Your AAA Magazine

Pacifica, Calif.: Seaside Escape

A string of beaches, a castle, and an interesting array of eateries make this coastside town south of San Francisco a perfect weekend getaway.

  • Oceana Art Gallery and person looking at art, image
    Photo caption
    A patron peruses an exhibit at Oceana Art Gallery in Pacifica.
  • paella dish at Puerto 27 in Pacifica, image
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    Puerto 27, a Peruvian kitchen and pisco bar, serves a knockout paella.
  • tower at Sam's Castle in Pacifica, image
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    Sam's Castle is a Scottish-style fortress built in 1908.
  • view of coast and hills looking West from Sweeney Ridge in Pacifica, image
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    From Sweeney Ridge, the coast and the blue Pacific lay to the West.
  • view of Sharp Park and the Pacific Ocean from Mori Point in Pacifica, image
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    From Mori Point you can see Sharp Park and a sweep of the Pacific Ocean.

A breezy seaside town a scenic 15-mile drive south of San Francisco, Pacifica is enjoying an influx of inspired restaurants and a growing arts scene. Despite the changes, though, the place hasn’t lost its community feel. Area code is 650, except as noted.

At the homespun Lovey’s Tea Shoppe, visitors choose from tea services that include an array of finger sandwiches, fresh crumpets and scones, petits fours, and bottomless pots of tea served in charmingly mismatched china. 4430 Coast Hwy., 359-1245,

On 90-minute tours of Sam’s Castle, a Scottish-style fortress built in 1908, guests learn about the elaborately furnished building’s history as a speakeasy and a Coast Guard lookout station, and about its resident ghosts. Tours offered four days a year. 900 Mirador Terr., 359-5462,

In addition to slinging wood-fired pizzas with seasonal toppings such as butternut squash and wild mushrooms, the Surf Spot features local bands on its back patio, where an outdoor fire pit warms the audience. 4627 Coast Hwy., 355-7873,

Oceana Art Gallery highlights local artists working in all kinds of media. On February 14, catch the opening night party of an exhibit called Heart of the Matter that will run through March 23. 156 Eureka Sq., 733-7029,

Puerto 27 combines Peruvian tapas-style dining with floor-to-ceiling vistas of the ocean. The mixed seafood and shellfish paella tossed with red-pepper rice packs plenty of heat and pairs perfectly with a classic pisco sour. 525 Crespi Dr., 733-7343,

A moderate, 1.5-mile path through coastal scrub leads to the Sweeney Ridge Trail and puts hikers near the spot where Europeans first spied the San Francisco Bay, and in view of Point Reyes and the twin peaks of the Golden Gate Bridge. End of Sneath Lane, (415) 561-4323,

For close to 90 years, Nick’s has served as the town’s main hub for drinks and dancing. On the weekends, swing by the horseshoe-shaped bar and join the other couples line-dancing across the floor or grooving to live jazz from the likes of saxophonist Terry Hanck. 100 Rockaway Beach Ave., 359-3900,

Photography by Carol Camacho (Sharp Park); Dominic Moresi (Sam’s Castle, Oceana, Puerto 27); Janet Barker (Sweeney Ridge)

This article was first published in January 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.