A quiet weekend getaway to Montara, just 20 miles south of San Francisco

Trip length

Day trip

Metropolitan area

SF Bay Area Trip Highlights


Montara is a tiny village town right on highway 1, 20 miles south of San Francisco, 7 miles north of halfway bay. I discovered the area after randomly booked a night at Montara lighthouse hostel, thinking about a quiet weekend reading a book there. And quiet it was! and Much more! The lighthouse hostel is the largest building complex, probably the largest business in this town of a few hundred people. Amber the 24 y/o coffee house owner (see picture) is one of them, born and raised here! There is not much else to see in the town center, but there are plenty to do to pack your day. Hostel is the best place to watch un-interrupted sunset on pacific ocean. Eccentric rocky foot path behind it has some most vicious, constant breaking waves pounding the rocks beneath; Yet, a tiny white sand beach nearby is quiet and calm, I saw mom playing with her young son. After watching the waves, its time to have some outdoor activities: head to fitzgerald marine reserve where you can experiences following major activities:

1. Moss beach: its a stretch of white sand beach with incredible rich marine life living in the massive tide pool. The beach itself is calm and good for kayaking. Beach is perfect for relaxing, walking, playing in the tide pool, animal watching.

2. Majestic short cliff trails abruptly above the moss beach: the trail is aligned with man planted pine trees, the lights on this trail can beat any professional photographs. Unlike much of east coast, California's coastline is not without cliffs. Prepare for the incredible, ever changing view to the seashore from the edges of cliff trails.

3. Watching harbor seals: moss beach stretches north into fitzgerald marine reserve, where hundreds of harbor seals call this home year around. One can easily see these seal from above on those majestic cliff trails. Just do not disturb them; Don't walk too close to them.

4. A little hiking: many locals come here for short hikes alone, with friends, or their dogs. Incredible pacific view at all times. Super short hike about a quarter mile total. To wrap the day up, drive back to the lighthouse hostel for some rest, watch the sunset on the ocean front beach. Sometime you will catch local photographers trying to capture the last lightings of the day. For a night of relaxation, definitely head to moss beach distillery, its literally a 5 mins walk from moss beach, but you can certainly drive, in fact its private, historical parking lot is one of a kind, definitely a first for me to ever park right off a cliff facing pacific ocean.

How to get there and get around

Its a short and scenic drive from San Francisco on highway 1, about 20 miles. The first stop is Montara lighthouse hostel, once settle down there, you can walk to nearby Montara town center for coffee, snacks. Moss beach and distillery are 3 to 4 miles south from hostel. You can park at the historical cliff parking lots of the distillery and walk down to the beach. Or drive slowly for another 3 minutes to the trail head where you can park your car and take the stairs down to moss beach.

Best Restaurants (or places to eat) in the area

1. Morning coffee: Amber McGaw's coffee house "Here comes the sun" at Montara

2. Lunch: Gherkin's sandwich shop at Montara

3. Dinner/Lunch: Moss beach distillery for gourmet food, ghost stories, and fun people watching. During day, you will have entire pacific ocean as view. The back yard patio is not bad either.

4. Dinner/Lunch: Authentic Peruvian restaurants with sweeping ocean view: Luka's Taproom (you need to see KQED's Check Please review).

SF Bay Area Neighborhood Characteristics

Montara lighthouse hostel. $30/night. Friendly staff. Comfy lounge with fireplace, sound of ocean wave, access to a tiny safe white sand beach (not moss beach).

Additional Links

Local hangouts, Shopping spots

1. Moss beach, and its tide pool
2. Moss beach distillery
3. Montara lighthouse hostel
4. Here comes the sun coffee house
5. Fitzgerald marin reserve


Montara lighthouse hostel sits right on the pacific ocean with its own seclusive white sand beach and eccentric short trails.


These three guys were having so much fun kayaking shirtless in the shallow water of moss beach, they even

Pic by @miss_fl0

Incredible marine animals, although they should not have picked them up. do not disturb wild animals!


City of Montara

Pic by @guotime

Amber McGaw, the awesome 24 y/o owner of pacific ocean facing coffee house by the name


Moss Beach Distillery

Pic by @guotime

Moss beach distillery was tucked in at the every end of small road off highway1, hard to find. The blue lady story gives me goose-bump still, as I am typing this. But the view, the building, the food, the yard and the trails, moss beach behind it, are awesome! Lots of history, nice dinner date place. When you come on a weekday there is no wait, although it's always packed on the weekends.


Sunny side up bacon sandwich from Gherkin's. Delicious!

Pic by @chiploven

Hundreds of harbor seals live here year around. Its a safe heaven for them.


View to the tide pool when tide is rising.

Pic by @mrsrobot0

Lots of resident harbor seals, they do look like my dirty socks from afar;)


Another view at this quiet moss beach.


Another look at the pine tree covered trails with sunlights peeking through.

Pic by @guotime

Seclusive tiny white sand beach behind the lighthouse hostel. A mom was playing with her young child while husband was hiking on the trail above.


Watch sunset with nothing but ocean in front of you.


Montara Cafe & Bakery

Pic by @guotime

Thats Amber's coffee house's view on a sunny day.

Pic by @guotime

A lunch with a view of real massive pacific ocean, the sandwich was delicious and not that expensive. ($10).


Kids, adults all love to play in the tide pool. Remember, do not disturb wild sea life, do not remove rocks as animals living beneath rely on these rock's protection.


Scenic short trails aligned with pine trees right off the massive pacific ocean, with easy hike to the well known fitzgerald marine reserve.

Pic by @wolfemann

Majestic fitzgerald marin reserve trail at sunset: amazing lines with amazing lights.


James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Pic by @serralily

Moss beach, another view from fitzgerald marine reserve cliff trail.


Gherkins Sandwich Shop


Gherkin's sandwich shop is a surf dude ran hot spot with delicious sandwich, also known for their famous pickles, so is the logo.


Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel

Pic by @guotime

Huge wave constantly pound on the rocks beneath the lighthouse hostel.


A bench to watch pacific ocean, and you can use strong wifi signals from the hostel.

Pic by @salva_truch

Moss beach tide pool from above, be careful, its a 100 feet steep drop!


Moss beach seen from the backyard of Moss beach distillery restaurant.