The Best Beaches Near San Francisco, CA

Photo of Deanna Morgado
11 February 2018

The Northern California coastline is among the most beautiful and awe inspiring. These idyllic beaches are great for exploring, outdoor fun, and sweeping views. Here are some of the best beaches that can be found near San Francisco.

Rodeo Beach

Natural Feature
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Rodeo Beach
Rodeo Beach | © Franco Folini/Flickr
This white-sand beach is arguably one of the most uniquely gorgeous seashores in the whole area. Sheltering cliffs give Rodeo Beach a feeling of seclusion and create an idyllic lagoon on one side of the sands with Rodeo Cove on the other. Going to Rodeo Beach also means basking in the beauty of the unique red and green pebbles and finding pieces of carnelian, jade, jasper, and black agate.

Stinson Beach

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Stinson Beach is one of the most popular and loved swimming beaches in Northern California. San Franciscans cross the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County to escape busy city life on this beautiful beach. Stinson is amazing for surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, windsurfing, and beach volleyball and is wedged between Bolinas Bay and Bolinas Lagoon, which means that once you’re on that white sand, you have two exhilarating bodies of water to frolic in.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

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Hi, there!
Hi, there! | © Peter Kaminski/Flickr
If just lying on beach isn’t enough for your shoreline excursion, make sure to check out Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Visitors will find a plethora of coastal wildlife here, including crabs, seastars, sponges, mollusks, and a variety of fish species. It’s an amazing place to explore and discover the alluring complexity of beach ecosystems.

Natural Bridges State Beach

Bridge, Natural Feature, Park
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Natural Bridges State Park
Natural Bridges State Park | © David Merrett/Flickr
Farther south from San Francisco, in the awesome beach town of Santa Cruz, visitors will find natural beachy wonder. You can probably guess that Natural Bridges State Beach got its name from the magnificent rock formation in the shape of a bridge. This sight, paired with the teeming tide pools and the jaw-dropping view from the bridge, makes it a perfect spot for any beach activity or to just take in the scenery.

Carmel Beach

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Carmel
Carmel | © PhotoBobil/Flickr
For a salt-air oasis that’s perfect for contemplation, head to Carmel Beach. Carmel-by-the-Sea is said to be one of America’s top beach towns, full of cultural opportunities and outdoor activities, and Carmel Beach is a part of the iconic Central California Coast. The sweeping views here are an absolute treasure.

Pomponio State Beach

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Pomponio State Beach, California, USA
Pomponio State Beach, California, USA | © Wonderlane/Flickr
An afternoon at Pomponio State Beach is next to magical with its charming lagoon, sloping sands, and blissful cliff views. Picnic tables and barbecue grills are scattered about the shore, so having a lovely beachside lunch with family and friends is picture perfect. Fishing, swimming, and surfing are among the most popular activities at Pomponio. Interestingly, the beach is also a local hotspot for geocaching, a modern tech treasure hunt.

San Gregorio State Beach

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San Gregorio Beach
San Gregorio Beach | © Sharon Mollerus/Flickr
The driftwood strewn about on this beach create a romanticized coastal landscape. The history buffs out there will appreciate that San Gregorio Beach is home to California Historical Landmark 26, which is better known as the site commemorating the 1769 passage of Spanish explorer Captain Gáspar de Portolá.