Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Healthy Travel Review: Half Moon Bay, California

Half Moon Bay
In my endless search for great beach towns in Northern California, I recently discovered Half Moon Bay, which lies about 3o miles south of San Francisco. It is a relatively small beach town with a nice, but tiny main street that spans about three blocks and has some cute shops and restaurants.

You never know what you'll find in Half Moon
Bay! This ship was in a cute courtyard with
 small artists booths around selling their creations.

I went to Half Moon Bay for the first time 2 years ago in 2013, where we decided to stay at the Half Moon Bay Lodge because it was reasonably priced, near the beach, and located next to the Ritz-Carlton, so I thought it would be at the best spot in town. It was a nice hotel, nothing special and more like a Best Western,  but comfy and somewhat reasonably priced. The bad news for me was although it was on the beach as the crow flies, it was a 25+ minute walk on a narrow paved road to actually get to the beach access point, which was really too far from the beach for me!  Plus, none of the rooms had a beach view. We ended up having to drive to the beach and fight for a parking spot along with every other beach-goer that weekend.
We went back to Half Moon Bay this year in January 2015 and decided to stay at the only hotel (from what I can tell) that was ON the beach, The Beach House. 

The Beach House

My kids and I headed out to Half Moon Bay on a beautiful Sunday morning in January to celebrate my birthday and made great time getting there until we got into the actual town of Half Moon Bay, where we hit an absurd amount of traffic. We were only 15 minutes drive from our hotel, but we were stuck  in traffic for over 1-1/2 hours. I learned from the locals that this is typical traffic in HMB, especially on a warm, sunny beach day, like the one we had that day. Frustrating. I was hoping to get to the hotel early so we could have the day at the beach and enjoy the pool and jacuzzi as well, but we didn’t arrive there until late afternoon. But I was so thrilled to finally arrive there I just about danced into the lobby excited to check-in, only to be greeted by a lukewarm front desk person. He checked us in without a smile and when he learned it was my birthday, I didn’t even get a friendly happy birthday. Bad start.

Our room was on the second floor overlooking the beach and seemed nice and roomy. We had a little balcony with a table and two chairs and a small kitchenette, which I love to have when traveling, which had a small fridge, two burners, and a sink. I tucked a bottle of organic champagne and a beautiful vegan chocolate birthday cake into the fridge and we headed out to look around and enjoy the beach before the sunset.

Our ocean view room facing the balcony

The view was lovely from our balcony but I must warn you, there is a  nearby foghorn that goes off every 10 seconds DAY AND NIGHT. It wasn’t really a problem for me because I travel with a white noise maker for night-time, but the constant noise of the horn might cause a bit of stress for some, especially at night. 

The view from the hotel rooms are not ocean FRONT, because there is a little bike path
between you and the ocean as well as some beach grass and shrubs. But
it is only a few minutes walk until your feet feel the ocean water.

The moon on the nights we were there was not quite "Half Moon" yet, but lovely just the same

You can view the sunset from your balcony at The Beach House

I found The Beach House a nice place to stay but WAY overpriced for what is offered. It was really nice having a little kitchenette but it wasn't mentioned when I booked the room so I did not bring any food to cook, which would have been nice for breakfast so we didn't have to run out of the room hungry in the mornings.

As far as the hotel's "green initiatives" I did not see that they had any, after checking both the website and the literature in the room.

For LOTS more info on our hotel, The Beach House, please read my VERY LONG travel review on Trip Advisor:

On our way to our hotel we stopped at the MOONSIDE BAKERY AND CAFE in the center of town. Before our trip I did some research on healthy veg eating options in Half Moon Bay and this Cafe seemed to have a few nice veggie choices, including a veggie burger, so we stopped in for a late lunch. It was a bit more casual than I expected and more a Bakery than Cafe. There was a long line leading up to the bakery counter where you can order sandwiches, salads and wood-fired pizzas from a small lunch menu and they give you a number and bring it out to you. 

The Cafe is really a long bakery counter/case
where you order your food and it is brought out 
 The tables are few and scattered and more like a cafeteria than a nice cafe and not a very relaxing place to dine, but fine for a quick meal.  Moonside Bakery is attached to a small indoor mini-mall, and the table we found was out in the small, somewhat dingy indoor courtyard, which was quite noisy and uninviting. Not what I expected after looking at the website (don’t you hear THAT alot!).

The Cafe is small so our table was out in the indoor courtyard

 The food menu was quite pricy for a non-server cafe, but HMB is expensive in general, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. One of my son’s ordered a kid’s mac and cheese which was made from a box with powdered cheese and was so unappealing, he did not eat much of it. 

Not so fresh Mac and Cheese
My other son ordered the Garden Vegie (that is how they spelled it) sandwich, which had avocado, tomato, lettuce and sprouts on your choice of bread, he chose french, and is served with a side of fresh fruit. My son said the sandwich was good, nothing special, but some of the fruit was a bit too mushy to eat. 

I ordered the Vegie Burger (yep! spelled like that) which was a homemade patty, which was impressive, and was topped with carrots and cucumbers on whole wheat bread. It was nice, again, nothing special, but I was VERY appreciative to find a vegan option.

Vegie Burger on Whole Wheat

  There were no vegan bakery items but lots of vegetarian options so my sons got a few meringue cookies and a crescent moon butter cookie. The meringues were stale but the butter cookie nice and fresh.

 The bakery items looked really cute and, if you are looking for a lovely treat and not on the healthy side, this could be your place! 

Even though our experience wasn’t wonderful, I might come here again because there are some veggie (or “vegie”) items on the menu and eating choices in this small beach town are quite limited. Next time I will know what to expect.

China House
The last time we came to Half Moon Bay in 2013, we found an awesome chinese restaurant that delivered to our hotel room, The China House. They had a fantastic variety of vegan/vegetarian times on their menu that included vegetarian Bao, which is soooo hard to find, since traditional Bao is pork-filled. For those unfamiliar with Bao, it is a doughy bun with filling, often a sweet pork filling as I mentioned, but China House has a veggie version which I LOVED.  You can also find Bao's with a sweet red bean paste filling, which is REALLY yummy and usually served as a dessert item. 

Our array of yummy veggie dishes.
The veggie Bao is first on the bottom.

The China House had a separate Vegetarian menu, which makes it easy to make selections for healthy eaters. 

We went a bit crazy, ordering the Steamed Veggie Dumplings (Bao), Sauteed Broccoli with Asparagus, China House Vegetarian Deluxe with Tofu, and rice. It was hot, delicious, and reasonably priced. The best!

We loved everything but I think my favorite is the
broccoli and asparagus dish. We ask them to
add some fried tofu.

I was thrilled to find that they were still in Half Moon Bay and they still delivered! 

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