Can You Swim at Half Moon Bay ?

I am avid open water swimmer myself. I am always looking for new locations to swim at. As I live only an hour away from Half Moon Bay, swimming at Half Moon Bay would be a great option after all. Having had the opportunity to swim at several beaches in the bay area, I have also wondered the same question, can you swim at Half Moon Bay ?

So, can you swim at Half Moon Bay ? Yes, you can swim at Half Moon Bay. But No, it’s not really safe. Half Moon Bay is known for strong rip and high tides. If you want to take the chance to swim, go with a swimming partner and study the tide before heading into the water. 

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Can You Swim at Half Moon Bay ?

If you are wanting to know where to swim at Half Moon Bay and if that’s not an ideal option for you, where else can you swim in the area, you are at the right place. I will address swim beaches at Half Moon Bay and nearby beaches based on personal experience.

According to, “OCEAN SAFETY – Always use caution when you are in or near the ocean. The ocean water is very cold year round. Even a short swim can cause cramps or hypothermia (a life threatening condition which occurs when your body temperature drops below normal). In addition, strong rip currents can pull even the most experienced swimmers off shore.”

So, my personal recommendation is, do yourself a favor. Don’t swim at Half Moon Bay State Beach, Venice/Dunes Beach for your own safety.

If Half Moon Bay swim is not an option, where else can you swim ? Read on to know more about the really nearby beaches that you can safely swim.

I will stick to safe to swim beaches in the bay area in this article. After all, we are here to have fun, and it’s really not worth risking life.

Swimming at Aquatic Park

Parkside Aquatic Park in San Mateo

Open year around, Parkside Aquatic Park is a great place to cool off on a hot summer day. This beach lagoon has a roped-off swim area. You can swim within the roped section to avoid coming in contact with boats and kayaks.

Other things to do at Parkside Aquatic Park:

  • Offers a great picnic spot with tables
  • Has excellent play structures and play park for kids
  • Has proper flush toilet facilities inside the park area.

This park doesn’t have any lifeguard on duty. So, you are on your own. Since this is a lagoon, and barely any tides visible, it’s relatively a low risk swimming beach in San Mateo. However, keep in mind, there is always strong currents brining in water on and off and can give challenging situation to swim.

Always swim with a buddy. Never alone in open waters.

Coyote Point in San Mateo

This is a real deal beach swim with low risk in the bay area. You will get tossed into ups and downs of choppy waves that will challenge your perseverance. On the other hand at a low tide time, you will be standing and touching the ground even deep into the water.

So, generally we swim during the high tide times to avoid going deep into the water and to get a good swim workout.

To check the tide timing, click here. 

There is plenty of free parking right in front of the beach. Also the best part about swimming here is the access to the outdoor showers to rinse off the salt water.

The park also has flush toilets near the swimming area. However, there is an entrance free to the park. It’s $6 to enter the park that is valid for the day at the recreation area. Dogs are allowed on leash if you want to bring your friend to the park.

Swimming at Gull Park

Gull Park in Foster City

Another great location to swim to get a feel for salt water swimming in bay area. There is no waves to battle here. It’s a calm lagoon water that swells with the current through out the day. But, you won’t see any of it, but if you are in the water swimming, occasionally you will feel the swell come and go.

Another great thing about this park is that it’s very beginner friendly. You can stand and feel the ground for a few meters before it gets deeper. We take our new triathletes to swim at Gull park.

For those training for half or full ironman distances, starting from the park entrance and going right towards the bridge and back is a good 1-mile swim.

There are few things to keep in mind while swimming here:

  • Water will look emerald green in color. I haven’t gotten sick due to any water issue. I have been swimming here for years.
  • You will be sharing the water with kayakers. That means you have to wear bright colored swimming caps and buoy to protect yourself from those who may otherwise miss spotting the swimmers.
  • You are at the backyard of houses along the way. Be mindful when you are clinging on to their decks for some rest.

Gull Park also has a great kids park with two play areas. Dogs are allowed at the park. My 20-month old son loves going to this park and chasing the geese.

You can park along the road side.

Crissy field in San Francisco (AKA Aquatic Park)

This is a moderately risky swim in the bay in front of Ghiradhelli Square, where crazy people will be swimming in the freezing cold water, even in the winter. I have been a committer of such things. It’s freezing to say the least in the heart of the winter. But, we (my triathlon group at Team Asha) do this as a ritual to kick off the New Year, aka Polar Bear Swim.

There are buoys in the aquatic park area of crissy field that are visible to container ships, tourist boats, fishing boats, cruise liners, etc. So, it’s wise to swim along those buoys to make sure you are not on their way.

From time to time you will see a group of swimmers going out to the ocean or coming in to aquatic park from Alcatraz. These are organized swims called “Escape from Alcatraz

Besides the triathlon, there are monthly organized Alcatraz swims that are run really fun to sign up for if you are already trained for it.

These swims usually range from 1.2 miles to 2 miles depending on which side of Crissy field park you are targeting that day.

While in San Francisco, Baker beach and Ocean Beach are supposedly swimmable. But are considered high risk. Generally, you would have to study tide charts, swim with a buddy as these places are notorious for high surf and strong rip currents.

Swimming at Santa Cruz

Cowell beach at Santa Cruz:

Just a little south of Half Moon Bay is the city of Santa Cruz that is just the perfect swimming beach you have been looking for.

If you want to just pick one location out of all the beaches I have listed here for a real deal beach swim, that would be Santa Cruz Cowell beach. 

There are two options for swimmers here:

  • Around the wharf
  • At the beach

If you are an ambitious swimmer wanting a good workout and wouldn’t mind swimming more than a mile of swimming, then attempt swimming around the wharf, WITH a buddy. It’s a relatively a safe beach to swim. However, if you are not used to getting so deep into the ocean alone, I HIGHLY recommend going with a buddy.

Most of the swimmer here will be starting the swim from the left side of the wharf and end at the right side. This has become a natural way just because that’s how the Santa Cruz Ironman triathlon course is laid out.

The swim entry will probably be the challenging one as the strong waves break into the sandy beach. However, after a few yards, it calms down and the swim becomes really pleasant.

Don’t be scared if you hear Seals loudly as you get near the wharf. They usually don’t come near you. But, in case they do, just quickly swim away. You and seal will both be safe that way.

The second option is to swim at the Cowell beach where they have buoys laid out for swimmers to do laps. This is where most beginners stick to.

Tips for Swimming at Beach:

  • Never go alone, always go with a buddy
  • Always wear bright colored swim caps
  • Take a buoy with you that goes around your waist for easier identification
  • Know your swimming skills and don’t over estimate.

New Wave Swim Bubble for Open Water Swimmers and Triathletes – Be Bright, Be Seen & Be Safer with New Wave While Swimming Outdoors with This Safety Swim Buoy Tow Float (Fluo Green)
If you are looking for other activities to do, Half Moon Bay hikes such as Mavericks Cliffs Trail or Sweeney Ridge to Mori Point trail, Horseback riding in Half Moon Bay, Kayaking in Half Moon Bay are great option instead of Half Moon Bay swim.

If you are visiting with your dog, find out about the best Dog Friendly beaches in Half Moon Bay before you head out.

Done with activities and look to grab a bite ? You will have to hit Half Moon Bay downtown for sure to either get the best Gelato or wine or dinner.

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Can you swim at Half Moon Bay?