Slipping Past the Lighthouse Gates in Pescadero, California
No place on the San Mateo coast conjures more romance than the Pigeon Point Lighthouse, the tallest light station on the Pacific coast. Happily, the lighthouse grounds feature an inexpensive hostel with kitchens, communal or private rooms, and -- the best part -- a private, clifftop hot tub beneath the lighthouse. The stately, 115ft-tall tower has stood sentinel at the tip of the rocky promontory since 1872, and though the first-order Fresnel lens has been replaced with a high-wattage modern lamp, the lighthouse looks essentially as it always has. Follow the picket fence behind the lighthouse (catching sight of bunnies in the native plant gardens at dawn and dusk), and walk out to the blufftop viewing area at the very tip of the point. Scan the sea during whale season (January through May) by day, and watch the waves crash in the moonlight by night.