When it comes to iconic destinations in Northern California, there may be none more legendary than Highway 1 on the San Francisco Peninsula. (Only Big Sur might possibly have that beat, thanks to those pesky Beach Boys and that lovable pessimist Jack Kerouac.) As locals know, some of the best pastries, coffee, moonshine, and ceviche are sandwiched on the coast south of the city and north of Silicon Valley.
While there’s plenty to eat in South San Francisco and loads of cute baby goats in Pescadero, the following itinerary is set along Highway 1 from Pacifica to Half Moon Bay. The itinerary guide is only doable for those with a car — unless you’re one of those cyclists — and for those staying the night in Half Moon Bay or thereabouts. The following 24 hours could be pulled off by a particularly bold motorist coming from San Francisco or the South Bay, but make sure you have a designated driver if you plan to partake in all of the boozy beverages on the list.
8:30 a.m. coffee at Soul Grind Coffee
5400 CA-1, Pacifica
Soul Grind Coffee is Pacifica’s go-to spot for pourover coffee, batch brew, lattes, and light breakfast fare. With plenty of outdoor seating steps from a public parking lot more or less meant for surfers hitting Linda Mar, this cafe is a mus to start the day. Fresh food to-go is plentiful here; there’s a vegan hummus toast and a smoked salmon toast, and on the weekends lemon ricotta pancakes and lox bagels. Feel free to order ahead as the lines here can be gnarly for a pre-caffeinated brain.
10 a.m. take a hike around Pacifica
With a warm beverage in hand, hit any of the plentiful outdoor activities Pacifica has to offer. The beach is excellent for beginner surfers, but the hiking around Pacifica — like Milagra Ridge a bit further north or San Pedro Valley inland east — is a major attraction all in its own right.
12 p.m. check out that famous Taco Bell on the beach
5200 Coast Highway, Pacifica
Next, go re-up at probably the world’s most scenic Taco Bell. Known as the Cantina, this rallying point for those living mas is literally right on the beach and serves alcohol for those who crave a Baja Blast with vodka. To begin the jaunt south, drive to Devil’s Slide to walk it off. (This hike is not half as scary as its name.) The abandoned military base, and the rest of the drive to Half Moon Bay, is an ideal chance to take in the gorgeous views of Montara and Moss Beach, peak California coastline with foamy waves and haystacks aplenty.
1:30 p.m. explore downtown Half Moon Bay
Downtown Half Moon Bay is a charming slice of small-town life. Head first to Hawaiian haven Nano’s for a tropical Dole float or spam musubi, and either hang on the sprawling patio or — if more movement is your thing — walk through the main strip and hit ultra cute Coastside Books and oil purveyor Olive Crush, or travail over to the state park and snag a picnic table by the water. Just be ready for the $10 parking fee.
3 p.m. get an afternoon energy boost at Cafe Society
522 Main Street, Half Moon Bay
Dozens of photos of jazz singers and records adorn the walls at this cozy shop, perfect for a caffeine pick-me-up and games. Or, grab your order to-go and head right to Pillar Point (your next destination) but keep going to the bluff for a chance to catch some of the last light of the day over the water.
4:30 p.m. grab a drink at Jettywave Distillery
155 Broadway, Half Moon Bay
Drive to Pillar Point if you haven’t already to check into the Oceano resort, or wherever you may be staying for the night, then grab a drink at Jettywave Distillery about a country block away. This local favorite has a sprawling outdoor area to try out the business’ award-winning vodka, gin, and moonshine.
6:30 p.m. dinner at La Costanera
Chef Carlos Altamirano’s La Costanera is a temple to pisco sours, ceviche, chicha morada, and lama soltado. It’s worth luxuriating at this restaurant for a few hours to take in all the extravagant food, luscious drinking, and top-tier service. A smart order includes the yucca frita, served with an indulgent chimichurri sauce, and pulpo a la parilla, twice-cooked octopus alongside purple mashed potatoes. Altamirano is known for his love of beef tenderloin, an affection on full display at his Mission District restaurant Sanguchon. Plus, it’s just a few steps from the Oceano.
8:30 p.m. enjoy a nightcap at Harbor Bar
17 Johnson Pier, Half Moon Bay
To tie off the night, head to the Harbor Bar, the drinking-only arm of restaurant Ketch Joanne across the street from Costanera. This no-frills bar is a local haunt for tequila, whisky, and Jager bombs. If you’re still peckish, there’s a boozy milkshake available upon request.
Here’s a Google Map of all the spots on this list.
Update: December 1, 10:45 a.m. This story has been updated to reflect that Granola Coffee House closes at noon or 2 p.m. depending on the day of the week.