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Montara, California facts for kids

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Montara State Beach in Montara
Montara State Beach in Montara
Location in San Mateo County and the state of California
Location in San Mateo County and the state of California
Montara, California is located in the United States
Montara, California
Montara, California
Location in the United States
Country United States
State California
County San Mateo
 • Total 3.878 sq mi (10.045 km2)
 • Land 3.878 sq mi (10.045 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)  0%
98 ft (30 m)
 • Total 2,833
 • Density 730.53/sq mi (282.03/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 650
FIPS code 06-48760
GNIS feature ID 0277558

Montara is a census-designated place (CDP) in San Mateo County, California, United States. The population was 2,833 at the 2020 census. Nearby communities include Moss Beach and Princeton-by-the-Sea.


According to historical sources, the name "Montoro" was initially used for Montara Mountain and Montara Point by the Whitney Survey, also known as the California Geological Survey, in 1867. In 1869, the Coast Survey referred to the area with its current name. The name is thought to be a misspelling of several Spanish words that describe mountains and forests, such as montuoso, montaraz, and montaña. It could also refer to a corruption of the Spanish word "Montosa"; "Cañada Montosa" (valley of brush) was allegedly written on an 1838 design of Rancho San Pedro, located in Southern California, but the connections between this plan and the town are unclear.

Geography and environment

Montara is located at 37°32′23″N 122°30′23″W / 37.53972°N 122.50639°W / 37.53972; -122.50639 (37.539639, -122.506426), approximately 20 miles (32 km) south of San Francisco and 50 miles (80 km) north of Santa Cruz, California. Neighboring towns include Pacifica to the north, Moss Beach, El Granada, and Half Moon Bay to the south. According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 3.9 square miles (10 km2), all of it land.

The rare and endangered species Hickman's potentilla occurs at the northern extremity of Montara on the slopes above Martini Creek at elevations ranging from 32 to 410 feet (10 to 125 meters).

Nearby Montara Mountain, part of the Santa Cruz Mountains, rises to an elevation of 1,898 feet (578 m) above sea level. The mountain is accessible by a gravel fire road. On a few occasions light snowfall has fallen on the upper reaches of the mountain; this happened in February 2011 and was documented in videos and photographs on YouTube and Google.

The town is surrounded by open space (Rancho Corral del Tierra) and a popular recreation area includes Montara State Beach. The nearly mile long stretch of sand drops steeply into the ocean making it hazardous for swimming. It is, however, a fairly popular surfing destination for experienced surfers. 10-15+ ft. waves can be common during winter storm swells.

Montara State Marine Reserve & Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area extend offshore from Montara. Like underwater parks, these marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems.


Montara enjoys exceptionally mild weather throughout the year. Typical of Northern California, most of the rainfall falls from November through April, normally totaling more than 27 inches (69 cm). Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, heavy fogs and low overcasts are common throughout the year, sometimes producing light drizzle. Stray showers sometimes occur during the mostly dry summer months. January, the coldest month, normally has high temperatures in the upper fifties (~14 °C) and low temperatures in the middle forties (~8 °C). Freezing temperatures are extremely rare, especially near the ocean. September, the warmest month, normally has high temperatures in the upper sixties (~20 °C) and lows in the lower fifties (~11 °C). Temperatures rarely exceed 90 °F (32 °C) and whenever there are daytime temperatures above 80 °F (27 °C) it still cools to the fifties (~13 °C) at night. During experimental observations by a U.S. Geological Survey volunteer (from 1985 to 1989), the highest temperature was an amazing 100 °F (38 °C) and the lowest was 31 °F (-0.5 °C). The nearest official National Weather Service station is at Half Moon Bay. Recently, an automated weather station was set up in Montara, providing regular observations on the National Weather Service's website,



The 2010 United States Census reported that Montara had a population of 2,909. The population density was 750.1 people per square mile (289.6/km2). The racial makeup of Montara was 2,491 (85.6%) White, 16 (0.6%) African American, 21 (0.7%) Native American, 142 (4.9%) Asian, 1 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 97 (3.3%) from other races, and 141 (4.8%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 324 persons (11.1%).

