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The Best Beaches Near San Francisco, CA

The Best Beaches Near San Francisco, CA

Picture of Deanna Morgado
Updated: 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.

Rockaway Beach 

Rockaway Beach is in Pacifica, just outside south San Francisco. Its beautiful sands are a striking dark brown, and it is perfect for sinking your feet into. Hiking trails wind through the outer rocks of the beach, as well as paved bike paths.

Rockaway Beach, Pacifica, CA, USA


Rockaway Beach | © rayb777/Flickr

Rodeo Beach 

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.

Rodeo Beach, Sausalito, CA, USA

Stinson Beach 

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.

Stinson Beach, CA, USA


California Dreamin’ | © Mark Gunn/Flickr

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve 

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.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, 200 Nevada St, Moss Beach, CA, USA, +1 650 728 3584

Natural Bridges State Beach 

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.

Natural Bridges State Beach, 2531 W Cliff Dr, Santa Cruz, CA, USA, +1 831 423 4609


Natural Bridges State Park | © David Merrett/Flickr

Carmel Beach 

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.

Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, USA

Pomponio State Beach 

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.

Pomponio State Beach, San Gregorio, CA, USA


Pomponio State Beach, California, USA | © Wonderlane/Flickr

San Gregorio State Beach 

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.

San Gregorio State Beach, 20063 Cabrillo Highway South, Half Moon Bay, CA, USA, +1 650 726 8819


San Gregorio Beach | © Sharon Mollerus/Flickr