Sandy beach
Hike-in Required
Snorkeling / SCUBA
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Pristine sands and heavy waves entice San Franciscans to make the half-hour journey down the coast to Montara State Beach.  On a big day, the break is known as Mini Mavericks by those who surf its sharky waters. With the legendary big-wave break only 5 miles away, conditions can be similarly unforgiving. When it’s small, however, Montara is hospitable to beginner and intermediate surfers.     

Great white sharks are known to frequent this section of coast, which has a deep longshore trough and plenty of rip currents.  On a weekday the beach is all but abandoned, while the weekend sees more locals and day trippers. Often cloaked in fog, Montara can be packed in the event that the sun comes out on a Saturday. Parking is usually easy, but the lots can fill up in better weather. 

From the northern lot there are two beach access points. Wooden stairs at Martini Creek are at the end of the northernmost trail.  In the spring, Martini Creek may require a bit of wading to reach the beach. A second trail to the south of Martini Creek leads down a relatively steep ravine that can be slippery to navigate. For more reliable access, the southern lot is a better option. Behind La Costanera restaurant lies a well-maintained cement staircase to the beach.

Montara State Beach and McNee Ranch is a California State Park that includes Gray Whale Cove and hiking trails to the east in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Logistics + Planning



Parking Pass

Not Required


Clean. Good surf. Dogs allowed on leash.


Often foggy. Rip currents. Limited parking and access. Sharks.


Tide pools
Whale watching
Bird watching
Tide pools


Nearby Adventures

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California
San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California

Nearby Lodging + Camping

San Francisco Peninsula + Santa Cruz, California
Half Moon Bay State Park, California
Golden Gate National Recreation Area


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