San Francisco may not be as sunny or as warm as its sister city in Southern California, but the City by the Bay also has its share of beautiful beaches. Some are great for a picnic or barbeque and command spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge; other beaches invite you to wade into the water and try your hand at surfing, swimming, or kayaking.
Whatever mood you might be in, you’ll find what you’re looking for at one of these San Francisco beaches. Remember, though, that if you’re not a U.S. citizen you’ll need an ESTA visa for the United States to visit any of these incredible places.
Located adjacent to Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach is a 3.5 mile stretch of white sand that extends along the westernmost edge of San Francisco. This beach is one of the most picturesque in the entire city and offers amazing sunset views over the Pacific Ocean. Though this part of the city has the thickest fog and the water is cold year-round, this beach is a wonderful place for a stroll or for a nighttime bonfire with friends.
Back when San Francisco was still a young city, some of the first Chinese immigrants that helped make the city what it is today used to camp here, giving the beach its name. China Beach has shallow waters that are safer, especially for children, and the beach also has lifeguards on duty in the summer. This beach is perfect for a picnic or for a walk down to the water’s edge to see the different marine life. It’s also one of the best places to contemplate the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands.
One of the best beaches is also one of the most secluded, tucked away behind Lincoln Park in the Outer Richmond district. You can get to the beach by walking down a very steep trail, so make sure to bring appropriate footwear. Once you get to the water, please note that swimming here is absolutely forbidden because of the choppy, dangerous waves. This beach is a wonderful place to sunbathe, barbeque, or to see glimpses of old San Francisco, including shipwrecks and the ruins at Sutro Baths.
This is probably the most popular beach in the entire city, and it also offers amazing views of the Pacific, Golden Gate Bridge, and the Marin Headlands. The water here is also unsafe for swimming because of the water’s conditions, but you can still sunbathe or watch the marine life that sometimes visits the shores, including sea lions and porpoises. Also note that the north side of Baker Beach is clothing optional, which means that you may run into a nude sunbather or two. Because Baker Beach is located near Clement Street in the Richmond District, beachgoers can go to a fantastic restaurant or coffeeshop minutes from the sand.