Things to do in Bay Area

Bay Area Beaches

Get ready for sunshine and joyful days by the shore. Beaches in the Bay Area prove why everyone loves summer in California!

Fog horns boom across the bay, piercing through the silence of the misty morning hours. As the fog clears, the Bay Area’s beaches bask in golden sunlight, revealing glorious views from their shores. Welcome to paradise for surfers, photographers, and weary vacationers.

If you think seeing one beach means seeing them all, you’re in for a surprise. From rocky shoals to sandy coves, California’s microclimates shift the mood and atmosphere across the bay. You'll never get bored when looking for things to do in the Bay Area. Here are our picks for the best beaches in the region.

San Francisco

Grab a burrito and take in the sights and sounds of San Francisco and The East Bay. Leave the city behind and experience true bliss with a stroll across the beach.

1. Ocean Beach

Race up and down white sands with your faithful companion. Your dog will love Ocean Beach as much as you, thanks to its extensive off-leash space. Throw a frisbee or take a walk with the whole family in tow. You’ve got 3.5 miles of sand ahead of you, so the possibilities are limitless.

Of course, you don’t need to exert yourself to have fun. Stunning views surround you from all angles, with the Golden Gate Bridge visible on clear days. You can even glimpse as far out as the Farallon Islands. Whales pass by these rocky landmasses while migrating, so watch for their majestic movements.

In the afternoon, Ocean Beach takes on a dreamy ambiance when people gather to roast marshmallows around the firepits. Stick around until sunset to capture incredible photos of the horizon.

2. Baker Beach

Take the family on a scavenger hunt along Baker Beach. You might miss the exciting sights scattered across this beach if you're unsure what you're looking at. What appears to be an old concrete building is actually a military bunker dating back to World War II.

Baker Beach hides many historic treasures, such as bunkers, but they’re mostly hidden in a wooded area just off the sands. Step through the trees and discover the giant gun that still guards the beach. These remnants of the war were part of the presidio, and you can learn more if you venture toward the visitor center in the nearby park.

However, you may not want to move too far from the shoreline since Baker Beach offers stunning views of Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County’s beautiful headlands.

Photographer: Hari Nandakumar

3. China Beach

Walk a few minutes southwest and wind up at one of the lesser-known Bay Area beaches. China Beach tends to be calmer than other spots because it’s nestled within a cove.

Marine life also enjoys this peaceful environment. Watch as tide pools drain and crabs scuttle out. Curious explorers can find oceanic oddities, such as anemones and starfish, hiding within the rocky crevices. It’s the perfect beach for kids interested in fascinating creatures.

While the kids play, why not relax by the picnic tables and fire up the grill? Given the number of fantastic steakhouses in the SF Bay Area, we don’t blame you if you’d rather let someone else do the cooking!

4. Marshall’s Beach

Hidden just below rocky cliffs, Marshall’s Beach is one of San Francisco’s best open secrets. To get there, take the Batteries to Bluffs Trail near the top of Baker Beach. You’ll find the path to your destination just before you reach Presidio Battery West.

The isolated environment of Marshall’s Beach attracts a lot of wildlife—especially birds. California Gulls flock toward rocks along the shoreline, and you might spot a pelican diving for fish. It’s also not uncommon for whales and dolphins to travel past the area.

Keep your camera focused on the water; you might finish your day trip with an out-of-this-world shot. If not much is happening in the ocean, you could shift your focus south to capture incredible photos of the Lands End cliffs.

Photographer: David Klein

5. Mile Rock Beach

Follow a maze of trails to a hidden beach. Mile Rock Beach sits just off Lands End Coastal Trail, but with so many interconnecting paths, the trail doesn’t make it easy. When you see a new path dip down the cliffs toward the shore, you’ve stumbled upon one of the quietest and most serene places to stare out across the ocean.

Mile Rock Beach is especially popular among photographers, and it’s easy to see why. It's the perfect place to capture the raw power of nature as you sit on the rocky shore.

