Half Moon Bay, California

Coordinates: 37°27′32″N 122°26′13″W / 37.45889°N 122.43694°W / 37.45889; -122.43694
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Half Moon Bay, California
City of Half Moon Bay
Aerial view of Half Moon Bay facing north
Aerial view of Half Moon Bay facing north
Official seal of Half Moon Bay, California
"Home of the world-famous Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival!"
Vivir, Trabajar, Jugar (Live, Work, Play)
Location of Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County, California
Location of Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County, California
Half Moon Bay, California is located in the United States
Half Moon Bay, California
Half Moon Bay, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 37°27′32″N 122°26′13″W / 37.45889°N 122.43694°W / 37.45889; -122.43694
CountryUnited States
CountySan Mateo
IncorporatedJuly 15, 1959[1]
 • MayorDeborah Penrose [2]
 • City ManagerEddie Behle[3]
 • Total6.25 sq mi (16.20 km2)
 • Land6.24 sq mi (16.17 km2)
 • Water0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)  0.32%
Elevation75 ft (23 m)
 • Total11,795
 • Density1,900/sq mi (730/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code650
FIPS code06-31708
GNIS feature IDs277528, 2410685

Half Moon Bay is a coastal city in San Mateo County, California, United States, approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Its population was 11,795 as of the 2020 census. Immediately north of Half Moon Bay is Pillar Point Harbor and the unincorporated community of Princeton-by-the-Sea. Half Moon Bay is known for Mavericks, a big-wave surf location. It is called Half Moon Bay because of its crescent shape.

Originally an agricultural outpost to Mission San Francisco de Asís, the town was founded in the 1840s first as San Benito, and then as its Anglo fishing community grew, it was renamed Spanishtown. In 1874, it was again renamed Half Moon Bay. After rail and road connections in the early 1900s, the town grew. The foggy weather of the coast made the town a popular destination for booze-running during Prohibition.

The city's infrastructure is heavily integrated with the coast, including the Pillar Point Harbor, major roads, and the fire department. The economy of Half Moon Bay is dominated by a handful of businesses, the biggest of which is the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay which employs 500 people and is a major source of property tax and tourism income for the city.[8] Because of this geography, a 2022 study found that the city had over 123 buildings vulnerable to sea level rise.[8]


A valley floor outside the city

Half Moon Bay began as a rural agricultural area, primarily used by Mission San Francisco de Asís (established in 1776) for grazing cattle, horses, and oxen. After the Mission's secularization, Tiburcio Vásquez received the Rancho Corral de Tierra Mexican land grant in 1839 and Candelario Miramontes was granted Rancho Miramontes (later known as Rancho San Benito) in 1841.

The community began to develop in the 1840s as San Mateo County's first real town. Originally, San Benito, the town was renamed Spanishtown and attracted a thriving fishing industry in addition to its continued importance to coastal agriculture. Spanishtown became a racially diverse community, settled by Canadians, Chinese, English, Germans, Irish, Mexicans, Italians, Scots, Portuguese, and Pacific Islanders. Regular stagecoach service was established with San Mateo; coaches also served Purissima, Lobitos, and San Gregorio. Levy Brothers opened a department store downtown. Spanishtown was officially renamed Half Moon Bay in 1874.

The USS DeLong, run aground

The area grew very slowly, even after the Ocean Shore Railroad began serving the community in 1907. The construction of Pedro Mountain Road in 1914 provided better access to San Francisco and probably contributed to the railroad's demise by 1920. The USS DeLong ran aground at Half Moon Bay on December 1, 1921. During Prohibition "rum runners" took advantage of dense fog and hidden coves in the area to serve several roadhouses and inns, some of which operate today as restaurants (e.g., Moss Beach Distillery). Real growth in the area came after World War II with the construction of numerous subdivisions, eventually leading to Half Moon Bay's incorporation in 1959. The city preserves a historic downtown district that has buildings dating as far back as 1869.

2008 economic downturn and subsequent recovery[edit]

In 2008, financial setbacks endangered the city's viability. The economic crisis severely affected tourism, which generates the most revenue, and just when the city had finalized an $18 million settlement over a property lawsuit. As the municipal budget was typically $14 million or less, city fathers had issued bonds with annual payments of approximately $1 million over 25 years. As a result of these obstacles, the threat of bankruptcy was very real. Dozens of meetings were held to decide where to cut the budget and finally, 75 percent of municipal employees were laid off and replaced with contract workers. Employee contributions toward retirement benefits were also raised. The city council sought to regain the money paid in the settlement, believing that it should have been paid by the city's insurers. A lawsuit against the insurers was decided in 2013 and the insurer was ordered to pay the city more than $13 million; the Association of Bay Area Governments partially covered the costs of the lawsuit.[9]

