Montara is located at , 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 (10.2 km²), all of it land.(37.539639, -122.506426)
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.
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 enjoys exceptionally mild weather throughout the year. Typical of central 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 summer months, which are mostly dry. 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.
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/sq mi (101.6/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 89.22% White, 1.02% African American, 0.14% Native American, 3.66% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 2.17% from other races, and 3.63% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.05% 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.
In the state legislature Montara is located in the 8th Senate District, represented by Democrat Leland Yee, and in the 19th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Jerry Hill. Federally, Montara is located in California's 12th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +22 and is currently represented by Jackie Speier.
Montara is an unincorporated community. All planning and zoning is the responsibility of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors, which is elected at large by the voters of San Mateo County. The Midcoast Community Council is an elected advisory body to the Board of Supervisors, is chosen by residents of Montara, Moss Beach, and El Granada.
Montara is also part of the Cabrillo Unified School District, Coastside Fire Protection District, Montara Water and Sanitary District, and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Because it is in the coastal zone, Montara is under the jurisdiction of the the California Coastal Commission.
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.
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 is being built to replace this dangerous route, which has been closed periodically due to landslides.
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).
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.