Best Beaches In & Near San Francisco

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Although San Francisco may not be at the top of the beach vacation list for many people that doesn't mean there aren't great beaches here. A quick look at the map will show there are sandy beaches all around the city, including a few within walking distance of downtown.

But beach life in San Francisco is a very different proposition to the sun-soaked beaches of SoCal. Firstly there's the weather! It has to be said that the Northern California climate in summer can be somewhat disappointing with even the most promising of summer days soon descending into a damp, clinging fog. Oh, and don't forget your wetsuit as the water temperature never really rises above chilly.

Climate aside the Northern California coast surrounding the city is quite stunning. Craggy cliffs provide a dramatic backdrop and offer some great terrain for hiking. Closer to town there are some good options for surfing and even a couple of clothing-optional spots within a stone's throw of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

  • 1. Baker Beach

    Baker Beach
    UltraView Admin

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Situated between San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge to the north, Baker Beach is a flat, wide expanse of golden sand approximately 800 metres in length.

    In the city's Presidio area, its natural vistas are improved by views of the entirety of the Golden Gate Bridge on all but the foggiest of days. Within Golden Gate National Recreation Area, it also boasts a coastal trail that leads up onto… read more »

  • 2. Fort Funston

    Fort Funston
    © Adam Derewecki

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    The southernmost Pacific facing beach in San Francisco, Fort Funston Beach is included as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Rather windy, especially on the top of the sandy bluffs that surround it, Fort Funston Beach has become a haven for hang gliders. They launch from a special ramp most frequently between March and October.

    The main downside to Fort Funston Beach if you're not hang gliding is… read more »

  • 3. Stinson Beach

    Stinson Beach
    Mark Gunn

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Situated within California's Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Stinson Beach lies approximately 30 kilometres northwest of San Francisco along Highway 1, making it a popular day trip for residents of the city.

    This long stretch of sand offers a relatively shallow entry into the waters of the Pacific, which can be a little on the cold side. However, as one of the region's cleanest beaches it offers a range of… read more »

  • 4. Marshall's Beach

    Marshall's Beach
    © Frank Schulenburg

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Located in San Francisco's Presidio park, which encloses an area of historic military installations at the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marshall's Beach is the closest beach to this icon of California and the United States.

    Offering exemplary views of the bridge, as well as of sunsets over Helmet Rock and the Pacific Ocean, its rich golden-brown sands are reached via boardwalk-style steps that lead down the low cliffs.… read more »

  • 5. China Beach

    China Beach

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    read more »
  • 6. Lands End Beach

    Lands End Beach
    Willis Lam

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Close to San Francisco, Lands End Beach is a clothing-optional beach which is particularly quiet and private during weekdays.

    To reach it, drive west along Geary Blvd and take a right at the fork onto Point Lobos Ave. You can park by continuing along to a large car park or by turning right again onto El Camino del Mar and parking at the end. There's a trail leading down… read more »

  • 7. Ocean Beach

    Ocean Beach
    K Danko

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Stretching for over three miles between Cliff House and Fort Funston is Ocean Beach. The beach runs along much of San Francisco's westerly suburb, the aptly named Sunset. Despite this Ocean Beach still feels pretty wild, particularly towards the southern end where it is backed by dunes.

    Like the rest of San Francisco's beaches the weather can be somewhat hit and miss. It's generally a miss during the summer months… read more »

  • 8. Quarry Beach

    Quarry Beach
    Marcin Wichary

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Quarry Beach is one of two main beaches on Angel Island, which sits in San Francisco Bay, not far from Alcatraz Island. Found on the island's east coast its fine sands lie approximately two miles from the island's ferry terminal, beyond the historic Immigration Station and visitor centre which you'll likely be visiting in any case if heading to Angel Island.

    From California's mainland, the island can be reached by public… read more »

  • 9. Black Sands Beach

    Black Sands Beach
    Ryan Devenish

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Backed by steep grassy cliffs and is studded with occasional large boulders, Black Sands Beach has a length of approximately 800 metres. A short drive west of the Golden Gate Bridge, it sits between Point Diablo Light and Point Bonita Lighthouse in Bonita Cove.

    Facing broadly south, it's well worth tackling the dirt path that leads to Black Sands Beach. Not only are there some great views back to San Francisco… read more »

  • 10. Tennessee Beach

    Tennessee Beach
    Fabrice Florin

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Tennessee Beach is located on the west side of the Marin Headlands in San Francisco's Marin County. It is named after the SS Tennessee, a ship which ran aground here in 1853 while trying to enter Golden Gate Bay. Though all 500 passengers on board escaped, its iron carcass can still be seen during the lowest tides of the month.

