Today’s photographic adventure takes us to Montara, CA, a small coastal town along CA HWY 1 just south of Pacifica. If driving from the City, once at the south end of Pacifica, you cut through some unincorporated portion of San Mateo County and cut through Devil’s Pass to get to the first town on the other side, which is Montara. As if the cliff side drive along HWY 1 wasn’t enough to make you fall in love with the area, you open up to this lush patch of land hugging the searing cliffs straight into the Pacific Ocean. If you live in the Bay Area, this is a MUST drive. Don’t slow down too much, cause the locals just want to breeze on by to where they are going, but if you maintain yourself somewhere around 50 mph, you’ll get to take in the sights while not pissing anyone off.
Point Montara Lighthouse Hostel is just off the highway on the south end of Montara, but it takes all of 3 minutes to drive through Montara before hitting Moss Beach. There is a small sign the reads “HOSTEL” that is your only clue that the entrance is coming up, before you pass it and notice that you just saw the sign to the entrance. No worries, folks, that’s why U-turns were invented…
This was my first visit to Point Montara Lighthouse, although I’ve been seeing it and driving past it on the way to one of our favorite seafood spots in one of the neighboring towns for the last 11 years. Since I had the afternoon off, I figured 11 years was long enough, so off I went to meet the lighthouse. Since it does operate as a hostel today, I made sure to call ahead to see what the rules and regulations would be for my visit. The good news is that if you are not a registered guest, you have full access to the grounds and lighthouse from sunup to sundown. They do ask that you come in to sign in at the office, especially since every visitor counts towards keeping the grounds open to all visitors and probably securing government funding. You are discouraged from pointing your lens towards any one of the hostel windows to not make any guest uncomfortable, but that’s just common sense. The bad news is that to be able to hang around and see the lighthouse lit after sundown, you have to be a registered guest. Bummer…
The lighthouse has stood its ground since 1928 after a good number of ships had met their fate at the jagged edges of the cliffs below. But, the lighthouses history is much richer than that, with it being the only lighthouse in the US to stand guard at both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It turns out that the lighthouse was built in 1881 to stand watch in Cape Cod, MA. After being decommissioned in 1922, it made the trek over to the west coast to await re-commissioning in 1928 after getting installed at its current location. The lighthouse was manned through 1970, when due to automation, it was abandoned. Due to the harsh weather conditions and vandalism, the lighthouse was in a sad state of disrepair. Luckily, through partnerships including that of the Coast Guard, the grounds were converted to the hostel that is now operated and sees thousands of patrons come through their doors annually. Although a visit to the lighthouse is free of charge to non-registered guests, donations are always accepted.
The interior part of the lighthouse is not open for visitor traffic, but is situated so that it allows for you to walk right up to all faces of it. Just a few steps from the lighthouse, the hostel has a viewing area with sturdy benches that give you a front row seat to some of the best views in all of California. With its jagged coastline almost 40 to 50 feet below you, the roar and crash of the waves sound delicious!! Right off the viewing area, there is a dirt path that cuts through the greenery all the way down to a beach alcove that is straight out of a travel magazine article telling you of the best kept secrets along the Pacific Coast. No joke, folks, this place is badass!!
When I first arrived, the day was pretty fogged in. Then, just like that, the sun decided to come out with a vengeance!! A little while later, it decided it had enough and went back to sleep. In comes the fog again…
Yes, the area does see quite a bit of heavy fog, but that was the reason behind them putting the lighthouse there, dummy. So, be sure to dress accordingly and in layers whether you are planning to stay there or just visiting for a while. Upon arrival on my brief visit, the weather called for a sweatshirt. When the sun came out, the sweatshirt was unbearable. Once the fog came back, the sweatshirt did too!!
I used both my Tokina 100-300mm f/4.o lens and a rented Canon 24-105mm IS f/4.0 L series lens that I picked up from Adolph Gasser’s for the weekend. The Tokina gave me a little more reach for the up close or tele-zoom photos seem below. All the other wide-angle images came courtesy of the 24-105mm. I’m sure I’ll talk more about the lens in a future posting, as I’ll let the lighthouse have exclusive rights to this posting. That’s how much I enjoyed it!!!
Please feel free to check out the hostel’s website at the following link:
The hostel has rooms as low as $25 a night, but also features private rooms for $79 a night for up to 2 people. Please keep in mind that this is a hostel, so it tends to cater to a lot of young people traveling on a budget. I’m sure they have policy to ensure that there’s a quiet time for all, but if hanging out with a bunch of young people isn’t your cup of tea, you might want to just swing by for a visit before you commit to a night’s stay. Also, keep in mind that with a hostel, there is no such thing as a private bath, even in the private rooms.
I’d love to see and photograph the lighthouse at night, so I’d be tempted to sign up and pay for a night even though I wouldn’t plan on staying. If I was further away, I’d definitely stay the night. I’ve shared plenty of bathrooms in my life to get all caught up on that as the only negative point with so many other positives that completely outweigh that negative.
I hope you enjoy the images and have a good night!!