Each week, travel writer Katie Morell will detail how to spend 50 hours in a different San Francisco Bay Area city for the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee’s #Perfect50 Hour Series.
Drive just 15 miles south of San Francisco, hop on Highway 1 and pretty soon you will be rounding a corner and staring at one of the most beautiful seaside vistas you’ve ever set your eyes on. Turn off the highway and you will land in Pacifica, a quiet beach community with just 36,000 residents, known as one of the safest places to live in California. It is the perfect spot to escape busy city life and relax. Outdoor activity and great food abound.
Here, we break down the ideal way to spend a 50-hour getaway in Pacifica.
8:30 a.m. – Wake up in your ocean view room at the 52-room Pacifica Beach Hotel, a gorgeous property steps away from Pacific Ocean. Put on some workout clothes (ladies: yoga capris and a t-shirt; men: shorts and a t-shirt), tennis shoes and slather on the sunscreen. Don a hat (opt for a San Francisco Giants cap if you want to fit in) and bring a light jacket or sweater.
Now, walk downstairs and belly up to the breakfast bar for some free grub. Load up on pastries and fruit, wash it down with a hot cup of coffee and then head out.
9:30 a.m. – Walk out the door and cross the street (tip: do not attempt jaywalking; use the crosswalk at Crespi Drive instead) and onto Pacifica State Beach. Vacationing in Pacifica is to be at a beach most of the time, so enjoy a nice morning stroll. Take your camera along and snap photos of happy dogs walking by, native birds and ice plants (hardy, multi-colored plants designed to withstand high winds and the spray of salt water).
10:30 a.m. – Finished with the beach (for now), grab your car out of the hotel’s parking lot and follow Crespi Drive east, then turn right on Seville Drive. Make another right at Linda Mar Blvd. and turn into Sanchez Adobe County Park. This is the home of the Sanchez Adobe and San Mateo County History Museum. Admission is free and the museum is open 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays; 1 p.m. – 5 p.m Saturdays and Sundays. Take a look at exhibits explaining the history of the region.
12:00 p.m. – Drive back towards the hotel, make a right on Highway 1 and pull over about two miles later into a parking lot on the right side of the street (the exact address is 2145 Coast Highway, Pacifica). Yes, this may seem random, but you are in the right place. The big red boxcar with the line out front is your indication that you are in the presence of the one and only Gorilla BBQ.
This place is a legend in the Bay Area (it was recently featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) and for good reason. Don’t leave before inhaling a helping of baby back ribs, beef brisket (ooh, the smokiness!) and cornbread. Note: this place closes when it sells out (which is close to 8 p.m., so you should be good). Also, it is closed on Tuesdays.
1:00 p.m. – Sufficiently stuffed and ready for some outdoor activity, drive a mile north along Highway 1 and turn left onto Mori Point Road (by way of Bradford Way). Before long, you will see a parking lot. Get out (now is a good time to put on an extra layer of sunscreen) and walk out to Mori Point, arguably one of the most beautiful places in Pacifica.
Mori Point is a 32-acre wetland park with trails and tons of wildlife. Spend several hours exploring this park, walking on the black sand of Sharp Park Beach and listening to the croaking red-legged frogs. Take photos and then sit down on the sand and rest for a while, breathing in the ocean air.
Walk back towards your car and then keep going north until you hit the Pacifica Municipal Pier. Known as one of the best fishing piers in California, you will undoubtedly see dozens of people fishing (if you go in November, they will be bringing up crab by the bucketfull). Enjoy talking with some locals before walking the mile back to your vehicle.
4:00 p.m. – Drive to Pacifica Beach Hotel and relax in your room for a bit. Hang out on the balcony, take a shower and a nap. Then, get changed into nice dinner clothes and walk downstairs to Puerto 27 Peruvian Kitchen & Pisco Bar, the hotel’s highly regarded on-site eatery. Make reservations ahead of time and ask for a table at the window for the best sea views. Note: Guests of the hotel get 10 percent off, so tell your server the minute you sit down.
