San Francisco beaches can be sun-drenched one day and lost in the fog the next. That’s the price you pay for living next to the mighty Pacific Ocean. Always scenic and beautiful, most of the city’s beaches are not ideal for swimming, due to the treacherous conditions along the rocky coastline.
But, what we love about SF beaches is their rugged beauty and, yes, a place to walk, fish, sunbathe and picnic. What we do recommend is that, like most things in San Francisco, you must always pack a warm sweater, sturdy shoes, and just to be sure, some sunblock in case the sun is shining at our favorite San Francisco beaches!
Baker Beach – Great Views of Golden Gate Bridge
This mile-long beach off 25th Avenue is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Although it’s a good-weather sandy beach, dangerous waves make swimming strictly off-limits. Its waters and the views of the Bay Area entice hikers, fishermen, and picnickers.
Although Baker Beach is known as a nude beach, there is in fact, only a small, hidden nude section of the beach, which is very easy to avoid. If you are seeking nudity, climb up and over the hill to get there. You can access Baker Beach from The Presidio where there is a large parking lot. Baker Beach can also be reached by public transportation on the #38 Geary Outbound, transferring to the #29 Sunset Bus.
Located in the Jas D. Phelan Recreation Area at 29th Avenue between Lincoln Park and The Presidio, to the west of Baker Beach, this 600-foot sandy beach cove was once a campsite for Chinese fishermen. Part of the larger Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the beach is popular for sunbathing and is one of the few swimming beaches in the city.
The shallow waters make it one of the most popular beaches for families with small children. Lifeguards are on duty only in the summer. This popular beach has many good services — BBQ pits & picnic area, restrooms, showers/changing rooms, and a sunbathing deck.
China Beach is at El Camino Del Mar & McLaren Avenue. Take MUNI to the #29 bus at Lincoln/Camino del Mar and 25th Avenue. Walk west, or take bus #1 to California and 30th Avenue and go north. Both stops are about five blocks away from the beach itself.
You’ll find this secluded shoreline spot at End Trail off Merrie Way in the Richmond District. The no-swimming beach is difficult to access, but the reward is the spectacular views. Clothing is considered optional by the beach’s mainly gay sunbathers.
But Lands End it much more than beaches. It’s full of historical sites and stunning nature trails. We’ll tell you seven great reasons to head out to Lands End.
Located between Lincoln Way and Fulton Street on the westernmost edge of Golden Gate Park, this is a prime beach destination for locals and visitors alike. Cliff House provides a popular vantage point; just offshore is the outline of Seal Rocks, those stony offshore islands that are usually inhabited by shorebirds and a colony of sea lions.
Bring binoculars for a closer look. On a clear day, the Farallon Islands, some 30 miles away, are visible. Swimming is allowed but beware of the dangerous tides and the undertow. The wide sandy beach is ideal for walking, jogging, and sunbathing. Ocean beach is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the National Park Service.
Find parking along the Great Highway and many side streets along Ocean Beach. It is also accessible by the N-Judah and L-Taraval Muni lines.
Aquatic Park Cove
This beach is in a protected cove at the western end of Fisherman’s Wharf on the bayside of San Francisco. It’s an easy stroll and a great place for a peaceful respite from the hectic Pier 39. Build a sandcastle, have a picnic, or just take a break! It’s one of the few beaches in San Francisco safe for swimming.
The beach is just a short walk from the Hyde Street Cable Carline.