Taking the scenic route down Highway 1 from San Franscisco to Santa Cruz, you may drive right past the town of Pescadero without even noticing. But Pescadero is definitely worth a day trip or even a night or two at one of the family-friendly accommodations (including a lighthouse!). Beaches, farms, restaurants and forests, Pescadero has a ton to offer families in search of a break from city life.
From San Francisco, take the ever-scenic Highway 1 south to get to Pescadero. Coming from San Jose and other points east, take 280 to 92 towards Half Moon Bay. Half Moon Bay is a quaint town that’s definitely worth a pit stop. Kids will love the geodes, animal skulls and venus flytraps available for purchase at Oddyssea, a truly unique store on the main drag. Getting hungry? It is easy to walk right past the San Benito deli on Main Street, but make sure you seek it out as they make their own (amazing!) whole wheat and olive walnut bread. The drippy PB&J will please the little ones and parents alike, or try the turkey and avocado which never disappoints. From Half Moon Bay, continue south on Highway 1 just a short 20 minute drive and you will reach Pescadero.
Harley Goat Farm
From the coast, take Pescadero Creek Road past the stop sign at Stage Road and you will soon see a field of goats and llamas on your left. Turn left on North Street and park along the road. If you plan ahead you can book a tour of the goat farm on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Tours last two hours and provide a hands-on education on how the farm takes goat milk and makes it into cheese, soap and lotion. The farm is worth a visit even if you aren’t able to schedule a tour as you can walk right up to the pens to visit with the goats. Don’t forget to stop in the cheese shop as it offers a variety of goat products, honey and farm fresh eggs for purchase and sampling. Planning a trip on Mother’s Day? Book a spot at this special brunch for mom down on the farm!
205 North Street
Tours: $20/person; Kids 5-10/$10; free for kids under 5
Pescadero State Beach
Looking for a sandy beach to set up your picnic? Pescadero State Beach offers sand, sand and more sand, perfect for the kids to get their beach fix. There are three parking lots for Pescadero State Beach—the northern most lot offers access to the largest area of sand but all three are great options with kids (plus they all have restrooms which is key!). The center lot connects to the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve where you can walk along the footpath and see all sorts of waterfowl. Docent-led nature walks occur on the first and third Sundays of the month.
Parking: $8 for the day which gives you 1-day access to all the state beaches
Bean Hollow State Beach
Just south of Pescadero State Beach you will find Bean Hollow State Beach. The northern parking lot provides access to a pebble beach which is a great area to set up your beach toys for the day. Small, water-worn pebbles line the shore instead of sand, making for a unique experience for little beachgoer (and less clean-up for parents. Just off the parking lot is an enormous area of tide pools to explore. If you visit at low tide you will see crabs, anemones, snails and other sea creatures up close and personal. A gorgeous one-mile walk connects the northern pebble beach to the other parking lot for Bean Hollow State Beach.
Butano State Park
Just 10 minutes from downtown Pescadero is Butano State Park—a great stop for a day hike with the kids. Explore the towering coastal redwoods, creeks and waterfalls on one of the parks many trails. Kids will be delighted by the many banana slugs found throughout the park. Campsites are available for those who want to spend the night among the redwoods.
1500 Cloverdale Rd.
Parking is $10 for day-use visitors.
Año Nuevo State Park
Elephant Seals! Who doesn’t love elephant seals? Año Nuevo State Park is one of the largest mainland breeding colonies for these amazing creatures. Visitors can take a 3-4 mile hike of this protected area to see the elephant seals in their natural habitat.
1 New Years Creek Rd
Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel
Put all your preconceived notions about hostels aside. The Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel is a step above the rest—beautiful location, clean rooms and even a hot tub! The 115-foot Pigeon Point Lighthouse has lit the coastal skies since 1872. While the lighthouse itself is currently closed due to needed repairs, you can spend some time visiting the grounds or stay overnight in one of the four houses adjacent to the lighthouse. Families can reserve a private room (with access to a shared bathroom) which cost $75 to $174/night. The communal kitchen provides ample opportunity to meet other travelers. The hot tub can be reserved for 30 minute increments upon check-in but guests must be at least 7 years old to use it. Walk just north of the hostel and there are some easily-accessible tide pools—perfect for exploring.
210 Pigeon Point Rd.
If you are looking for an eco adventure resort with an array of accommodations from tents to douglas fir cabins to a campground where you can park your RV, then you definitely need to check out Costanoa. Parents can enjoy the on-site spa or restaurant while kids ages 6-12 can check out the Kids Camp which offers activities such as tide pool exploration and make-your-own paper from recycled materials.
2001 Rossi Rd at Highway 1
This unassuming tavern (made famous by Guy Fieri on the Food Network) is a kid-friendly stop in downtown Pescadero. Families will feel comfortable in the large booths and they open at 7 a.m. for those who don’t understand the idea of “sleeping in.” Pancakes are served with homemade olallieberry syrup and the cream of artichoke soup is a bowl of heaven.
202 Stage Rd.
Mercado & Taqueria de Amigos
Food sold at gas stations is not typically on the “must try” list but this one is a rare exception. Inside the gas station at the main intersection in downtown Pescadero you will find the Taqueria de Amigos where the food is very cheap and very delicious! Grab some carne asada tacos or freshly fried fish tacos and head down to the beach to enjoy some amazing taqueria fare. Bottomless chips and salsa will please any road-weary toddler.
Taqueria de Amigos
1999 Pescadero Creek Rd.
Looking for a true taste of California? Look no further than Arcangeli Grocery, where the smell of warm artichoke garlic herb bread will call you in the door. Take a warm-from-the-oven or par-baked loaf to go with some of their many jars of locally-made bruschetta, jams and mustards. If they have any left when you arrive, the olallieberry pie is a crowd-pleaser (if you are willing to share).
287 Stage Rd.
Where is your favorite stop in Pescadero? Let us know in the comments below!
All photos by the author