Six Little Known Stunning Beaches Near San Francisco

by Jeffrey Lu

Posted on 21st June, 2015

San Francisco Beaches
Image Credit - David Yu

The moment you ask someone for suggestions on beaches near San Francisco, they would suggest beaches that are either in the Santa Cruz or Big Sur area. This is to be expected, and for a good reason! Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places I know, and Santa Cruz is often thought of as the go-to beach town in the Bay Area. Here are some beaches closer to home (all within 2 hours of San Francisco) that are often (undeservedly) neglected...

Gray Whale Cove State Beach

Beautiful beach, just a quick drive south of SF? Yes, please!

Usually not too crowded, but can get packed on the summer weekends (as a rule of thumb, the same goes for any beach in the area). Great natural scenery, but be warned: clothing-optional!

Grey Whale Cove State Beach
Image Credit - Patrick Smith

Grey Whale Cove State Beach
Image Credit - Charles

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

Did someone say tidepools?

Perks of living close to the ocean: easy access to marine life! Tidepools are fascinating for all ages: expect to see small fish, hermit crabs, snails, sea stars, lots of anenomes and even some sea urchins here at FMR. If you're lucky, you'll see octopi too. (There are seals hanging about as well). This place can get pretty crowded on weekends with hordes of children, but it's manageable. And please refrain from prying Patrick star off his rock. He doesn't like that.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Tidepool
Image Credit - Dawn Endico

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
Image Credit - Don DeBold

San Gregorio/Pompino/Pescadero State Beaches

Farther, but quieter. The beach trio south of Half Moon Bay.

These three beaches are situated farther south of SF, and are generally quieter (but remember: weekends = mass migration of people to beaches). Also worth checking out Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Butano State Park while you're in the area. (San Gregorio shown below)

San Gregorio State Beach
Image Credit - Nosha

San Gregorio State Beach
Image Credit - Jason Jenkins

Ano Nuevo

Have you seen an elephant seal before? Spot an otter too.

Ano Nuevo State Park is known for its elephant seals. They hustle in and out of the park depending on the time of year, so check with the park (or Wikipedia for general info) for best viewing times. Male elephant seals should be in the vicinity at this time of year (summer). They're loud, snorty, and fun to watch.

Ano Neuvo Beach
Image Credit - Jennifer Yin

Ano Neuvo Beach
Image Credit - Calafellvalo

Rodeo Beach

To the Marin Headlands we go!

Just across the Golden Gate, you have this beauty! The rocks sticking out of the ocean are super photogenic, making this beach fairly popular among shutterbugs.

Rodeo Beach
Image Credit - David Horowitz

Rodeo Beach
Image Credit - Christian Arballo

Marshall Beach

San Francisco's best kept secret?

I can't say that I saved the best for last, as all of these beaches are fantastic, but Marshall Beach is hands down one of my favorite spots to relax and soak in the beautiful scenery. Goregous view of the Golden Gate Bridge! People always direct you to Baker Beach if you want a beach with a view of the GG Bridge, but unless you can't resist the spectacle of scores of naked men tanning away accompanied by what looks like it could be the GGB far off in the distance, Baker Beach is way overrated. Marshall Beach is literally right next to the GG Bridge, and it's almost always a quiet place to meditate by the ocean (I believe Marshall is also de-facto nude, but it's usually so quiet it's not something I notice).
Things to note:

  1. Go during lower tide, because the beach portion is quite small.
  2. This beach requires descending lots of stairs from the pedestrian trail off Lincoln Blvd.
  3. It's totally worth it.
I'm surprised this beach isn't more popular -- perhaps we just want to keep this place to ourselves? If you haven't been, you're missing out. Did I mention the amazing view of the GG Bridge??

Marshall Beach
Image Credit - David Yu

Marshall Beach
Image Credit - Curtis Simmons

California is a beautiful state, and its beaches are just one small part of what California nature has to offer. If you haven't already trekked down to Santa Cruz or Big Sur, make plans to go! And if you've already crossed that off your list, spend some time venturing around these local beaches. I've spent nearly my entire life here (minus those trips abroad), and I still can't stop exploring. Happy beachgoing.

Do you have any such lesser known beaches to share? Let us know in the comments section below. Liked what you read? Share it with your friends!

Leave a Comment:

Blog Search

About the Author: Jeffrey Lu

You can follow Jeffrey Lu here


San Francisco, California, Beaches, San Gregorio, Ano Neuvo, Gray Whale Cove State Beach, Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, Rodeo Beach, Marshall Beach