Princeton by the Sea is a lovely little, unincorporated community just north of Half Moon Bay and adjacent from the famed Pillar Point Harbor. Though the Mavericks Surf Competition is typically attributed to the town of Half Moon Bay, it is in fact held in Princeton by the Sea, meaning that this sleepy little community of under 300 residents is quite the tourist attraction during the winter months of massive waves. Surrounded by farmland on two sides, and the commercial fishing harbor on a third, when the surfers aren’t in town this sleepy seaside town is a wonderfully relaxing place to visit while in Half Moon Bay.
Where is Princeton by the Sea?
The quaint Princeton by the Sea is only 35 highway miles south of San Francisco, and less than five miles up the coast from downtown Half Moon Bay. It is the ideal place to stop for a beer or seaside lunch if you’re heading south from the city on Route 1. Princeton by the Sea proper is home to numerous attractions like restaurants, harbors and surf spots that are often attributed to Half Moon Bay as well, so there are plenty of things to do in this quiet town.
What is There to Do in Princeton by the Sea?
As an unincorporated community, many of the village’s addresses are attributed to Half Moon Bay. Princeton by the Sea is where you’ll find famous local haunts like the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company and Barbara’s Fishtrap. The Brewing Company is known throughout the Bay Area for its local craft brews of both year-round staples and seasonal treats. Barbara’s Fishtrap is one of the best places to get a fresh off the boat seafood meal, and is literally a stone’s throw from the fishing dock. The famous Mavericks wave is also technically in Princeton by the Sea, which is one of the main reasons that this once very sleepy little town now has multiple hotels and restaurants to serve the influx of guests in town during the big wave season.
What is Mavericks?
Aside from being Princeton by the Sea’s biggest attraction, Mavericks is a world class surf wave that hosts an annual competition. During the winter months the Mavericks wave is known to rise up to 60 feet high, and can be so ferociously explosive that it can actually be recorded on the Richter scale. While it is one of the world’s most celebrated swells, it is inevitably one of its most treacherous as well, having taken the lives of many people throughout the years. Half Moon Bay native, Jeff Clark, was the first person to surf the big wave in 1975, just a high schooler at the time. He has been surfing Mavericks for the past 40 years.
The competition, now known as Titans of Mavericks, takes place sometime within the season, which opens January 1st and runs through March 31st. In the preseason, hopeful competitors head to the area to show off their skills with the hopes of being one of the 24 finalists chosen to compete during the official showdown. Competitors are watched closely by the C5, as the judges are known, during the preseason months and are judged according to a list of criteria.
For more ideas of things to do while visiting the Half Moon Bay area, download this free Vacation Guide!