Montara/Pillar Point

Montara Lighthouse – photo copyright C Roy Yokingco

Located on the San Francisco Peninsula in San Mateo County, approximately 20 miles south of San Francisco and eight miles north of Half Moon Bay on Highway One, Montara State Beach offers beautiful turquoise water and a unique, coarse granite sand that comes from the nearby granite bluffs.

A few minutes south of Montara, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (which lies within Montara State Marine Reserve) boasts one of the richest intertidal areas on the California coast. Extensive shale reefs are home to a wide variety of marine life, such as giant green anemones, octopus, limpets, purple sea urchins, crabs and snails.

Interesting Facts:

  • Scientists have called Moss Beach and the Montara SMR one of the most biodiverse regions in the state
  • Lots of sea slugs! Forty-six species of nudibranchs, or sea slugs, have been found at Moss Beach
  • Did you know? Twenty-five species of plants and animals, new to science at the time, were discovered at Moss Beach in the Montara SMR.
  • Point Montara Lighthouse was originally established in 1875 as a fog signal station after several ships ran ashore in the late 1860s. The current cast-iron lighthouse was brought from Wellfleet Harbor in Cape Cod, Massachusetts! It was installed in Montara in 1928 and is the only known lighthouse to have shown over two oceans!
  • Point Montara Lighthouse is a fantastic hostel perched on a bluff overlooking the Montara SMR; it makes an ideal destination for an inexpensive coastal retreat. For more information visit:
  • Marine mammals love it here! There are numerous haulout sites for harbor seals and sea lions in the Pillar Point SMCA and the Montara SMR. Both MPAs are breeding areas for harbor seals.
  • When large winter swells hit the California coast, the big wave surf spot, Mavericks, rears to life at the Southern End of the Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area. Since the surfbreak lies almost ½ mile off of Pillar Point, it can be difficult to see from shore and visitors should use caution when approaching the ocean facing beach at Pillar Point harbor.
  • For more information on Montara State Beach, please visit:
  • For more information on the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, please visit: