11 best Bay Area beaches
From sandy shores by the Golden Gate Bridge to tide pools in Bolinas, these spots provide the perfect escape

While temperatures will reach into the upper 60s/lower 70s this weekend, there’s no reason you can’t escape SF for a brief jaunt to the beach, mild chill in the air be damned.

To help you get started, we’ve complied a list of the best beaches in the Bay Area. From tide pools and secluded spots to family-friendly and clothing-optional, we’ve come up with the top 11 Bay Area beaches for soaking up some vitamin D or strolling along the sands.

While the waters in Northern California are chiller than the beaches in SoCal, ours simply look better. So by all means, ditch Dolores Park this weekend for some oceanic scenery.

Just don’t forget to slathering on the SPF. Even with a cloud cover. Seriously.

Not a fan of sandy shores? Check out one of the Bay Area’s many adorable small towns. Or take to the hills for a hike with a spectacular ending.

1. Stinson Beach

Highway 1
Stinson Beach, CA

About a 35-minute drive from the Golden Gate Bridge, Stinson Beach is a quiet and far chicer alternative than Ocean Beach. It’s also a great sandy escape from San Francisco without going too far. Warning: The main parking lot fills up by 10 a.m., so get there early. Very early. Otherwise, you can park on the street, which is limited. Otherwise, you can find parking at two miles north in Bolinas.

2. Agate Beach Park

Elm Rd
Bolinas, CA

Not everyone is down with roasting in the sun on hot sandy shore. Some beachgoers prefer a more tactile experience, yearning to learn about their oceanographic surroundings. Agate Beach Park in Bolinas is a great spot for doing just that—it features tide pools along a walkable two miles. Sea lions, birds, and other wildlife are popular sights here, too. Parking tip: Park at the Agate Beach campground and head down to the beach, or park at the Big Lagoon County Park day use spot.

3. Marshall’s Beach

The Presidio
San Francisco, CA

Yes, another clothing-optional spot. This one is just north of Baker Beach, but not nearly as crowded. While this spot is sunny, sandy, and glorious, it is—to put this delicately—not a family-friendly beach.

4. Baker Beach

1504 Pershing Dr
San Francisco, CA
(415) 561-4323

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The north section of the Baker Beach is clothing-optional. What is notoptional is for people to gawk and take pictures. (Voyeurs have been asked to leave, FYI, so consider yourselves warned.) Feel free to strip down to your birthday suit while you take in some sun and stellar views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

5. Ocean Beach

Point Lobos Ave
San Francisco, CA
(415) 561-4323

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The city’s largest and most popular beach is also one of its most dangerous; it’s full of riptides. While the waves here seem small and benign, the conditions in the water are ripe for some of the coastline’s strongest and deadliest riptides. That being said, the sands and scene are wonderful. Best of all, beachgoers can enjoy a bonfire in the fire pits come nightfall. Just keep the action on the beach, not in the water.

6. Fort Funston Beach Walk

Down By The Waves
San Francisco, CA

Great spot for walking; excellent spot for walking your dog. After a hike down from the 200-foot-high sandy bluffs onto the beach, you and your best friend can play fetch, take a dip in the water, or frolic with the other pooches.

7. “Taco Bell” Beach

5200 Coast Hwy
Pacifica, CA
(650) 355-4210

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While we aren’t one to promote fast food chains, this beach’s Taco Bell, perhaps the nicest-looking fast food restaurant in the world, is a must-see. Right on the beach in Pacifica, the (gorgeous) surrounding sands are affectionately known to many as simply “Taco Bell beach.” Make a run.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

8. Devil’s Slide (Grey Whale Cove)

Formerly Highway 1
Pacifica, CA

This 300-yard-long state beach is a stunner. It’s also one of several clothing-optional beaches on our list. (Please, no lurkers or gawkers; this is a friendly space for people who simply don’t want to wear a bathing suit.) Also of note: The sheer cliffs of the Devil’s Slide promontory, which are as awe-inspiring as they are intimidating.

9. Montara State Beach

Hwy 1
Montara, CA
(650) 726-8819

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After navigating an unstable dirt path down to sea level, you will be rewarded with a smooth-sand beach and stellar views of the Pacific. Montara Beach is approximately a 25-minute drive south from the city, just after Pacifica and Devil’s Slide, and eight-miles north of Half Moon Bay. Secluded and relaxing.

10. Martins Beach

Brimming with the right amount of shade, Curbed SF reader 4Oceanssuggests: “Best public beach in entire region is Martins Beach a couple of miles below (south) Half Moon Bay. Well worth a visit. Park in the dirt lot adjacent to Highway One next to the large blank billboard that used to welcome the public, but has since been painted over by Vinod Kholsa. Then walk around his un-permitted no access signs and gate, and down the freshly paved road approximately 1/4 mile (10 minutes) to the best sandy beach in San Mateo County.”

11. Pescadero State Beach

Hwy 1
Pescadero, CA
(650) 726-8819

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As serene as it is beautiful, this beach in Pescadero boasts sandy coves, rocky cliffs, tide pools, fishing spots (per the city’s name), and picnic facilities. Bonus, on the other side of the highway there’s Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, a great spot for bird watchers. But the prime real estate here is the smooth-sand shore.


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