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When planning a trip to a beach near San Francisco, the first thing you need to know is that it will most likely be foggy and cold. Occasionally the beaches are warm enough to be in a bathing suit, but this only happens a few times a year. Also note that the average temperature of the Pacific Ocean near San Francisco is in the mid-50s, so it's never really hot enough to swim. Still with a sweater, blanket, and picnic, the beaches can be quite enjoyable.
For a view of the Golden Gate Bridge head to Crissy Field or Baker Beach. To watch the sunset over the Pacific, Ocean Beach is your best bet. Natives to the Bay Area love to head to the cost and spend a day at one of the beaches in Marin. Stinson Beach has a small seaside town feel and family-friendly beach access. Tomales Bay is home to the Hog Island Oyster Farm, which is a great place to spend an afternoon eating fresh local oysters with a beautiful view as a backdrop.
San Francisco's not exactly a place you bring your bikini (remember that famous "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" quote?). But that shouldn't stop you from visiting the city's beaches---great places for walks, picnics, kite flying, and on very rare occasions---sunbathing.
Ocean Beach is a 3.5 mile stretch sand with wide open spaces and no highrises on the westernmost flank of San Francisco. Great for running, walking, and flying kites since there's always wind. No surprise, the water is frigid and the currents extremely strong so swim at your own risk.
While it's also known as the “nude beach," Baker Beach is perfectly suitable for the clothed of all ages too. It is located on the southwestern side of the Golden Gate Bridge, adjacent to the Presidio (hike down from here in good shoes), and offers stellar views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Baker Beach is also the most crowded of the city's beaches, and there's always something going on---volleyball, surfing, sandcastle building, and of course photograph taking in front of San Francisco's famous landmark.
If you're up for a drive, cross the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County and head out to another popular landing pad--- Stinson Beach. It's part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and is reached by a peaceful westard drive through Muir Woods. The quaint seaside town has a few cafés and restaurants, and access to state park hiking, picnic facilites, and swimming makes this a great day trip for families and active travelers.
East Beach is the sandy shoreline along Crissy Field in the Marina neighborhood of San Francisco, and is a popular spot for families and dogs (unleashed so watch your step). The views are amazing---Golden Gate, Alcatraz, Marin--- and on warm days families set up early and camp out all day. A paved path runs along the beach and there is access to restrooms, BBQs, and a large parking lot.
More of an urban beach on the bay (not the ocean), Aquatic Park sits next to Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square and makes a nice respite from crowds. There’s a stretch of sand and a protected swimming area where die-hards are often seen doing laps in the frigid water. Make sure to visit the Hyde Street Pier and the Maritime Museum.