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San Mateo

With sassy San Francisco in easy reach, the Bay on one side and 60 miles of gorgeous Pacific coastline on the other, San Mateo County, California has a lot going for it. Stretching out on a peninsula just south of the city, it's the perfect base both for dipping in and out of 'Frisco's endless charm and non-stop buzz, and for kicking back among a string of captivating coastal enclaves. Plus there's plenty of outdoor action on offer, too.

The incredible fresh, local produce, seafood, wine and microbrews make it a renowned culinary destination and cultural activities abound, including world-class museums, wineries, galleries, and entertainment venues. Nature lovers enjoy tide pooling, whale watching, deep sea fishing, seeing elephant seals at Año Nuevo State Reserve and hiking throughout acres of scenic open space. Sports buffs have choices year ‘round, with the San Francisco Giants, Golden State Warriors, Oakland As and San Jose Sharks a quick mass transit ride away.

This is also the home of Silicon Valley, where hi-tech giants like Facebook perform their wizardry, and towns like Hillsborough and Woodside are stacked with multi-million-dollar mansions. There's history to see too, like at Colma with its restored buildings and old cemeteries, and at Stanford, home of the famous university. Plus, over on the Bay side, the lagoons and waterways of Foster City are tops for canoeing, paddle boarding and windsurfing.

There are endless reasons why the San Mateo County/Silicon Valley area is the favourite place to stay when visiting San Francisco. From miles of pristine coastline on the Pacific Ocean, to gourmet creations featuring the fresh catch of the day, to unique shopping experiences, there are all the ingredients to make the most of your precious holiday time. With so much to see and do, San Mateo County is easy to get to, but very hard to leave.

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Pigeon Point Station State Historic Park

One of the tallest lighthouses in the US, the Pigeon Point Light Station was built in 1872 following a string of shipwrecks. The lens occupies a lantern room that was constructed in New York at the Lighthouse Service’s general depot before being shipped around the Horn. The coastal areas in the park are rich with life. Look out for seals and whales passing by beyond the surf.

Walk The Walk

There's great hiking all along the coastline on San Mateo County holidays, as well as inland to the top of Montara Mountain for sweeping views across the Pacific. We recommend the Devil’s Slide Trail, offering hikers, cyclists, runners and equestrians access to the rocky heights of Devil’s Slide above the ocean. Look out for migrating whales from the observation points as you’re walking.

Half Moon Bay

This charming coastal community is a much-loved jewel of San Mateo County. There's a wide crescent of soft sand to enjoy, rolling surf and a laid-back vibe, while Main Street is filled with quirky shops, galleries, cafés, antiques bazaars and wine tasting rooms. Don't miss the famous Art and Pumpkin Festival, held every October.

Marvellous Museums

There are some interesting museums worth visiting on San Mateo County holidays. The Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley's Mountain View is a must for technology buffs; the Hiller Aviation Museum showcases over 50 aircraft from more than a century of aviation history; and the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University has one of the largest Rodin collections outside of Paris.


A lavish early 20th-century estate from the era when the San Francisco elite built grand country residences, Filoli in Woodside combines an imposing Georgian mansion with beautiful landscaped gardens. It's a stunning place and was pictured in the credits of TV's Dynasty as the fictional home of the super-rich Carrington family.

Fly Drive Holiday: Oakland and the Bay Area

Oakland - San Mateo

There’s more to see in the Bay Area than just the City on the Bay. This suggested fly drive itinerary takes you to Oakland, home to the University of California, Tom Hanks and some of America’s finest tacos. With your hire car, you can use this exciting city as a base to explore the bay area, taking in the famous wine growing areas to the north, the coastal region of San Mateo to the west and San Francisco, just across the Oakland Bay Bridge. This is just a suggested itinerary to whet your appetite. You can tailor-make any aspect of your trip to make your dream holiday a reality.
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Time Difference:
GMT- 8hours

Closest Airport:
San Francisco International Airport (approx. 11 hours)

Getting around:
Hire a car and explore the surrounding areas. Check out the great selection of dining options, attractions and local excursions available. Care hire is available from £19 per day.

Insider Tip:
Ano Nuevo State Reserve on Highway 1 is the largest mainland breeding area for elephant seals in California. The bulls arrive between December and February and most adults have left by mid-March, leaving behind their weaned pups, which stay at the reserve until the end of April.

You’re going to need an ESTA:
For anyone travelling to the USA, the US authorities have imposed a requirement for passengers travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), to register for Electronic Travel Authority. Just fill in the online application form which you can find at You will need to apply for entry via ESTA at least a minimum of 72 hours prior to travel.

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