The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay leaves an indelible impression on you. Located on a remote strip of otherwise undeveloped coastline in Northern California, where it has the distinction of being the only oceanfront property in the San Francisco Bay area, the Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star resort is one of a kind.
Whether you go for a quick getaway or an extended vacation, here are five things to love about this extraordinary coastal retreat.
Nothing quite prepares you for the sight that greets you upon arrival at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay. Situated near the edge of seaside bluffs that recall the unspoiled terrain of the Irish coast, the scene — all 14 acres of it — is one of unmatched beauty. Ocean waves provide a faint, mesmerizing soundtrack that hums in the background throughout your stay.
Designed by architects Robert Glazier and John Hill, the luxury hotel seems to rise up from the land in the most natural way. Its Shingle-style architecture — so prevalent in turn-of-the-century Northeastern coastal resorts — sits in symbiotic harmony with the surrounding landscape.
Thanks to its position as the anchoring property for two championship-caliber golf courses, the resort’s backdrop is one of pristine, immaculately groomed greens. A six-mile coast-side trail (open to the public), which fronts the resort and leads to a beach at the base of the cliffs, provides ample motivation for brisk morning walks.
Built in 2001, the property’s 261 rooms were fully remodeled as of 2015. An additional $1 million renovation of its 2,000-square-foot The Ritz-Carlton Suite and 1,000-square-foot signature suites was completed in July 2019.
Standard rooms are spacious and comfortable, set in a palette of soothing grays and blues that seem to mimic the cloud-covered landscapes on view through the windows. With the renovations come upgraded technology in the form of flat-screen TVs, plenty of convenient USB plugs and scene-stealing push-button drapes, which open dramatically to reveal the stunning scenery outside.
Dreamy, soft, 400-thread-count bedding, goose-down pillows, feather beds and plush comforters guarantee a restful slumber. A generously sized white marble bathroom — kitted out with a sumptuous sunken tub, a separate shower and the Ritz-Carlton’s signature Purple Water line of toiletries from Asprey London — makes morning and evening ablutions a joy.
The Half Moon Bay retreat’s three dining venues are worthwhile destinations. Weather permitting, the fittingly named Ocean Terrace is a remarkable alfresco spot for lunch or a sunset-paired dinner. Nosh on seafood platters and simple grilled items, with the option of a post-meal drink at one of the restaurant’s fire pits.
For beach house vibes and ocean views, head for The Conservatory, where you can sit in one of the 80 seats and dine on coastal farm-to-table fare such as bouillabaisse and well-prepared fresh catches by chef Alain Zhang.
The hotel’s signature restaurant, Four-Star Navio, is noteworthy not just for its cuisine — it’s the setting for one of the best weekend brunches in the area — but for its décor. Featuring wood paneling and a dramatic arched ceiling, the nautically themed dining room is elegant and inviting. The opulent surroundings and beautifully plated dishes call to mind the grand dining rooms of early 20th-century ocean liners.
While morning walks are fabulous — the ocean breeze can go a long way toward clearing your mind — nothing is better for rest and relaxation than a trip to the spa.
The resort’s 16,000-square-foot, 15-room facility takes advantage of its Bay Area location with fragrant therapies, including the Coastal Lavender Indulgence (inspired by flowers harvested from Sonoma’s Matanzas Creek Winery) and the Redwood Forest Ritual (a hot poultice scrub sourced from the forest exfoliates beautifully).
But for something unique, ask about the secret spa menu, which features limited-time treatments using locally sourced products and the latest in spa techniques. A recent facial provided the star treatment with products from Beverly Hills skincare specialist Linda Ross.
The Sunset Bagpiper
An hour and a half before sundown every day (except Mondays and Wednesdays), a bagpiper dressed in a kilt, jacket and beret emerges from the property for a proper sunset salute. The wailing sounds of the instrument are carried down the coast, its poignant strains creating a moment out of time as the sun’s golden rays sink beyond the horizon.
A tradition since the coastal hotel’s inception in 2001, the experience is unforgettable. Glasses of rosé on warmer evenings and hot toddies around the fire pit on the chillier ones are just icing on the cake.