20 San Francisco Beaches

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San Francisco is one of California’s most iconic cities, home to Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, historic trams and excellent clam chowder. Being on the coast, San Francisco naturally has many beaches, impressive ocean views and golden sand that you’ll find along the Pacific Coast Highway, throughout LA and into San Diego.

San Francisco is on its own little stretch of land and can get far chillier than the sunny cities further south, which is why you’ll often see its famous fog stretching across the city. On the other hand, this makes the beaches in San Francisco wilder and more exciting, with big waves for surfing and sometimes a lot smaller crowds. From beaches right below the famous red bridge to rocky coves that only the locals know about, you’re certain to find a beach in San Francisco’s Bay Area that you’ll love.

San Francisco Beaches

20 Best Beaches In San Francisco

1- Baker Beach

beaches san francisco
The lovely Baker Beach in San Francisco at sunset.

Baker Beach is possibly the most famous of all San Francisco’s beaches, nestled almost directly under the famous Golden Gate Bridge, with Marin Headlands in the background.

Located within the Golden Gate Recreational Area, the beach is often filled with locals and tourists admiring the spectacular view.

It is also a popular spot with photographers for great shots of the bridge. Although the water isn’t safe for swimming, you’ll have plenty to enjoy, whether you stroll along the sand, climb up to the bridge, do some hiking around the area or explore the historic Battery Chamberlain.

If you’re not driving and are up for something active, a great way to reach Baker Beach is by bike, which you can hire in central San Francisco, and getting here takes around an hour.

2- Crissy Fields Beach

swimming beaches in san francisco
Baker Beach in San Francisco and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

Crissy Fields Beach is on the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge and is extremely popular with locals sunbathing, jogging or swimming in the summer.

It is also popular with tourists who check out this beach before heading up the final part of the way to the top of the bridge.

The beach is fairly flat and exposed, which can get very windy, so kite and windsurfing are popular activities here.

It’s safe for swimming, although it can get cold and is a great place to spend a few hours.

Tip: There is a path all the way from Fisherman’s Wharf to the bridge, which goes right past Crissy Beach, so it makes a relaxing stop along the way.

3- Ocean Beach

san francisco bay area beaches
Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

Ocean Beach is a lovely trip, only around half an hour from the city, with lots of relaxing space.

The National Park Service protects the area due to the rocky outcrops offshore and the beach’s dunes, where birds nest in winter.

You’ll be hard-pressed to visit Ocean Beach at a busy time, even in the summer, as it is 2.2 miles (3.5km) long, meaning there’s loads of space for everyone.

The best time to come here is summer, when locals sit on the beach with a drink or bonfire, as in the wintertime, this exposed beach gets foggy and cold.

Due to this, the beach generally isn’t safe for swimming and has strong rip currents.

4- Marshall’s Beach

san francisco beaches open
The beaches in San Francisco have some of the best sunsets. Here’s Marshall Beach.

Another beach with a breathtaking view tucked almost underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, Marshall’s is a little wilder than Bakers Beach and is in San Francisco’s Presidio Park.

The beach is surrounded by low cliffs and offers beautiful views across the Bay and the ocean.

It’s small, at only 984 ft (300 m) long, so you’ll need to visit at low tide otherwise, it gets largely swallowed up.

To get here, you need to take a path from the Batteries to the Bluff hiking trail, eventually leading you to the beach.

The only people you may find here are the local naturists since swimming is prohibited, but you can usually find a peaceful spot to yourself.

5- Stinson Beach

nudist beaches in san francisco
An epic sunset on Stinson Beach.

Golden Gate Recreation Area is filled with beaches, another of which is the pretty Stinson Beach, which is northwest of the city.

It usually takes around an hour to drive to this beach, but on weekends in summer, expect traffic to be at a standstill as everyone wants a patch of this beautiful area.

This is because Stinson Beach is one of the longest in the area, with soft golden sand, but is largely protected from the winds, meaning you can enjoy a swim here.

You can also enjoy fishing, windsurfing and normal surfing, although surfing is usually more popular in winter due to the high waves.

Behind the beach are a few lively cafes, galleries and hotels, making for a perfect half or full-day trip from the city.

For more California ideas, see:

6- Aquatic Park Cove

best beaches san francisco
Sunrise over Alcatraz and San Francisco Bay.

Aquatic Park Cove is an excellent, swimming-friendly beach in San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

The Cove is protected from strong winds and has calm waters, making it one of the rare beaches perfect for swimming.

There isn’t much to do at this beach and few amenities, so sit back and enjoy or people-watch for a few hours.

You can also walk along the Aquatic Park Pier for stretching views over both the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.

