About Martins Beach in Half Moon Bay, California
The battle for Martins Beach continues. In November of 2019 an appellate court in San Francisco ruled in favor of the landowner who bought the land behind the beach in 2008. This means that the road to the beach is still considered private even though it was open to the public for years (for a fee). It now appears that the property owner will apply with the California Coastal Commission for a permit to restrict public access. Here is the history of this beloved beach.
Martins Beach, located just south of Half Moon Bay, is a public beach in front of a private gated community. The property is surrounded by high cliffs and farm lands so there is just one way to the beach – the gated road. The land and all the homes here were purchased through a couple of LLCs owned by billionaire Vinod Khosla in 2008 (for the price of $32.5M). At that time he closed the gate and put up signs to keep non-residents out even though the gate had been open on most days for years. In the past when the gate was open visitors could walk in for free or pay a small fee to park onsite near the beach. The Surfrider Foundation and others took up the battle to keep the beach open to the public and finally won in 2014. The gate is was opened to the public on intermittent days for a while, but Khosla decided to keep it locked after that. In early 2015 staff members of CaliforniaBeaches.com parked outside the gate and walked to the beach during daylight hours only to be escorted out by hired hands. In August 2017 Khosla lost another appeal and was ordered by the California courts to restore public access to the beach.
For many years Martins Beach has been a popular spot for families, surfers, photographers, fishermen and others. The general public and the residents shared the beach during the daylight hours until 2008. There are about 50 homes that lease the land along the beach in this private community and only they can open the gate at Highway 1 when it’s closed. In 2021 the home leases expire and it is unclear what Khosla will do with the land at Martins Beach at that time. He has been appealing all the court rulings along the way. In October 2017 the state of California refused to take up the latest appeal, and in September 2018 the US Supreme Court decided not to take up the case. However, Khosla managed to get a district court of appeal in San Francisco to review the case and in November 2018 they decided to uphold an earlier ruling by a trial judge that said since the previous owners were charging a fee for access, it doesn’t mean the public has permanent privilege to the road. We expect the state of California to sue Khosla for access to the beach and we expect Khosla to file for permits for the road to his property. Who knows where and when this will end!?
When you visit Martins Beach you’ll immediately discover its beauty. High bluffs are visible at both ends of the cove. Walk to the north past the outflow of Lobitos Creek to see the tall shark fin-shaped rock up close. It has a rock arch in the bottom that is only visible from up north. Walking the entire beach isn’t difficult as it’s only about 3/4-mile long.
- Cabrillo Hwy S & Martin's Beach Rd
Half Moon Bay, CA 94019
- Other Names
- State & Private
- Pet Details
- No dogs allowed
- Fee charged for parking (previously - now it's TBD)
- Surfing, Fishing, Photography, Beach Walking, Sunbathing, Picnicking
- Tide Pools, Rock Arch
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Response from California Beaches
We updated this beach description in August 2023, so this information is fairly current. This beach is beautiful, so if you get the chance to visit, please do!