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A Review Of The Ritz Carlton At Half Moon Bay, Or, Saturday Morning at 8:44am

Christmas was quiet this year. No trip to Hawaii with my children, not family gathering except to celebrate my father’s 89th birthday on the 20th. Which was well worth a party, of course, but wasn’t quite a holiday.

So my husband and I went away for a few days around the New Year, to the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay. Where’s that? Mexico? Hawaii? A remote island in an even more remote sea? Nope. Northern California, just over the hills from us, on the coastline between San Francisco and, well, beach and agricultural towns that trail south until Hearst Castle.

It was restorative.

Our room was very, very comfortable. An East Coast in Northern California vibe, if that makes sense. Moldings, high ceilings, and modern furniture. We looked directly at the Pacific. And although the Ritz is fancy, that pathway you see is for the public, as is the golf course, so the California spirit prevails.

I’ve had that suitcase for 20 years. Here’s a wall mirror reflecting the view, and me in a pink scarf, incidentally.

The tote is new. The bathroom is lovely. Quite trad. There’s also a good separate shower.

We ate most of our meals in the Club Lounge. You pay a flat daily fee, or reserve a room with access included, for breakfast, morning snack, lunch, cocktail hour snacks with wine and drinks, and later night desserts. It’s always open for tea, coffee, water. And now I will point out that Ritz Carlton is part of the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program, so can be a good getaway option if you or your family travel much for business.

It’s cozy inside, but you venture out to a Scottish manor. Those are firepits; staff will bring you a blanket if it’s really cold.

I am not kidding about the Scottish bit. Because Half Moon Bay is so often foggy, and because the hotel sits on sandy cliffs between two golf courses, there’s a theme in place.

A bagpiper plays most days (check when you make reservations) at sunset. The valets also wear plus fours, which I hope they find amusing. Any impulse I had to scoff vanished at the first screel. Pipe the sun down.

Put it to bed and then walk the public path along the coastline.

This is it for me. Unlimited food is excellent, fancy bathtubs are good, foggy manor houses look really nifty from a distance.

But the Pacific is something else.


A wonderful weekend to you all.


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43 Responses

  1. Wow! This sounds great to me. The Scottish bagpiper at sunset reminds me of the one at The Inn at Spanish Bay at Pebble Beach. So do the fire pits. So romantic. Hope you are having a good start to the new year. Chinese New Year up next!

  2. Sounds marvelous, Lisa. The hotel exterior reminds me of the Algonquin Hotel in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick. On the Bay of Fundy. Except the elegance there is much more faded. Stu and I stayed there a couple of summers ago. I loved the rocking chairs the porch where I partook of afternoon tea.
    The ocean on the Bay of Fundy is lovely, but muddy at low tide, and not nearly as spectacular as yours.
    I’d love to visit California one day. Looks magnificent.

    1. @Sue Burpee, Oh Sue you have to come down! California is almost like a country:). The rugged Pacific coast, the Wine Country, Yosemite and all of the Sierra range, Los Angeles, the desert. Oh, and the Bay Area of course;).

  3. What a lovely getaway.
    I bumped into this (below) one day on the internet and your post reminded me of it.
    Interesting, makes sense to me
    Suz from Vancouver


  4. What a great description, and the photos are wonderful. It sounds like the perfect coastal retreat. Access to the Club Lounge means no fuss about reservations, driving off-site, finding parking, etc. Thanks for giving us all a glimpse of your getaway, complete with bagpiper. I *almost* felt like I was there!

    1. @Jean Barrett, Thank you, my pleasure! The Club Lounge definitely makes the whole experience feel more like you just happen to be visiting your aristocratic aunt;).

  5. This is absolutely unbelievable!! This is in Half Moon Bay?? WOW. It is surreal and gorgeous. My how things have changed.

    I’m with you on the Pacific. We head to Depoe Bay in May for three weeks on the beach and I can’t wait.

