The Best Beaches Near San Francisco

While the water may be chilly, San Francisco's beaches are still worth exploring
While the water may be chilly, San Francisco's beaches are still worth exploring | © Oscar nilsson / Unsplash
Photo of Lou Boyd
Commissioning Editor26 June 2020

It may not be as famous, or as warm, as southern California, but San Francisco’s beach scene is thriving. From popular Ocean Beach to the coves of Mile Rock Beach, from swimming in Aquatic Park to hiking to Lands End – there’s something for everyone. San Francisco even has a vibrant nudist culture on the sands of Baker Beach. Culture Trip picks the best.

Ocean Beach

Natural Feature
Map View
© Trent Haaland / Unsplash
The most popular beach in San Francisco, Ocean Beach is great for watersports, and the 1mi (1.5km) stretch can often be found full of kitesurfers, surfers and skimboarders. Do not expect the balmy temperatures of LA here, however; only the hardiest surfers will brave San Francisco’s cold seas. While the beach is a great spot to enjoy a homemade picnic, there is also a choice of welcoming cafés and restaurants around the sand. Pay a visit to the Cliff House for a luxurious dining experience, or Kawika’s Ocean Beach Deli for something a little more casual.

Mile Rock Beach

Natural Feature
Map View
Mile Rock Beach, San Francisco, California, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, USA, sunny spring day
© Ventu Photo / Alamy Stock Photo
This remote cove is known for the stacked rocks that are left by visitors on the sand, and a stone labyrinth above the shore. If the idea of a day’s sunbathing leaves you feeling restless, Mile Rock Beach is the perfect place to explore. A half-mile coastal trail leads from this cove to Lands End, with caves, shipwrecks and other secrets to be found at low tide.

Baker Beach

Map View
Golden Gate Bridge at sunset seen from the Beach
© lucky-photographer / Alamy Stock Photo
A walk along Baker Beach is worth it for its view of the Golden Gate Bridge. These west-facing sands are also one of the most popular locations in the Bay Area, especially for nudists, so it’s not for the shy and retiring. The riptide is strong around this section of coast, which means paddling is fine but open-water swimming is not advisable. If you’d rather keep your bathers on, avoid the furthest corner of the beach near the bridge, as this tends to be the busiest for the clothing-optional brigade.

Aquatic Park

Map View
Maritime National Historic Park and Aquatic Park, San Francisco, CA
© Martin Shields / Alamy Stock Photo
While not a naturally occurring beach, Aquatic Park is great for anyone who loves the coast. Built in 1929, the protected cove was purpose-built to give downtown San Francisco residents a place to swim and enjoy recreational activities. Today, the calm waters are regularly full of swimmers, along with a few local seals. While visiting Aquatic Park Beach, make sure you pop into the nearby San Francisco Maritime Museum and take a walk along the historic pier.
These recommendations were updated on June 26, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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