Spend the next few hours dining on ceviche, choritos (pan roasted mussels) and paella. Ask for the best cocktail pairings (make sure to try one of the restaurant’s many pisco sours) and watch the sunset out the window with your family.
7:30 p.m. – Finished with your meal, drive a mile east to the theater of Pacific Spindrift Players, a group that performs plays and musicals many Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Call ahead or check online for showtimes and ticket prices.
9:30 a.m. – You stayed up late last night, so sleep in this morning and grab a cup of coffee in your hotel room. Go out on your balcony and relax for a little bit before putting on similar clothes that you wore yesterday (that includes hat, sweater, sunscreen and comfy walking shoes) and drive over to Breakers, named by Pacifica Tribune as the best place for breakfast in 2014 and 2015.
While watching the waves crash (Breakers is right at the beach), order the feta omelet, bacon scramble, cranberry pecan pancakes, and, what the heck, get a roasted eggplant crepe while you’re at it. Put everything in the center of the table and eat family style—expect to be very full (and happy) after this meal.
10:30 am. – You will want to walk off a few of the calories from your heaping breakfast, so take a stroll along Rockaway Beach, right next to Breakers. Remember your camera and watch for hang gliders and pelicans on the horizon.
11:30 a.m. – From Rockaway Beach, drive across Highway 1 and up Fassler Avenue. Make a right on Terra Nova, left on Everglades Drive and then turn into 1 Picardo Ranch. This is home to Lessons with Denise, an excellent place to take horseback riding lessons. Private lessons are taught by Denise Montoya, a longtime equestrian expert. Rates are $55 for one hour and $110 for two hours. Call ahead to make a reservation.
2:00 p.m. – After a few hours horseback riding, you will be ready for a late lunch. Drive north up Highway 1 and stop at Oceana Market, Pacifica’s community market (address: 200 Eureka Square). Walk straight to the deli counter and ask for a big sandwich with all the fixings (the caponta is divine: smoked turkey, eggplant spread, pesto, roasted pepper lettuce and provolone). Then, grab a bag of pretzles and a few water bottles and go back to your car.
2:30 p.m. – Time for a picnic! Drive to the head of the Sweeney Ridge Trail. Eat now if you are starving. Otherwise hike to the top of the ridge and settle onto a nice patch of grass with a view of the San Francisco Bay. Sweeney Ridge is a challenging hike, so make sure to bring enough water and sunscreen.
4:30 p.m. – You will most likely be looking for a bathroom when you’re finished with your hike, so drive over to Shelldance Orchid Gardens, located at 2000 Coast Hwy. In addition to outdoor toilets, this place has an unbelievable selection of plants of all types. It is quite zen inside and the people who work there are pleasant, so relax inside and enjoy the sounds of wind chimes as you come down from a day of physical activity.
5:30 p.m. – Drive to Pacifica Beach Hotel, shower and change into some fancy dinner clothes. After relaxing for a while, venture out to your last stop of the day: Moonraker Restaurant, a fine dining eatery specializing in seafood. Make a reservation in advance and, just like last night, ask for a table with a direct view of the ocean. Then, settle in for a multi-hour culinary experience.
Start with a a dozen oysters (order a variety—the Fanny Bay and Hood Canal are especially good), then move on to some calamari and New England Clam Chowder. Ready for the main course, order the pot roast (way better than what your grandma made, trust me), portobello mushroom ravioli and crab legs. Finish it off with the tiramisu and buttermilk panna cotta.
9:30 a.m. – Ahh, your time in Pacifica is almost over. Finish off your blissful experience by checking out of your hotel and driving three miles north on Highway 1 until you get to Lovey’s Tea Shoppe. This is one of the town’s hidden gems—an adorably British place to eat breakfast and enjoy High Tea. Order the cream tea to start, which comes with scones, preserves and fruit. Then get the Shepherd’s Pie. Wash it down with several cups of tea and get on your way. This is the perfect way to end a 50-hour getaway in Pacifica.
Katie Morell is an independent journalist based in San Francisco who writes about travel, business and social justice issues. Her work has appeared in Hemispheres, Fast Company, USA Today, Diversity Woman, BBC Travel and others. Read more of her work at www.katiemorell.com