Pacifica State Beach
Break out the SPF 8, San Francisco. A long holiday weekend is coming and with it, temperatures in the—whoa!—70’s. We know what you’re thinking: time to hit the playa, slap down a 100% organic cotton beach towel, and crack open a bottle of Anchor Steam’s annual Summer Beer. But first, a major decision: Which beach, bra? Here's a breakdown of local beach escapes, selected both for overall enjoyment and (thanks to the Natural Resources Defense Council's annual report) water cleanliness:
China Beach: It’s a shame to have to give away the secret that China Beach is where it’s at, but it was only a matter of time. Perhaps because it’s so secluded, or perhaps because it’s Robin Williams’ backyard, but this beach is one of the safest in terms of water quality. It also offers showers, a small parking lot, and picnic tables. Stellar views. No dogs allowed.
Ocean Beach: Stretching nearly the entire length of San Francisco, Ocean Beach is a perfect place to let the dogs run, build a bonfire, and watch the sunset. Though its sidewalks and surrounding areas are often littered with trash, the biggest beach in the city also happens to be the cleanest.
Baker Beach: Despite being one of the city's unexpectedly dirtier beaches, with 28% of the samples taken from its mid-section considered too polluted, you still can't beat the views, which are spectacular, or the easy accessability, or the plethora of space. Grills and picnic tables too! If it gets too crowded (or too clothed) for you, there's always the nudist friendly zone upwind.
Stinson Beach: Really, what is there not to love at Stinson? Besides having a NRDC score of total cleanliness, the beach has lifeguards, showers, and grills, not to mention its close proximity to the adorable beach town of the same name. Just watch out for the sharks.
Muir Beach: Another hideaway revealed. Though this beach is really more of a speck of sand, its lagoon-like setting offers a kind of intimacy missing at Stinson. Restoration was just completed and the site now offers a new parking lot and restrooms, as well as an extended bridge overlooking nearby wetlands. Tests showed very limited levels of beach pollutants. No lifeguard or picnic facilities, and limited parking.
Schoonmaker Beach: This tiny beach in Sausalito is ideal for those looking to launch their kayaks, paddleboards, or other watercraft. There is a free nearby parking lot and restrooms. Because of the lack of waves (it is sheltered by a marina), Schoonmaker is a popular place for families with young children. Water's a little iffy though: the NRDC found 10 percent of its samples to be above the safety threshold.
Crown Beach: Alameda: the Venice Beach of the Bay. Okay, not really. But it does have Crab Cove, located on the northern end of Crown Memorial State Beach, where there is a two and a half mile long sand strip, recently restored in 2013 with $5.7 million worth of sand. Also a visitor’s center, complete with a small marine museum and science center.
Keller Beach: Part of the Miller-Knox Regional Shoreline, this placid beach offers an alternative to some of the area’s more well-known getaways. Restrooms, picnic facilities, and a grassy lawn are all nearby, and the Shoreline is a well-known local fishing spot. It’s also fairly clean, with only 9% of tested samples showing unsafe levels.