Best beaches in the San Francisco area (Rugged, hidden and some are swimmable along with hidden beaches to explore)
Even though the waters around San Francisco are frigid and icy cold, the beaches are still fantastic to explore and enjoy a nice beach day especially if on the rare days that the sun is out and hot all around the city. Locals love to go outside and enjoy nature, the beaches and some fantastic views of the area. You’ll enjoy the best beaches in the San Francisco area we detail in this short guide for you to plan a fun beach day.
A few of these beaches are in hidden coves and a little effort to get to with some stairs or climbing, but then you’ll know that these beaches will not be very crowded and you’ll have a fantastic time enjoying the scenery and outdoors probably all to yourself in some of the hidden places we share below.
14 beaches to enjoy around the San Francisco Bay Area
1. Ocean Beach
The large expansive beach that runs the entire length of the San Francisco Peninsula at Ocean Beach gives you a lot of room to spread out and enjoy the beach area here. With plenty off parking off Ocean Drive, you’ll be able to find a spot right away but make sure to find some protection from the strong winds and sometimes blowing sand in the area. Night time is also popular to visit here with friends building bon fires and hanging out late into the night on Ocean Beach.
2. Baker Beach
A local favorite beach in San Francisco, when the weather is hot, everyone flocks to Baker Beach just north of Land’s End area. With sufficient parking and easy access to the beach, you’ll also get some fabulous coastline views and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
The water here is very cold and the rip tides can be strong so watch and see if there are many people getting into the water and what the current situation looks like in the bay before you enter the very cold water.
3. Aquatic Park
Located at Ghirardelli Square, Aquatic Park is a protected cove with few waves making it a relatively fun and safe family friendly beach area. The area around Fisherman’s wharf is popular so many visitors to come into this beach area to relax and take a break but there is plenty of room to spread out on the beach or grassy area.
Watch out for harbor seals and other marine life in the cove so it’s advisable to just wade or swim in a group with others close by.
4. China Beach
Once an encampment area for the Chinese that live here in camps, the China Beach area is more remote but with a parking area and restroom / shower facilities. You’ll find less crowds here with gorgeous views of the coastline and lots of room to spread out.
Again, the water here is very cold and the rip tides can be very strong in the area with some breaks directly into the beach, so this would be mostly a beach to hang out in and picnic.
5. Crissy Field
You’ll find plenty of parking areas around Crissy fields and your choice of spots to hang out on the beach or grass areas. Crissy field has stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the bay area to relax and enjoy the views. Sunset time here is really spectacular and the views and capturing photos a nice time to be here late in the day.
The east side of Crissy Field is very popular with kite surfers and kite boarders that love to ply the waves in this section of the beach which is fun to watch them playing out in the cold waters.
6. Coyote Point Recreation Area
A local favorite beach out in the Coyote Point area with a mostly graveled beach area, the beach on the bay is family friendly and relatively easy to wade or swim in.
There’s also a fantastic playground area for kids with the longest enclosed slides in the area at the Magic Mountain playground. There is also a science center you can visit called CuriOddyssey
7. Fort Funston Beach
Past the zoo, Ocean Beach turns into Fort Funston Beach which is rugged and gorgeous coastline and an area that is less visited by locals or visitors.
Hiking the ridge trails, searching for perfect sand dollars or watching the many hang gliders taking off from the bluffs and floating endlessly is fun to watch along the beach area here.
Although people do wade and enter the water, watch out for strong rip tides and currents before thinking about wading or entering the cold waters.
8. Clipper Cove Beach
An almost hidden beach cove that is located on Yerba Buena Island and relatively protected waters in the area. This small cove beach is not busy and parking is relatively easy as the walk to the cove area that faces the East Bay side of the island. To get to the cove park at the Treasure Island Marina parking and walk towards the east bay end and look for a short flight of stairs that heads to the small cove area.
You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that you might be the only visitors to the cove when you arrive.
9. Marshall’s Beach
Only a few adventurous beach goers make the effort to park on the roads above on the cliffs and hike down towards Marshall Beach. What you’ll get here is a gorgeous beach with Golden Gate bridge views that are knock out gorgeous and fun to walk around the beach area.
Just note that this is a casual nude beach so you’ll find a lot of locals baring it all out on the beach area so don’t be surprised by what you might see.
10. Oyster Point Beach
Located in South San Francisco, Oyster Point Beach is a nice stretch of beach that extends out over two acres of artificial peninsula and a smaller beach cove area that is safe to enter the water facing the bay.
There are picnic tables, barbeque pits and restroom at the harbor area close by that is popular with picnickers hanging out all day here. But there are no lifeguards so take caution if entering the bay water.
11. Crown Memorial Beach
This beach park located in Alameda is family friendly with a large expansive beach and shallow waters that is easy to wade or swim in. There are no lifeguards but there are restrooms and picnic areas around the beach and grassy areas of the park.
Parking is also easy and free along Crown Memorial beach or directly on the street in the more remote parts of the beach.
12. Rodeo Beach
Located in the Marin Headlands side of the ocean area, Rodeo beach is rugged and raw beauty with sandy and black, red to green rocks that dot the beach area and sheltered by tall cliffs on one side and a small lagoon area on the other side of the beach area.
The water is rough and unpredictable making this more of a watching and beach walking type of experience and enjoying the beautiful coastal views in the area.
Close by are the historic buildings and ruins of Fort Cronkite and Fort Barry which serves now as park administration offices in the area.
There are a variety of coastal trails that you can do in the area off Rodeo beach, you can check this website here for more details to visiting the area and doing some hikes.
13. Kirby Cove
Also located along the Marin Headlands and past the Battery Spencer parking area, park here and walk down the trail one mile and passing a hidden bunker on the left side. You’ll finally get down to the brown sand beach of Kirby Cove which is relatively quiet.
14. Black San Beach at Marin Headlands
The only black sand beach located in the Bay Area, the beach park is not easy to find parking unless you look further out and walk to the trail opening. Follow the road uphill until it turns into a one lane road and go downhill about 1/2 mile to the small parking lot on the left side with the Upper Fisherman’s Trailhead sign at the end of the lot.
The trail downhill is steep with a wooden staircase in the steepest parts. Once on the beach area the part furthest out towards the cliffs are typically clothing optional so be forewarned about this.
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Conclusion to the best beaches in the San Francisco area
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