View all Santa Cruz area State Parks school programs at a glance here!

An Amazing Education Experience for Students

Schedule your class for a field trip to the San Mateo coast and visit Half Moon Bay State Beach, Pescadero Marsh State Natural Preserve, or Bean Hollow State Beach. Coordinated through the Half Moon Bay State Beach Office, we offer a variety of hands-on programs for school groups K-12 focusing on shoreline habitats. We share our beaches with a variety of resident and migratory birds, including the threatened Western Snowy Plover.

Tour Options

* There is no cost for school tours who made a reservation at least 14 days in advance.  A minimum donation of $1/person is suggested.

Birding at Francis Beach
Description: Explore our sandy beach habitat and its birds on a guided walk along the Coastal Trail. Students will learn how to use binoculars and to identify birds in their natural habitat. Students learn about threatened Western Snowy Plover’s life cycle, and how it is adapted to live and nest right on the beach! Create a model “nest” out of items that can be found on the beach and hear about the community/citizen science program which protects this sparrow-sized bird through regular observation and nest protection. Learn how you can help too! Binoculars and viewing scopes will be provided for each group.
Grades: K-12
Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Location: Coastal Trail at Half Moon Bay State Beach.
NGSS Standards: K-ESS2-2, K-ESS3-1, K-ESS3-3, K-LS1-1,1-LS1-2, 1-LS3-1, 2-LS4-1, 3-LS1-1, 3-LS3-2, 3-LS4-2, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 4-LS1-1, 5-LS2-1, 5-PS3-1
* Please note: This field trip can accommodate only one class at a time. However, another class may schedule a Beach Scavenger Hunt for the same date and time, if two classes are sharing a bus.

Beach Scavenger Hunt
Description: When you’re playing on the beach, do you ever wonder where the sand comes from? Or which organisms live on (or under) the sand? Students, through a variety of guided activities, will explore the ecology of the sandy beach habitat. This includes analyzing sand samples from different beaches, and exploring evidence of invertebrates using hand lenses, magnifiers, and viewing boxes.
Grades: K-12
Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Location: This field trip meets at the Francis Beach parking lot of Half Moon Bay State Beach.
NGSS Standards: K-ESS3-3, 1-LS1-2, 1-LS3-1, 2-LS4-1, 2-PS1-1, 3-LS4-4, 4-LS1-1, 4-ESS2-1, 5-LS2-1, 5-PS1-3

Geology of the Rocky Shore
Description: Explore the rocky shore and learn about the stones and pebbles, erosion, and weathering through guided hands-on activities. Learn to identify key geologic features and sift, sort, and identify characteristics of igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks. We use sieves, hand lenses, and viewing boxes to explore our samples. Students will experience the excitement of discovery like real geologists. 

Grades: K-12
Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Location: Pebble Beach parking lot of Bean Hollow State Beach, near the town of Pescadero.
NGSS Standards: ESS1.C,ESS2.A,ESS2.B, ESS3.B

Marine Mammals and Outdoor Stewardship
Description: Discover which marine mammals live along our local shoreline, including seals, sea lions, sea otters and whales. Students use bones, skulls, and pelts to learn how these species are adapted to live in ocean and beach habitats. Through guided activities and games, study about predator/ prey relationships. Students examine our huge blue whale skull, and then use ropes to compare themselves with the lengths of the largest living mammals- whales! Discover the importance of the ocean for animal, plant, and even human life…and how we can protect the earth’s largest habitat. 

Grades: K-12
Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Location: Half Moon Bay State Beach
NGSS Standards: K-ESS2-2, K-ESS3-1, K-ESS3-3, K-LS1-1, 1-LS1-1, 1-LS3-1, 2-LS4-1, 3-LS2-1, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS1-1, 3-LS3-1, 3-LS3-2, 3-LS4-2, 4-LS1-1, 5-LS2-1, 5-PS3-1, 5-ESS3-1

Pescadero Marsh Wildlife
Description: Explore the largest coastal wetlands in our area on a guided school group tour through the Pescadero Marsh.  Wildlife can be found along the trail- including great blue herons, pond turtles, steelhead trout and red-legged frogs. Through games and hands-on activities, students will explore the beach, the lagoon, marsh plants, and birds of the wetlands. Visitors will learn about marsh ecology, including specific plants and animals seen along the trail; historical uses of the marsh; and why wetlands are an important resource and must be protected. 
Grades: K-12
Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Location: Meets at Pescadero State Beach
NGSS Standards: K-ESS2-2, K-ESS3-3, K-LS1-1, 2-LS4-1, 2-PS1-1, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 4-LS1-1, 5-LS2-1, 5-PS3-1, 5-ESS2-1, 5-ESS3-1, 5-ESS2-1

Montara State Beach
Description: Join us for a guided walk on Montara Mountain/ McNee Ranch. School group visitors will witness unforgettable views of the Pacific coast, San Francisco Bay, and rugged coastal hills. Students observe multicolored wildflowers and native plants, migratory and resident birds, and numerous signs of wildlife. Learn about the many historic changes from Native American land use, to Mexican Rancho, to becoming a State Park in 1984. Two beaches are within walking distance of McNee Ranch- Montara State Beach and Gray Whale Cove State Beach. Come explore both history and science along the California Coast!
Grades: K-6
Duration: 1.5-2 hours
Location: Montara State Beach-McNee Ranch State Beach, Highway 1, 9 miles North of Highway 92
NGSS Standards: K-ESS2-2, K-LS1-1, 2-LS4-1, 3-LS4-3, 3-LS4-4, 3-LS1-1, 3-LS4-2, 4-LS1-1, 5-LS1-1, 5-LS2-1, 5-PS3-1, 5-ESS3-1

Basic Tour Information

  • All tours with students (K-12th grade) require a ratio of at least one adult chaperone per seven children. If this is a hardship for your school please call the Interpreter Office at (650) 726-8814 to discuss this with the staff.
  • Adult chaperones and teachers are in charge of discipline and first aid on tours.


To schedule a field trip please contact Half Moon Bay State Beach school-group coordinator at hmbparksvolunteer@parks.ca.gov.

Bring the Park to Your School

California State Parks offers a free distance-learning program that uses live video conferencing with a park interpreter to help schools teach academic content standards.
Click here to learn more about the Parks Online Resources for Teachers & Students program (PORTS).