Why: Just 23 miles from SFO airport sits Half Moon Bay, a small, coastal town so breathtaking you won't believe you're a 45-minute drive from San Francisco—in fact, you'll feel more like you're on a movie set overlooking the rugged bluffs of Scotland. While the top-notch views, breadth of amenities and exquisite topography bring a range of sophisticated visitors, you'll find the local people and businesses, from vodka distilleries to flower nurseries, to be totally down-to-earth—in their refreshingly low-key attitudes, yes, but also, more literally, in their dependence on and appreciation for the area's abundant natural resources. Half Moon Bay welcomes visitors of all kinds (business executives, honeymooners, young families, surfers, bachelorette parties—you name it) offering beautiful beaches, world-class golf courses, robust outdoor activities, sensational wines and insanely delicious, locally sourced food (read: so much cheese) .
When to go: Sunbathers and surfers flock to the beach during summer, but the weather actually warms up significantly come September and October (unfortunately this means rates will rise, but that's true for peak months anywhere). May and June are gorgeous too, but don't forget to layer up, as once the sun goes down, temps can drop into the 40s—but that just means it's time for a glass of pinot noir by the fire.
Guest Activities: Half Moon Bay is somehow lesser known for its vineyards and wineries than Napa and Sonoma, but it definitely shouldn't be (although we like that it's sort of a best-kept secret). Your grown-up guests shouldn't miss the local wineries, distilleries or brewery. Alcohol aside, there are so many ways to keep busy: Ride horses on the beach, mountain bike along Skyline Drive, visit elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve, stroll charming Main Street, play with baby goats at Harley Farms—and that's just skimming the surface.
Best Spots for Weddings:
The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay: Situated between two pristine golf courses—Half Moon Bay's Old Course (co-designed by Arnold Palmer) and Ocean Course—and overlooking the Pacific bluffs, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is one of the most sought-after luxury wedding destinations in Northern California. Choose between two picturesque outdoor ceremony spaces, work with their all-star wedding specialists and enjoy insanely cool amenities only The Ritz can offer—post-rehearsal-dinner s'mores by the fire pits, anyone?
Thomas Fogarty Winery and Vineyards: The view from Thomas Fogarty Winery's outdoor wedding spot is one you have to see to believe—as in, you'll get a panorama of the vineyard and entire Bay Area, from San Francisco to San Jose and across the Bay. And you know you've found a gem of a wedding venue when the plan B for bad weather is just as stunning as plan A: The Pavilion's modern and spacious covered deck is suspended over the Chardonnay vineyard. And, of course, you and your guests will sip on the spoils of this family-run winery, like its Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir, which is a perennial favorite.