Pescadero, California is a charming town along the San Mateo County coast and is a popular destination for those looking to escape the hustle of the Bay Area, especially on a sunny & warm weekend. Pescadero is also a great stop to include on a California coastal road trip.
Wondering what to do in Pescadero? Pescadero is a farming & ranching community with a quaint downtown. It has miles of gorgeous beaches as well as state parks & beaches for hiking & biking. We head to Pescadero at least several times a year and aim to do something new each time we go (in addition to hitting up our favorites). Whether you’re looking to explore Pescadero for the first time – or are looking for new ideas – this list of things to do in Pescadero will give you lots of inspiration!
Where is Pescadero, California?
Pescadero is located on the San Mateo County coast along Highway 1; it’s about 15 miles south of Half Moon Bay and 35 miles north of Santa Cruz. Downtown Pescadero is about 2 miles inland. To get there, head east on Pescadero Creek Road for about 2 miles until you reach the intersection at Stage Road.
Pescadero weather is generally cool year-round with highs in the 70s during the summer and low 60s in the winter with lows in the 40s-50s. We always bring layers no matter what time of year we go. The coast is generally cooler than it is inland. It can be sunny & warm in the Bay Area while the weather in Pescadero may be cold & foggy – even in the summer!
Pescadero Beaches are expansive, rugged, unspoiled, and gorgeous! I can always feel myself calming as we approach Pescadero along Highway 1 and I take in the views of the beaches unfolding in front of me.
Over the years we’ve stopped at almost all of the Pescadero beaches: San Gregorio, Pomponio, Pescadero State Beach, and Bean Hollow. These beaches are rugged and unspoiled. We don’t go here to swim or sunbathe, we go to watch the waves crash on the shore, explore the expansive dunes, bluffs & tide pools, collect driftwood, build forts, play frisbee, picnic, and watch the sunset.
Bean Hollow State Beach is a one mile stretch of coast with 2 beaches and fantastic tide pools: Pebble Beach (half a mile south of Pescadero) and Bean Hollow Beach (1 mile south of Pescadero). You can park at either beach as they are connected by the Arroyo de los Frijoles Trail. At low tide, the rocky tide pools seem to go on forever. We love searching for starfish, sea anemones, crabs, sea urchins, and other creatures. Please remember not to touch or disrupt anything in the tide pools.
NOTE: We ALWAYS check ocean conditions before we head to the beach and don’t go near the water on high surf advisory days. This warning is issued when there is an increased risk of sneaker waves, large breaking waves, rip currents, and increased coastal run-up. Every year people are swept off beaches and nearby rocks in Northern California because they are caught off guard by waves. The ocean is cold (even in summer!) and rough – do not risk it.
There is an $8 fee to park at Pescadero State Beach, San Gregorio & Pomponio beaches. If there’s no attendant as you drive in then you’ll need to find the “Pay Here” sign and place your cash in the provided envelope. Don’t forget to tear off the payment stub and leave it on your dashboard for proof of payment.
The parking lots for these beaches are small relative to how big the beaches are. However, the only times we have had trouble parking at a Pescadero beach are on very warm summer days or during an organized beach cleanup when scores of volunteers descend on one beach to help pick up trash & debris.
Dogs at Pescadero Beaches
Dogs are allowed at Bean Hollow State Beach & Pebble State Beach. Dogs are also allowed at San Gregorio State Beach on leash on the trails and in the parking and picnic areas.
Dogs are NOT allowed at Pescadero State Beach or Pomponio State Beach.
Harley Farms Pescadero
Make sure to visit the goats at Harley Farms! It’s located just off Pescadero Creek Road minutes from downtown. This Pescadero goat farm has daily tours and a farm shop that sells their farmstead cheeses, honey, jams & jellies.
Harley Farms welcomes kids on their tours – we went when my kids were 5, 8 and 10, but this tour is not just for little kids. I enjoyed it and learned a lot, and I’m sure my now-teenagers would still give this tour a thumbs up. We explored the farm, learned how they milk the goats and process the milk, held baby goats (we went in the spring), and even did cheese tasting in the barn. We are generally not huge fans of goat cheese, but this was so good we bought some to bring home!
Check here for current times and tour availability.
Berry Picking in Pescadero
One of our favorite places in the Bay Area for berry picking is right in Pescadero at R&R Fresh Farms. This 25-acre Pescadero farm dedicates 4-acres to u-pick strawberries, ollalieberries, blackberries & raspberries. The season generally runs from June 15 into September. In addition to berry picking, there is always an assortment of fresh fruits, vegetables, breads & other products at their farmstand. R&R is conveniently located right on Pescadero Creek Road across the street from downtown.
There are a variety of Pescadero hikes showcasing the diversity of the landscape: from hiking through redwood groves at Butano State Park to the wetlands at Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve.
