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San Francisco Top Five Beaches

Our guide to the top five beaches in San Francisco will help you to choose an awesome beach excursion for a sunny day. Whether you choose the sun and nude options at Baker Beach or the sweeping beauty of Ocean Beach - San Francisco is a great place for a day at the best beaches. The beaches of San Francisco are beautiful, but they might not be what you think of when you think of hanging out at the beach. San Francisco is known for its fog, and that fog comes in through the ocean so that even on the warmest days of the year, a chill can usually be felt in the ocean air. Not too many people actually go swimming in the beaches here, and those who do often wear wetsuits to keep out the cold. However, if you get past the first step, the water can be quite refreshing, and even if you don’t go in to the water, you can enjoy beach activities on the shore. Take a jacket along to keep out the cold or take a blanket along for a more romantic way to warm up. Keep in mind that the nicest beaches in the area on those on the Pacific Coast, but the warmer beaches are those located on the bay. The following are the top five beaches in the San Francisco area.

Ocean BeachThe adjective which best describes Ocean Beach is "pleasant". That might not sound like a very descriptive word but when you are surrounded by a bustling city which offers every activity your imagination might be able to conjure up, pleasant can sometimes be a nice respite. That is why Ocean Beach is the best of the beaches in San Francisco; it offers a break from city life and lets you remember that you are so close to nature when you are here. And yet, it is easy to access so that you don’t have to go far at all to get back to the busy life you left behind. Ocean Beach is the largest of the San Francisco beaches, taking up the entire west side of San Francisco and offering a Panoramic View of the Pacific Ocean. It offers approximately five miles of peaceful surf and sand, where both locals and visitors go to meditate, reflect and let their imaginations get a little bit more of a natural influence than is possible in the city itself. Although it is a quiet beach, it is not unpopulated. On warmer days, surfers come here to practice their skills, writers come to jot in their journals and dog walkers bring their broods to enjoy the mixture of leashed and unleashed dog-friendly areas located here. Even on warmer days, though, it can get kind of chilly on this strip of sand, so make sure to stop in at Java Beach coffee shop for a warm drink or enjoy a hot meal at the Cliff House.

San Francisco Beach

Beaches of San Francisco by Stacey Chance

#2 Baker Beach It is known by many as the “nude beach” but Baker Beach is actually the best of the beaches for clothed (or yes, unclothed) people of all ages. It is located just on the western side of the Golden Gate Bridge, providing the best ocean view of that most famous of San Francisco landmarks. Perhaps because of this striking view, Baker Beach is also the most crowded of San Francisco beaches, but that’s not a bad thing. This is the beach to head to when you are looking for some fun. Interested in picking up a volleyball game on the shore? Seeking to do some ocean-side kite flying? Dying to practice for your Extreme Frisbee competition? Baker Beach is the place for doing all of those things. Swimming, surfing and sandcastle-building are also frequently enjoyed activities on Baker Beach.

#3 Aquatic Park This is an urban beach, meaning that it is located right in the heart of the city. Travelers enjoy this beach because it is so close to the tourist spots of Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square and locals enjoy this beach because it is a nice little get-away which is easy to reach when coming home from the office or before heading out for the evening. Aquatic Park visitors can pick up a sourdough bread bowl filled with clam chowder or get a famous Ghirardelli Sundae and take it over to the steps at this beach to enjoy it out in the open air. There is a wading area here where children and adults alike enjoy the rippling soft waves hitting the shore. This is a bay beach, not an ocean beach, so the water is softer and the sand is easy to walk along. There is also a paved walkway along a portion of this beach, making it accessible to visitors in wheelchairs or bicyclists out to see the water. Make sure to see Hyde Street Pier and the Maritime Museum while you are in the area.

#4 East Beach This beach is commonly known as China Beach, named after the history of Chinese fishermen who camped here in days past. It is located in Pacific Heights, at the intersection of Seacliff and 28thAvenue. This is one of the safest beaches for families, with shallow waters for the kids to play in and lifeguards on duty during the summer. There are also picnic areas here with grills available so people who want to get out and enjoy some barbecued food at the beach will find East Beach to be the best location. Travelers who want to make sure to see all there is to see in this neighborhood will want to make stops at the Exploratorium and Crissy Field on the day they visit this beach. This is also the beach closest to the Golden Gate Bridge on the Bay Side.

San Francisco Beaches

#5 Stinson Beach – People who have explored all of the beaches within San Francisco should cross the Golden Gate Bridge and venture over to the Marin County Beaches to see something new. Stinson Beach is reached after a peaceful winding drive which leads through beautiful Muir Woods. It makes an excellent day trip location for San Francisco locals and visitors, offering easy access to state park hiking and facilities for picnicking and swimming.

Bonus #6 Bolinas Beach - Bolinas is a favorite beach just outside of San Francisco with a beautiful setting. The locals are colorful and there is lots of marine life. There are cool murals on all of the walls and the beach has some secluded areas where no one will bother you. It is about an hour North of the San Francisco and can be difficult to find since there is no sign telling you where to find the town. Be mindful of a large high tide.

Directions to Bolinas Beach: From 101 take the Stinson Beach/Mill Valley exit and follow Highway 1 north. It will take about 45 minutes to get toStinson Beach, on a curvy scenic road. Drive straight through Stinson and follow Highway 1 along the lagoon.

Directly after the lagoon ends, take the first left turn. This is an unmarked turn so keep your eyes open. You will reach a T and turn left again onto Olema Bolinas Rd.

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