Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 48 / 27 November 2014

Getting to know Pacifica

Out There

The newly hikeable Devil's Slide Trail runs along a closed section of Highway 1 in Pacifica. Photo: County of San Mateo Parks Department
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Time was, Out There tripped the light fantastic. Press trips took us all across Europe, Asia, South America and Australia. Post-financial collapse, dem days are gone. But in recent years we've made a concerted effort to go on more locally-oriented getaways, with our trusty consort Pepi in tow, close to San Francisco but worlds away.

That pretty much describes a recent press trip we took, all the way to Pacifica, CA. It's a place we usually pass through on our way to somewhere else. We already knew about Gray Whale Cove and "Taco Bell beach." But a weekend spent in its embrace convinced us there's more to Pacifica than we imagined.

Sam's Castle in Pacifica. Photo: Sam Mazza Foundation

Our weekend began with a press reception at Sam's Castle , up on the top of a hill overlooking the ocean. The eccentric edifice was built by Henry McCloskey , grandfather of Congressman Pete McCloskey, over a century ago. It then served variously as a speakeasy, an illegal abortion clinic, a brothel and Coast Guard barracks during WWII. Now it's owned by a foundation in the name of its last owner, the late Sam Mazza, and has become a tourist attraction, though a highly limited one. It's open for just a few tours, one day a month, led by Sam's Castle author Bridget Oates. Find info at

We ended the night drinking wine and enjoying music by local band Fingerpuppets at A Grape in the Fog, a Pacifica pub popular with locals and adventurous sorts. When our press group arrived, a band member announced, "Oh, the bus tour is here!" and threw handfuls of its namesake puppets at us. Some pressies brought these handcrafted creations along for kicks and laughs the rest of the weekend, but we'll spare you the sordid details.

Bay Areans will remember the treacherous stretch of Highway 1 known as Devil's Slide, often closed because of landslides. After the Tom Lantos Tunnels replaced it, the Devil's Slide Trail opened this year, a 1.3-mile hike that brings you close to geology and wildlife. We think more freeways should be repurposed like this. Trailhead parking is severely limited, but there's a free weekend shuttle to the trail from Pacifica. Go to, and select "Devil's Slide Ride."

Post-hike, we enjoyed a superb lunch at Lovey's Tea Shoppe, including yummy tea sandwiches, shepherd's pie, scones, crumpets and lemon curd, and bottomless teas and tisanes. We highly recommend this place, in an unlikely location right on the Coast Highway. Then we sequestered ourselves in our Holiday Inn motel room to edit the issue for you, dear readers, while our estimable companion P. enjoyed an adventurous Segway tour of Pacifica and its environs. He had a great time and wants to do it again: go to

Dinner was served at Puerto 27, a Peruvian kitchen & Pisco bar, and included excellent ceviche, anticuchos de corazon (beef-heart skewers), choritos, aji de gallina, lomo saltado, and for dessert, Peruvian alfajores filled with dulce de leche. Excellent fare. We ended the night with champagne and dessert at Nick's restaurant.

Our adventure the next morning was a restorative hike at Mori Point, a sublime vista overlooking the rough and wild Pacific, which borders Sharp Park Golf Course , designed by architect Alister Mackenzie and landscaped by John McLaren . We worked up an appetite for a decadent brunch at Moonraker on Rockaway Beach, where you can watch unsuspecting tourists get ambushed by sneaker waves. Fun for the whole family!


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