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bigs-Rodeo Beach and Fort Cronkhite Marin County CA-153858221 (Large)1
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 many nearby beaches in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. South of the big city, Half Moon Bay has a stellar state beach and other gorgeous beaches. Pay a small fee to cross the Golden Gate and discover hidden gems at the base of the Marin Headlands near Sausalito. Looking for a wild ride, 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 wind and fog so dress appropriately).

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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.


Beaches on this list

  • Baker Beach

    Baker Beach is a large popular beach not far from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. On sunny weekends both parking lots could be full and all the spaces along […]

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  • Sutro Baths

    The ruins of the Sutro Baths are an historic site on the western waterfront of San Francisco. In March of 1896 these elaborate privately-owned saltwater and freshwater pools opened to […]

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  • Ocean Beach

    Ocean Beach is a long beach spanning the entire Sunset District of San Francisco from Cliff House south to Sloat Boulevard. It’s also a wide beach especially when compared to […]

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  • Fort Funston Beach

    Fort Funston is the southernmost beach on the Pacific Coast side of San Francisco and is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Fort Funston is known for windy conditions […]

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  • Black Sands Beach

    Black Sands Beach is a south-facing dark sand beach below the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There are great city views to be had just a few […]

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  • Rodeo Beach

    Rodeo Beach is a wide pebble beach on the sand spit that separates Rodeo Lagoon from Rodeo Cove on the west side of the Marin Headlands in Golden Gate National […]

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  • Rockaway Beach

    Rockaway Beach is a popular brown colored sandy beach in Pacifica, CA. Right next to the beach are restaurants and hotels so you can spend the day or even a […]

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  • Muir Beach

    Muir Beach (the beach) is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and located in the small town of Muir Beach, California. Redwood Creek flows down to the ocean here, […]

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  • Montara State Beach

    Montara State Beach is a wide mile-long beach just north of Montara along the San Mateo County Coast. Behind the beach there are stunning sculpted sandstone cliffs making this a […]

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  • Stinson Beach

    Stinson Beach (the beach) is a large public beach within Golden Gate National Recreation Area located in the town of Stinson Beach, California. It’s a popular getaway about an hour […]

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  • James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

    James V. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is located at the west end of Lake Street in Moss Beach, CA. Fitzgerald Marine Reserve is a county park and marine protected area run […]

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  • Ross Cove Beach

    Ross Cove Beach is on the north side of Pillar Point between Half Moon Bay and the city of Moss Beach. The cove is inside the boundary of the San […]

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  • Palomarin Beach

    Palomarin Beach is the southernmost beach along the Pacific side of Point Reyes National Seashore. At low tides, there are tide pools exposed, but at high tides this rocky beach […]

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  • Venice Beach – Half Moon Bay State Beach

    Venice Beach is the middle beach of five within Half Moon Bay State Beach. The large parking area is at the west end of Venice Boulevard which turns off Highway […]

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  • Cowell Ranch Beach

    Cowell Ranch Beach south of Half Moon Bay is a public beach that was protected in 1987 by Peninsula Open Space Trust and the California Coastal Conservancy. Soon after the […]

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  • San Gregorio State Beach

    San Gregorio State Beach is a stunning beach in a valley about 10 miles south of Half Moon Bay and a short drive from Silicon Valley in the South Bay […]

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  • Pomponio State Beach

    Pomponio State Beach protects about two miles of the California coast about 20 minutes south of Half Moon Bay. Much of the beach in Pomponio is difficult to access from […]

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  • Pescadero State Beach – North Beach

    The North Beach at Pescadero State Beach is the main beach in this San Mateo County state park. It’s a wide sandy beach backed by dunes that are fun to […]

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  • Arroyo de los Frijoles Beach

    Arroyo de los Frijoles Beach is the southern beach at Bean Hollow State Beach. The parking lot is right off Highway 1 about three miles north of the Pigeon Point […]

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  • Pistachio Beach

    Pistachio Beach is a sandy beach located on state property just north of Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park. The creek from Yankee Jim Gulch flows into the sand […]

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  • Gazos Creek Beach

    Gazos Creek Beach Access is the northernmost part of Ano Nuevo State Reserve in southern San Mateo County. There is a parking lot just off Highway 1 north of a […]

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  • Dillon Beach

    Dillon Beach on Bodega Bay is privately-owned by the Dillon Beach Resort, but for a small fee anyone can enjoy this beautiful beach. The beach is located in the small […]

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  • Kehoe Beach

    Kehoe Beach is a secluded beach along the western face of Point Reyes National Seashore. You must hike down a valley on a dirt trail for a little over a […]

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  • Point Reyes North Beach

    North Beach at Point Reyes Beach is the northern access point to an 11-mile long beach on the west side of Point Reyes National Seashore. Beachcombing is probably the biggest […]

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  • Drakes Beach

    Drakes Beach is a remote beach in Point Reyes National Seashore that requires a long scenic drive to reach. There used to be a cafe at the beach (Drake’s Beach […]

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  • Bodega Head Beach

    Bodega Head is the prominent rocky point that protects Bodega Harbor from the west. This large point has a rugged coastline that is exposed to strong waves and cool damp […]

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  • Bodega Dunes

    Bodega Dunes is a large state park campground and coastal dunes structure in the town of Bodega Bay. The beach at Bodega Dunes is vast and remote so beachcombers will […]

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  • North Salmon Creek Beach

    North Salmon Creek Beach is right off Coast Highway 1 just north of Bodega Bay. A large parking lot is available, but it can fill up in the summer so […]

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