If you look farther, you’ll see Mile Rock Lighthouse and a joyful procession of sailboats bobbing in the distance. If you want a more unique photography spot, it’s a short walk from the beach to the Sutro Baths ruins.

Photographer: David McElwee


Trade the city streets and restaurants for a seaside adventure. These sandy beaches in Pacifica help you learn the ropes before graduating to surfing in Santa Cruz or the San Francisco Peninsula.

6. Linda Mar - Pacifica State Beach

Athletic prowess isn’t made in a day. It’s important to start small and move toward your dreams one step at a time, which is why we love Linda Mar Beach—also known as Pacifica State Beach—for its relaxed atmosphere.

Gather the whole family to stretch your legs and imagination with fun adventures. This beach extends far and wide, granting plenty of space to take the dogs for a walk or build sandcastles along the shore.

For those seeking more excitement, why not rent a surfboard or kayak? Don’t worry if you’ve never tried either of those things. Lessons are available year-round.

7. Rockaway Beach

Stroll along Rockaway Beach as you search for unusual shells and sea glass. As the sun glints off the wet sand, these fun treasures shine like clues to a treasure hunt. Meanwhile, the area has a backdrop of beautiful houses and hotels.

As picturesque as Rockaway Beach is, it’s also wedged between two popular lookout points with breathtaking photogenic appeal. Aramai Point, a scenic cliffside that overlooks both Rockaway Beach and Linda Mar, sits to the south. To the north, a 110-ac. park ends at Mori Point, offering panoramic ocean views.

Don’t feel like walking far? Cast out your rod and relax on the shore while waiting for surfperches to take the bait.

8. Sharp Park Beach

Escape the crowds at Sharp Park Beach. While this beach may be quieter than other locations, it’s certainly no less beautiful. In fact, it’s one of the few black sand beaches in California, making it something of a rare sight.

The unique coloration of black sand beaches usually comes from volcanic activity, so it’s a bit of a mystery why Sharp Park Beach has these iron-rich sands. Those ancient eruptions may give you something to think about as you lounge across the pristine sands, drifting to sleep.

When you feel thoroughly rested, walk north for a few minutes to find Pacifica Pier—one of the best free fishing spots. Salmon and striped bass are common during summer, so there’s a high chance you’ll leave with dinner covered.

Half Moon Bay

Dramatic bluffs and a bustling harbor make Half Moon Bay a thrilling location for beach adventures. With most of the best beaches within walking distance of each other, you don’t need to settle for just one.

9. Half Moon Bay State Beach

Enjoy an unforgettable day exploring four of the Bay Area’s best beaches. Half Moon Bay State Beach isn’t just one location. It’s the collective name for the coastal land that includes Venice, Dunes, Roosevelt, and Francis beaches.

Each spot has its own character and charm. Venice Beach is typically the busiest, but there’s a reason for its popularity. It's suitable for swimmers of all skill levels, making it ideal for young kids.

Because it’s quieter and more secluded, Dunes Beach feels like your own private coastal oasis when few people are around. Roosevelt is a surfing hot spot, and Francis Beach is a favorite among campers.

You’ll have incredible views of the Half Moon Bay coastline’s rolling hills wherever you are.

10. Poplar Beach

Tall cliffs wrap around much of Poplar Beach, serving as the perfect backdrop for a few selfies or a picnic on the sand. Chow down on sandwiches as the views soothe your soul. When you’re done, wear your hiking boots because you’re in for a treat.

Poplar Beach is next to the Coastal Trail—one of the best hikes in the Bay Area. Meandering along its length, you can exercise off your picnic lunch while getting a better view of the shoreline. Want to feel the wind through your hair while traveling? Cycling is allowed, and it's one of the best ways to see Poplar Beach in its entirety.

