The south end of Montara Beach has rich but mostly inaccessible tide pools. Harbor seals occasionally haul out at Montara. The beach is bounded by low hills both to the north and south. Montara Mountain—or McNee Ranch, also part of Montara State Beach—is described separately. The granitic rocks of Montara Mountain are the main source of sand for this beach. Since the sand travels such a short distance, the grains have not had a chance to weather into fine particles and tend to be quite coarse.

There are two beach access points from the bluff area via stairs. One access is off Highway 1 across from Second Street; the second access is located about a half mile north on the ocean side of the highway. The beach can also be reached by a rough dirt trail just north of the south stairs.

Dogs are permitted provided they are controlled with a leash of no more than six feet at all times.

Marine Protected Area

Just as state and national parks protect wildlife and habitats on land, marine protected areas (MPAs) conserve and restore wildlife and habitats in our ocean.

MPAs contribute to healthier, more resilient ocean ecosystems that can better withstand a wide range of impacts such as pollution and climate change.  By protecting entire ecosystems rather than focusing on a single species, MPAs are powerful tools for conserving and restoring ocean biodiversity, and protecting cultural resources, while allowing certain activities such as marine recreation and research.

In the waters adjacent to Montara State Beach there are two MPAs, and as such, taking of all living marine resources is prohibited.

Marine Protected Area interpretive sign (Photo: CSPA archive)


The wide bluffs above the beach feature a wide variety of coastal wildflowers, including California poppies, coast angelica, seaside daisy, Hooker’s evening primrose, and Wight's paintbrush.  In the summer, blue and white blooms of agapanthus (also called “lily of the Nile”) recall the days when the showy South African flowers were grown as a commercial crop nearby.

Springs and small streams that cut through the high cliffs along the beach provide habitat for other native plants, including the large monkey flower.

CSPA’s support for Montara State Beach
  • At the request of a state park archaeologist to complete his cultural study, CSPA funded the radio carbon dating of mussel shells found in a midden, which determined that the shells had been left about the years 550 and 1100. 
  • Funding for the engineering and design of a new staircase at the north end of Montara Beach.