San Francisco is one of California’s most popular tourist destinations, offering something for everyone to enjoy. The city is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which means you’ll find a wide diversity of beaches along the coastline.
San Francisco’s beaches are excellent destinations for beautiful outdoor excursions. The rugged, windswept landscape provides amazing views and offers great conditions for watersports and activities on land.
To find out more about which beach will suit you best, here is a list of 15 amazing beaches in San Francisco.
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Looking for somewhere to stay while enjoying the best beach in San Francisco? Here are some of our favorite accommodation options that this city has to offer.
The San Remo Hotel provides charming accommodation at an affordable price. The rooms are clean and comfortable, and the location is within walking distance to tourist attractions. WiFi is free and laundry facilities are available at a charge.
The Hotel Beresford is a quaint hotel with a traditional British-style pub and restaurant. The Victorian-style rooms are spacious and all come with TV screens. Breakfast consisting of fresh fruit, cereals, bread and tea and coffee is also available.
This luxurious hotel is a great choice for those looking for stylish accommodation in downtown San Francisco. The rooms are modern and elegant, with amazing city views. The hotel has a courtyard pool to cool off in when not spending your day at the beach.
Let’s simplify this! We’ve put together our favorite places to stay in San Francisco so you don’t have to stress!
Baker Beach is by far the most famous beach in San Francisco! Located inside the Presidio of San Francisco, there are great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands.
The beach is not safe for swimming due to the pounding waves and strong rip currents that are frequent. However, it is perfect for sunbathing and there are grills available close to the parking lot that make it a good spot for picnicking too.
The northern part of the beach is clothing-optional and often frequented by nude sunbathers.
Crissy Field Beach is also located in the Presidio and is a very pretty beach to visit. A lot of work has gone into the restoration of the natural environment and the area now sports sandy dunes and a tidal lagoon.
The water is safe for swimming, but the temperature is usually around frigid. It does get breezy around here, making Crissy Field a great spot for windsurfing and kiteboarding.
There are decent views of the Golden Gate Bridge, but also of Alcatraz, Angel Island and downtown San Francisco. Dogs are allowed off-leash, and most seem to really enjoy frolicking on the beach too!
Let’s make this simple. These are the best hotels in San Francisco!
Ocean beach is a long, tranquil stretch of coastline on San Francisco’s western shore. The beach spans almost the entire length of the west side of the city from Cliff House down to San Francisco Zoo.
Swimming isn’t advised as the water is really cold and the strong ocean currents are dangerous. However, if you’re an experienced surfer you’ll love riding the waves at this beach!
Ocean beach is a good spot for bonfires, walking your dog in the dog-friendly section or flying a kite. If you’re feeling energetic, a run along the length of the beach will provide lovely scenery while getting active!
Black Sands Beach is a great spot to escape the crowds and enjoy a picnic on the beach. Located below the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Recreation Reserve, the beach takes a bit of energy and a 10-minute hike to access.
Due to the steep hike reaching the beach, you’ll find that Black Sands is much quieter than other beaches nearby. Locals consider this beach clothing-optional, so you are almost guaranteed to see naked bodies at Black Sands.
If nude sunbathing is your thing, then you’ll feel right at home at the southern end of the beach, where most nudists hang out.
Marshall’s Beach is a small, secluded cove with arguably the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge from outside the Gate. Hidden amongst steep cliffs, this beach is the perfect place to get an all-over tan!
The beach attracts open-minded people of all kinds and is especially loved by the gay community. There is a short trail and stairs climbing down to the beach, making it easily accessible from the small parking lot.
People also come here for birdwatching activities and photography – you won’t get a closer shot of the bridge and the afternoon light is just perfect!
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China Beach is a small beach, named after Chinese fishermen that used to camp out here a few decades ago. The minute, sheltered cove is located between Baker Beach and Lands End.
China Beach’s shallow water is safe for young children to splash around in, making it a popular choice for families. It’s also not a bad spot to relax or have a picnic or a barbeque – there are facilities available above the beach.
It has the same views as nearby Baker Beach, but without the crowds or dogs. If you want, you can even walk there during low tide.
Are the possibilities overwhelming? Take a tour in San Francisco to get the most with the least amount of stress!
Lands End Beach is one of San Francisco’s hidden gems, it is not well-known and doesn’t get crowded. The beach is located at the end of a steep trail and is hidden behind dramatic cliffs west of Lincoln Park.
Swimming is prohibited at the beach as the water conditions are dangerous, but it is a beautiful spot for sunbathing and chilling out with friends. The trail along the cliffs is something else and probably the main attraction.
