15 Fun-Tastic Beaches in Half Moon Bay, CA, that Your Dog Will Love

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Half Moon Bay is a string of golden sand beaches along the bay where you and your fur baby can enjoy swimming and play on the beach as well as shopping, dining, and visiting other attractions and parks. 

Half Moon Bay may be a small city, but it is packed with big fun for pup parents and their canine companions. You can find so much to do in such a small space you will be busy for days.

From Pillar Point to Cowell Ranch, including the Half Moon Bay State Beach, there are miles of beaches, trails, and parks along the coastline to explore and enjoy. Take a hike on Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail that leads all the way to Miramar Beach to the north and to Manhattan Beach to the south. If you and your pup are looking for a good dog-friendly beach to visit, we have 15 listed here for you to check out. 

Ocean Beach

With 3.5 miles of white sandy beach along the ocean with no huge resorts or hotels to block the view, Ocean Beach is a favorite with everyone, including pooch parents. Located just to the north of Half Moon Bay in San Francisco, this stunning stretch of heaven is great for taking a walk along the water, watching the surfers, or letting your pup play in the shallows. Because the water is almost always cold and the current is rough, you should keep him on a short leash. 

Right across from the Golden Gate Bridge, this is one of the most scenic beaches in the area and has several trails you can enjoy with your dog. The Easy Ocean Beach Trail is about six miles long and takes about two hours on average. For more of a workout, try the 11.5-mile Presidio Coastal Trail with strenuous climbs and steep descents. Be sure to bring plenty of doggie cleanup bags, water, and snacks.

Fort Funston Beach

You and your fur baby will have a blast at Fort Funston. Even the name says fun! Like Ocean Beach, the water here is chilly, and the rip tide is treacherous, so swimming is not advised. However, you can allow your pup to splash in the shallow water as long as you keep him close with a leash. Although it is a leash-free zone, it is best for his own safety to keep him restrained at all times, so he does not go out too far or climb into the bluffs.

Besides the fun beach, you can also spend hours watching hang gliders sail through the skies beginning on the 200-foot bluffs. It is the most popular spot for hang gliding in the US. The rugged beach is just to the south of Ocean Beach and the San Francisco Zoo and has some spectacular sand dunes and great trails to explore and enjoy. 

Lake Merced

If your canine companion really needs to get in the water, right behind Fort Funston, you can find Lake Merced. The 615-acre park is a popular spot for pup parents who enjoy boating, swimming, fishing, and other water sports, as well as hiking, biking, and picnicking. You can really do a lot of different things at Lake Merced Park, like golfing, birdwatching, and just hanging out to enjoy the sun. 

Keep your pup on a leash, though, or you can get a large fine from the park patrol. Also, bring doggie bags and make sure your dog does not chase or irritate the wildlife. Water birds are plentiful here, like cormorants, egrets, and loons. The main entrance has a bar & grill, a convenience store, and a boat house, as well as a picnic area with tables and barbecue grills. If you have a boat, there is a boat launch you can use but make sure you have life jackets for both you and your pooch.  

Mussel Rock Park Beach

Mussel Rock is a historic site that has the distinction of being the nearest spot to the center of the San Andreas Fault, meets the San Francisco Peninsula and is the site of the 1906 San Francisco. But it is also the site of tons of fun for you and your canine compadre. You will need to keep your fur baby leashed, but he is free to go anywhere from the waves to the trails and everything in between. 

This part of the coast is a little warmer, so swimming is okay for both of you. Most of the coast is rocky, though, so you may not get to go too far, which is probably good since the currents can be a little bit rough at times. The park has numerous trails that range from short and easy to long and strenuous, so take your pick. You will also enjoy watching the birds, looking for shells, and seeing the paragliders take flight from The Dumps, a paragliding site.

Pacifica Esplanade Beach

This is the only beach that is officially leash-free for dogs, so if you want to let your fur baby run wild on the sand, Esplanade Beach is where you need to go. Just south of Mussel Rock Park, this small secluded stretch of sand has to be reached by trail. You and your pup can take the switchback trail at the northern end of Esplanade Drive next to the Land’s End Apartments and then walk down the steps to get there. 

