The origin of the name Coyote Point is somewhat clouded. Since it was originally an island completely surrounded by salt marsh, it is doubtful that it was inhabited by coyotes. It is probable that the name could be attributed to Coyetana Arenas, to whom it was granted by the Governor of Mexico. It is improbable that Indians lived on Coyote Point, although small shell mounds do exist indicating that they at least used it for feasts and perhaps special ceremonies. Without fresh water, however, they could not have survived for long on the island proper.

Coyote Point was originally a part of the Presidio and Mission lands. After it passed to Mexico, Governor Pio Pico granted it to Coyetano Arenas. It was later sold by the Arenas family to the firm of Mellus and Howard. Howard bought it from the firm in 1850, and it remained in the Howard family until acquired by the County and the Federal Government in 1942.

The Howard family built a pier at Coyote Point for lumber loading in the late 1800's. Mr. Howard built a bathhouse and pool on the beach in 1880, and had Eucalyptus, Cypress and Pine trees planted on the knoll. It was the Howard family also who reclaimed the marsh between the island and the mainland for the purpose of creating a dairy pasture.

In 1922, a group of promoters organized and built the Pacific City Amusement Park Corporation on land leased from the Howard family. The area embraced the natural beach running north from the knoll about 3,000 feet with ninety acres of land adjoining the beach. The main features of the park were a boardwalk, children's playground, and concessions consisting of scenic railway, merry-go-round, ferris wheel, dancing pavilion and several food concessions. It was reputed to have had one million visitors during the first season. During its second season the amusement park experienced a fire, which destroyed about a quarter of the development. It never opened for another season. The reasons given for its closing were the strong afternoon winds and sewer contamination in the bay.

In 1942, the Knoll proper, or the original Coyote Point, was acquired for a Merchant Marine Cadet School. The Knoll area was used for this purpose until 1946, when the buildings and factories were sold to the College of San Mateo. It was operated as a college until it was acquired by the San Mateo County for use as a park and recreation area in 1962.