The city's finances improved afterward. It was able to retire the first of its two 30-year Judgment Obligation Bonds (2009A Series Bonds) 20 years early. The early retirement was expected to save the city over $426,000 in annual General Fund expenses starting in 2015–16.[citation needed]

As of the publication of the Fiscal Year 2015–16 Budget the General Fund budget was balanced and had a structural surplus of $4 million.[10]

2023 mass shootings[edit]

On January 23, 2023, mass shootings occurred in Half Moon Bay. A spree killer opened fire at two farms with a semi-automatic pistol, killing seven people and critically injuring an eighth person. A 66-year-old suspect was taken into custody after he arrived in his SUV at the parking lot of the sheriff's office substation.[11]


Ritz-Carlton Hotel on the bay
Publicly accessible beach

Half Moon Bay is approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of San Francisco, 10 miles (16 km) west of San Mateo, and 45 miles (72 km) north of Santa Cruz. Neighboring towns include El Granada, Princeton-by-the-Sea, Moss Beach, and Montara to the north and Purissima, San Gregorio, and Pescadero to the south.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.4 square miles (17 square kilometers), of which, 6.4 square miles (17 km2) of it is land and 0.02 square miles (0.052 km2) of it (0.32%) is water. The town is situated on a bay of the same name. Major local industries include agriculture (houseplants, floriculture, Christmas trees, pumpkins, artichokes), fishing, and tourism. Historically, Half Moon Bay had been known as San Benito and Spanishtown. A 2022 study of the effects of sea level rise, found that both major tourism attractions, and other infrastructure would be under threat from projected Sea level rise caused by global warming.[8] The study found at least 123 buildings, including the Ritz Carlton (a major employer for the town), Pigeon Point Lighthouse and the Pescadero Cal Fire Station would be seriously threatened by erosion if sea level were to rise by 5 feet (1.5 m).[8]

A popular spot at Half Moon Bay is the 'Jetty,' or as it is sometimes called, 'The Breakwater.' This is a man-made break with unusual waves shaped by reflections from the breakwater at Pillar Point Harbor. Creeks in Half Moon Bay include Frenchmans, Pilarcitos and Naples.

Montara State Marine Reserve & Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area extend offshore from Montara, just north of Half Moon Bay. Like underwater parks, these marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems.


Half Moon Bay usually has mild weather throughout the year. Under the Köppen climate classification, it has a cool summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csb). Hot weather is rare; the average annual days with highs of 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) or higher is only 0.4 days. Cold weather is also rare with an annual average of 2.5 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower.[12] Typical of Northern California, most of the rain falls from November to April. The normal annual precipitation is 26.2 inches (665 millimeters).[12] Snowfall along the coast in Half Moon Bay has never been measurable; however, snow flurries were observed on December 12, 1972, February 5, 1976, and February 23, 2023. There is often fog and overcast during the night and morning hours, usually clearing offshore during the afternoon. Persistent sea breezes help to moderate the climate along the coast; farther from the ocean, in places such as Pilarcitos Creek, days are often warmer and nights cooler than on the coast. For the 37th parallel north, the mild summer temperatures of Half Moon Bay are unmatched across the board. Relatively nearby inland cities see significantly warmer temperatures at the same time. Despite the low latitude and strong maritime influence, nights remain very cool, even in the summer.

January is the coolest month with an average high of 58.4 °F (14.7 °C) and an average low of 42.9 °F (6.1 °C). September is the warmest month with an average high of 66.8 °F (19.3 °C) and an average low of 51.2 °F (10.7 °C).[12]

The most rainfall recorded in Half Moon Bay in one month was 15.70 inches (399 mm) in February 1998. The heaviest 24-hour rainfall was 5.33 inches (135 mm) on January 4, 1982. There is an average of 86 days with measurable rainfall.[12]

Climate data for Half Moon Bay, California, 1991–2020 normals, extremes 1939–present
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 76
Average high °F (°C) 59.4
Daily mean °F (°C) 51.4
Average low °F (°C) 43.4
Record low °F (°C) 27
Average precipitation inches (mm) 5.07
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 14.4 14.0 13.9 8.8 7.2 5.0 7.0 7.6 6.3 7.7 10.6 13.4 115.9
Source: NOAA[13][14]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[15]


The 2010 United States Census[16] reported that Half Moon Bay had a population of 11,324. The population density was 1,757.1 inhabitants per square mile (678.4/km2). The racial makeup of Half Moon Bay was 8,580 (75.8%) White, 82 (0.7%) African American, 71 (0.6%) Native American, 490 (4.3%) Asian, 9 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 1,710 (15.1%) from other races, and 382 (3.4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3,563 persons (31.5%).

