The Festivals of Half Moon Bay – That’s Why We Call this Home
Half Moon Bay is most famous for its two big gatherings - The Annual Art & Pumpkin Festival in October - and the Mavericks Invitational Festival which is held in the winter in conjunction with the big wave surf competition (dates vary because wave conditions vary).
Those events bring tens to hundreds of thousands of people to the Coastside which creates traffic snarls and short tempers. My recommendation is to book a stay long in advance of the Art & Pumpkin Festival - we have great properties we work with right downtown so you can walk to the festival. Alternatively there are wonderful properties near Princeton Harbor, and you can take a scenic easy bike ride downtown along the Coastal Trail.
However, I’m an even bigger fan of the smaller hometown festivals, one of which dates back to 1871 and is rooted in the local culture of the Portuguese from Azores who settled here in the 19th century. Here are highlights:
- Chamarita - The Holy Ghost Festival - has been held every year since 1871. (May/June around the feast of the Pentecost) A parade and festival commemorates an event that happened during the Renaissance under the reign of Queen Isabella. After a devastating earthquake and volcanic eruption in the Azores, the people of the islands prayed to the Holy Ghost for help - after which a ship with supplies for a starving population came into port. Today, the parade evokes the Renaissance with the ornate and beautiful costumes worn by the designated queen. And each local Portuguese community sends their queens and court, so you’ll see pageantry that seems foreign to our casual coastal community. I love the costumes and the slow and stately marches of the bands. And the food doled out at the IDES Hall is great local fare.
- Pacific Coast Dream Machines. (late April). This is a unique event held at the Half Moon Bay airport - a day dedicated to all things motorized - from vintage aircraft to motorcycles and hot rods. It’s fun and eclectic - the best part is seeing the various motorhead cultures gather in one spot. Food and drink feature local companies and the event supports the Adult Day Health Center so it’s a good cause. Music is mellow, dance-able and it’s a great way to while away the day.
- Night of Lights. (first Friday in December). This is an event for locals but visitors are always pleasantly surprised to see "snow" and glowing lights, along with a parade that grows each year. It’s held on Main Street with local musicians, hot chocolate and food. Local merchants stay open for shopping that evening. For locals, it’s a time to shop local. For visitors, it’s a great time to find unique gifts you won’t see at the mall.
- Rock the Block. (Saturday afternoon, mid-May). It’s a fun and free local block party held on Main Street. Music is great for families, and local nonprofits showcase their services.
- Tour des Fleurs. (Saturday, late July). This is one of my favorite events - I love the local farms, nurseries, and gardens - and this tour offers various options to see these operations behind the scenes. Half Moon Bay has been a traditional center for flower farming but also boasts a bounty from the waters and a burgeoning number of organic farms.
Click on any photo below to open the gallery for larger images.
Half Moon Bay Coastside Tours