Not far from San Francisco, is the rural town of Montara CA, with its historic charm. Montara State Beach is dangerous for swimmers due to the steep sandy drop, but popular with experienced surfers. Gray whales are a constant sight at Nearby Gray Whale Cove State Beach. Visit beautiful Montara State Beach with it’s wide mile-long beach just north of Montara along the San Mateo County Coast. Behind the beach are stunning sculpted sandstone cliffs making this a very photogenic spot, or head to the historic lighthouse at Point Montara Light Station, with restored and preserved buildings from the 1870’s. Anything you do in Montara CA will be amazing, start planning today! For all the great area beaches, click here.
Weather – When to Visit Montara
In Montara, the summers are short, comfortable, dry, and mostly clear and the winters are long, cold, wet, windy, and partly cloudy. Over the course of the year, the temperature typically varies from 44°F to 66°F and is rarely below 38°F or above 75°F. The best time of year to visit Montara for warm-weather activities is from mid July to late September.
Point Montara Light Station
Point Montara Light Station is located between Montara State Beach and the city of Moss Beach, CA. The waves crash hard on rocks below the lighthouse grounds, but luckily there is a small sandy beach with access from the property. Even if you don’t venture down to the water’s edge, this is a good place to just enjoy the view, take pictures, and look for whales offshore if it’s their migration season. Gray whales migrate by Point Montara between November and April.
Montara State Beach
Montara State Beach is a wide mile-long beach just north of Montara along the San Mateo County Coast. Behind the beach are stunning sculpted sandstone cliffs making this a very photogenic spot. At the south end of the beach you can climb up a steep narrow path to a little promontory surrounded by astonishing natural beauty.
Gray Whale Cove State Beach
Cliffs surround this sandy beach, where whales are often spotted close to the shore. The beach (also known as Devil’s Slide) features a sheltered cove surrounded by cliffs that drop abruptly into the Pacific Ocean. A steep trail leads down to the beach. There is a small picnic area on the bluff above. Gray whales can often be seen close to the shore.
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
This rocky seashore hosts a living community of marine life that is of great interest to visitor and naturalist alike. A variety of seaweed, crabs, sponges, seastars, mollusks, and fish make their homes in the inter-tidal; that area between low and high tide. The Reserve is set aside to protect this complex but fragile community for us and future generations. The Reserve is popular with school and community groups for its educational value.
McNee Ranch State Park
Montara mountain (also known as McNee Ranch) is part of Montara State Beach. The mountain is a northern spur of the Santa Cruz Mountains and features the only undisturbed Coastal Mountain Habitat found over 100 miles of coastline. There are steep mountainside trails for hiking, biking & dog walking, with sweeping views of the Pacific below.
Things to do in Montara
Half Moon Bay Kayak Company
Paddle among seals, birds, and other marine life in protected Pillar Point Harbor or the wild waters of the open Pacific. Learn to surf in kayaks or travel in them throughout the world, stand up paddle board the tranquil waters of the harbor or bike the famous HMB Coastal Trail. Telephone: 650–773–6101 Web: Half Moon Bay Kayak Company
Sea Surf & Fun
Created in 2011 Sea, Surf & Fun is the first French surf school in California. You will enjoy some magic and exciting experiences: meeting seals & dolphins, using all the energy of your body to face the power of the ocean. Telephone: 415-410-1102 Web: Sea Surf & Fun
Three-hour educational whale watching cruises from Half Moon Bay to observe the annual migration of thousands of gray whales from their Arctic feeding grounds to breeding and calving areas in Mexico. Trips run on Saturdays and Sundays from late December through mid-May. Telephone: 415-256-9604 Web: Oceanic Society
Fishing for Salmon, Rock fish, Ling Cod & Tuna Along the San Mateo, San Francisco and Marin coast. Your Small Charter Specialist. Both individuals and groups are welcome aboard. As well as beginners, women and old salts. Their crew wants to help you to have a great ocean experience. Telephone:
650-728-8433 Web: Riptide Charters
University of Surfing
University of Surfing has been teaching since 2004. Their amazing crew of Instructors are all experienced teachers that are patient, kind, knowledgeable, local and safe! They use the right gear at the right tide and are fully licensed and insured. Telephone: 650-556-6515 Web: University of Surfing
Best Restaurants in Montara
$-Inexpensive $$-Moderate $$$-Pricey $$$$-Ultra High End
$$$$ La Costanera
Perched on Montara Beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean, La Costanera is a contemporary Peruvian restaurant serving coastal cuisine of Latin America. They also offer a full bar, domestic and imported Peruvian beers and a hand selected wine list. Telephone: 650-728-1600 Web: La Costanera
$ Gherkin’s Sandwich Shop
They serve craft sandwiches with your choice of turkey, roast beef, pastrami, ham, salami and unique offerings for their vegetarian guests.