The Census reported that 11,306 people (99.8% of the population) lived in households, 18 (0.2%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 4,149 households, out of which 1,264 (30.5%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 2,373 (57.2%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 293 (7.1%) had a female householder with no husband present, 156 (3.8%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 208 (5.0%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 41 (1.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 1,067 households (25.7%) were made up of individuals, and 538 (13.0%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72. There were 2,822 families (68.0% of all households); the average family size was 3.24.

The population was spread out, with 2,533 people (22.4%) under the age of 18, 796 people (7.0%) aged 18 to 24, 2,587 people (22.8%) aged 25 to 44, 3,644 people (32.2%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,764 people (15.6%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 95.1 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there were 93.8 males.

There were 4,395 housing units at an average density of 682.0 per square mile (263.3/km2), of which 2,944 (71.0%) were owner-occupied, and 1,205 (29.0%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 1.9%. 7,645 people (67.5% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 3,661 people (32.3%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[17] of 2000, there were 11,842 people, 4,004 households, and 2,774 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,829.8 inhabitants per square mile (706.5/km2). There were 4,114 housing units at an average density of 635.7 per square mile (245.4/km2).

There were 4,004 households, out of which 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.3% were married couples living together, 7.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.7% were non-families. Of all households, 23.1% were made up of individuals, and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 3.20.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 22.2% under the age of 18, 8.1% from 18 to 24, 31.9% from 25 to 44, 28.2% from 45 to 64, and 9.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 112.8 males. For every 100 females aged 18 and over, there were 115.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $78,473, and the median income for a family was $92,204. Males had a median income of $60,913 versus $41,265 for females. The per capita income for the city was $37,963. 6.1% of the population and 3.4% of families were below the poverty line. Of those, 7% are under the age of 18 and 6.2% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.


Ocean Lawn at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Half Moon Bay

Top employers[edit]

According to the city's 2020 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[18] the top employers in the city were:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay 550
2 Rocket Farms Inc. 130
3 New Leaf Community Market 116
4 Safeway 102
5 Sam's Chowder House 97
6 Half Moon Bay Golf Links 55
7 Hassett Hardware 49
8 Burger King 49
9 Pastorino Hay & Ranch Supply Inc. 48
10 Mullins Bar & Grill 43

Pillar Point Harbor[edit]

Eastern aerial view of Pillar Point Harbor

The Pillar Point Harbor at the northern edge of Half Moon Bay offers a protected landing for boats and provides other marine infrastructure. In the late 1980s, a new master plan was developed for the Harbor.[19] A variety of fish species have been identified in the harbor area. At the harbor, fishermen sell crab and fish catches straight off their boats at discount prices directly to the public, and restaurants will filet the fish for purchasers.[20]

The Half Moon Bay Yacht Club has facilities at the harbor.[21]

Arts and culture[edit]

Notable buildings[edit]

Surfers at Mavericks
Dodge WC series command car, at the 2009 Pacific Coast Dream Machines
Cliffs overlooking Half Moon Bay State Beach

The city has four sites listed at the National Register of Historic Places: the Methodist Episcopal Church at Half Moon Bay, the William Adam Simmons House,[22] the Robert Mills Dairy Barn,[23] and the James Johnston House.[24] The remnants of the village of Purissima, perhaps the only ghost town in San Mateo County, are four miles (6.4 km) south of the city, near the junction of State Route 1 and Verde Road.

There is an artist's collective, Colony of Coastside Artists,[25] downtown has several galleries, and there are art classes and workshops available locally.[26]

The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay is a major employer. The hotel was used as the wedding venue for the 2003 comedy film, American Wedding.[27]


The Half Moon Bay Airport hosts an annual benefit event in April, Pacific Coast Dream Machines, which features aircraft and automobiles.[28] Half Moon Bay also hosts an annual Art and Pumpkin Festival in October.

Parks and recreation[edit]

The region around Half Moon Bay contains several state parks and beaches, including:

At the north edge of the bay is the big wave surf area, Mavericks, off Pillar Point, where surfers challenge waves over 50 feet (15 m) tall. From 1999 to 2016, it was the location of the annual Titans of Mavericks competition.

Montara Mountain, located North of Half Moon Bay, is a popular outdoor recreation spot and home to the old Highway 1.


Half Moon Bay City Hall

In the California State Legislature, Half Moon Bay is in the 13th Senate District, represented by Democrat Josh Becker, and in the 23rd Assembly District, represented by Democrat Marc Berman.[29]

In the United States House of Representatives, Half Moon Bay is in California's 16th congressional district, represented by Democrat Anna Eshoo.[30]

Fire protection for the city of Half Moon Bay is provided by the Coastside Fire Protection District,[31] which contracts for service with CalFire.[31]

Law enforcement for the City of Half Moon Bay is provided under a contract with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

According to the California Secretary of State, as of February 10, 2019, Half Moon Bay has 7,549 registered voters. Of those, 3,603 (47.7%) are registered Democrats, 1,380 (18.3%) are registered Republicans, and 2,142 (28.4%) have declined to state a political party.[32]


The Cabrillo Unified School District serves the city. Schools include Half Moon Bay High School, Cunha Middle School and Hatch Elementary School although many students are bused to other Cabrillo Unified Schools (Farallone View Elementary and El Granada Elementary) in the unincorporated area north of the City and King Mountain off Skyline Boulevard south of Highway 92.