The Census reported that 2,909 people (100% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 1,109 households, out of which 351 (31.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 666 (60.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 77 (6.9%) had a female householder with no husband present, 46 (4.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 59 (5.3%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 17 (1.5%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 209 households (18.8%) were made up of individuals, and 72 (6.5%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.62. There were 789 families (71.1% of all households); the average family size was 3.02.

The population was spread out, with 617 people (21.2%) under the age of 18, 169 people (5.8%) aged 18 to 24, 622 people (21.4%) aged 25 to 44, 1,145 people (39.4%) aged 45 to 64, and 356 people (12.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46.0 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.0 males.

There were 1,167 housing units at an average density of 300.9 per square mile (116.2/km2), of which 898 (81.0%) were owner-occupied, and 211 (19.0%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 0.9%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.3%. 2,409 people (82.8% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 500 people (17.2%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census of 2000, there were 2,950 people, 1,010 households, and 756 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 751.0 people per square mile (289.8/km2). There were 1,034 housing units at an average density of 263.2 per square mile (101.6/km2). The racial makeup of the CDP in 2010 was 79.2% non-Hispanic White, 0.5% non-Hispanic African American, 0.3% Native American, 4.8% Asian, 0.2% from other races, and 3.6% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.1% of the population.

There were 1,010 households, out of which 40.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 63.4% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.1% were non-families. 15.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 2.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.80 and the average family size was 3.10.

In the CDP, the population was spread out, with 25.4% under the age of 18, 4.7% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 32.5% from 45 to 64, and 8.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.3 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $95,326, and the median income for a family was $100,881. Males had a median income of $67,708 versus $50,704 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $44,360. About 0.5% of families and 2.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 0.5% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.


A lighthouse was established at Point Montara in 1875. The Montara area was first settled by farmers in the late nineteenth century. A commercial flower farm, still in operation, was established in 1900. In 1905, Montara became a stop on the new Ocean Shore Railroad, then under construction. The railroad built a hotel next to the train station. The trains encouraged weekend visitors to the area, but development of the community was very slow. The railroad went bankrupt and ceased operations in 1920, but the hotel remained and, although greatly remodeled, is still standing today, between State Route 1 and Main Street, next to the remodeled train station.

The Montara Grammar School opened in 1915; the historic two-story building still stands, serving as a community center. The newer Farallone View Elementary School, a few blocks north of the original school, services the town's children today.

California's second paved highway, Pedro Mountain Road, was completed in 1914, providing another connection between Montara and San Francisco. This highway was replaced in 1937 by State Route 1, which followed the old railroad route through the Devil's Slide. A tunnel was opened in 2013 to replace this dangerous route, which had been closed periodically due to landslides. The United States Navy operated an anti-aircraft training center at Point Montara during World War II.

Real growth in Montara began in the 1950s as more people moved away from San Francisco during the postwar boom. As Montara has continued to grow, the community has still maintained its generally rural image. Most of Montara's streets were dirt or gravel until the early 1990s; the rustic quality of the town has not been lost since the streets were oiled or paved (only some of the streets are actually paved).


Point Montara Lighthouse, Montara, California LCCN2011630359
Point Montara Lighthouse, Montara, California. Photo by Carol M. Highsmith. The old Keeper's residence now serves as an International Hostel.

In 2003, Montara Water and Sanitary District purchased its water system from the German industrial firm RWE. Montara and Moss Beach residents overwhelmingly supported a bond for the purchase and repair of the system. The high, spiraling rates and a decades-long water moratorium were key motivations behind the bond measure.

Point Montara Light is a lighthouse in Montara, located just west of the Cabrillo Highway at Point Montara. Montara Light was originally established in 1875 as a fog signal station after several ships ran ashore in the late 1860s. The cast-iron lighthouse was brought from Wellfleet Harbor, Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1925. It continues to operate as an aid-to-navigation maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. The lighthouse demarks the northern point of the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, a holding of Special Biological Significance owned by the State of California. The lighthouse grounds also serve for an international hostel, Point Montara Lighthouse.

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