It can be tricky to reach this beach, and parking is usually rammed, so instead, opt to take the famous San Francisco cable car to the Hyde & Beach stop.

7- Fort Funston Beach

best beaches near san francisco
Lands End is a park with a beach in San Francisco within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Fort Funston is the southernmost coastal beach in San Francisco, around half an hour’s drive from the city.

Another Golden Gate Recreational Area beach, it’s wild and windy and covered in grassy cliffs, making it a haven for hang gliders.

Unfortunately, if you’re not catching the breeze, you’ll have to walk down the steep path to this beach, which is around 1312 ft (400m) in length, although once again, visiting at high tide is recommended because the ocean often makes the beach vanish entirely.

This is the perfect beach for enthusiastic walkers or hikers, with lots of trails leading up and around the cove.

It isn’t ideal for families, with difficult paths and swimming not recommended.

8- Half Moon Bay

beaches in san francisco ca
Half Moon Bay has some of the loveliest beaches near San Francisco. California.

Half Moon Bay is comprised of four excellent beaches, however, Dunes Beach, which is the northernmost of the four, is one of the best.

This is also because many people choose to head to the more popular Half Moon Bay State Beach rather than tackling the sandy climb down to the dunes, however, you’ll be rewarded if you make the journey.

The four beaches are a mile each, so you could realistically enjoy all of them, backed by picturesque cliffs and with soft yellow sand, they’re perfect for a day in the sun.

Swimming isn’t recommended here due to strong currents, but picnics and barbecues are popular, and there are many scenic hiking trails nearby.

9- Pescadero State Beach

best beaches in san francisco
The coast near Pescadero State Beach near San Francisco.

Also a bit further south, in San Mateo County, Pescadero State Beach is nestled between two rocky bluffs and is much quieter than more famous nearby beaches.

The beach is pretty wild, with lots of arches, caves and rock pools to explore, although the waters can be rough.

Behind the beach is the popular Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve which is loved by bird and wildlife watchers and has multiple hiking trails to explore.

Amenities are thin on the ground at this beach, but just five minutes drive away is the town of Pescadero which has a few great local shops and restaurants to stock up or refuel.

10- Linda Mar Beach

san francisco beaches
Another beach in Pacifica is Pacifica Beach.

Linda Mar beach is 15 miles (24 km) south of San Francisco in Pacifica and is a common weekend getaway destination for the city’s residents.

The beach is long and sheltered, although the waves can be high, which attracts avid surfers, and visitors can enjoy kayaking around the cove when it’s calmer.

You can easily spend the day relaxing here as close to the beach is a bustling area filled with shops, cafes and restaurants, all with great views over the water.

For great views, head up to the top of one of the bluffs via a walking trail for pretty views over the beach and ocean.

11- Muir Beach

Driving north from San Francisco into Marin County, you’ll hit the lovely Muir Beach, which locals and nature lovers adore.

The beach is located behind a protected wetland area and can be reached via 450 ft (137 m) bridge, which is longer than the beach itself (300m in length).

The beach here is usually quiet, but you can sunbathe or go fishing, and many people come here to explore the wider wetland and nature trails since there are several challenging hiking trails in the area.

You won’t find many amenities besides restrooms and parking, so it’s wise to bring everything with you, but it’s ideal if you’re searching for a beach without any crowds.

12- San Gregorio State Beach

beaches near san francisco
San Gregorio State Beach is a beach near San Gregorio that’s worth visiting while you’re in San Francisco.

San Gregorio State Beach is a little further away from San Francisco than many others, but it’s worth a day trip or a stop if you’re passing by.

The beach is expansive and untouched, backed by cliffs and plenty of space for everyone to relax.

Although swimming isn’t advised at this beach due to high waves and strong currents, you can still sunbathe or go birdwatching – one of the most popular activities in this protected area.

There is also a scenic picnic area, plus an easy trail you can follow along the length of the beach’s cliffs, or on the beach itself, you can explore the various caves and lagoons along the way.

13- China Beach

beaches san francisco bay area
Seagulls on China Beach and in the air. The Golden Gate Bridge is in the distances in San Francisco, California.

Back to the breathtaking Marin Headlands, China Beach has distant views of the Golden Gate Bridge and is named after the Chinese fishermen who historically camped on this beach.

Like its neighbours, China Beach usually is quite chilly, windswept and even foggy, so swimming is generally not recommended, however, the beach has a lovely picnic area and playpark for children, or alternately the rock pools along the beach are littered with sea creatures which can be fun to explore.

You won’t find many people at China Beach, but if you’re in the area, it makes a picture-perfect spot for a picnic with uninterrupted views of the bridge.

14- Mile Rock Beach

Hidden within the Golden Gate Recreational Area is Land’s End, where you’ll find Mile Rock beach.

