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1 night in coastal paradise: Why The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is worth a points splurge

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I’ve read that The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay in Northern California is a bucket list redemption for points and miles enthusiasts — but compared to all of the incredible resorts around the world, I truthfully thought people must have been exaggerating.

As someone who lives in California’s Bay Area, I have a habit of forgetting that I live in one of the most beautiful regions in the world and took for granted that The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay was only about a one-hour drive from my home, giving me an excuse to go see if it lived up to the hype for myself.

From Ritz-Carltons to Four Seasons and Waldorf Astorias, there is a certain level of expectation when staying at a luxury property — and mine was high. But I have to say, my short, one-night stay at the seaside resort this past fall was magical from the moment we turned the corner onto the property.

Here’s a quick take on what I loved about The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay and why you should consider a visit.

Location, location, location

A view of the Pacific Ocean from The Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay's outside restaurant.

Half Moon Bay is a short 30-minute drive south of San Francisco International Airport (SFO). It is home to Sam’s Chowder House, a popular seaside seafood restaurant, and legendary surfing since waves are known to get as tall as 6 feet in the waters off the coast of Half Moon Bay. We certainly weren’t in the city to surf, though we did stop at Sam’s Chowder House for takeout on the beach before heading home on our way out of town.

There’s a lot to gush over at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay itself, but the view of the Northern California coast has to be at the top of the list. The drive to the hotel from our home in the East Bay included a short drive on the legendary Highway 1 — luckily on the non-stomach-turning portion. The hotel is about a 10-minute drive from the highway, set just past a residential area on the coast’s edge.

Related: How I spent $0 using points and miles on an epic Highway 1 road trip

The hotel

As you pull up to the hotel, there is a required stop before entering the grounds where someone checks your name for a reservation before allowing you to drive to the front entrance. A valet was graciously waiting to help us with our luggage, ask if we’d been to the property before and wish us well during our stay.

The hotel lobby actually took my breath away the first time I saw it. Past the tall glass doors of the hotel’s entrance, we were greeted by a crystal chandelier surrounded by autumn-colored flowers and greenery adorning the ceiling. Below, a compass motif on the hardwood floor was an ode to the nearby coast.

Beyond the entrance sits The Conservatory, the hotel’s more casual restaurant and bar. Further inside is Navio, the Ritz-Carlton’s fine dining restaurant, but more on that later.

A view of the hotel entrance's chandelier decorated with fall foliage.

In the next area, right in front of the check-in counter, was a much less elaborate space with coffered ceilings and modern carpeting. At the counter, we were told that our room had been upgraded from a deluxe room to a coastal-view guest room, thanks to my Marriott Bonvoy Platinum status. Our room wasn’t ready yet, so we dropped off our luggage and headed outside to have lunch at The Ocean Terrace overlooking the water. When our room was ready, they called my cellphone and offered us a glass of wine that we could take up with us.

After checking in to our room and before our dinner reservation, we took advantage of the free time to walk along the coastal trail that wraps around the hotel’s golf course. The path includes a pedestrian bridge over the water that leads to a public-access beach. Luckily for us, the sky was clear and we watched the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean from high above.

Beyond the beautiful views, some of the amenities at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay include a spa, tennis courts, gas fire pits overlooking the ocean and a bagpiper who plays every day at sunset.

The room

I redeemed 95,500 Marriott Bonvoy points for our one-night stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay — and it was well worth the splurge. Our original deluxe room overlooking the golf course would have otherwise cost $1,200 for the night and our upgraded room with views of the coast certainly would have cost more.

The cool silver-and-white walls were another nod to the coastal location, without feeling overdone, and the wooden nightstand and entryway furniture brought needed warmth to the room. The marble bathroom was large and featured a separate shower and soaking tub with Diptyque Philosykos bath products. A bathrobe was hung between the door and tub, and slippers could be found inside the closet.

The focal point of the room however was easily the view of the ocean. We crowded the chairs around the window and sipped our wine while discussing whatever it is parents talk about when their kids aren’t with them. It was peaceful and beautiful, and we couldn’t hear a peep from anyone walking by outside of the window.

The restaurant

We decided to take advantage of the great award availability and splurge on dinner at Navio, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant where we had a choice between a three-course prix fixe menu or the chef’s tasting menu. We decided on the prix fixe ($155 per person) but added the Kaluga caviar starter from the chef’s tasting menu instead of the cheese starter.

Kaluga caviar in a small white pumpkin with toasted brioche bread.

The Kaluga caviar was served inside a small white pumpkin and layered on top of creme fraiche and pepitas with toasted brioche bread. For my first course, I enjoyed a salad with fresh tomatoes, persimmon and Maine lobster, while my husband had the duck consomme. For our main dish, we shared a savory black cod with Florentine broccolini and cuttlefish pasta and the Colorado lamb rack with eggplant puree.

Dessert was a light chocolate tart with espresso and Vietnamese coffee. The meal and the service were divine.

Bottom line

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay is in fact worth a spot on every points and miles enthusiast’s bucket list. It is just a 30-minute drive from San Francisco International Airport and a perfect location for locals looking for a relaxing staycation.

From the gorgeous coastal views to the delicious food and comfortable, well-appointed guest rooms, I can’t recommend a stay at this hotel enough to anyone — especially those contemplating if the splurge of Bonvoy points is worth it or not. Trust me, it is.