However, traveling by horse may satisfy the most adventurous, as Poplar Beach is one of the few that allow both horses and dogs. If a drive feels more comfortable, parking is relatively cheap here compared to other beaches.

Photographer: Mick Haupt

11. Redondo Beach

Head down to Redondo Beach late in the afternoon and settle in for an unforgettable show. With its westward orientation and vast stretches of flat sand, Redondo Beach becomes bathed in warm light when the sun sets. Those golden beams dance over the landscape almost as skillfully as our performers!

Wonderful sunset vistas aren’t the only reason to visit Redondo Beach. Suit up in your snorkeling or diving gear and prepare for undersea exploration. Artificial reefs off the shore attract diverse marine life that impresses any ocean explorer.

Prefer to stay a little closer to land? Walk along the tide pools, and you might spot tiny fish darting between brightly colored seaweed.

12. Miramar Beach

Steeped in old-world charm, Miramar Beach is lined with vintage restaurants and hotels that date back to the early 1900s. It’s also one of the places where rum runners came ashore before hiding their illicit cargo in Miramar Beach Restaurant, which was once a speakeasy.

Come nightfall, the rum runners’ clandestine missions saw countless bottles of Canadian Whiskey carried under the cover of darkness. While you probably won’t spot smuggling operations these days, Miramar Beach’s relaxing atmosphere makes it a peaceful place for evening walks.

When you’ve had your fill of the ocean air, Pillar Point Harbor is only one mi. north. You’ll find seafood fresh from the ocean and local craft beers there, bringing your night to a showstopping finish.


Coastal trails weave through the blufftops, leading you to the shoreline of Montara. Referred to as the Hard Luck Coast by John Steinbeck, its rocky beaches have seen many shipwrecks.

13. Montara State Beach

A little north of Half Moon Bay, Montara State Beach saw its share of prohibition smuggling during the 1920s. However, many boats that attempted to carry liquor to the shore found their way to the ocean floor instead.

Despite the dangers it poses for seafarers, few coastal areas are quite as pretty as Montara State Beach. Shifting light patterns through the clouds brings constant transformations to the way the landscape looks.

The weather can change rapidly here, but even a foggy afternoon evokes a sensation of haunting beauty. It’s the perfect match for the coastline’s perilous reputation.


Whether Stinson Beach or Muir Beach, coastal spots to the Bay Area’s north captivate you with their wild nature. However, we find the hidden gems in Sausalito most memorable.

14. Black Sands Beach

Follow the trail from Headlands Lookout toward the coast to wind up at a staircase that takes you down steep cliffs to a secluded beach. Nestled within a gap in the Marin Headlands, Black Sands Beach is easy to miss during high tide. Much of this small beach can disappear in a flash.

When the tide is low, volcanic sands and loose pebbles spread out into the distance, creating a striking contrast against the sky. If it wasn’t for those blue skies, you could almost imagine you’ve landed on Mars. The otherworldly grey- and red-tinged landscape looks strikingly similar to images from the Curiosity rover.

15. Kirby Cove Beach

Picture yourself out camping, emerging from your tent just before sunrise to be greeted by the warm glow of lights along the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s exactly what you experience at Kirby Cove Beach because you're just minutes from the bridge.

On the bluffs above the cove, old military batteries watch over the shore while hiking trails guide you around the parklands. For the most spectacular coast and Golden Gate Bridge views, check out the observation deck north of Kirby Cove.

As night falls, head back to the beach to find the Kirby Cove swing that hangs from a tall tree.

Photographer: Jaredd Craig

Discover Serenity and Adventure at Bay Area Beaches

Salt-kissed air rolls into shore, bounding over beaches throughout the Bay Area. It’s this natural serenity that makes these beaches so unforgettable. That tranquility pairs perfectly with the excitement you’ll feel when our performers lunge, spin, and dance their way into your heart.

A trip to the beach may offer relaxation, but our choreography is all about heart-pounding thrills. Check out our shows in the Bay Area to see for yourself.

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