Although small and rocky, you can enjoy excellent views over the bridge and towards Marin Headlands in the distance.

There are loads of trails to explore here, both behind and on the beach, which is often covered in driftwood, including multiple shipwrecks and old military structures.

Grab a map from the Land’s End Visitor’s Centre to find a list of the best trails, and make sure to bring snacks and drinks, as there isn’t much on offer here.

15- Kirby Cove Beach

Kirby Cove Beach is one of San Francisco’s most beautiful beaches, at the northern entrance to San Francisco Bay.

Although it is a little tricky to reach, involving a one-mile hike down a trail from the parking lot, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views.

You can enjoy views over the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay from the beach, undisturbed by the crowds you find on other beaches.

Walking on the trail and picnicking is popular during the day, but locals also enjoy camping here since you can reserve a spot and wake up to epic sunrise views over the water and spot lots of local birdlife.

16- Rodeo Beach

san francisco dog friendly beaches
Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands is a lovely San Drancisco Beach in Sausalito.

Rodeo Beach is right on the tip of the Marin Headlands and takes around half an hour to reach from San Francisco proper.

Unsurprisingly, the golden sand and ocean, combined with the unique rock formations jutting out of the water offshore, make this beach particularly popular with photographers.

If you look closely at the sand, it contains unique pebbles of varying colours, such as greenstone and red jasper, which give the entire beach an unusual colour.

The waves here are high, which makes it popular with local surfers, but there’s plenty of space for everyone, and its picnic area and facilities mean families usually visit it.

There is also a pretty lagoon near the beach, where you can see bird life, such as ducks, pelicans and seabirds.

17- Bolinas Beach

Located near the small town of Bolinas, after which it is named, Bolinas Beach is a little further out than most beaches but can get very busy, especially in good weather.

The beach is at the mouth of Bolinas Lagoon, which causes high swells in the area, which is why you’ll find many surfers here year-round.

Whether or not you find a spot to settle on the sand, the lagoon is worth visiting to see the many seabirds there, where you can also see the local harbour seals hanging out on the sand spit.

18- Tennessee Beach

Tennessee Beach is named after the SS Tennessee, shipwrecked here in 1853, and can occasionally be seen when the tide is low enough.

The beach is on the western side of Marin Headlands, just 20 minutes from the city, and is surrounded by high, lush green cliffs, which are home to wild birds, deer and coyotes.

The sand here isn’t the typical golden yellow but a dark ashy brown and it is a wild and remote beach that doesn’t get many visitors.

This is because you’ll need to follow a two-mile hiking trail from the Tennessee Valley trailhead, inside the Golden Gate Recreation Area, to reach the beach.

There are plenty of other trails to explore once you arrive, and there are also cycling trails and a picnic area, although you’ll need to bring food and drinks with you.

19- McClures Beach

dog friendly beaches san francisco
Waves crashing at the Point Reyes National seashore, which has beaches near San Francisco.

McClures Beach is one of the most remote beaches you can reach directly from San Francisco, located in the northern Point Reyes National Seashore.

You’ll need to walk an easy but overgrown hiking trail of about half a mile to reach the beach.

The beach isn’t super long, but it is very scenic and covered in loose driftwood, as well as lots of tidepools which can be fun to explore.

Swimming is not recommended here – in fact, getting too close to the water at all can be dangerous due to the fast and unexpected rip currents.

The whole of Point Reyes is worth exploring over a day or two, as there are many hiking trails along the coast, so a visit to this beach is perfect as part of a more extended visit.

20- Montara State Beach

beaches in san francisco
Montara State Beach is a beach eight miles north of Half Moon Bay on State Route 1.

Montara State Beach sits 18.5 miles (30km) south of San Francisco and is a long, sandy beach backed by low cliffs and Montara Mountain at one end.

Once again, there are strong currents here, and although people swim and surf regularly, the water can be freezing.

The beach has exposed golden sand, so it’s perfect for sunbathing or strolling along the shoreline.

Although there aren’t lots of amenities directly on the beach, there are loads of shops and restaurants in the nearby town of Montara, as well as a couple of small hotels if you want to explore the wider area and hiking trails of McNee Ranch.

For more beaches around the world read:

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India Jayne trainor
India-Jayne Trainor is a British/Australian freelance writer, photographer and contributor to various online blogs and travel websites. She has travelled to almost 30 countries, most recently Cuba and Sri Lanka. Her work focuses on solo female travel, having spent two months backpacking alone through South East Asia as well as living in Germany for a year. Her favourite country to date has been Hong Kong, but she is happy in any country by the ocean. Her next destinations are Uzbekistan and a road trip through the American Mid-West. India is currently based in London, UK.