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Best Beaches Near San Francisco

With its rich history, hilly streets, amazing architecture and vibrant cultural scene, San Francisco is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. And with so much to do and see here throughout the year, it’s easy to ignore one of its best assets — the beaches!

Granted, San Francisco’s beaches are not quite the sun-kissed stretches of sand California is famous for, but they make some of the best hangout spots the city has to offer. Whether you’re just visiting for a few days or you’re looking to rent an apartment in San Francisco, be sure to check these beautiful beaches. And keep in mind that the weather is moody in the City by the Bay, so dress accordingly!

Ocean Beach

This 4-mile stretch of white sand along the city’s western edge is one of the world’s iconic beaches, located right next to Golden Gate Park. It’s where San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean, which makes it a notorious surfing and windsurfing spot — but a very difficult one due to powerful winds and dangerous rip currents. Ocean Beach is often breezy and foggy, even on summer days, so be sure to dress in layers! This place is not quite picnic-friendly because of the sand that gets blown around by the wind, so if you get hungry you can grab a bite at the Beach Chalet while admiring breathtaking ocean views.

 

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Marshall’s Beach

Looking for that perfect spot to admire the Golden Gate Bridge? Marshall’s Beach is the closest you’ll get to this San Francisco staple. Getting to this narrow stretch of dark-golden sand is a bit difficult — you’ll need to descend steep, windy paths and staircases branching off the Batteries to Bluffs hiking trail — but it’s worth all the effort! It can get chilly, foggy and windy here, so make sure to grab a jacket. Due to its secluded location, Marshall’s Beach is clothing-optional, so it’s not exactly family-friendly. Amenities are scarce at this beach, but it’s an amazing destination for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers.

 

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China Beach

A sandy cove on the ocean edge of the upscale Sea Cliff neighborhood, China Beach boasts incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge. This small local beach got its name from the Chinese fishermen who used it as a campsite during the Gold Rush Era. Its fine sand and secluded location make it a perfect beach spot for families and couples. There are no restaurants nearby, but the beach has picnic tables and BBQ grills free to use on a first-come, first-served basis — so why not enjoy a nice picnic with a view here?

Crissy Field Beach

Located at the east end of Crissy Field, a 100-acre national park that was once an airfield, this is without a doubt one of San Francisco’s best recreation areas. This free San Francisco gem boasts incredible views of the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and Alcatraz. It’s a lovely place to have a family picnic, walk along the shoreline, swim, surf, jog or even ride your bike up the popular Crissy Field Trail. For those with a passion for history, check out the nearby Fort Point, a brick fortress that was used to protect San Francisco during and after the Civil War.

 

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Fort Funston Beach

Known for a strong air current called the “Funston Shear”, this beach is the ultimate destination for hang gliders, no matter the season. Fort Funston Beach is located on the westernmost border of San Francisco, south of Ocean Beach, and is walled by 200-foot high sandy cliffs. The ocean view is spectacular from up there, only matched by the view of gliders hovering around. To get to the actual beach, you’ll have to climb down a steep path that starts near the parking lot up on the cliffs. Because of the dangerous current along the coast, Fort Funston is not a swimming or surfing beach — but it’s very dog-friendly, so feel free to bring along your four-legged friend!

 

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Aquatic Park Cove

Aquatic Park Cove is located within the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and is a National Historic Landmark itself. This protected cove features a narrow stretch of sand not far from Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf and it’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing or simply relaxing in the bleachers. In fact, it’s one of San Francisco’s safest and liveliest beaches, as the waters are usually very calm here! Aquatic Park Cove is a popular destination for tourists, boasting beautiful views of the Bay all the way out to Alcatraz. Other attractions in this area include the historic ships at the Hyde Street Pier and the Maritime Museum, while the historic Fort Mason and the surrounding park are located to the west.

 

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Rodeo Beach

Rodeo Beach is located in Marin County, just 2 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge and about 10 miles from San Francisco’s downtown. This narrow strip of dark pebbles divides the Pacific Ocean from Rodeo Lagoon, which is home to a number of many migrating birds, including several endangered species. Rodeo Beach is not too crowded and it’s suitable for lots of activities such as sunbathing, surfing, kite flying, skimboarding and, of course, bird watching. However, swimming is prohibited here due to strong currents. Access to this beach is free and amenities include free parking, picnic tables and BBQ grills, restrooms and outdoor showers. There are several hiking trails near Rodeo Beach, including the popular Rodeo Lagoon Loop and the Coastal Trail.

 

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Angel Island Beaches

This is the largest island in San Francisco Bay and is part of the history-rich Angel Island State Park. The easiest way to get here is via the San Francisco Angel Island ferry or the Tiburon Angel Island Ferry or a private boat. All ferry tickets are round-trip and the price includes the park admission fee. This area offers lots of recreation opportunities for San Franciscans and visitors alike, including a few sandy beaches with incredible views of the Bay, Alcatraz, San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. There’s something to do for everyone. The most popular beaches of Angel Island, Quarry Beach and Perles Beach, are family-friendly so you can bring a picnic and enjoy the sun. Meanwhile, history buffs can explore the island’s hidden gems — it was once an immigration station to San Francisco, a quarantine station, and even served as a military base from the Civil War through the Cold War.

 

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Veronica Grecu
Veronica Grecu
Veronica Grecu is a senior creative writer and researcher for RentCafe. With more than ten years of experience in the real estate industry, she covers a variety of topics in the residential and commercial real estate, including trends and industry news. Previously, she was involved in producing content for Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and Yardi Matrix. Veronica’s academic background includes a B.A. in Applied Modern Languages and an M.A. in Advertising and PR.

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