Beach Adventure in Beautiful Pacifica

Pacifica Pier at sunset

Pacifica Pier at sunset

Pacifica is one of those magical places full of surprises. It isn’t just the beautiful sandy beaches, plethora of outdoor activities, or selection of restaurants that make it special but its location just minutes from San Francisco that feels a world away. The 15-minute drive from San Francisco went quickly as I anticipated the fun weekend that waited. I am no stranger to Pacifica, but this weekend I intended to immerse myself in a variety of activities that make the place a fun escape.

The weekend commenced with a reception at Sam’s Castle, a historical structure perched atop the hills overlooking the ocean. Sunset views of the famous pier and beautiful sea were mesmerizing. We sipped wine and nibbled appetizers while learning about the variety of activities Pacifica offers, such as surfing, crabbing, fishing, hiking, biking, and Segway rides from which to choose. The town is surrounded by open space, parks, and stunning views—all the better for exploring.

Dungeness crab sandwich is a delicacy

The next day began with breakfast at Nick’s. This old school restaurant has ocean views, great service, and a comprehensive menu. A Bloody Mary was the perfect accompaniment for the crab sandwich overflowing with fresh Dungeness crab and so delicious. After all, it was essential to be well fed for the two-hour hike we had planned after breakfast.

Pacific Ocean vistas

Hiking along Mori Point afforded ocean views while providing a leisurely stroll to enjoy the fresh air and ocean breezes. A seasoned guide shared information about Pacifica’s colorful history, including how rum-runners used its beaches during the days of Prohibition and how a famed San Francisco madam sent her girls for “rest” in Pacifica. Wildflowers were in bloom and birds were singing during the excursion. At the top of the vista point we gazed at the infamous cliff from the car crash scene in the film “Harold and Maude.”

Artisan cocktail at Surf Spot

After the hike, we had worked up quite an appetite. The Surf Spot is a wonderful addition to Pacifica’s restaurant venues. Not only was there delicious food and cocktails but also surf bands entertained us all afternoon from our perch. The grassy area provides a park-like setting from which to enjoy music, food, and cocktails in a distinctly beach vibe. For those who enjoy sitting at tables and chairs, the restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating.

Rockaway Beach

Later that afternoon I enjoyed the exhilaration of riding a Segway along the ocean trails gazing at Linda Mar Beach, one of the best surfing beaches on the coast, and watching children frolic, surfers catching waves, and dogs chasing balls. It was surprising how easy it was to become accustomed to the motion of these machines. We probably looked rather silly as we rode single file along the trails like a parade, but I didn’t care; it was so much fun!

Dinner was in the upstairs dining room at Moonraker Restaurant, where we watched the sun dip below the horizon and the waves turn shades of raspberry sherbet. I devoured the Caesar salad, and the local salmon pinwheel with beluga lentils, braised greens, lemon thyme sauce, and spicy aioli was rich and satisfying after a day of activity. And the evening was just beginning.

Much to my surprise there was a flamenco performance by Yaelisa and Caminos Flamencos that I couldn’t miss. I felt myself transported to Spain as the guitar playing, hand clapping, stomping, and singing began. The dancers commanded the stage as they whirled about in their colorful dresses, castanets snapping, all while moving gracefully. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. The songs were filled with emotion and passion. We sipped wine while enjoying our Spanish immersion.

Wine adventure at A Grape in the Fog

I met up with my group later that evening at A Grape in the Fog, a wine bar. This cozy place offers a good variety of wine by the glass or bottle, sure to please every palate. We enjoyed snacks and listened to a musician while we sipped delicious wine. I chose a glass of Argentine Malbec that was rich, earthy, and fruity.

Then it was on to Nick’s for champagne, dessert, and dancing. This is a happening place on a Saturday night. The live band plays danceable tunes. We danced, nibbled on decadent desserts, and drank champagne as the night slipped away. Before long it was time to retire to be rested for the final day of adventures.

