The stunning cliffside setting of The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, and its adjoining golf courses casts a decidedly Scottish vibe, one which the luxe resort emphatically embraces. Add jodhpur-clad bellman and a weekend sunset bagpipe serenade, and the highland aura is complete. Though only an hour’s drive from San Francisco, this seaside retreat may as well be a world away.

Situated atop a breathtaking ocean bluff overlooking 50 miles of rugged California coastline, the shingle-style structure evokes the ambiance of grand East Coast and European seaside sanctuaries of yore. Featuring Ritz-Carlton glamour and the brand’s trademark stellar service, the six-story resort is designed to blend in unobtrusively with a coastline that delivers an equal share of fog and sunshine.

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

No matter the weather, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is chameleon-like in its ability to cast guests in its Haute, coastal aura. Gray skies? Book a Fire Pit room or suite and gaze at the ever-changing cloudscape, a glass of wine in hand, while warmed by flickering flames. Clearer skies call for an Adirondack chair respite, perched above the cliffs and poised towards the sparkling Pacific. Walk or bike ride (the resort offers beach cruisers) along the adjacent California Coastal Trail with its sweeping ocean views and beach access points. Whatever your daytime activity, make sure to return in time for the Sunset Bagpiper who initiates his evening serenade at the resort’s entrance and ultimately winds his way to the Ocean Lawn area at sunset.

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
Photo by Dan Miller.

Surrounded by Half Moon Bay Golf Links’ two golf courses, the resort is a golf lover’s dream. The historic, parkland-style, Arnold Palmer-designed Old Course features cypress trees and a stunning 18th hole that overlooks the ocean. The Arthur Hill, Scottish Links-style Ocean Course offers more challenging play on rugged terrain with an ocean view from every hole. But one need not play, or even appreciate the game, in order to enjoy the tranquility afforded by the rolling green expanse. Non-golfers will appreciate the resort’s spa, offering treatments that draw from its environ, such as the 80-minute Redwood Forest Ritual, inspired by the surrounding California Redwoods. This treatment utilizes a variety of indigenous earthy herbs and wood blends to stimulate the senses and revitalize the soul, leaving guests feeling grounded, complete, and restored. Includes a hot poultice massage and scalp massage. Booked treatments include the use of the co-ed whirlpool, sauna, and steam rooms.

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay
Navio Dining Room. Photo by Albert Law.

Chef de Cuisine Francisco Simón helms the resort’s destination dining restaurant Navio. Formerly of two Michelin star Enoteca Paco Pérez in Barcelona, Simón serves innovative yet approachable cuisine that celebrates the bounty of the sea as well as prime cuts. Select from the three-course prix fixe menu or Chef Simón’s signature five-course Chef’s Tasting Menu with an optional wine pairing. Menu items might include: Butter Poached Lobster with open ravioli, summer squash, and California sturgeon caviar; Lamb Loin with grilled aubergine, snap peas, and mint; and Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Soup with Farmer John’s pumpkins, California sturgeon caviar, and spiced foam. The Exploration Cocktail Series menu explores the origins of world navigators and transforms them into an immersive beverage experience, while the curated wine list celebrates local and global vintages as well as unique finds. The Ocean Terrace is the perfect spot for lunch and afternoon/evening cocktails, serving raw bar and grilled items along with a brilliant setting sun. And the airy Conservatory, with panoramic views of the Pacific, features a full bar and California comfort cuisine.

Adirondack Chair and wine at The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

Make sure to trek into town to enjoy its old-timey, funky, beach village vibe. Boutiques, galleries, and famed restaurants line historic Main Street. Don’t miss Jupiter & Main, a general store that harkens to a bygone era; customers are encouraged to peruse artisan home goods, self-care products, quality barware, fashionable menswear, leather goods, and an extensive apothecary. Feed & Fuel features small, live animals in the back, and Cunha’s Country Store & Deli has been in operation since 1924. For dining beyond the resort, try family-owned It’s Italia, serving delicious gourmet pizzas, house pasta, and creative cocktails since 1997 within its festive dining room and spacious outdoor patio. Walk along the docks at Pillarpoint Harbor and check out the local fishermen selling fresh seafood directly off of their boats. Then stop-in at Mavericks Surf Company, owned by Jeff Clark who surfed the region’s famed waves for 15 years before the area was discovered by the big-wave surfing community.

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

Additionally, nearly 70 wineries exist within an hour’s drive from the resort. Horseback riding, whale watching cruises, swimming, and surfing are also all within easy reach. But perhaps the most favored Half Moon Bay activity is ocean gazing from The Ritz-Carlton’s Ocean Lawn. Featuring three large fire pits, Adirondack chairs, and cozy blankets, the expanse is an idyllic spot at which to put one of the resort’s signature s’mores kits to good use.

The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is among the first hotels in the world to become Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED® with Forbes Travel Guide. The comprehensive facility verification helps ensure that guests and travel planners can book with confidence at properties that have appropriate health safety procedures in place. This verification comes with an easily identifiable “seal of approval” – the Sharecare VERIFIED® with Forbes Travel Guide badge – based on a hotel’s compliance with expert-validated best practices that minimize the risk and impact of COVID-19 and potential future public health events.

Photos courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, unless otherwise noted

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Fran Endicott Miller is a luxury-focused freelance feature writer for a variety of lifestyle publications and websites and a California editor for luxury travel concierge service Essentialist. Prior to her journalism career, she held positions in the fields of politics, television, and professional sports, and is proud to have established the Golden State Warriors’ first community relations department and programs. Principled and genuine, she’s known for thoughtful, thorough, and lyrical coverage, and for the quality of her writing. When not traveling she can be found walking her neighborhood with her beloved Golden Retrievers Reggie and Nate.