Fun, Food and Fog in Pacifica, California

image of surfer with cliffs in background
Surfers at Rockaway Beach in Pacifica.

This post was contributed by Lisa Crovo Dion

Located a mere twenty miles south of San Francisco, the locals of Pacifica, CA would have you believe that their delightful coastal hamlet is perennially shrouded in fog.

Don’t believe it. They’re just trying to keep it to themselves.

While the fog does roll in quite heavily here at times, there are plenty of lovely days and good reasons to explore this charming town, known for superb surfing and hiking among unparalleled views of the mighty Pacific Ocean.

Despite the manic fallout of the Bay Area boom in the past decade that has caused rents and mortgages to skyrocket, streets and highways to become choked with traffic, and artists and the working class to flee, Pacifica has managed to retain a small-town vibe, not seen in the tony suburbs up north and to the east of San Francisco.

For me, the staggering beauty of the area is the biggest draw.

photo of castle with turrets
Eccentric Sam’s Castle in Pacifica.

As mentioned previously, there’s the surfing. Linda Mar Beach at 5000 Pacific Coast Hwy is a good choice for beginning surfers in summer when the waves are a bit calmer. Check out the NorCal Surf Shop to sign up for lessons and rentals. When the winds kick up, the beach is dotted with those more experienced braving the waves.

For those brave enough to take the paragliding plunge, get a birds-eye from the pros at Airtime of San Francisco at 457 Norfolk Drive to arrange for lessons. The offer both solo and tandem flights.

Hiking enthusiasts will find all manor of trails from easy to advanced in Pacifica. Mori Point, part of Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, is a 32-acre wetland park that zigzags with trails ranging from pleasant strolls to challenging and windy. Look for red-legged frog ponds, and the San Francisco garter snake, once North America’s most endangered reptile.

READ  Best Things to See and Do in Anchorage, Alaska

Those seeking less strenuous and non-outdoorsy activities might enjoy bowling, billiards and arcade games with an old-school atmosphere at the Sea Bowl Entertainment Center at 4625 Coast Highway.

Dining in Pacifica runs the gamut from the legendary Taco Bell on the Beach to retro fine dining with a Sinatra vibe at Nick’s Rockaway (100 Rockaway Beach Ave) to elegant wines and tapas at A Grape in the Fog (400 Old County Rd), with many choices in between.

My money is on that this is the best view you’ll ever get with your gordito crunch is at 5200 Pacific Coast Hwy (that would be at Taco Bell).

facade of Camelot pub in Pacifica.
Locals frequent Camelot for fish ‘n’ chips and beer.

Locals frequent Camelot (70 W Manor Dr) for brews, fish ‘n’ chips, and a classic British pubby feel.

One other worthy destination that requires a bit more planning as its only open once per month is Sam’s Castle (900 Mirador Terrace). Built in 1908 high upon the cliffs by the eccentric Henry Harrison McCloskey, the massive monolith boasts turrets, battlements, and remarkable views.

Sam’s castle’s storied history includes being the location of lavish parties and serving as a WW II refuge for Coast Guard sailors and officers, a bordello, and an abortion clinic.

If you’re still convinced that Pacifica is all about gray skies and fog, one annual event salutes this reputation. Fog Fest has taken place on the last week of September since 1986 and features art, crafts, music, a parade, and a marching band competition.

Photos credit: Angela Howatt