakfast acai bowls. You can eat inside in the bar, or take it out back to eat and play some bocce ball.

Barbara’s Fishtrap

This iconic spot ranks high among Half Moon Bay restaurants, offering an authentic taste of the ocean in every bite.

Talk to anyone that has ever gone or lived in Half Moon Bay, and you’ll likely hear about Barbara’s Fishtrap. A local favorite, it has been going strong since 1971. If you’re looking for a casual seafood experience, this is the place to come. With beautiful views of the ocean, a cozy atmosphere and delicious food, it’s easy to see why customers keep coming back.

They don’t take credit cards, so bring cash.

Try their fish and chips!

>>> San Francisco is just 20 minutes from Half Moon Bay, and the food options there are amazing.

Local Produce @ Half Moon Bay Coastside Farmer’s Market:

Among the various attractions in Half Moon Bay, the Coastside Farmer’s Market is a delightful spot for food lovers, offering a mix of local food in Half Moon Bay and a vibrant community vibe.

The market is on Saturdays from May through December at Shoreline Station and is full of fresh, colorful items sold directly from Coastside farmers and growers.

In addition to fruits and veggies, you can also find a wide variety of treats, jams, jellies, flowers, and local drinks and gifts.

Make sure to stop and visit The HEAL Project’s stand. They are a local non-profit whose mission is “to teach kids where their food comes from and why it matters.” Their goodies are grown on the San Mateo County School Farm, which they operate. There, students get the opportunity to have hands-on, experiential experiences to grow and learn about the food that they eat.

Fine Dining @ Navio at The Ritz Carlton

For those seeking upscale dining in Half Moon Bay, Navio at The Ritz Carlton is your place.

Try their weekend brunch in their dining room with views of the ocean.

Even if you don’t stay or eat at this hotel, you should definitely plan on visiting for a variety of reasons. The biggest one? THIS VIEW.

The Ritz is located on a bluff with second to none views of the Pacific. There’s a path that runs along the beach where you can take a stroll along the water and breathe in the clean ocean air. It really is magical. Bring a jacket.

Bread @ Half Moon Bay Bakery

The HMB Bakery has been serving delicious breads and baked goods since 1927. Some of my most vivid memories is of st popping by at the bakery after Sunday morning church to buy a loaf of bread. If I was lucky, I’d get one of their delicious donuts. It’s since gone through a couple of different owners, but each have kept the bakery true to its origins, with a small, hometown feel.

Handmade Pasta @ Pasta Moon

Pasta Moon, one of the local favorite Half Moon Bay restaurants, is a haven for Italian cuisine lovers. Their seasonal menu showcases the rich flavors and local food of Half Moon Bay.

Whether you sit in their dining room, or at the bar, you’re sure to have a great experience there. After 32 years in their original location, they moved into a new location at the end of 2019. Their space includes a hip bar with lounge area, and indoor fireplaces.

Their menu (including their cocktail menu) is seasonal and inspired by fresh local ingredients. They’re known for their handmade pasta, but their pizza is delicious as well.

A Sandwich @ San Benito House

San Benito House is a Half Moon Bay treasure. It suffered a fire at the beginning of 2021, but has recently re-opened its doors. Originally an Inn and a spot to grab sandwiches, it now also includes a Cantina, where you can grab a margarita with their made-in-house mix.

Sushi @ Shiki Japanese Cuisine

If you’re looking for sushi, Shiki offers a variety of options, as well as noodle dishes. I took my daughter there a few years ago and she still talks about it.

Coffee @ The Half Moon Bay Coffee Company

You’ll likely fight a line of locals, sleepily in line waiting for their coffee or breakfast. It’s a bit of a gathering place for locals and tourists alike.

They have a large menu, and a wide variety of coffee beans.

A burger @ The Barn

The Barn is a fun and casual little burger joint conveniently located on Highway 1. The rustic barn was converted into a restaurant. Their outside is lovely and spacious.

Order your food at the outdoor takeout window and eat in their beer garden or in the covered tent.

Local Variety @ Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival

Half Moon Bay is arguably known as the pumpkin capital of the world, which is no small title given its size.

For a true taste of the town’s culture and food in Half Moon Bay, the Art and Pumpkin Festival is an event not to be missed. Dive into an array of dishes from various Half Moon Bay restaurants and non-profits that set up stalls here.

2023 HMB Pumpkin Festival parade float – winner of the largest pumpkin

The Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival launched in 1971 and has been an annual event ever since then, except for 2020 and 2021 due to covid. It is happening in 2022, which is great news, not just for us families who attend every year, but especially for the non-profits, merchants, and artists who rely on the annual festival for a large part of their income and funding.

