Those who want a fresh perspective and a quiet place to contemplate New Year’s goals should get an early start and head south of Half Moon Bay to San Gregorio State Beach. Blissfully quiet on early winter mornings, the wide beach has a large cave to explore and more than a mile of nice walking—but you’ve gotta watch the winter tides! Stroll the beach and turn around at any point, or go the distance if conditions are in your favor. (San Gregorio and Pomponio State Beaches are connected via 1.5 miles of golden terrain, but in winter this hike connection isn’t recommended because it’s often inaccessible due to higher tides.)
Even if you just walk a short distance on San Gregorio, you’re likely to enjoy plentiful solitude as you make your footprints beside impressive sandstone cliffs, passing bulky driftwood, spying seashells, and observing the mood of the waves. North of the estuary you’ll find the cave, with a bulk of driftwood inside, making a good seat for gazing out to the sea, and contemplating the year ahead.
BONUS EAT & DRINK: Belly up to the marvelous outdoor patio overlooking Half Moon Bay at Sam’s Chowder House. Don’t let a packed parking lot dissuade you; some of the best seats in the house are first come, first served if you aren’t fussy about needing a table and can eat at the outdoor bar counters (offering equally awesome Pacific views). Enjoy a bowl of their famous chowder and wash it down with a few sips of wine.
San Gregorio State Beach is located 10.5 miles south of Half Moon Bay on Hwy. 1. Parking $8. NOTE: Always keep an eye to the ocean, and talk to a ranger if in doubt, or check tide charts. No dogs on the beach.