It is a rugged beach with bluffs, and you will have to pay attention to the tide tables because it can be dangerous during high tide and during storms. You are welcome to let your dog swim but it is important to note that the tide can be rough, and your pooch will need a life vest for safety. If he is not an expert swimmer, it is also good to keep his leash on if he decides to go for a swim. 

Pacifica State Beach

A little bit further south past Rockaway Beach, Pacifica State Beach is a little more visitor-friendly than the rugged Esplanade Beach. Besides the family-friendly beach access with a swimming area, you can also find restrooms, water fountains, a skate park, and concessions. There is even a Taco Bell right on the beach where you can fuel up for more fun. But be sure to bring your own supply of doggie waste bags to pick up after your pup.

If you want to take a hike, the Pacifica Rockaway Point Trail is an easy nature walk of about 2.5 miles. It usually takes about an hour to complete, and you will get some extraordinary views of the area. The trail is partially paved, and sections of it are wooded and stroller-friendly if you plan on putting your pooch in a stroller. Besides all that, the park also has fishing, surfing, geocaching, and biking. 

Montara State Beach

Also known as McNee Ranch State Park, this is considered one of the cleanest beaches in the state of California. Make sure you bring doggie poo bags to keep it that way! Also, your pup will need to be on a leash no longer than six feet, and he should have all his vaccinations and a rabies tag. The park is almost 700 acres and includes access to the Santa Cruz mountains and hiking trails that you and Fido can explore. 

The beach itself is about a mile wide and has stunning golden sand with clear blue water. You will often find locals out on the waves surfing, swimming, or scuba diving, while others just come to sunbathe. It is a relaxing spot since most of the tourists go to other popular spots like Ocean Beach. If you and your fur buddy get hungry, you can walk to one of the nearby food trucks or the small cafe on the eastern end of the beach. 

Mavericks Beach

To the south of Montara State Beach, past Seal Cove and Sunset View, Mavericks Beach is out on the tip of Pillar Point. Because of its strong currents and renowned waves, this is the favorite spot for local surfers to find big waves. There is almost always a contest going on but don’t try to join in. It is not safe for your fur baby. It is named for the Mavericks Surfing events that have been going on since 1999 here. 

The beach may not be great for swimming, it is perfect for a walk along the water or digging in the sand. You can even build a fine sandcastle if your pooch does not knock it down. Although the signs say dogs have to be on a leash, this is not enforced unless your fur baby gets too close to the nearby wetlands. However, it is good to keep him on a leash if he is not voice-controlled. 

Pillar Point Harbor Beach

Head southeast down the beach from Mavericks Beach to find the Pillar Point Harbor and Beach. Besides local surfers, this beach is also populated by dog walkers and equestrians. The bluff is 220 acres of natural space to enjoy some incredible views of the ocean and nearby parks and beaches. At the harbor, you can find restrooms and water as well as several eateries, including Barbara’s Fishtrap and Half Moon Bay Brewing Company.

Take a walk out on the Johnson Pier for some of the best views of the water and surf breaks. The Pillar Point Pier does not allow dogs, though, so keep that in mind. If you and your pup are ready for a longer walk, there is an easy 1.7-mile trail along the water where you can often see whales in the distance. If you are thinking of doing some surfing and you have someone to watch your pup, Maverick’s Surf Company has boards and accessories as well as snacks. 

Surfer’s Beach

A little further south, Surfer’s Beach is a small and undeveloped coastal area with a rugged 15-acre bluff area to explore. The most popular activity here is hiking. The half-mile El Granada Coast Trail here is easy and short, but it is an important link to the California Coastal Trail if you plan on going for a long hike with your fur baby. Another path leads to Quarry Park, where your pooch can run off-leash for a while. It is not on the beach, but it sure is a lot of fun. 

The beach is a fun place to run around in the sand when the tide is low and watch the surfers enjoy the waves. Your fur baby will love watching the birds swooping in, looking for scraps, and you can get some awesome selfies with your best friend. There are restrooms nearby at the harbor, but you will need your own doggie poo bags, extra water, and snacks for you both. 