    Only twenty minutes by road from downtown San Francisco, the… read more »

  • 11. Thornton State Beach

    Thornton State Beach
    Peter Kaminski

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Birds in search of a tasty morsel can be seen along the shoreline of this brown sandy beach just south of San Francisco. Positioned below tall bluffs, this park is popular with hikers, boasting equestrian trails on the bluff terraces high above the waterline. There's only a few parking spots nearby and the locals like it that way so it doesn't get overcrowded. You won't find the hordes of… read more »

  • 12. Rodeo Beach

    Rodeo Beach

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Set near the tip of the Marin Headlands is Rodeo Beach, a narrow strip of pebbly sand dividing the Pacific Ocean from the brackish waters of Rodeo Lagoon. On closer inspection you may notice the sand contains weather-worn particles of red jasper, greenstone and orange chalcedony from the adjacent cliffs.

    Rodeo Beach is quite a popular family beach and there are some basic facilities. You can also bring the dog. The… read more »

  • 13. Muir Beach

    Muir Beach
    Jesse Wagstaff

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Twenty-five kilometres from San Francisco, Muir Beach is the first beach you'll come across heading north into Marin County. One of the cleanest beaches in California according to official data, it is a part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

    While not the longest of beaches, at around 300 metres in length, it is wide, at 60 metres. The broad sweep of dark sand is surrounded by rocky cliffs studded… read more »

  • 14. Linda Mar Beach

    Linda Mar Beach
    © jnickp

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    You know a beach is going to be worthwhile when it has not one but two names! Pacifica State Beach is situated on the outskirts of San Francisco in California's San Mateo County. One of the most popular beaches to learn how to surf in the Bay area, it is known to surfers as Linda Mar Beach.

    The largest, and also southernmost, beach in Pacifica, its reputation as a surfing… read more »

  • 15. Sharp Park Beach

    Sharp Park Beach

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Not far from the hectic city life of downtown San Francisco lies one of California's few black sand beaches. Further inland, the grains of sand are finer and as you go towards the water's edge the grains become more pebble-like. A little way back from the beach, there is a narrow strip of land with grass, picnic tables and benches. 

    North of the park is the Pacifica Municipal Fishing Pier.… read more »

  • 16. Red Rock Beach

    Red Rock Beach
    Andrew Ballantyne

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Noted as one of the best nudist beaches in California, Red Rock Beach is just south of Stinson Beach in California. It has a steep trail leading down from the highway so wear sensible footwear to reach this remote wave-battered crescent of beach which is favoured by naturists. You can also reach it at low tide by walking along the sand and scrambling over the boulders at Rocky Point from… read more »

  • 17. Rockaway Beach

    Rockaway Beach

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Visited by over 1 million people every year, this popular, almost chocolate-brown colored sandy beach is located in Pacifica, which is a 20 minute drive south of San Francisco. The beach is easily accessible and parking is nearby so you won't have to worry about any long hikes through the mountains to get here. This is a great place to come relax and enjoy the ocean views.

    It is right… read more »

  • 18. Gray Whale Cove State Beach

    Gray Whale Cove State Beach
    Christopher Michel

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    When you hear that Gray Whale Cove State Beach is on an area of coastline known as "Devil's Slide" this should help convey that the descent to the beach is steep and tricky.

    Just 18 miles south of San Francisco, situated between Pacifica and Montara, this state beach is popular for whale watching during the spring migratory season, hence its name. Great white sharks have also been seen… read more »

  • 19. Montara State Beach

    Montara State Beach
    Vadim Manuylov

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 0.5 hrs

    Located a little over 30 kilometres south of San Francisco, west of Highway 1 and nestled between bounding low hills, this beach boasts a sandy shore and high bluffs. Montara Mountain, also known as McNee Ranch, looms above to the east. 

    Beachgoers here can enjoy basking in the sun and recharging their batteries. People also flock here to take a relaxing stroll on the soft sand along the seashore. Although… read more »

  • 20. Half Moon Bay State Beach

    Half Moon Bay State Beach
    © David Mark

    Travel time from San Francisco: approx 1 hr

    Half Moon Bay State Beach has a total length of around 4 miles, and is officially comprised of four separate broad sand beaches. They are named Francis (Kelly) Beach, Venice Beach, Dunes Beach, and Roosevelt (Naples) Beach.

    The Francis Beach section of Half Moon Bay State Beach lies at its southern end. A popular spot for picnics, it has public barbeque facilities. There is also a visitor centre that is open… read more »