Highway 1, across from 2nd Avenue
San Mateo County
Hours: 8:00 AM - sunset
Entrance fee: None
Caution: Check with rangers or lifeguards that conditions are safe for your planned activities.
Gray Whale Cove State Beach is one mile north of Montara State Beach. The sheltered cove is flanked by high cliffs that drive straight into the ocean, creating a dramatic setting. A parking area is found along the east side of the highway, and a trail leads to a stairway with 145 steps down to the beach.
A picnic area is situated on the bluff overlooking the ocean. Restrooms are nearby, tucked in among the trees. Not surprisingly, the bluffs along Gray Whale Cove are good place to watch for passing gray whales. No climbing on the cliffs is allowed, but there are plenty of good vantage points at the picnic area. Visitors to the beach include fisherman, sunbathers, and photographers.
Montara State Beach is a 0.8-mile stretch of clean, coarse sand north of Half Moon Bay. Several access points along Highway 1 lead down to the beach. Two spots along the highway have formal parking lots with portable toilets and steep stairs to the beach. Other turnouts have rugged trails that make their way down to the sand.
Beach visitors marvel at the beauty of Montara. Low hills guard either end of the beach. The outside world seems far away. There are no facilities on the beach itself, other than some volleyball poles; bring your own net.
Surfers are often seen on the waves, but the ocean is considered too dangerous here even for wading.
California State Parks and Recreation cautions that "large surf, cold water temperatures, backwash, sudden drop-offs, pounding shorebreak, and dangerous rip currents can turn what seem like safe activities such as playing near the surf line, wading, or climbing on rock outcroppings, deadly." Learn more about ocean safety at CA State Parks: Ocean Safety