Since I was born and raised in San Mateo County, I’ve not immediately thought of the region as destination-worthy. This is a natural reaction to one’s hometown area, perhaps, and it wasn’t until recently had I realized San Mateo County is indeed a place worth visiting.
An ideal way to explore San Mateo’s coastal area is to start in the town of Woodside. From Highway 280, make your way to Highway 84 and stop at the Pulgas Water Temple—if you’re lucky, as I’ve always been, you will be the only one on the grounds, and can lie on the manicured, sloping lawn and read a book or have a picnic in peace. After, continue west on Highway 84 and wind through La Honda to San Gregorio. Just before you reach the coast, you’ll reach Stage Road, the old stagecoach route. At this intersection, you stumble upon the San Gregorio General Store—a historic, quirky all-purpose store that’s also a full-service bar, café, and live music venue. I love stopping here and catching a bluegrass band playing in the corner.
After you’ve stocked up on snacks and beers, head a bit further down to the beach. San Gregorio State Beach is a long strip of sand—even on sunny days when the crowds are out, you can still stake out sections of sand to call your own. If you’re up for more than a picnic out of a basket, score one of the public grills on this beach (or head to nearby Pomponio, Pescadero, or Bean Hollow State Beaches).
If you’re down for some outdoor action but not quite in a beach-y mood, a favorite stop of mine in this area is Harley Farms, a well-run goat dairy farm in Pescadero. While spring is a wonderful time to visit—the grassy pen is full of cute newborns—Harley Farms is a pretty awesome spot to visit year-round, and not only can you roam the grounds and frolic with all the happy goats (and believe me, they’re happy), you also tour the farm, learn how their cheese is made, and sample the goods in a simple yet rustic-chic dining room above the establishment’s gift shop.
If you refuse to head back into the suburbs of the Peninsula and would rather spend the night in Pescadero, try out one of these places to snooze:
- Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel: It’s expensive, with private and shared rooms, with a nice touch: a clifftop hot tub beneath the lighthouse.
- Pescadero Creekside Barn: A romantic retreat consisting of just one room—a loft inside an old whitewashed barn.
- Costanoa: A seaside resort with a campground, tent cabins, duplex cabins with fireplaces, and hotel-style rooms.