If you haven’t been to Pacifica in a while, you haven’t been to Pacifica. It’s changed. What was once the place you drove through to get somewhere else is now the place you want to visit. Over the past few years, Pacifica—a mere 15-minute drive south of San Francisco—has experienced an influx of seriously talented chefs, musicians, artists, and educators who have traded the hectic city life for the far more tranquil surroundings of this seaside community.
I recently spent a weekend here with some local friends who gave me the inside scoop on what to see and do, and I ended up being blown away by all the things Pacifica has to offer its visitors. Keep reading and you’ll see why Pacifica has become one of California’s newest (and most affordable) vacation destinations for families, lovers, foodies, adventurers, or anyone just looking for a relaxing seaside getaway.
Two Perfect Days in Pacifica… for Families
If you want to score huge points with your rambunctious kids, do this: Plan a weekend getaway to Pacifica where your kids will take archery lessons at Sharp Park in the morning, skateboarding lessons at Nor Cal Surf Shop at noon (Gee Whiz Fact: Pacifica has one of the top skateboard parks in the nation), pizza for lunch at The Point, surfing lessons with Nor Cal Surf Shop at Linda Mar Beach in the afternoon, then bowling, video games, and burgers at Sea Bowl in the evening. And that’s just Saturday!
Sunday morning, after breakfast at Salada Beach Cafe, head out to the Pacifica Pier with your fishing gear, crab trap, tackle, and bait provided by the friendly folks at Coastside Bait & Tackle, who will show you exactly what set-up you need to catch fish and crab (in season) off the pier. And because it’s a public pier, a fishing license isn’t required for anyone.
Around noon it’s time to drive over to the north end of Rockaway Beach and climb around the rocks at the Pacifica Quarry (the local kids LOVE this place), followed by burgers and shakes for lunch at Rock’n Robs. If you brought mountain bikes, you’ll want to ride the dozens of miles of dirt trails throughout 1,100-acre San Pedro Valley Park, Pacifica’s mountain biking mecca. Otherwise head back to Linda Mar Beach for a paddleboard lesson at Nor Cal Surf Shop, or more surfing and beach time.
Travel Tip: If you’re headed to the beach, the best place in Pacifica to purchase beach toys, sundries, and healthy picnic supplies is at Oceana Market.
Two Perfect Days in Pacifica… for Foodies
I never thought I’d be typing this sentence, but Pacifica now has one the best new restaurants in the Bay Area. One of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco is a Peruvian place called Fresca, so I had high expectations when the owners of Fresca opened Puerto 27 Peruvian Kitchen & Pisco Bar in Pacifica. They nailed it. There are three dishes here you have to order: the Causa Gravlox (yellow potato maki, pisco cured salmon gravlax, cucumber, crispy squid, lime honey sauce, hijiki), the Anticuchos de Corazon (beef heart skewers, aji panca achiote, yucca, grilled corn), and my favorite, the Arroz con Mariscos, a mixed seafood and shellfish paella that is superb.
Travel Tip: Pacifica’s new Devil’s Slide Shuttle offers free weekend shuttle service, making 15 stops throughout Pacifica
The next must-do dining experience in Pacifica is Lovey’s Tea Shoppe (stay with me here). Nowhere in North America will you experience a place like this. It’s tea service for the proletariat: mismatched china, quirky décor, Wee Tea for kids, hearty pub fare such as Shepard’s Pie and Sausage Rolls, gluten-free options, and all the tea you can drink (my favorite is the Black Vanilla with Lavender). If you’ve never experienced a British tea service before, you have to visit this unpretentious little roadside gem.
In fact, there are so many great places to dine in Pacifica that you’ll need to make numerous trips backs to experience them all. Here are more local favorites: Nick’s for grilled crab sandwiches, hand-cut steaks, martinis, live music, and dancing; The Surf Spot for fresh seafood; Gorilla Barbecue, as seen on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (ask Rich Bacchi to show you his knuckles); Colombo’s Delicatessen for superb sandwiches and other picnic-friendly items; seaside Sunday brunch at Moonraker; and Salada Beach Cafe for omelets, quiche, and oatmeal.
