Out and About: Point Montara Lighthouse


(Courtesy of Julie Lehman)

On a sunny afternoon, Point Montara Lighthouse, home to a small beach, hostel, dramatic views of the Pacific Ocean, and Montara Mountain, is filled with people reading.  

Last Monday people could be seen reading books and magazines along its cliffside, on a wooden swing set, and from a picnic bench. Such was Iveta Maŝková, who was surfing the net on a bench outside with a view of the ocean.  

On a vacation from the Czech Republic, Maŝková, who traveled by car with a companion from Los Angeles to San Francisco, took advantage of the inexpensive hostels along the California coast.

It’s so beautiful here,” she said. “This is the best hostel we’ve stayed at.”  

Maŝková was not the only abroad traveler staying at the hostel. People from Munich, Germany and Liege, Belgium had visited according to the hostel’s recent log in sheet. Closer travelers from Texas and Livermore, CA were also listed.  

According to Norcalhostels.org, Point Montara was first established as a fog signal station in 1875 and then became a lighthouse in 1928 to protect ships from crashing onto its shores. Not until 1980 did Point Montara turn into a hostel, welcoming travelers from around the world.      

International diversity, second to its beautiful location, is what drew part-time hostel employee Brandon Bell to work there.    

On a busy weekend, you’ll hear at least five different languages in the kitchen,” he said after explaining that one of the hardest things about his job is smelling homemade meals from his office near the kitchen. 

Like other California hostels, Montara’s hostel contains a communal kitchen, low cost lodging rates (starting at $23 per night for shared dorm room), and free Wi-Fi for their customers.   

Other features include an onsite espresso bar, landscaped garden, and a piano located inside the original fog signal building. An annual family friendly Halloween extravaganza is held as well with this year’s event scheduled for Oct. 30.   

Interesting History 

The Point Montara Lighthouse tale has an interesting and mysterious past. Until recently, the lighthouse was believed to have been built in Montara in the early 1900s.  

But, as discovered by a U.S. lighthouse documentation grouping 2008, the unique Montara metal-bolt framed lighthouse originally came from a beach along Cape Cod. There exists no paper trail of its mode of transportation across 3000 miles of the country.   

Research revealed that Mayo’s Beach, lighthouse, of Cape Cod, was sold in poor condition and erected at Point Montara, contradicting the community’s original understanding that their lighthouse had vanished or been torn down. 

What remains a mystery is how the lighthouse came to Point Montara. Was it brought by train, or boat? Was it disassembled and reassembled at Montara, or kept as a whole? And why spend money on a costly cross-country journey for a lighthouse already in poor condition? 

What matters is that Point Montara Lighthouse has rediscovered its origins and is still operational as an aid to navigate ships. It is part of a well kept hostel that will not go unnoticed.   

This lighthouse and hostel is a great place for a day visit—whether you plan on finding a serene reading destination, quick photo opt, or a multi-night stay.   

Located about a 15-minute drive south of Skyline College, this lighthouse is off U.S. Highway 1, past Devil’s Slide and about 1/4 mile after Cafe Lucca in the town of Montara. Following blue hostel signs located along Highway 1 will lead to a small turn off on the right side of the highway.   

Lighthouse Information

Location: 16th St. and Highway 1 Montara, CA 94038

Phone number: (650) 728-717

Reservations:  http://www.norcalhostels.org/montara/