Nestled in-between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay is the little sleeper coastal town of Pacifica, California. Most famous for its surfing attractions in Linda Mar Beach, this sweet little city has something for everyone both indoors and out.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast there are plenty of things to choose from. And if you’re not in the mood for the outdoors or you want something to do when the (inevitable) fog rolls in, I have something for that too, so here you go, some of the greatest outdoor things to do in Pacifica!
Always remember to double-check dates, opening times, and weather conditions before traveling.
What to Do in Pacifica for outdoors enthusiastS
Pacifica Hiking Trails for All Levels
Most people think of surfing when Pacifica is mentioned. But what I believe really makes Pacifica stand out (and this is coming from a local), is all of its amazing hiking trails and state parks that it has to offer. This could be an entire post of its own honestly.
From almost any trail mentioned below, you will see some of the most stunning views and coastal snapshots from all angles.
Difficult Hiking Trails in Pacifica
Basically, there is a trail for someone at any level. Some are more intense such as the Sweeney Ridge trail and the Pedro Point Headlands Trail. A loop that is listed as moderate but might be a little more difficult just for its duration and length, depending on the hiker’s ability.
Moderate-Level Hiking Trails in Pacifica
Then there are the “moderate” trails. The most popular ones are the Mori Point to Sweeney Ridge or the very popular Devil’s Slide trail.
Easy Hiking Trails in Pacifica
And lastly, there are easier trails like Old Mori Road Promenade that runs along the beach (a small stretch is even wheelchair friendly) before the stairs go up to Mori Point. Another one is Milagra Ridge, just behind the Sharp Park neighborhood.
Dog-friendly Hiking Trails in Pacifica
I walk Milagra ridge with my dog 2-3 times a week. Most trails, if not all, are dog friendly as long as they are leashed. As with most trails in Pacifica, you can make them as hard or as easy as you want them. But either way, the views are always breathtaking and worth the hike.
These are just a few of the most popular trails though. I highly suggest downloading the Alltrails app if you’re interested in these or more. The app makes finding access points and directions very easy, along with helping you to plan your course.
After an all-day excursion sometimes all you need is a good beer and some tunes. Winters Tavern is perfect for both.
With an ever-rotating selection of beers on tap and live music all throughout the week, this little gem of a “funky dive bar meets old west saloon” is the perfect place to quench your thirst. They also have pool, shuffleboard, and a few arcades to keep you entertained.
Biking is arguably one fun thing to do in Pacifica outdoors. Riding a bike gives you another opportunity to appreciate the abundance of trails. If you’ve downloaded the Alltrails app it will show you the best areas for the sport and which ones to avoid.
It’s not uncommon to see dirt ramps and jumps built off the side of the paths that bikers have created for some interesting add ons to the runs as well.
As mentioned above, most people that are familiar with Pacifica know it for its great surfing. Linda Mar State Beach is by far the most popular, as it is a great spot for beginners as well as the more experienced. Due to its protection from swells and winds, it’s an ideal place to “get your feet wet” so to speak.
There are many places close by that offer surf lessons or rentals. A friend of mine rented a board and suit from Sonlight SurfShop a couple of times and said they were incredibly friendly and helpful. And if you need to book lessons, the University of Surfing is always a go-to.
The Most Beautiful Taco Bell in the World?
This is also the location of the most beautiful Taco Bell in the world. I’m not kidding. You might have even seen it in the news where a couple had an actual wedding there. Built smack dab on the beach overlooking the ocean with a huge deck, it is quite possibly the coolest place to snack on a chalupa and take in the ocean views.
I will never forget going for the first time and seeing a whale flipping its tail while I munched on a taco supreme. It was a bucket list moment I scratched that I didn’t even know I had or needed. Even if you hate Taco Bell, it’s worth it to order an iced tea and just take it in.
Whale Watching in Pacifica
Due to the inlets and coves of the Pacifica coastline, it has a unique proximity to the migration channel of both grey and blue whales. You can see them playing along the coast almost year-round.
While migration starts in October for gray whales, the hottest times and most sightings tend to be from February through April. Blue whales migrate from late spring to fall. So seeing whales from any of the trails and beaches is common whenever you choose to visit, as well as a unique thing to do in Southern California.
Pacifica Municipal Pier is the only pier in the Bay Area where you can crab or fish for free. No license is needed. If you’ve never gone crabbing before off a pier it’s a fun thing to experience. And very family-friendly.
Many bait & tackle shops in the area can supply you with all that you need and give you some instructions as well. And if you have any questions there is always a multitude of old pros chilling on the pier that will happily give you their opinion. On crabbing and probably other things as well.
Fill a cold box with some drinks and sandwiches along with your bait and you’ll have a fun-filled day in the sun. Or fog. It depends on the day. Just make sure to wear layers and you’ll always be good.
If fishing isn’t your thing then I suggest grabbing a coffee at the Chit Chat Cafe at the start of the pier on Beach Blvd and taking a stroll along the promenade and back. It’s an easy flat walk along the ocean and even on foggier days is still beautiful.
There is something about the way the fog hugs the hills of Pacifica that is incredibly comforting.
A fun, but not often mentioned outdoor thing to do in Pacifica is to visit the San Francisco Archery range. With both adult and kid-friendly classes, this can be a perfect outdoor activity for the whole family.
It boasts a gorgeous and easily walkable range (think disc golf course but for archery) that is up-kept by volunteers and lovers of the sport.
Due to Covid, some hours might change, so make sure to call ahead for times and availability.
One of the best outdoor things to do in Pacifica for the evening is also one of our favorite date nights. The bowling alley by the sea. Yes, I said bowling. How long has it been since you’ve been bowling? Probably ages, as most of our friends exclaim. And they always say they forgot how much fun bowling is after. Every time.
If you’re staying for the night the Sea Bowl right off the highway is an updated, clean and lively place for all ages. Our usual plan is to book a reservation at the Pacifica Brewery for an early dinner before hitting the lanes. It’s conveniently located in the same parking lot with a great beer list, patio, and an ever-changing seasonal menu. They make a great hazy IPA, but other fun stuff too.
Then we head next door and book an hour or so on a lane and grab a pitcher of beer. They serve food there as well but it’s what you would expect to see. Nachos, hot dogs, etc. It always seems busy but there is rarely ever a wait. If there is, we just grab a drink at the bar and are called up in no time.
There are a handful of hotels to stay for the night, most near Rockaway beach right off the highway to make it easy.
Although, we tend to suggest Airbnbs to our friends. There are a ton of cute little overnight cottages to stay that will fit your specific needs and location. It is suggested to have a car here but Lyft and Uber are plenty for a safe night out.