Princeton-by-the-Sea, Half Moon Bay, CA 94109
a quaint, beautiful, historic harbor town
The quaint fishing village called Princeton-by-the-Sea has been a destination for San Francisco tourists since the early 1900s … for good reason. The area is georgeous and has plenty of activities that are a great break from the workaday world. See our Princeton harbor map for exact locations of best things to see and do nearby.
Pillar Point Harbor
The village center is Johnson Pier and Pillar Point Marina which are protected by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers breakwaters that created Pillar Point Harbor. Johnson Pier is a good place to start since there is plenty of parking nearby.
Check the fish sales information board at the Harbor Master’s office before you stroll on the pier in search for freshly caught Dungeness crabs or fish sold right off the commercial fishing boats. You can also call the Fishfone at (650) 726-8724 for general information about which fishing boats recently arrived and about surf, tide, and weather conditions.
The small stores near the Pier include restaurants, whale sighting tours, HMB Kayak Company rentals (see discount tickets), Queen of Hearts Sport Fishing, and surfing legend Jeff Clark’s Mavericks Surfing shop (where you can get lessons, find out the best surfing spots, and see exciting videos of surfing Maverick’s).
Across Capistrano Rd from Johnson Pier is the relatively new Oceano Hotel & Retail complex. It is beautiful architecturally but the stores have not been all that successful sofar. Still it’s a generally pleasant commercial area to walk though not nearly so stunning as the nature you can see nearby.
The retail mall called the Shoppes at Harbor Village is a “village street” covered by a greenhouse roof. There is a bookstore and a few other small shops to quickly browse through. Mezza Luna Caffe, in front of the mall, is a cute little place with gelato, pastries, snacks, and coffee.
To attract more retail foot traffic several events are now being run most Sundays. These include a farmers market, an artisian fair in the mall, and a petting zoo for children. They are small events and not exceptional for the Bay area but provide something more to do if you are already in the area. The downside is that such promotional activities tend to create small traffic jams on Sundays. We prefer weekdays.
WALKING NORTHwest from Johnson Pier
Walking a block northwest from the Pier on Capistrano Rd you’ll see Barbara’s Fish Trap, with its unique rustic beach-shack-like decor and the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. Both are very popular with tourists so prices have been climbing lately.
A block further you’ll see the Silver Star Grill, which has inexpensive gourmet pub fare (e.g., good burgers) and a super nice owner, Peter. On one side is The Old Princeton Landing sports bar, now run by a new owner, and on the other is a very nifty old American Legion Post in case you happen to already be a member. Across the street is Mezza Luna Italian Restaurant; the nice setting, service, food, and prices combine to make it one of our long-time favorites.
You can continue further west (turn left at Prospect) by car or foot through a commercial area to Pillar Point Beach, which is a good place to walk your dog, and up the bluffs to Pillar Point Bluff trail, which is truly a gem. The famous Maverick’s surfing competition, featuring some of the world’s largest waves when in season, is held just off Pillar Point.
WALKING SOUTHeast from Johnson Pier
There is a very pleasant beach walk heading southeast from Johnson Pier. It passes by a HMB Kayak rentals (see discount tickets), a public boat ramp, and then below Sam’s Chowder House sitting on the bluff. Sam’s is so popular now that you can hardly get into the parking lot. When we do go we most enjoy sitting on the several patios there which all have outstanding ocean views; service seems better outside too. See one such view from Sam’s via this live webcam.
Then continue southeast on the trail that runs along the beach past Sam’s. You’ll end up at Hwy 1 at the Pillar Point RV Park and Surfer’s Beach, the best beginners beach in this part of the coast. Across Hwy 1 is plenty of parking and the El Granada Hardware & Cafe, a local’s favorite hangout which has good drip coffee.
You can continue walking southeast via one of three parallel paths Surfers Beach, the old Mirada Surf West bluff path, or the new paved Mirada Surf West walk which lies further back from the bluff. At the Magellan Ave end of the paved Mirada Surf West walk are signs which map for you good directions for walking the entire Princeton area including access to Mirada East (just across Hwy 1 that leads to Quarry Park1/2 mile away in El Granada).
Then continue walking southeast via Mirada Road past Miramar Beach Restaurant (see their webcam of Mirada Rd) and Ebb Tide Cafe coffee shop. You can sit here and enjoy a fabulous beach cliff setting even though it’s only open weekends for coffee.
Since this is one of the nicest, most commercial, and most accessible segments of the Half Moon Bay coastline we have several more pages which expand on best things to do in and near Princeton-on-the-Sea. See some below:
- Pillar Point Harbor Map – Shows precisely where the best things mentioned above are located. This can be useful since regular maps or GPS systems are often not detailed enough even if you know your destination.
- Half Moon Bay Trails & Beaches & map – Expands on walking adventures.
- Half Moon Bay Things To Do & map – Expands on places to eat and other things to do.
- El Granada – The little town across Hwy 1 from Princeton-on-the-Sea.
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