Mile Rock Beach is perfect for active beach-goers that aren’t content with just sunbathing. The beach is located in a small cove below the Lands End viewpoint.
Mile Rock Beach is a small strip of rocky beach marking the end of a half-mile hiking trail. For those adventurous enough to visit, this beach makes a great spot to relax, enjoy some snacks and take in the coastal scenery while getting some exercise.
Above the beach is the famous Lands End labyrinth sculpture, which is now synonymous with Mile Rock Beach. To get down there, take a stairway of over 100 wooden steps from the bottom of the trail.
Planning a trip? See our list of the best things to see in San Francisco!
Funston Beach is a long stretch of sandy beach in front of Fort Funston – a former defense installation. This beach is, without a doubt, the best beach in San Francisco to let your dogs run free!
This dog-friendly beach allows canines to be off-leash and has loads of room for the four-legged beasts to roam and play. Riders on horseback also frequent the beach as there is ample space for horses to gather a head of steam.
The beach has a steep trail leading down to it and is surrounded by cliffs – making it one of the best gliding spots in the country!
Clipper Cove Beach is a hidden crescent-shaped beach on Treasure Island with views of Bay Bridge. The cove has calm water and is well-protected from the wind, making it a great spot for stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking.
Clipper Cove Beach is also ideal for taking the dogs for a walk and a swim, although the water may be a little too cold for dog-owners. The beach never seems to get crowded so it’s worth a visit for some solitude.
The best time to go is usually in the morning, as the beach gets enshrouded in shadow in the afternoon.
Kirby Cove Beach is a quiet beach with pebbles and red and dark brown sand. Located at the base of Marin Headlands, this beach offers rustic camping facilities and amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco city skyline.
Getting to Kirby Cove Beach requires a one-mile downhill walk on the old Kirby Cove Road, which is one of the reasons why it’s an uncrowded beach. It’s so quiet, all you’ll hear is the rhythmic lapping of the waves on the shore. It’s not an exaggeration that Kirby Cove is one of the best beaches in San Francisco for some peace and quiet!
Rodeo Beach is a wide stretch of sandy beach that separates Rodeo Cove from Rodeo Lagoon, west of Marin Headlands. The sand is dark and made up of small stones of various colors that combine to give the beach a unique barren look.
Rodeo Beach is a popular beach as it is relatively close to downtown San Francisco. There are decent waves for surfing and the dramatic landscape attracts loads of photographers too.
Rodeo Lagoon is a neat spot for birdwatching, and the surrounding terrain offers many pleasant hiking trails.
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Muir Beach is a long, wide beach with coarse sand and large boulders, in the small community of Muir Beach. Redwood Creek empties into the sea, alongside the beach, giving the area a diverse landscape of beaches, hills, lagoon and wetland.
There are many hiking trails radiating out from the beach, making it a great spot for exploring the headlands. Other people come here to cast a line into the water or tick off some water birds off their birding list.
If you’re looking to get an all-over tan, it‘s more acceptable across the creek at Little Beach.
Quarry Beach is a narrow strip of sandy beach on the eastern shore of Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. The beach can be reached via the San Francisco Angel Island Ferry or the Tiburon Angel Island Ferry.
Quarry beach has soft, white sand and calm waters and it offers magnificent views across the bay. The beach is between Fort McDowell and the historic United States Immigration Station, both are worth checking out as well as the nearby hiking trails.
The beach is protected from the wind, making it perfect for sunbathing. Above the beach is a great little campsite and picnic area.
Perles Beach is also on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay, but on the west side. The beach is less protected from the wind than Quarry Beach and also less visited.
Both the wind and currents can be strong at Perles Beach, so swimming isn’t advised, but the views across the bay make this beach a worthwhile stop. The windy conditions make it a good spot for windsurfing and kite surfing.
The wind-blown and desolate feel of the beach is restorative for the soul and makes you feel far removed from the busy city.
Now that you know what each beach has to offer, all that is left is to decide which ones suit your needs best. Book your vacation to San Francisco and enjoy exploring the rugged coastline of the City by the Bay.
San Francisco’s beaches cater to a wide range of beach-lovers, so you’ll be sure to find a beach that is perfect for your trip. We think they’re all great, but don’t just take our word for it, get out there and visit them all for yourself.
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Gin lover. Coffee addict. Nicola has traveled the world for 7 years and is a staff writer for Hotel Jules. Born in London, Nicola first got the taste of travel studying abroad in Barcelona. Since then she's been hooked - traveling the world non-stop. Passionate about green travel and vegan lifestyle, Nicola spends more of her free time staring at maps wondering where she will head to next!