Their salads are made with only the freshest ingredients and they have the best burgers in town! Try their special breakfast and frittata sandwiches made with all your favorites. Telephone: 650-728-2211 Web: Gherkin’s Sandwich Shop
$$ – $$$ 3-Zero Cafe
The 3-Zero Cafe offers distinctive family meals. Kids love the Mickey Mouse pancakes, adults rave over the brioche french toast. The decor consists of model planes and other airport-related memorabilia and is sure to make a positive impression, leaving your family with a fun memory from your visit to the California coastline. Telephone: 650-728-1411 Web: 3-Zero Cafe
$$ – $$$ Moss Beach Distillery Restaurant
The Moss Beach Distillery sits at the edge of a cliff in Half Moon Bay, California overlooking the ocean. We offer delicious steaks and fresh seafood alongside a haunted setting provided by our resident ghost the “Blue Lady.” For the more casual outing they offer a heated outdoor patio that comes fitted with warm blankets and fire pits. Telephone: 650-728-5595 Web: Moss Beach Distillery Restaurant
$$ – $$$ Mezzaluna
Mezzaluna offers southern Italian dishes with a California flair, serving only the highest quality meats, fish, and produce, much of it locally sourced. The restaurant, located in Princeton by the Sea, is just 20 miles south of San Francisco, near the heart of Silicon Valley. Telephone: 650-728-8108 Web: Mezzaluna
Best Montara Nightlife
The Wine Room
A great little wine bar. Coast-side cute on the outside. Modern on the inside. Nice and warm making for the perfect place to curl up with a friend, a group, or just you and your glass. The music talent is usually from the local area, but widely known and in many cases, published more than a few times. Telephone: 650-728-9463 Web: The Wine Room
Old Princeton Landing Public House & Grill
They host live music, private events, festivals, sporting events, plus pool and dart tournaments. Their garden back patio is dog friendly! Every weekend they host the best bands from around the Bay Area and coming through on tour. Telephone: 650-728-7096 Web: Old Princeton Landing Public House & Grill
Hop Dogma Brewing Company
They specialize in creative, handcrafted ales and lagers always made with exciting and premium ingredients which they personally source. Hop Dogma enjoys brewing small batches that enables them to constantly experiment and perfect their products. They partner with Lamas Restaurant to provide great food with your craft beer. Telephone: 650-560-8729 Web: Hop Dogma Brewing Company
Cheers of Pacifica
Locals bar in beautiful Pacifica Beach. Cool bartenders. A great 3 piece band comes on at 7 pm. And the band is great! Great tunes and cold drinks. Can’t get better! Telephone: 650-359-1225 Web: Cheers of Pacifica
Devil’s Slide Taproom
The main focus is west coast craft beer but if a certain brewery makes a beer that the customers are asking for, it will be brought in so that everyone can enjoy their favorites. The menu may be simple but what is on the menu is done well. With a head chef that has over 30 years of experience, these bar bites have been elevated. Telephone: 650-898-8855 Web: Devil’s Slide Taproom
Best Hotels Near Montara
Oceano Hotel and Spa Half Moon Bay Harbor
The Oceano Hotel is known for its casual luxury experiences. Each room features a bedroom and living area, as well as a fireplace for your comfort. The ideal location is nestled along the Pacific Ocean just south of San Francisco in Half Moon Bay. The Oceano Hotel is also the home of the Oceano Coastal Spa, Oceano Bar & Grill, and the Oceano Shopping Village. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Oceano Hotel & spa Half Moon Bay.
