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, Bean Hollow State Beach, or Montara 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.



Tour Options

* There is no cost for school tours who made a reservation at least 14 days in advance.  

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. Learn about the threatened bird that nests right on the beach, the Western Snowy Plover. Create a model “nest” out of items that can be found on the beach. Hear about the community/citizen science program which protects the snowy plover through regular observation and nest protection. Learn how you can help too. Binoculars and viewing scopes will be provided for each group.

Grades: 3-6
Duration: 2.5-3 hours
Location: Francis Beach/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.

Geology of the Rocky Shore
Description: Experience the excitement of discovery like real geologists at Pebble Beach/Bean Hollow State Beach. This beach is a hidden gem covered with multi-colored polished pebbles. Learn to identify key geologic features of the area including marine terraces, plate tectonics, tafoni, and evidence of underwater volcanic activity! Explore the rocky shore through hands-on activities, guided hike, and beach “lab”.

Grades: 2-5
Duration: 2 hours
Location: North parking lot of Bean Hollow State Beach-Pebble Beach, near the town of Pescadero
NGSS Standards: 2-PS1-1, 3-LS4-1, 4-ESS1.C, 4-ESS2.A, 4-ESS2.B, 5-ESS2.A

Marine Mammals and Outdoor Stewardship
Description: Discover which marine mammals live along our local shoreline: seals, sea lions, sea otters, dolphins, and whales. Students learn how these species are adapted to live in ocean and beach habitats. We will explore blubber, ocean food webs, real skulls and fur. Examine our huge blue whale skull, and then use ropes to compare ourselves 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-6
Duration: 2 hours
Location: Francis Beach/Half Moon Bay State Beach
NGSS Standards: 
K-ESS3.C, K-LS1-1, 1-LS1-1, 2-LS4.D, 3- LS4.C, 3-LS4.D, 3-LS1.B, 4-LS1.A, 5-LS1.C, 5-LS2.A, 5-ESS3.C

Montara State Beach/Gray Whale Cove Trail
Description: Witness unforgettable views of the Pacific coast, Gray Whale Cove, and rugged coastal hills! Join us for a two mile guided walk on Montara Mountain/ McNee Ranch. Observe multicolored wildflowers and native plants, migratory and resident birds, and numerous signs of wildlife. Learn about the many historic land use changes from Native American, Spanish explorers, Mexican Rancho, Ocean Shore Railroad, McNee Dairy Farm, to State Park. Come explore both history and science along the California Coast!

Grades: 3-6
Duration: 1.5-2 hours
Location: Montara State Beach-McNee Ranch State Beach, Highway 1, 9 miles North of Highway 92 
NGSS Standards: 
3-LS2.C, 4-LS1.A, 5-LS2.A, 5-ESS3.C, HSS 3.1 #1&2

Pescadero Marsh Wildlife
Description: Explore the largest coastal wetlands in our area on a guided walk through the Pescadero Marsh. Wildlife can be found along the trail- including great blue herons, pond turtles, steelhead trout and red-legged frogs. The walk takes you through many habitats, including rocky shore, dunes, lagoon, and riparian. These wetlands are a popular birding location right on the Pacific Flyway, so bring your binoculars! Visitors will learn about marsh ecology, historical uses of the marsh, and why wetlands must be protected. 

Grades: 2-12
Duration: 2 hours
Location: Meets at
Pescadero State Beach central parking lot located on Highway 1, one quarter mile north of Pescadero Creek Road in Pescadero.

NGSS Standards: 2-LS2-A, 2-LS4.D, 3-LS4.C, 3-LS4.D, 4-LS1-1, 5-LS2.A, 5-ESS3.C, 5-ESS2.C

Sandy Beach Habitat
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 will explore the ecology of the sandy beach habitat through a variety of guided activities, including a beach scavenger hunt. Students will sort invertebrates while using hand lenses and identification guides. They will learn about the dynamic tidal zones and the animals and plants that call the beach home.

Grades: K-6
Duration: 2 hours
Location: Francis Beach/Half Moon Bay State Beach
NGSS Standards: 
K-ESS3.A, K-ESS3.C, 1-ESS1.A, 1-LS1.B, 2-LS4.D, 3-LS4.D, 4-LS1.A, 4-PS4.A, 5-ESS2.A


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 VIRTUAL field trip, click here
To schedule an IN-PERSON field trip, click here

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).