  6. Gorgeous! And even with a Ritz here and and a golf course there I’m happy to see the long views of the beaches are nearly as wild as when I first saw them as a college student in the 1970s. Coming from the east coast I was amazed at the access and the lack of development of the California coast. What a gift! Happy New Year.

    1. @Wendy, It is a gift. I wonder if our late start in development, compared to the East Coast, made us understand how precious wildness is in a way that early East Coast towns wouldn’t have known.

  7. Love that hotel! And have only stayed in the “cottages” – which don’t have ocean views but do have sweet patios & fireplaces that go on with switch. And are across from the pool. It is one of my favorite hotels for how far away it feels. Glad you had restorative time.

  8. What a lovely and relaxing respite from the craziness of the holidays – and with a bagpiper providing that essence of Scotland, to boot!

    We had our first serious snow of the season here in Princeton yesterday, with me caught driving home in the worst of it, after my monthly color-and-cut (necessary to maintain my fairly short and very dark head of 77-year-old hair). The roads were pretty dicey, but the lowest gear of my Forester got me safely down our steep snow-covered hill and all the way up our long snow-covered driveway. I came inside to discover that my husband had already lit the fire and was preparing to ladle out late-lunch bowls of his fabulous freshly-made Spanish bean soup, so we had our own wonderful respite from a wintry day – cozy and warm together as we watched the snow fall …

    But bagpipes playing as the sun sets over the blue Pacific, in the middle of January, is an image I will carry with me all winter!

    1. @Victoire, Your respite sounds wonderful – I hope you weren’t too stressed and stretched by the drive up and over the snow! I have some white beans in the fridge, BTW, somethings transcend location;).

  9. I will never scoff at bagpipes. They give me chills.

    (Note to self: Add “bagpipes” to funeral instructions, right after, “make sure sister does makeup,” except hmmm – I want a natural burial so no embalming or open casket. OK. Just bagpipes. Because they are divine.)

  10. That looks fantastic! Our dog and cat lived with a family in Half Moon Bay as part of the transition quarantine back to Australia so I am even more convinced at how they lucked out in their Northern Californian sojourn:)

  11. This all seems very restful but I might pass on bagpipes should they appear. There are lots of ways to spend Christmas and January and this is certainly a fine way to enjoy the quieter days.

  12. I suddenly have a strong urge to get married and have my destination wedding here (NOT likely). Or just go by myself with a stack of about 35 books.I especially LOVE the sound of those meals.

    And I’m going to check out the Bay of Fundy hotel mentioned in above comments as it’s a lot closer to home.

  13. Delightful. It looks like you and your husband had a lovely stay. Thank you for sharing your beautiful photos. Half Moon Bay and the northern California coast seem to receive less accolades than they deserve. As a native, I’m glad for the privacy this affords those “in the know.”

    1. @AEF, Thank you. Our coast is kind of a secret, still, although I remember 15-20 years back when you could still drive over the hill on a weekend with no traffic except during pumpkin festival time…

  14. Thank you for giving me a new word for my vocabulary…screel. It took some digging to find a definition, but it made so much sense in context that I intuitively knew the definition all along. Thank you also for sharing your lovely visit to “the beach”, I must start planning our visit to Mendocino!

  15. Lisa, you gave away our secret spot! We’ve had several anniversaries and a couple of birthdays there. We like the Greenhouse more than the dining room. Great food, great service. We’ve never spent the night there. Lucky you!. We always take time for a walk along the edge of the golf course and the cliff. I didn’t know about the bagpiper though–perhaps an excuse to spend a night as well. Sometimes we’ll rent a limo to take us there so we can drink wine without worrying about the winding mountain road to get back home.

    Another place we like to go is the Miramar a few miles up the coast. You dine practically right on the beach.

  16. Nothing like that west coast. No wonder you all toast the sunset, and then some, every chance you get! Cheers to the west coast, to the best coast!

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