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Rodeo Beach in Marin County with San Francisco in the background

So where are the best beaches in the San Francisco Bay Area? The list at the bottom of this page will help point you in the right direction, but “best” is subjective. Let this guide be a starting point for many beach discoveries for you in the future.

The Bay Area is made up of 9 counties that touch the bay and offer up cool things to do near San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. While there are parks and beaches on the bay, most of the desirable sandy beaches are on the Pacific Ocean in the city of San Francisco (also a county), Marin County and Sonoma County north of the Golden Gate Bridge (North Bay), and San Mateo County on the southern San Francisco Peninsula.

The East Bay counties of Alameda and Contra Costa are growing rapidly and the new residents are looking for beaches. Oakland has a few parks with water access, but we suggest heading to the coast if you are in the Bay Area.

The Bay Area coastline is dramatic to say the least. If you are staying in the city of San Francisco there are nearby beaches in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. South of the big city, Half Moon Bay has a stunning state beach and other gorgeous beaches. Pay a small fee to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and discover hidden gems at the base of the Marin Headlands near Sausalito. If you’re looking for a wild adventure, then drive north into Point Reyes National Seashore where they have every type of beach imaginable and other things like picturesque ranches, seal viewing areas, bird-watching wetlands, elk herds, hiking trails, rock arches, and a photogenic lighthouse (oh, and cool wind and fog so dress appropriately).

Pescadero State Beach

The list of beaches below is organized by their proximity to San Francisco. It includes both well-known and seldom visited beaches. They stretch from Pescadero, which is not far from South Bay, up to Bodega Bay in Sonoma County (a 1.5 hour drive from SF). This is just a sampling of the many beaches in the Bay Area. Visit our county and city pages for more options. You just might find a hidden corner of the coast to call your own.

RELATED: The Hidden Beaches of the San Francisco Bay Area