The coastal region of California, just south of San Francisco, has much to offer families

Wow!

With the baby goats at Vida Verde

We’re less than an hour south of San Francisco but a world away—dramatic crashing ocean waves on one side; farms on the other.

We walk a trail at Pescadero State Marsh, watching scores of baby Herons in the trees in a rookery and spy a turtle in water. We laugh at the harbor seals sunning on the rocks at Pescadero State Beach.

We stop at Harley’s Farm and Goat Dairy in tiny Pescadero to sample goat cheese (do we want pistachio and apricot, sundried tomato, chive?)… the best goat cheese I’ve ever tasted…. for our picnic overlooking crashing waves at Bean Hollow State Beach . Dessert? Creamy fudge made with goat milk. (Come starting in May on Saturdays and check out the Coastside Farmer’s Market.)

There are many farms and wineries to visit here, the chance to whale-watch, kayak, even stay in a light house (HI-Pigeon Point Lighthouse, one of the tallest and most photographed lighthouses in the country is now a hostel!) … and simply enjoy nature at its best

We walk along Pebble Beach with its distinctive small pebbles instead of sand. Kids are exploring the tide pools. An Anemone! A Sea Star! It’s chilly and we’re glad for the sunshine. It’s a perfect spring day

One reason for our visit: The chance to see Vida Verde where my daughter Reggie works—a nonprofit organization that provides overnight environmental educational programs for inner city kids. We ogle the newborn baby goats. So cute!

Our final destination is the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay that is one of the most spectacular hotel locations I’ve ever seen. The hotel is high on scenic bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean with two golf courses, tennis courts, walking trails to the beach and outdoor fire pits. (They leave us s’mores kits in our room. Some rooms have their own private fire pits where guests can sit and take in the ocean views.)

I love being on the Club Level where we have access to the Club Lounge with complimentary breakfast, lunch, snacks, and, before dinner, delectable snacks (grilled artichokes? Shrimp? Cheeses?)

There are many families here who tell me the charge ($150 per room) is well worth it for the chance to relax while the kids grab something to eat without waiting in a restaurant. Kathleen and Don Tanaka are here with their two kids from Saratoga, CA for an overnight with friends and their kids. “We can relax and they have their own space,” she said, gesturing to her two kids peering out the window at the wedding taking place outside at the hotel.

“If you want anything it is always there,” said Makaela Tanaka, 12. The best part: The jars of penny candy that the kids can help themselves to “They pretty much have everything we want, especially the candy!”

“If you want something, you can just go get it,” added nine year old Mason Lafreniere, who is from Los Gatos, CA.

“We don’t have to worry about the kids here,” said Kathy Lafreniere. And on vacation, that counts for a lot

We learn this Coast with its hidden coves, thick fog and isolated canyons was ideal for rum runners from Canada and local moon shiners. Speakeasies were popular here then. Now there are farms that date back to the 1800s, miles of white beaches (here’s the place to horseback ride along the beach), Redwood forests and hiking an d biking trails along the bluffs and among the mountains. There’s whale watching thru April, kayaking, fishing, even the chance to see how cheese is made. And of course, the chance to sample plenty of farm-to-table good eats.

With four regions to explore – the North Coast, Half Moon Bay, the South Coast and the Redwood Region – we can’t fit it all in one weekend. We simply follow my daughter Reggie’s lead to some of her favorite places.

This area, we learn, is also home California’s first and only broad based ecotourism visitor program, through which more than 30 farmers, fisherman and business community members have come together to offer visitors hands-on activities and a chance to meet local residents. To be included in the Ecotourism Map, all businesses had to agree to follow important environmental standards.

We head to dinner at the popular Peruvian La Costanera, on a cliff overlooking the ocean that offers spectacular views as well as spectacular food (he restaurant is recommended in the Michelin Guide.) We feast on ceviche (there are over a dozen to choose from), empanadas (the best I’ve ever eaten), Causas (chilled whipped potatoes topped with mushrooms asparagus and avocado) and excellent seafood Paella. Still, the managers tell me, the place welcomes many children and it is noisy enough that you don’t have to worry about disrupting anyone’s dinner.

On to the Redwoods tomorrow! I’m glad we’ve got another sunny day.

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