Butano State Park
Butano State Park in Pescadero was created in 1957 to protect the coastal redwoods from logging. It’s a 4700-acre park in a coastal canyon with over 40 miles of hiking trails winding through groves of second- and third-growth redwood trees and along creeks & wetlands. Some of the park was damaged during the CZU Lightening Fire in 2020 and was closed for restoration, but limited areas began opening back up in 2022. Check here for current trail closures.
We hiked the Little Butano Creek Trail, which is closed as of January 2023, and is a great 2.5 mile shaded trail along the creek. My kids loved all the bridges and creek crossings. This trail was recommended if you only have an hour to spend in the park. We were not in a rush and spent more than an hour hiking, but it could be done in an hour. There are a handful of other trails with a similar experience such as the Six Bridges Trail, Ano Nuevo Trail, Goat Hill Trail, and Doe Ridge Trail.
Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve
Hike the Sequoia Audobon trail at the Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, the largest coastal wetlands between San Francisco and Monterey. This is an easy 1.5 mile out-and-back trail that meanders through the Pescadero marsh. Here you’ll find more than 200 species of birds, including egrets & herons, as well as migrating butterflies, endangered steelhead and Coho Salmon, and red-legged frogs. There are informational signs along the way pointing out wildlife and describing the ecosystem.
Be sure to bring binoculars – our kids loved watching the birds up close and trying to track them as they flew.
Things to Note:
- No dogs
- We found the best way to access the trail is to park at the Cabrillo S parking lot right off Highway 1 and then walk north along a pedestrian walkway and follow the stairs down to the beach. From the beach, walk under the bridge (Highway 1 runs overtop) and you’ll see the trailhead. Using the pedestrian walkway to the beach path is much safer than trying to run across Highway 1 on foot – cars are usually traveling at 60+ mph.
If you plan to stop at Pigeon Point, check out Wilbur’s Watch. It’s a 2-mile out-and-back easy trail that zigzags up to a lookout point with a telescope. On a clear day, the view is stunning! The trailhead is on the east side of Highway 1 about half a mile from the lighthouse. There is a small parking lot at the trailhead off Pigeon Point Road.
Pigeon Point is on Highway 1 about 6 miles south of the Pescadero Creek Road turnoff. This is a fun pit stop to explore the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, the beach, and coastal walks. You can also check out this detailed post Exploring Pigeon Point.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse
The Pigeon Point Lighthouse stands 115 feet tall. It’s tied with Point Arena for the tallest lighthouse in California. This Pescadero lighthouse was constructed afterward and first lit in November 1872 to guide mariners along the treacherous & notoriously foggy coastline. Still today, the light continues to flash every 10 seconds. There is a visitor center with some exhibits & programs, including guided docent tours. Be sure to check the website prior to visiting if you want to take advantage of them.
Be sure to stop at Whaler’s Cove Overlook and walk along Mel’s Lane, a half mile path along the bluff, for spectacular views of the Pacific. Both are located just steps from the lighthouse.
Just to the north of the lighthouse are the Pigeon Point bluffs that look out over the Pacific as well as an accessible beach. We only saw 2 other people the whole time we were there! Time your visit with low tide to check out the tide pools- they are fantastic!
Make sure to stop at one of the delicious restaurants in Pescadero! There are plenty of options in a short 2 block section of Stage Road such as:
Duarte’s Tavern, established in 1894 serves American country cooking with Portuguese roots. Try the artichoke soup and ollalieberry pie! Duartes is a family & community business run by fourth-generation Duartes using fruits & vegetables grown almost exclusively in the garden behind the restaurant.
Arcangeli Grocery Co.
Across the street from Duarte’s is Arcangeli Grocery Company serving sandwiches from the deli in the back. You can also buy their famous artichoke bread – some people go to Pescadero just for this bread – as well as other grocery items. The line for the deli can get very long on a nice weekend day. Go early or be prepared to wait. Take your finds to the beach for a picnic or eat at one of the picnic tables in the back.
Mercado & Taqueria De Amigos
You might pass by the unassuming gas station on the corner of Pescadero Creek Road & Stage Road for years like we did. But inside you’ll find Mercado & Taqueria De Amigos serving amazing Mexican food. We are always searching for authentic Mexican tacos & burritos and this place did not disappoint!
I like to stop at Downtown Local for coffee. In addition to coffee, this Pescadero coffee shop has a cool vibe with a motorcycle in the window and lots of vintage finds you can buy. The last time we were there we walked away with a coffee and a vintage Hot Wheels car.
While technically in Pescadero, Pie Ranch is located on Highway 1 about 11 miles south of the Pescadero Creek Road turnoff.
Pie Ranch is more of a roadside farmstand, but it is worth a stop! The farmstand is full of fresh flowers, pies, jams, soaps, candles, and more! We picked up a pie, flowers, and a cold brew. Outside there are picnic tables for hanging out and relaxing. In addition to the farmstand, Pie Ranch also has food education programs and is available for field trips, weddings, and events