Local restaurants come out to showcase their food to lines of hungry festive-goers. It’s a great way to sample Half Moon Bay’s options.

Book a room well in advance, as regular festival-goers book these out.

Half Moon Bay is a short distance from so many amazing cities and attractions, including San Francisco, which is just a short 20 miles away and Sonoma County is 100 miles away. Check out these activities:

FAQ: Discovering Half Moon Bay

Q: Where should I stay?

If you’re looking for a fully equipped house or apartment, renting a home through VRBO is a great way to go.

If you’re looking for an upscale or romantic stay, The Ritz is hands-down your best bet for being pampered with phenomenal views.

Beach House Hotel is also higher end (but not The Ritz!). It’s a beachfront hotel with all suites.

Oceano Hotel and Spa Half Moon Bay Harbor is more affordable than the 2 listed above and in a good location in the harbor next to bars and restaurants.

The Mill Rose Inn is a beautiful historic bed and breakfast in the heart of downtown.

Half Moon Bay Lodge is a more affordable option with nice-sized rooms.

For a budget stay, the Quality Inn Half Moon Bay – Miramar Beach is a great option.

Q: Why is Half Moon Bay famous?

A: Half Moon Bay is renowned for its breathtaking coastal beauty, fresh seafood, and vibrant community events. The beaches are clean, and the locals are passionate about their community.

The Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival has helped the town get its title of “pumpkin capital of the world” and is a huge money-maker for the coast’s non-profits and youth athletics.

Many visitors are also attracted to the town for its range of dining options, from casual seafood spots to upscale dining experiences.

Q: Does Poplar beach allow bonfires? Do any beaches in Half Moon Bay allow bonfires?

A: Bonfires are not legal on any of the Half Moon Bay Beaches. I don’t exactly know when this changed, as they were allowed when I was younger because I vividly recall having them in high school (hmmm or were they?…). If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a bonfire on the beach, Ocean Beach in San Francisco does allow bonfires in their fire pits.

Q: What’s the best time of year to visit Half Moon Bay?

A: While Half Moon Bay is beautiful year-round, many visitors prefer the fall months, especially during the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. Summer is often the coldest time of the year due to the fog that rolls in.

Q: Are there any hiking or nature trails in Half Moon Bay?

A: Yes, Half Moon Bay boasts several scenic trails such as the Coastal Trail, which offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and is great for walking, running, and biking. Take an e-bike tour through the trail and downtown.

Q: What kind of water activities can I enjoy in Half Moon Bay?

A: Surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and fishing. Maverick’s surf spot is world-renowned for its big wave surfing, so you may want to watch some surfing in this spot!

Q: Is there a history or heritage museum in Half Moon Bay?

A: Yes, the Half Moon Bay History Association operates a museum that provides insights into the rich history and heritage of the region.

Q: Can I camp in Half Moon Bay?

A: Absolutely! Half Moon Bay State Beach offers camping facilities. It’s advisable to make reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons.

Q: Are there any golf courses in Half Moon Bay?

A: Yes, the Half Moon Bay Golf Links is a popular destination, offering two impressive courses with Pacific Ocean views.

Q: How far is Half Moon Bay from San Francisco?

A: Half Moon Bay is located approximately 30 miles south of San Francisco, making it a popular getaway for Bay Area residents.

Q: Are pets allowed on the beaches in Half Moon Bay?

A: While some beaches in Half Moon Bay allow leashed pets, others don’t. Poplar Beach is a popular 🙂 beach for dogs. Pillar Point Harbor is another option. Dogs are not allowed on Half Moon Bay State Beach.

It’s always a good idea to check specific beach regulations before visiting with pets.

Q: Does Half Moon Bay have a downtown?

A: Yes, Half Moon Bay has a charming downtown area that reflects the town’s rich history and close-knit community spirit. The downtown boasts a range of shops, restaurants, and local businesses that provide visitors with a glimpse into the town’s culture and traditions.

Q: Where can I shop for souvenirs in Half Moon Bay?

A: The downtown area of Half Moon Bay has several boutique shops offering unique souvenirs, artisanal products, and local crafts.

Some of my favorites:

Q: Are there any wineries or breweries in Half Moon Bay?

A: If you’re looking for a casual beer, Half Moon Bay offers a handful of brewery options. Sacrilege Brewery + Kitchen is on Main Street.

Half Moon Bay Brewing Company in Princeton Harbor offers beautiful ocean views with their craft brews. Sit outside on their heated patio.