Two Perfect Days in Pacifica… for Lovers
If you want to treat your lover to a weekend getaway in Pacifica that he or she will remember fondly, this is how you do it. First, before you go, contact Janet Barker and ask her to set up a private art class for you on the beach. As Pacifica’s resident “art-trepreneur,” Janet’s passion is to help even first-time painters discover their inner talent (even if you have none, it’s still a lot of fun and very romantic). Then call Jim at Silicon Segway and reserve a 2-hour Segway tour of Pacifica. He or one of his staff will teach you how to ride these nifty vehicles, then take you on a guided historical tour along Pacifica’s coast. It’s a lot of fun and surprisingly affordable—just $75. Finally, log onto www.pacificaperformances.org to see who’s performing while you’re in town—everything from opera to tango, blues, and folk—and purchase tickets online.
When the big weekend arrives, start with coffee and pastries at Mazzetti’s Bakery, then take a stroll along Pacifica’s oceanside promenade from Paloma Avenue south to Mori Point. It’s now time for tea and triangle sandwiches at Lovey’s Tea Shoppe at Rockaway Beach, followed by your Segway tour and art class with Janet. Next, head back to your hotel to change, then it’s time for the show at Pacifica Performances, followed by dinner either at Nick’s for surf-n-turf dinner and dancing, or Puerto 27 for superb Peruvian cuisine in a very lively setting. For a romantic nightcap, head over to A Grape In The Fog wine bar, which has live music on weekends and is open until midnight on Friday and Saturday.
If it’s Sunday, have brunch at Nick’s Restaurant or Moonraker; otherwise, I recommend the Salada Beach Cafe. If you just want a coffee drink, that cute little red caboose off Highway 1 called P-Town Cafe serves great coffee. Next, stock up on sandwiches and drinks at either Colombo’s Deli or Oceana Market, and if the weather’s warm spend the day at Linda Mar Beach working on your tan. Otherwise, drive inland a bit to San Pedro Valley County Park and take a hike along the Brooks Falls Overlook Trail. Keep an eye out for foxes, bobcats, cotton-tail rabbits, and black-tailed deer.
After your hike or beach time, head over to Rockaway Beach for a unique shopping experience, starting with Siren’s Ocean Inspired Gift Shop and continuing on foot to Christmas by the Cove, Resurrected, and Urban Succulents. Your final stop will be at the The Surf Spot for a late lunch (order the truffled grilled cheese sandwich) on the back deck while listening to live music (every Friday and Saturday from 2 to 5pm), the perfecting ending to your romantic weekend in Pacifica.
Travel Tip: All of the public beaches in Pacifica are dog-friendly, but you do have to keep them on a leash.
Pacifica offers six lodging options in the budget to moderate price range, and all are within walking distance to Pacifica’s beaches. Four are located at Rockaway Beach. The largest with 97 guest rooms is the Best Western PLUS Lighthouse Hotel, a full-service hotel situated on Rockaway Beach with spacious accommodations, beautiful ocean views, a swimming pool, and the upscale Moonraker restaurant. The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Pacifica provides very comfortable accommodations with ocean views and a complimentary hot Express Start Breakfast Bar. Offering a dash of Victorian charm is the pet-friendly Pacifica Motor Inn, and adjacent to Nick’s Restaurant is the Sea Breeze Motel, which is very convenient for those looking to dance the night away at Nick’s.
Travel Tip: Pacifica’s oceanside Sharp Park Golf Course was was originally designed by famed architect Alister MacKenzie, who also designed Pebble Beach’s famed course. The par 72 public course is 6,299 yards long and offers fabulous views of the Pacific Ocean and surrounding areas.
Situated across from Linda Mar Beach is another full service hotel called the Pacifica Beach Hotel. The hotel now includes several remodeled rooms, offering spectacular ocean view rooms, Jacuzzi tubs, indoor swimming pool, and houses the new Peruvian Restaurant, Puerto 27, on the property. Further north near Sharp Park is Americas Best Value Inn, which is a short walk from Pacifica Pier and the golf course.
For more information about Pacifica, log onto VisitPacifica.com. I also highly recommend downloading the iPacifica mobile app for Apple or Android devices, which provides information on dining, shopping, galleries, lodging, weather and more, all at your fingertips while exploring your favorite new local getaway—Pacifica.