The 8 Best Beaches in San Francisco

Kat Bein | November 19, 2020 | Lifestyle Travel

Best Beaches San Francisco

When you think of San Francisco, you think of hippies, tech titans, sweeping vistas and impossibly-steep hills that people drive on somehow. Maybe you think of the Full House home and Robin Williams. You definitely think of seals at the Wharf and classic cable cars. One thing you don't probably think of is hitting the beach, but that is truly a missed opportunity.

Sure, Miami and Los Angeles have sun year-round, but dune brooding in the perma-fog can't be beat. It actually does get quite lovely in the Bay area around October. It's weird, but we enjoy it. The Pacific Ocean is a cold, hard mistress, and while she's not so great for the casual swimmer, she's super sweet on surfers. Plus, these views will make any fool with a smart phone look like an influencer.

From secluded, rocky enclaves to sweeping golden sands, these are our favorite beaches in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

See also: Top 10 Places To Watch The Sunset In San Francisco

Baker Beach

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Bowley Street and Gibson Road / Website

When the sun does come out to play, the beauty of Baker Beach beckons. Nestled between cliff-side mansions on the left and a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge on the right, it's the kind of California scene that makes you wonder how it's real. The mile-long stretch of sand is perfect for sun bathing or reading. Some people even fish here. It's not the best spot for surfing, but body surfers will enjoy the ride. Keep your eyes open for marine life swimming close to shore, and if you feel adventurous, take the cliffside hike up Coastal Trail.

Marshall's Beach

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Langdon Court Parking Lot / Website

If you've been to Baker's Beach, you came halfway to its mysterious neighbor. Marshall's Beach is only accessible by foot. Follow the Batteries to Bluffs Trail and you'll happen upon the hidden gem. It's got great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it's the rock formations that really set this place apart. Sunsets here are beautiful, too. Just note, clothing here is optional.

Crissy Field East Beach

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1199 E. Beach / Website

If recreation is what you're after, this wide-open public space is the place. There are picnic tables, grills and restrooms for you convenience, and plenty of green fields for running and playing when the sand just ain't enough. It's actually prime location for kitesurfing, like, maybe the best in the world. From here, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatatraz. It's a quntessential San Francisco vibe.

Mile Rock Beach

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Lands End Trail / Website

Another out-of-the-way enclave totally worth the hike, Mile Rock Beach is the enchanting reward at the terminus of Lands End. More of a cove than a beach proper, high tide can be tight around here, but when the water is low, there's lots of neat stuff to check out (like visible shipwrecks). It's a rocky landscape not great to sun bathing or swimming, but it's beautiful for meditation, painting and picture taking. You also walk by the famous Lands End Labyrinth to get there, a cool rock installation created by artist Eduardo Aguilera in 2004.

Rodeo Beach

1049 Mitchell Rd. / Website

Travel north on the Golden Gate Beach to reach this gorgeous, rocky strip. This one's for the dog lovers, because well-trained pups are allowed to run off-leash to their heart's content. Rodeo Beach is made of dark sand and pebbly stones, but it is good for sun bathing and surfing. It's also great for nature lovers looking to explore, surrounded by the hiking trails and picnic areas of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Crown Memorial Beach

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8th Street, Otis Dr. / Website

Across the Bay in Alameda, you'll find warmer weather and a strip of beach that's actually quite ammenable to swimming. The shallow depth keeps the water from getting too chilly, which makes it a favorite for families and windsurfers. There's also an aquarium nearby at the Crab Cove Center, and while it's currently closed for COVID-19, it'll reopen as soon as possible.

Linda Mar

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5200 Coast Hwy. / Website

A bit south of San Fran on the Pacific Coast Highway sits a picture-perfect get away for surf, fun and sun. "Linda Mar" is Spanish for beautiful sea, and we've got no argument with that. The cove curves elegantly with mountains on either side. It's a great place to surf, bike, bodyboard and paddle board, plus the sunsets are spectacular. Live musicians sometimes come around to add a bit of soundtrack, and there's a strangely romantic Taco Bell, if you get the munchies.

Half Moon Bay

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6 Venice Blvd., 95 Kelly Ave. / Website

Drive even further down the PCH and come to this four-mile stretch of perfection. Half Moon Bay is comprised of four independent beaches, all of which are fabulous for fishing, surfing, sun bathing and picnics - emphasis on the surfing, in this case. The beaches are wide with some open for camping. You'll likely meet traffic on the way out, so make it a full day excursion worth your while.

Photography by: Matthew Baker