The city is served by the Peninsula Library System.


  • Half Moon Bay Review, the city's only newspaper, which has been in existence since 1898
  • Coastsider, an on-line community news site[33]
  • Half Moon Bay Patch, online newspaper[34]


Primary road access is via State Route 1 (the Cabrillo Highway) from the north and south, and State Route 92 from the east.

The city is served by Half Moon Bay Airport.

SamTrans routes 294 and 117 provide service to Half Moon Bay from the Hillsdale Caltrain station in San Mateo and Linda Mar in Pacifica, respectively.

In popular culture[edit]

The World War II United States Navy seaplane tender USS Half Moon (AVP-26) was named for Half Moon Bay and retained the name when serving as a United States Coast Guard weather reporting ship USCGC Half Moon for more than 20 years after the war.

The album Half Moon Bay was recorded by jazz pianist Bill Evans in 1973 at the Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay.

The 1992 movie Raising Cain, which takes place and was filmed on the San Francisco Peninsula mentions a fictitious Half Moon Marsh.

Belinda Carlisle shot her music video for Circle in the Sand at Half Moon Bay

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "California Cities by Incorporation Date". California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Archived from the original (Word) on October 17, 2013. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  2. ^ "City Council Homepage". City of Half Moon Bay. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  3. ^ "Directory". City of Half Moon Bay. Archived from the original on February 27, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  4. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  5. ^ "Half Moon Bay". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved November 5, 2014.
  6. ^ "Half Moon Bay (city) QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau.
  7. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d staff, Curtis Driscoll Daily Journal. "Half Moon Bay faces issues due to sea level rise". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  9. ^ The Associated Press. "Oakland tops the Yankees". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  10. ^ "Financial Reports". Archived from the original on May 25, 2017. Retrieved June 6, 2016.
  11. ^ "7 Dead, 1 Injured Following Separate Shootings in Half Moon Bay". NBC Bay Area. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  12. ^ a b c d "General Climate Summary Tables - Half Moon Bay, California". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  13. ^ "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  14. ^ "Summary of Monthly Normals 1991-2020". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved June 15, 2022.
  15. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Half Moon Bay city". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  17. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  18. ^ "City of Half Moon Bay CAFR". Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  19. ^ Callander Associates, Pillar Point Harbor East Harbor Master Plan, December 21, 1988)
  20. ^ "FishFone". Archived from the original on November 17, 2011. Retrieved December 6, 2009.
  21. ^ "About". Half Moon Bay Yacht Club. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  22. ^ "National Register #92000995: William Adam Simmons House in Half Moon Bay, California". noehill.com. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  23. ^ "National Register #90000120: Mills Dairy Barn in Burleigh-Murray Ranch State Park, California". noehill.com. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  24. ^ "The White House of Half Moon Bay | The James Johnston House". www.johnstonhouse.org. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  25. ^ "Colony of Coastside Artists home page". Colony of Coastside Artists. Retrieved January 14, 2020.
  26. ^ Arts On The Coastside Archived 2015-07-30 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2015-05-06.
  27. ^ "Filming Locations for American Wedding (American Pie 3) (2003)". The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations. Retrieved January 19, 2022.
  28. ^ Pacific Coast Dream Machines, Half Moon Bay's Festival of Magnificent Machines. Miramarevents.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-21.
  29. ^ "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Archived from the original on February 1, 2015. Retrieved November 29, 2014.
  30. ^ "California's 16th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  31. ^ a b "About Us | Coastside Fire Protection District". www.coastsidefire.org. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
  32. ^ "CA Secretary of State – Report of Registration – February 10, 2019" (PDF). ca.gov. Retrieved March 12, 2019.
  33. ^ "Coastsider".
  34. ^ "Half Moon Bay, CA Patch - Breaking News, Local News, Events, Schools, Weather, Sports and Shopping".
  35. ^ "Dorothy Puccinelli". www.askart.com. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
  36. ^ "RICHARD RHODES DISCUSSES HIS BOOK 'ENERGY: A HUMAN HISTORY'". September 21, 2017. Retrieved September 21, 2021.
  37. ^ "The Schiller Coastal Studies Center". features.bowdoin.edu. August 31, 2017. Retrieved September 6, 2017.

External links[edit]