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San Francisco Beaches

Best San Francisco Beaches


San Francisco Beaches

A Great Day on Ocean Beach

©2006 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Lots of visitors have misconceptions about San Francisco beaches, thinking that all California beaches are like the ones you see on Bay Watch, but in fact that iconic television show was not filmed here and you're more likely to find people at San Francisco beaches dressed in sweatshirts than swimsuits. The water's cold, and it's often foggy.

Nevertheless, a few San Francisco beaches are worthy of note, and good for a visit on a nice day or for a sunset stroll. We've compiled a list of the best San Francisco beaches by type and interest to help you choose the best one for you.

Best San Francisco Beaches by Type

  • Best San Francisco Beaches: Bonfires: Ocean Beach: A night bonfire on the beach is a fun thing to do in San Francisco, so bring your firewood and dress warmly
  • Best San Francisco Beaches for Kids: Rodeo: Kids love the pebbly beach here, unique among San Francisco Beaches. Ocean Beach is one of the best places in San Francisco to fly a kite.
  • Best San Francisco Beaches for People-Watching: Baker: I always enjoy the odd mix of families, fishermen and nudists who co-exist so peacefully here.
  • Best San Francisco Beaches for Surfing: Ocean: While it's not recommended for the drop-in surfer who doesn't know how to handle the rip tides and undertow, an especially hardy group of surfers can be seen here almost any day.
  • San Francisco Beaches to Bare it All: Baker A mixed group of folks take it all off here on a regular basis. On weekends, there's quite a crowd.
  • The Locals' Secret: China Tucked below the exclusive Seacliff neighborhood, this small beach is better known to locals than tourists, and some say it's one of the best places for ocean swimming in the San Francisco area.
  • Best San Francisco Beaches for Bird Watching: Rodeo Beach: Located in the Marin Headlands just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Rodeo is near a fresh-water lagoon favored by the feathered visitors.


We've listed the beaches above by the activities they're best for, now why don't you tell us which one you like best?

POLL: What is your favorite San Francisco beach?

Baker Beach
China Beach
Ocean Beach
Rodeo Beach
See what other people just like you think.


The Truth about California Sunshine

The Beach Boys weren't quite telling the truth when they crooned about West Coast California sunshine. San Francisco can be significantly less sunny than many visitors expect, especially near the beach. When temperatures rise in central California, so does the air, pulling cool, moist marine air onto the beaches like a foggy blanket. Some days, the fog and low clouds disappear early, but on other days, like a hungover beach bum, the sun may not put in an appearance until mid- to late-afternoon. Be sure to layer on the sunscreen even on these overcast days because the UV light goes right through the clouds.

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