Leave Your Heart in San Francisco; Spend a Day in Pacifica – Pacifica, California, USA

Leave Your Heart in San Francisco; Spend a Day in Pacifica
Pacifica, California, USA

Pack up the family car, get the dog, throw in some jackets and a picnic basket! Just 15 minutes south of San Francisco, California, lies a laid back coastal community sprawling approximately 8 miles along the scenic Pacific Coast. Isolated from its sister cities, Pacifica has a unique small town flavor blended with “big city” convenience. Enter Pacifica from the north via Highway One just south of Daly City and, on a sunny day, marvel at the ominous ocean view as you take the slight left bend that descends into the city limits. On a clear day, look closely for the Farallon Islands, which sit 28 miles due west of the Golden Gate Bridge. Gaze upon the rolling hills dotted with housing (very few built before 1950).

Pacifica Pier
Pacifica Pier
The Pacifica Pier is hard to miss jutting off into the ocean where locals cast their fishing lines, walk their dogs and stroll with children. Take Pacifica’s second exit, Paloma Avenue. Turn right and travel two blocks. Make an immediate left. You will now find yourself following a promenade which is perfect for a quick stroll. From the north end with its man-made wall of rocks, where you can feel the ocean spray your face, to the south end with a sprawling sandy beach and a large hilly golf course, a leisurely walk along the Sharp Park Beach promenade will leave you feeling refreshed in body and mind. The small-town easy-does-it pace can not be more evident than along this favorite local hang out.

Pacifica was first discovered by Don Gaspar de Portola, October 31, 1769. Although the name “Pacifica”, which means “peaceful” in Spanish, didn’t get its name until the 20th century, Don Gaspar de Portola accidentally came upon it almost 200 years earlier when he and his crew missed their turn off at Monterey Bay. Look for a 9 foot statue of Gaspar de Portola in the public parking lot at Crespi Drive and Highway One (southern end of city) which is where he and his fellow explorers set up camp. While exploring this end of Pacifica, make a left off of Highway One onto Linda Mar Boulevard. Travel through the valley a few miles until you reach the Adobe Sanchez Mission on your right (just past Adobe Road). Before its introduction as a historical landmark in 1953, it was occupied by the Ohlone Indians. It once became the only provider of food for Mission Dolores in San Francisco and is a fine example of authentic Monterey architecture and quite literally the oldest building in San Mateo County.

Natural Beauty
Natural Beauty
Continue along Linda Mar Blvd. inland a short distance further until the road comes to an end. Turn right onto Oddstad Road and make an immediate left into San Pedro Valley County Park. This may be a good place to unpack that picnic basket. Picnic tables are scattered around in an inviting grassy mountain setting. Enjoy the solitude away from the sounds of traffic and humans. When you muster up the courage to face civilization again, check out the visitor’s center where a ranger can give you valuable history about the area. Choose a hiking trail through rich and diverse coastal scrub, vegetation and creeks. Pacifica’s cool climate makes hiking pleasant and, although the city gets a bad rap for fog, a sunny day in the park is not uncommon. On a clear day, from atop a mountain trail, you can see the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco, the Marin Headlands and San Mateo County! It’s true that the northern end of the city shares one of the worst fog belts of the coastal area but your trek inland to the San Pedro Valley County Park can, without doubt, lay to rest the hazy notion that Pacifica never sees the sunshine. However, it’s an incredible treat to witness the white mist slither over Montara Mountain from just about anywhere in the valley or from a mountain trail. As it blows gently over the mountainous landscape, hugging each crevice, the scenery is breathtaking.

As you wrap up your day and retrace your tracks northward on Highway One, take a little peek at Pacifica’s Rockaway Beach, a rocky little cove with dramatic waves on a windy day. The little community here boasts a small but thriving tourist district filled with hotels, caf�s and shops with unique gifts from local artists. Pick up a small souvenir, watch the waves break over the pedestrian walk and see if you can catch sight of the brave surfers who boldly tackle some of Pacifica’s most impressive waves. If your appetite is sufficiently whetted by now, hop back into your car and drive only a mile further up Highway One for a delicious meal at the Vallemar Station. This local delight will not only entice your palate but give you one final glimpse into Pacifica’s history. The building itself stands as a landmark, once being a train depot. Enter through the cozy sports bar and linger long enough to study Pacifica history via the photos on the walls and marvel over the model train which is an educational glimpse into Pacifica’s early railroad days.

Locals love Pacifica but that’s no surprise! It really is San Francisco’s well kept secret – a little piece of paradise. It’s beautiful and limited in size. The climate is never too cold nor too hot. It’s beauty travels from the waves that tickle your feet to the mountains that surround the sprawled out hilly community. After your day-long adventure exploring Pacifica, return home knowing that you have experienced a truly unique piece of California Coast conveniently within reach of the “big city” of San Francisco – that other “city on a hill”. You may leave your heart in San Francisco but you’ll leave your soul here in “peaceful” Pacifica.

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