10 best Bay Area beaches

From sandy shores by the Golden Gate Bridge to tide pools in Bolinas, these spots provide the perfect escape

While it’s still technically spring, it feels like summer. And this weekend and upcoming week promises to be warm. Temperatures along the coast could reach up to 80-plus degrees, while the inland areas could see triple digits.

And with that, the sands of Bay Area shores are calling your name. From tide pools and secluded spots to family-friendly and clothing-optional, we’ve come up with the top 10 Bay Area beaches for soaking up some vitamin D.

While the waters in Northern California are chiller than the beaches in SoCal, ours just look better. So by all means, ditch Dolores Park this week/weekend for some sun-drenched scenery.

Just don’t forget to slathering on the SPF.

1 Stinson Beach

About a 35-minute drive from the Golden Gate Bridge, Stinson Beach is a quiet and far chicer alternative than Ocean Beach. It’s also a great sandy escape from San Francisco without going too far. Warning: The main parking lot fills up by 10 a.m., so get there early. Very early. Otherwise, you can park on the street, which is limited. Otherwise, you can find parking at two miles north in Bolinas.

Highway 1
Stinson Beach, CA

2 Agate Beach Park

Not everyone is down with roasting in the sun on hot sandy shore. Some beachgoers prefer a more tactile experience, yearning to learn about their oceanographic surroundings. Agate Beach Park in Bolinas is a great spot for doing just that—it features tide pools along a walkable two miles. Sea lions, birds, and other wildlife are popular sights here, too. Parking tip: Park at the Agate Beach campground and head down to the beach, or park at the Big Lagoon County Park day use spot.

Photo by Lora M. / Yelp
Elm Rd
Bolinas, CA

3 Marshall’s Beach

Yes, another clothing-optional spot. This one is just north of Baker Beach, but not nearly as crowded. While this spot is sunny, sandy, and glorious, it is—to put this delicately—not a family-friendly beach.

The Presidio
San Francisco, CA

4 Baker Beach

The north section of the Baker Beach is clothing-optional. What is not optional is for people to gawk and take pictures. (Voyeurs have been asked to leave, FYI, so consider yourselves warned.) Feel free to strip down to your birthday suit while you take in some sun and stellar views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

1504 Pershing Dr
San Francisco, CA
(415) 561-4323

5 Ocean Beach

The city’s largest and most popular beach is also one of its most dangerous; it’s full of riptides. While the waves here seem small and benign, the conditions in the water are ripe for some of the coastline’s strongest and deadliest riptides. That being said, the sands and scene are wonderful. Best of all, beachgoers can enjoy a bonfire in the fire pits come nightfall. Just keep the action on the beach, not in the water.

Point Lobos Ave
San Francisco, CA
(415) 561-4323

6 Fort Funston Beach Walk

Great spot for walking; excellent spot for walking your dog. After a hike down from the 200-foot-high sandy bluffs onto the beach, you and your best friend can play fetch, take a dip in the water, or frolic with the other pooches.

Down By The Waves
San Francisco, CA

7 “Taco Bell” Beach

While we aren’t one to promote fast food chains, this beach’s Taco Bell, perhaps the nicest-looking fast food restaurant in the world, is a must-see. Right on the beach in Pacifica, the (gorgeous) surrounding sands are affectionately known to many as simply “Taco Bell beach.” Make a run.

Photo by Thomas Hawk
5200 Coast Hwy
Pacifica, CA
(650) 355-4210

8 Devil’s Slide (Grey Whale Cove)

This 300-yard-long state beach is a stunner. It’s also one of several clothing-optional beaches on our list. (Please, no lurkers or gawkers; this is a friendly space for people who simply don’t want to wear a bathing suit.) Also of note: The sheer cliffs of the Devil’s Slide promontory, which are as awe-inspiring as they are intimidating.

Formerly Highway 1
Pacifica, CA

9 Montara State Beach

After navigating an unstable dirt path down to sea level, you will be rewarded with a smooth-sand beach and stellar views of the Pacific. Montara Beach is approximately a 25-minute drive south from the city, just after Pacifica and Devil’s Slide, and eight-miles north of Half Moon Bay. Secluded and relaxing.

Photo by Daniel Hoherd
Hwy 1
Montara, CA
(650) 726-8819

10 Pescadero State Beach

As serene as it is beautiful, this beach in Pescadero boasts sandy coves, rocky cliffs, tide pools, fishing spots (per the city’s name), and picnic facilities. Bonus, on the other side of the highway there’s Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve, a great spot for bird watchers. But the prime real estate here is the smooth-sand shore.