An August Afternoon At Bean Hollow Beach On The Northern California Coast


As it happened, on Saturday the sun shone.

The-sunny-Pacific

Even over the Pacific.

The beaches of this part of Northern California used to be a local secret. No longer. Take Highway 1, start at the small town of Princeton-by-the-sea (not making that name up, I promise), drive south. You’ll pass the larger town of Half Moon Bay, then the state beaches of San Gregorio, Pomponio and Pescadero. Pescadero is the most beautiful, wide and sandy, but on the rare hot coastal Saturday you have to arrive early for a parking spot.

We were not early.

So we drove even further south, to Bean Hollow. I’d never been there before. “Bean” refers to the beach’s unusual shiny little round pebbles. The geology is unique in our area.

The behaviors of the occupants, however, aren’t. Little boys yell at waves, water dogs swim out for tennis balls, and middle-aged women clamber about the rocks.

These are not East Coast, or Southern beaches. Maybe Maine is like this, I don’t know, but here you won’t find wall-to-wall towels or radios or even much volleyball. On a sunny day, everyone’s aware the fog might roll in any minute, so they bring tents. They wear shoes. The wind blows.

The people feel temporary.

Tidepool-as-waves-rush-in

The Pacific, otherwise.

Waves-crashing-over-rock

I put my feet in the water, at your suggestion, but my pants kept getting wet, so I sat down on a local boulder.

Watching-the-Pacific

Those pebbles are so round and smooth they are comfortable for walking. Because they don’t get your feet dirty, you can just dry off in the sun before you put your shoes on. Say, for example, you forget to bring towels.

Then you might, as we did, drive back north to Princeton-by-the-sea, to eat take-out fish and chips at Barbara’s. Walk out onto the docks and see what the fisherman are selling from their ice chests. We resisted stopping for a beer and a salad at the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company, but you might not. Neither might we, on a day when the fog comes in.

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17 Comments

  • I love this part of California. And, yes, the people feel very temporary

    08/04/15
    9:31 am
    Lisa said...

    @Susan, Come back soon:).

  • And we are blessed with photos! Thanks again I am drinking them in. Gorgeous, as is your writing. People being temporary is another great description- it echoes. LA

    08/04/15
    9:31 am
    Lisa said...

    @Leigh Ann, My pleasure. I imagine, were I an expatriot, I’d also love to see photos of this part of the world.

  • Beautiful! You are right, not too many sand beaches in Maine. Very rocky. But great for clamboring!

    08/04/15
    9:32 am
    Lisa said...

    @Linda, Thank you! Maine, Sweden, Northern California, Pacific Northwest, all my kinds of places;).

  • Wow girl I am so jealous! I wish I was on the beaches of California! I looked it up, and sure enough, Princeton-by-the-sea, California is a real place!

    08/04/15
    9:55 am
    Lisa said...

    That it is:). Come visit!

  • Well, I’m kind of an expat, since I live in Idaho now. Growing up in California, I loved those beaches. Wonderful to see it is as beautiful as I remember.

    08/04/15
    1:09 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, Totally counts as an expat. In a way Highway 1 has saved these beaches, there’s no room for true luxury hotels except the Ritz. Well, Highway 1, agriculture, and the fog:).

  • Even though we drive through there once or twice a year, I’ve never heard of Princeton by the sea. Somewhere along there we stop where there are tide pools. At Thanksgiving there is usually plenty of parking!

    I’m soooo jealous – while you are gallavanting in the cool sea air, we are having the air conditioner people over for a maintenance call.

    08/04/15
    1:27 pm
    Lisa said...

    @AK, The tide pool stop, at a guess, is Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. It’s amazing. And Princeton-by-the-sea is just north of Montara. They’ve put up more signs now, and built some really endearing bad shopping.

  • Our beaches up the coast a way are difficult again, and yet there are elements that link. We’re away from ou island beach right now and just walked up to the condo from a city beach–I’m fascinated with how difficult and how similar seashores can be. And I love the way you write about yours…

    08/04/15
    1:28 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Frances/materfamilias, Some day, some day I’m coming. Thank you:).

  • It is magnificent! And noble! And humble at the same time !
    I like pebbles: -)
    Dottoressa

    08/04/15
    4:16 pm
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, Very perceptive, to see that through a screen. It’s all that. The pebbles are so pretty they have had to put up a sign saying Do Not Take The Pebbles!

  • Thank you for not saying “the sun SHINED”. Your precise writing skill are always appreciated.

    08/04/15
    4:42 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Caro Louise, You’re very welcome. Helps, growing up with an English professor papa;).

  • What a beautiful day you enjoyed! I like that your feet stayed clean on the soft pebbles. The salty breezes and sound of the waves must have been lovely. Thank you for posting photos of your day at the beach!

    08/04/15
    4:43 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Candace, My pleasure. I’m now kind of in the mood to go back…

  • There’s nothing like a day at the beach. We get a lot of fog here in Montauk. In fact, we had it roll in before our very eyes.

    08/04/15
    8:55 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mamavalveeta03, I loved Montauk, the one time I visited. A real place by the sea.

  • I spent my vacation exploring alternative beach sands and I agree with you that the larger grains or pebbles are easier to clean up after. We were on a couple of black sand beaches in Hawaii and the black sand tends to be very fine. When it’s wet it morphs into something that most of us would consider to be mud. It is soft, but it’s hard to get off your feet and shoes.

    I like the drama of Pacific rocky coasts and cliffs. The shore in Delaware is lacking that kind of drama.

    08/04/15
    9:00 pm
    Lisa said...

    @RoseAG, The Delaware coast, while lovely for a family vacation, certainly doesn’t come with a lot of rocks or big waves:). That’s a very funny phrase, “I spent my vacation exploring alternative beach sands…”

  • Do you know the poem “November Surf,” by Robinson Jeffers?

    Your comment “The people feel temporary” brought it to mind. What an evocative sentence! And what a lovely description of your day at the beach …

    08/04/15
    9:02 pm
    Lisa said...

    @victoire, Thank you. Very apt poem. We did regain “the dignity of room.”

  • And speaking of beaches, check out the kindred spirits mailbox on a North Carolina beach …

    https://www.facebook.com/unctv/videos/10155898745700164/

    08/04/15
    9:01 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Lorri, The old man is a lovely person.

  • I’ve never met a beach I didn’t love. Gorgeous photos, and yes, the Pacific Ocean is anything but that….

    08/05/15
    8:29 am
    Lisa said...

    Thank you. The beach at Sandy Hook, in New Jersey, near New York, was a little daunting in 1979…:)

  • Ah, what an evocative post! San Gregorio was my beach of choice during high school…the tales I could tell!

    Thanks for the lovely photos and words.

    08/05/15
    3:40 pm
    Lisa said...

    You’re so welcome. And I am now imagining the bonfires, and the towels away from the fire:).

  • I grew up in New England and now have a house near Bean Hollow. Turns out Pescadero was settled by New Englanders because it reminded them of home. No surprise there! (It reminds me of summers at the Cape when I was a kid–when there was nothing to do there but go to the beach).

    08/06/15
    7:11 am
    Lisa said...

    @R, That makes so much sense. And I imagine a house near Bean Hollow would be very good for the soul. Nothing to do but go to the beach is a special state of being.