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Go Swimming and Surfing at the Doorstep of Pacific Ocean, Beaches in San Francisco

Apr 3, 2018
by Shannon Meyer

Top up your SPF supply and roll out your beach mats because summer is coming and it is time to whip yourself into high gear for some surfing, swimming, fishing, and beach bumming in San Francisco. The Bay Area, needless to say, is still one of the most popular hotspots for beach-goers, but apart from that, there are also quaint tide pools and secluded hidden sunbathing spots all around the city.

The sun-baked scenery is a much-welcomed sight not just for those who love the great outdoors, it is also frequented by weekenders and roadtrippers from colder parts of the country. In throngs, they will arrive at Golden Gate City in their SF charter buses for panoramic sunset or sunrise views, hiking, biking, kite-flying, games, swimming, and surfing. Even if you’re just bumming around on the white, sandy beaches shooting the breeze with family and friends, there’s live entertainment and flocks of new faces in the form of locals and tourists to mingle around with.

bright day, outdoors, San Francisco summer activities

1. Stinson Beach

  • Located near Golden Gate Bridge
  • Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, and Mount Tamalpais is a stone's throw away
  • It can get a little foggy at certain times of the year
  • shuttle bus service is available
  • One of the cleanest beaches in the state of California
  • Charcoal grills are permitted
Located merely a short 35-minute drive from Golden Gate Bridge, in Marin County, it enjoys a reasonable elevation level of 26 feet. Because of its rather-unknown nature, it is an embodiment of both a chic beachside attraction and a quiet haven for outdoor lovers. Many consider Stinson Beach a great alternative to Ocean Beach, which is about an hour’s drive away. It will, however, do you a world of good to get there early. Although it has ample parking spots, they tend to be quickly taken up by early birds before the clock hits 10am. But if you’re already game for some hiking, what’s a little walking when you have a park a little distance away along the streets? The great news is that it is accessible via Matt Davis Trail, Dipsea Trail and has links to Mount Tamalpais State Park, hence, a regular haunt for health and nature enthusiasts.

2. Marshall's Beach  

San Francisco, CA 94129
(415) 561-4374
  • Small and more elongated than most other beaches in California, has a cozy and comforting atmosphere
  • Great for bird-watching, hiking, photography
  • Amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Catch views of local wildlife living in and around the tide pools
  • a part of the beach is pet-friendly
  • free parking and admission
  • picnic tables and BBQ grills on site
  • surrounded by a Bohemian-style community and town
People are not kidding when they tell you to come dressed appropriately for your trip to Marshall’s Beach because the hiking can get (more than a little) intense, especially if you’ve not been to the gym as regularly as you want to. It may be narrower than many, but because of its remoteness and non-touristy nature, it has many offhand opportunities. While families bring their young kids out for a quick splash-around, you'll spot people fishing, taking postcard-ready pictures of the beach, Golden Gate Bridge, and its accompanying sunrise and sunset. The clean, well-maintained trails might not look like much on your way down, you’re up for a thigh-grinding challenge on the way up!’re rewarded with amazing views and that makes all the effort worthwhile in the end.

3. Agate Beach County Park

350 Ocean Pkwy, Bolinas, CA 94924
  • Unique tide pool filled with marine creatures
  • Awesome sunrise and sunset views
  • Splash action from the waves
  • A cool intertidal zone
  • Not easy to locate unless with the use of a local map or with the help of guides
  • Watch out for washed up whale bones, shells, kelp and parts of dilapidated trees because they are amazing targets for your pictures
  • Picturesque neighboring towns like Bolinas, Olema, and Point Reyes Station
Agate Beach Park is not technically a beach; instead, it is an alluring and enticing tide pool filled with life, submerged and revealed by the rising and fading of tidal seawater. The best time to visit the beach is during low tide when interesting rocks and timeless geological formations see the rays of the sun. Since many tide pools are habitats of highly-adaptable wildlife, it has the constant attention of marine biologists. Visitors are reminded not touch anything that they find here - it’s purely for the eyes (and the lens of your camera) and not to be touched or removed. Instead of the full-on action of the usual San Francisco beach, the beach where you can truly hit the pause button on life and just observe. It’s for those yearning for a tactile experience or interested in their oceanographic environment. Bolinas, where the beach is located, is somewhat less of a touristy town, hence, there’s a sense of calm or tranquility here.

4. Ocean Beach State Beach

Great Hwy, San Francisco, CA 94116 
(415) 426-5240
  • Pet-friendly
  • Super chill atmosphere, great for self-reflection and romantic walks
  • A surfer’s Paradise; it comes with a strong riptide warning, though
  • Has street parking, bike parking and is absolutely great for young children
  • 15 minutes from downtown San Francisco
  • Perfect for picnics
  • Bonfires at the fire pits or after nightfall are permitted
  • Within close proximity to The San Francisco Zoo
If you’re looking for a classic, super chill Californian beach, this is it. San Francisco’s largest and most popular beach and also a surfer’s Paradise, it’s your chance to surf the great big Pacific Ocean in style. Even if you’re not a surfer, there’s something about the low-key, subliminal and calming atmosphere at the beach that provides for many hours of romantic walks along the vast white, sandy beaches. Even if you’re merely sitting down on a spot somewhere along the 1/5-mile beach, you can smell the crisp ocean air while listening to the sedative sounds of the lapping waves. Four-legged friends are welcomed on the beach area. At the northeast end of the windy trails is Lands End (Point Lobos), approximately 10 minutes away from the beach. It offers an unforgettable view of the Pacific Ocean and is not to be missed!

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