Seal Cove Inn
The Seal Cove Inn is truly a boutique hotel, surrounded by an oasis where you can enjoy secluded beaches, watch frolicking seals, and follow the tree-lined paths tracing the windswept Half Moon Bay ocean bluffs.
The amenities continue with the beautifully appointed guest rooms, reminiscent of a European country inn. Each room is oriented toward the water, overlooking acres of beautiful San Mateo County parkland and the ocean beyond. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Seal Cove Inn.
Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn
Guests at this beach bed & breakfast will appreciate convenient onsite amenities such as barbecue grills and a picnic area. All 11 rooms boast fireplaces and jetted tubs, while also providing free WiFi, free wired Internet, and flat-screen TVs with cable channels. Other amenities available to guests include furnished balconies or patios, DVD players, and refrigerators. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit Landis Shores Oceanfront Inn.
Cypress Inn on Miramar Beach
The Cypress Inn in Half Moon Bay is located just 28 miles south of San Francisco and is a favorite weekend getaway destination. Guests of the Cypress Inn on Miramar Beach gaze upon the Pacific Ocean as they enjoy their breakfast from the comfort of their room. Let the soothing sounds of crashing waves lull you into blissful relaxation while you enjoy a massage by our in-house massage therapist. Enjoy the generous size, flat screen TV, and jetted tubs of our guestrooms. Join us at the Cypress Inn on Miramar Beach and unwind! For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the Cypress Inn on Miramar Beach.
HI Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel
Guests are accommodated in both shared and private rooms in former Coast Guard quarters and the historic fog signal building. Enjoy cozy lounges, a secluded beach cove with tide pools, and landscaped native plant gardens. Amenities include DSL Internet and free WiFi, on-site laundry, free parking, and an espresso bar. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room visit the HI Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel.
Wow! Another awesome and great place in California!
What i really like whenever i go for a holiday is going to places with awesome weather as i live in the north. So Montara is another that should be on my bucket list!
Thanks Leahrae for another great review!
You are welcome Hanna! Thanks for stopping by and I am glad you enjoyed my Montara CA review.
Montara beach really looks so beautiful. I hope to be there soon, as I am traveling to California. I like the list of restaurants, nightlife, hotels, and attractions you have put together. This makes my travel planning a LOT easier. How much time should I allow for vacationing here? I’d like to make sure I see all the attractions and visit the beautiful beaches.
I bet you are getting excited for your vacation to California. I would try to spend at least two weeks here, that way you will be able to take your time, relax and enjoy everything in Montara. Thanks for stopping by.
I need to visit NoCal beaches a lot more! Montara Beach looks so breathtaking and I would love to take some surfing lessons as well as take some kayaking lessons! I really like there’s a University of Surfing an I think that’s a huge selling point for that beach. Even the restaurants look amazing as well especially Mezzuluna!
Yes, it is breathtaking that the whole northern California coast is the same. Definitely a great vacation and surfing is a lot of fun!
Thank you for writing this post about Montara in California. Although I don’t live in the US, I visit often, and being a beach person I’m always interested in new beach travel destinations to explore.
I am also an open water swimmer so I was wondering, which, if any of these beaches, are best for swimming?
Hi Mark, and thank you for stopping by. I would definitely swim in Montara State Beach. That is going to be the best for swimming in open water. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.
I love the northern California area and my family and I are planning a vacation to this area this coming summer. We wanted to visit a few different coastal communities and Montara is one of them. Your site is very information, and has answered a lot of questions for us. Everything we need is now at our fingertips. Thanks for this great information.
You are very welcome. I am glad I could provide the information you need so that you can start planning your family vacation to Montara CA. The whole area is amazing and you will have a wonderful time. If you need any help with anything, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I would love to help!
I have been reading your blog and looking at all the wonderful destinations. I have been planning a vacation to California and I think Northern California is the perfect place. The weather is perfect and there is so much to see in the entire area including Montara. How long do you think I should plan for my stay? I want to enjoy it all, the beaches, the scenery and all of the area attractions. Thanks!
