Photograph by Jan Arendtsz
GETTING THERE Fly United or Southwest nonstop from John Wayne Airport to San Francisco International Airport. Southwest also flies nonstop to San Jose. Then rent a car and take the one-hour drive south (or west, if coming from San Jose).
ON THE WAY From San Francisco, stop in Pacifica. Hike at Devil’s Slide Trail or have a meal at Gorilla Barbeque, once featured on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.”
LODGING Tucked into the hills of Pescadero, among acres of fragrant eucalyptus trees, is Costanoa Lodge ($30 and up), an “eco adventure resort” that offers various accomodation options. You can book tent bungalows, cabins, or a room at the lodge. Those who want to rough it can tent camp at designated sites. The setting is great for outdoorsy types, but note that none of the rooms have air conditioning or reliable cell service.
DINING Costanoa’s onsite restaurant, Cascade Bar & Grill, serves seasonal dishes made with local produce. We recommend reservations, as well as the Nantucket diver scallops with grapefruit, frisee, capers, and cauliflower ($32). Don’t overlook the gas station nearby; inside, it’s home to Mercado & Taqueria De Amigos, which The New York Times credits as having some of “the best tacos this side of Mexico” ($2 to $3 each). Finally, Duarte’s Tavern is a low-key local favorite, known for its thick, fragrant cream of artichoke soup ($9).
FOODIE OUTING Grab a loaf (or two) of the mouth-watering garlic and herb artichoke bread from Arcangeli Grocery Co./ Norm’s Market, featuring chunks of marinated artichoke hearts—sourced from nearby farms—baked into the tender French dough. Then take a short drive to Harley Farms Goat Dairy for the international-award-winning goat’s milk-based cheeses. Choices range from Lavender Honey Cheese ($18) to Dark Chocolate Jalepeño Goat Cheese truffles ($3). They even sell goat milk-based paint! Book a reservation in advance for one of the special-event luncheons and dinners.
VOLUNTEER Ever wonder what it would be like to work on a farm? Pie Ranch, an organic farm and educational center, hosts a “work day” once a month, during which you can leave your city-slickin’ ways behind and experience two hours of easy manual labor. Stay for an optional tour ($10 to $20), and a potluck dinner followed by music and dancing ($10 to $20).
SIGHTSEEING Don’t miss the chance to see the 115-foot-tall Pigeon Point Light Station, which began operating in 1872 and got its name from a ship that wrecked in the area before the lighthouse was built. Although visitors can’t tour the inside due to ongoing renovations, it’s surrounded by breathtaking views of the coastline. Nearby, you’ll find some of the liveliest tide pools in Northern California.
Explore the coastline at Año Nuevo State Park to see hordes of elephant seals ($10 per car). Early December through late March is peak season, but you can see these loud, lovable creatures year-round, relaxing on the beach, roaring and jousting with their oversized proboscises.