The Pacifica pier

Sunday dawned bright and sunny, a good thing since I had arranged to learn how to catch crab at an insanely early hour. Leaving the hotel before 7 a.m., I was silently cursing myself for thinking this would be a fun activity. All my doubts evaporated as I arrived at the Pacifica Pier and saw the sun rising over the ocean illuminating the waves and chasing the lingering fog away. It was a glorious start to the day.

Andy Pappas, the Crab King

We met our crab whisperer, Andy Pappas, the Crab King, who explained the process and set to work baiting the traps and dropping the lines. From the fishing pier, crab is caught using metal crab traps attached to fishing rods. The lines are checked regularly to see if any crab has taken the bait. We spent the morning following in Andy’s wake as he continually checked the traps. Once the crab attaches itself it is a matter of reeling it in. The crabs have to be of a certain size in order to keep, and each person is allowed up to 10 crabs per day during the season. During our two-hour session we caught 13 crabs, although we threw a few back because they were too small. The experience gave me a newfound appreciation of the effort that goes into catching the crab I so enjoy eating.

Rugged cliffs and beautiful beaches

After a hearty breakfast and steaming coffee I decided to explore the beach near our hotel. Rockaway Beach has it all: shops, restaurants, and the ocean all in walking distance. Families were already setting up the umbrellas and picnic supplies for their excursions, emboldened by the sunny weather. Hikers climbed along the zigzag trail over the top of the ridge all the way to Linda Mar Beach. I was content to soak it all in and savor the beauty.

Pisco cocktails

The weekend concluded with lunch at Puerto 27, a newly opened Peruvian restaurant and Pisco bar overlooking Linda Mar Beach. We began with Pisco cocktails; I chose the El Original made with Pisco acholado, key lime, ginger ale, and angostura bitters, a perfect and refreshing libation! We enjoyed the chef’s menu, which was quite the feast. We began with a causa masaki, a spicy sushi-style roll with crispy shrimp, Dungeness crab, avocado, crispy yam, and Nikkei aioli—so many tantalizing flavors and textures prepared to perfection. I would have been happy to devour a meal of just the causa, but more dishes were arriving from the kitchen that required my attention.

Savory beef in lomo saltado at Puerto 27

Aji de Gallina, a creamy Peruvian chicken stew with cream, olives, egg, and roasted walnuts; lomo saltado, beef sirloin steak strips, onions, tomato, cilantro, and French fries in a soy balsamic glaze; and arroz con mariscos, paella with clams and fish with just the right amount of spiciness. Every dish was satisfying and provided a unique balance of flavors and ingredients combined in unusual ways.

At the end of our feast it was time to say goodbye to Pacifica, our new friends, and the wonderful adventure. I know I will return for more adventures and more relaxation, and maybe next time I will learn to surf.

Another beautiful ocean view

If you go:

Pacifica is a 20-minute drive from San Francisco International Airport and a short drive to downtown San Francisco. Whether you are staying for business or pleasure, Pacifica will capture your imagination. Rockaway Beach is a great place to stay, dine, and play.

The Best Western Lighthouse Hotel is steps from the beach, with ocean view rooms and Moonraker Restaurant. There are 97 spacious rooms and suites, a swimming pool, a hot tub, a fitness center, meeting rooms, and a business center.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites is a two-minute walk to the beach and has clean, comfortable rooms, some with ocean views. Upgrade to a studio suite with electric fireplace, ocean view, sofa bed and/or hot tub-bathtubs. It is a perfect home away from home with office space, a microwave, and a fridge. A complimentary hot breakfast is available to start your day right.

Pacifica Beach Resort, a boutique hotel, overlooks Pacifica State Beach from its hillside location. Its distinctive Victorian architecture, hot tub-bathtubs, and balconies overlooking the ocean make it a popular choice.

The Pacifica Chamber of Commerce is located at Rockaway Beach. There, they can help you tailor the perfect Pacifica outing.