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Point Montara

First Operational: 1875

Height: 30 feet

Accessibility: Fog signal building and grounds open, overnight accommodations at the hostel, lighthouse closed

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Visitor Information


16th St & Cabrillo Hwy

Montara, CA 94037

On Highway 1, seven miles north of Half Moon Bay and one-half mile south of Montara, look for American Youth Hostel signs on the west side of the road which will take you to the lighthouse. The hostel grounds are open from 9 a.m. to sunset. The hostel requests that you stop by the office before visiting the grounds.


The heavy fog that frequently blankets the San Mateo coast has long made it hazardous to ship traffic, particularly given its proximity to the Golden Gate. By the late 1800’s almost ninety vessels had been damaged at the rocky shore, but it was the wreck of the Colorado - carrying mail and hundreds of passengers - and the British ship Aculeo that led Congress to act. In March of 1873, Congress appropriated fifteen thousand dollars to build a fog signal on top of a bluff seventy feet above sea level at Point Montara. 


By October 1874, a small wooden lighthouse at Point Montara was completed. The keeper’s dwellings were built the following February, as well as a fog signal in March of 1875. The steam whistle from Point Montara emitted a five second blast that could be heard from fifteen miles away. By 1928, the original lighthouse was replaced by a new metal tower that formally served the other side of the country on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Today, the lighthouse keeper’s quarters is operated as a hostel and is open to the public, and the lens is on display at the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City.

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