Miramar Beach

Another off-leash beach, Miramar, can be found further south between Vallejo Beach and Roosevelt Beach. In fact, the next four miles are all public beaches. However, some of these do not allow dogs, so be sure to check first. If it is not on this list, you will need to call the park to find out if your canine companion is welcome there. Miramar does not require leashes, but you will need to use caution because the beach disappears at high tide. 

The California Coastal Trail is also here at this park, running from all of the other beaches to the north as well as many to the south. To get to Miramar, take Magellan or Medio, where the Arroyo de Medio Creek flows. Then, take the beach access behind the footbridge. It is a steep path, so be careful. The golden sand and palm trees make this a stunning spot for photos too. 

Half Moon Bay State Beach

The main beach of Half Moon Bay, this state beach, is a lot of fun for you and your fur baby to picnic, camp, hike, and hang out. However, dogs are not allowed on the beach here during the busy season from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Between those times, your pup can play on the sand and swim in the water as long as you keep him on a leash. There is almost always someone at this popular beach, so do not expect solitude no matter what time of year you visit. 

There are some water access points where you and your pooch can do some fishing or stick your feet in the water or just hang out and watch the birds and other wildlife that frequent the park. You will also find several scenic points to get some great selfies or try your hand at geocaching. The picnic areas all have picnic tables and barbecue pits, as well as restrooms and drinking water. But you need to bring your own dog cleanup baggies. 

Poplar Beach

Poplar Beach is situated to the south of Half Moon Bay State Beach and is the most dog-friendly beach in Half Moon Bay. The others either do not allow dogs at all or only let you bring your pup during the off-season. Poplar Beach does require that you keep your canine companion on a leash at all times, though. The beach is full of golden sand with lots of seashells and water birds. 

It is a fairly large stretch of sand with about ½ mile of wide coastal space where you do not have to worry about the tide chasing you away. You will often find locals walking their dogs or riding horses here since this and Miramar are the only two pet-friendly beaches in Half Moon Bay. The Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail also cuts through here on its way south, so you and your pooch can take a scenic stroll. 

Bean Hollow Beach

About 15 minutes down the coast from Half Moon Bay State Beach, Bean Hollow State Beach is another place where Fido can play on the beach and in the water. It has one mile of sandy coastline with rocky tide pools and 44 acres of nature trails, picnicking areas, playgrounds, and other fun things to do. The Arroyo de Los Frijoles Trail is an easy hike to explore as it takes you to Pebble Beach to the north, which is also dog-friendly.

Although you can let your pup get in the water, it is somewhat dangerous for swimming because of the cold water, currents, and sharks. Yes, there are sharks here, and it is probably a good idea to keep your dog within a few inches of the beach if you allow him to splash in the water. And keep him on a leash. One of the major hobbies here you may enjoy watching is the radio-controlled four-wheel drive trucks that are often driven here. 

Seal Point Dog Park

Across the way in San Mateo, Seal Point Harbor Park has a fantastic amenity: a dog park! Located on the San Francisco Bay, about 15 minutes from Half Moon Bay, this three-acre park is completely fenced in and allows your dog to run around off the leash and play with other fur buddies while you relax and watch the view. It has a section for both large and small dogs, as well as doggie water fountains so your pooch can get a drink. 

Outside the dog park, you and your canine companion can take a walk along the water on the Bay Trail, which is about three miles long. Make sure you stop at Seal Point, which is the major attraction here. Here you will get an incredible view of the bay and the wildlife around the area, such as the seals and sea lions that frequent the waters. Take a walk across the boardwalk through the marshes to see the California Clapper Rail, or just take a seat and relax.

The Final Woof

Besides all of these wonderful beaches, there is much more to do with your fur baby in Half Moon Bay. First of all, you can rent a kayak from Half Moon Bay Kayak Company and take your pooch on a boat ride. Or let your pup run around free on more than 17 acres at the 366-acre Pulgas Ridge Open Space Preserve

Or why not take your little fur ball shopping? Stanford Shopping Center is a dog-friendly mall with upscale shops like Neiman Marcus, Lacoste, Juicy Couture, and Crate & Barrel. 

After you work up an appetite, take Fido to Miramar Beach Restaurant, where you can both enjoy a bite on the patio. Pasta Moon is another great place to fill up some incredible food like pasta, pizza, or seafood. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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