Half Moon Bay is a coastal city in San Mateo County, California, United States. Its population was 11,324 as of the 2010 census. Immediately at the north of Half Moon Bay is the Pillar Point Harbor and the unincorporated community of Princeton-by-the-Sea. The urban area had a population of 20,713 at the same census.
Half Moon Bay began as a rural agriculture area, primarily used for grazing of cattle, horses, and oxen used by Mission San Francisco de Asis (established in June 1776). Following the secularization of the Mission, 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.
Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay.
The community began to develop in the 1840s as the first real town in San Mateo County. Known originally as 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 the communities of Purissima, Lobitos, and San Gregorio. Levy Brothers opened a department store in downtown Half Moon Bay. Spanishtown was officially renamed Half Moon Bay in 1874.
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 demise of the railroad by 1920. The USS DeLong ran aground at Half Moon Bay 1 December 1921. During Prohibition “rum runners” took advantage of dense fog and hidden coves in the area to serve a number of roadhouses and inns, some of which operate today as restaurants. Real growth in the area came after World War II with the construction of numerous subdivisions, eventually leading to the incorporation of Half Moon Bay in 1959. The city preserves a historic downtown district which includes historic buildings dating as far back as 1869.
Half Moon Bay is located at 37°27′32″N 122°26′13″W, approximately 25 miles (40 km) 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 km2), 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.
It 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 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. Streams in Half Moon Bay include Frenchmans Creek, Pilarcitos Creek and Naples Creek.
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.