Yes, I agree that northern California does have a lot to offer. I would make sure you account for 2 days of travel right off the bat as you won’t get much done those two days other then getting to and from California. Then plan at least another week and a half to two weeks for your vacation. This way you can relax, take your time and just enjoy it all. If you need any help with your planning, please fee free to message me.
I love a historic place at the sea side and find Montara just a place to be. The ambiance and smell of fresh water would be next to nothing. The nice thing about Montara is that it not a big city, so the perfect place for a vacation for me! There are so many attractions here as well and I love seafood so the restaurants appeal to me. I am looking forward to traveling to Montara California. It seems unique, beautiful and peaceful.
Hi Stella, and thank you for visiting Montara CA. I am glad you enjoyed and are looking forward to a vacation here. For seafood, definitely try the Moss Beach Distillery Restaurant. It is not far away at all. And if you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.
Thank you for all the information on Montara California. I like the weather as it does not seem to get too hot for me. I really want to visit California on vacation. I am curious how long do you think I need to plan for my vacation if I want to enjoy the beaches and all of the attractions in the area?
Hi there and thanks for visiting my Montara CA post. Boy, I would vacation here for at least two weeks. This way you will have ample time to hit the beaches and see the area attractions. Depending on how far you are traveling, you will want to account for 2 days travel (there and back). So maybe 2 1/2 weeks if you can do it. If you need any help with planning, please let me know.
What a beautiful review of Montara. i did not know the place myself, but just reading your review made me want to go there. The climate seems to be my ideal and your descrption of the place is spot on. I liveiin Europe and this year we are planning to go to the US for a vacation as soon as the kids are finishing school. California was one of the spot to visit we had in mind and now you just added a specific location to our map. Montara will be. Thank you
You are welcome Barbara. The whole area is beautiful so save some time to enjoy it all. If you have any additional questions, please let me know.
I have never been to California. I have always wanted to go but knew I wanted to stay away from such busy places like San Francisco or L.A. This looks like the perfect little town for my energy. Do you know of any nearby wildlife rescues or animal/pet events that go on there?
Yes Alisha, you can visit the Peninsula Humane Society & Pet Rescue which does both. Please let me know if you have any other questions.
Another great travel spot review. I am definitely bookmarking your page to come back to. How far is Montana from Jan Jose? I have relatives who live there and wonder if it is too far a distance to travel from, if I book a visit to my cousin’s and have a girls trip to celebrate an upcoming birthday this year. I can see that the best time to travel is between June and September, what is the highest temperature for this warm season? I come from temperate zone and would like to know what to prepare.
It is really fairly close from San Jose to Montara, less than an hour drive. Temperature is going to vary little with an average between June and September of about 73°F. So this is summer weather, and you can take along your summer clothes. Just make sure to take a light jacket in case it gets a little chilly and you are out at night.
Hi Leahrae, I just reviewed your site and left you a comment on your Montara, CA post. Very well done! In fact, I read it twice because now I want to take the wife there on vacation soon!
You’ve utilized great use of images and organized everything in a way that was easy to read and very educational. I like they way you put the topics into sections with where to stay, things to do, nightlife, etc. And I really like how you used the $ to indicate the cost level of each establishment. Very creative and different from what I have seen before.
Anyway, great job. The site looks amazing and this post was extremely effective!
Thanks so much Bob! I am glad you enjoyed visiting beach travel destinations. Please come back when you are ready to put your plan into motion 🙂 I would love to help!
a wonderful video about Montara and a very good presentation; I am in love with the sea and live 1.5 km from the Black Sea; but unlike Montara, along the coast is only the beach; Montara is a nice place for surfing; and they are good restaurants and cafes; thank you for the post
You are welcome Carmen and thank you for visiting my Montara CA review.
Wow, great info! Looks like the wife and I need to check out Montara, CA soon! Looks absolutely beautiful!
It is absolutely beautiful Bob! Worth vacationing to for sure 🙂