When you think of California beaches, the Bay Area isn’t the first place to come to mind. Between Malibu, La Jolla, and Venice Beach, San Francisco often gets lost in the shuffle. But that doesn’t mean your upcoming trip to the 415 should leave a beach day off the itinerary. San Francisco’s are some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, even if cold water makes swimming a rarity. The easiest way to get your group to the best San Francisco beaches? Indisputably with a SF charter bus rental.
San Francisco’s uncontested champion beach? Baker Beach takes the cake every single time. As SF’s most popular beach, don’t expect to get away from the crowds here. But do take advantage of some of the city’s most glorious people-watching — that is, if you have the stomach for it. The north part of the beach is clothing optional, so the queasier among you should head to the south. There you’ll find more PG eye-candy: red-tailed hawks, harbor seals, and native wildflowers are often visible at Baker. Plus, the beach’s views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands are vintage San Francisco must-see sights.
It gets its name from the long-ago Chinese fisherman that camped here. Today, the sand stretches between Lands End and Baker Beach is all about picnics, sunbathing, and chic Instagram snaps. More under-the-radar than many of its counterparts, and therefore less crowded, China Beach is more of a local hot spot than others. Gather a group of 10 or more, assign each group member a menu item potluck style, then arrive early via minibus to claim one of the grills set up on the sand and have a picnic. Thanks to steep cliffs that flank the beach, this area is less windy than just about any other Bay Area beach.
Clipper Cove Beach
Between two of Northern California’s biggest cities, halfway along the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, sits Yerba Buena Island, just a short bus ride from downtown San Francisco. (Fun fact: Yerba Buena was the original name of the settlement that would become San Francisco.) There are several beaches lining this small island’s edges, but we suggest Clipper Cove. Its calm nature is rare for the Bay Area, and it sports a nice view of the Bay Bridge with San Francisco on one side and Oakland on the other. Gather ‘round for a group picnic, or better yet, grab a kayak and circle the island.
East Beach at Crissy Field
The scenic Crissy Field sits at the north end of the Presidio, just east of the Golden Gate Bridge. At one end of the park, East Beach provides some of the most stunning views San Francisco has to offer. In one San Francisco Bay gaze, from west to east, take in the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands, Angel Island, and Alcatraz. To get a closer look at SF’s most famous landmark, follow the Golden Gate Promenade — jog, walk, or bike — all the way to the bridge. The beach itself is wide and one of SF’s few that is safe for swimming. While taking in the views, nature enthusiasts can do some bird-watching, and active types can kiteboard or windsurf in the bay. Sunbathing is always a good option too!
If your squad includes a furry friend or two (and why wouldn’t it?!) then Fort Funston is pawsitively your best bet. It’s likely the city’s most dog-friendly beach; going off-leash is encouraged here. You could say Fort Funston is a dog park that just happens to look like a beach. At beach-level, a concrete structure is covered in graffiti, and it’s worth taking a few moments to admire some of the art. Dogs aren’t the only four-legged ones you might spot at Fort Funston; horses are welcome, too. Also keep in mind that adrenaline junkies take off from the hang-gliding launch and soar over the beach, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Fancy a little seclusion for you and your friends? Head to Marshall’s Beach on the rugged shoreline of the Presidio of San Francisco. As the closest beach to the Golden Gate Bridge, you’re assured of postcard-pretty photo ops. And you’ll have to cross the Golden Gate Overlook and hike down to reach it. Due to its remoteness, Marshall’s is another one of San Fran’s many nudist-friendly beaches, so it’s not ideal for your family trip. But for a group of friends looking for stunning views that are undeniably SF, and not fazed by a little bit of skin, Marshall’s is the place to be. Load up the coach bus — this might get rowdy!
Who says surfing’s just for Southern California? NorCal has its breaks too, and in the City by the Bay, Ocean Beach is where the surfers flourish. Stretching across three miles of Pacific Ocean adjacent to Golden Gate Park, Ocean Beach is not for the faint of heart. Due to its size and location, it has massive rip currents suitable only for experienced surfers. Don’t pull on your wetsuit unless you’re confident in your abilities. For everyone else, the beach is popular even for those looking to stay dry. At sundown, head to Ocean Beach with firewood in tow, warm clothing, and some of your best buds toward San Fran’s only beach that has fire pits. Get there early enough to snag one of 16 fire rings, and spark up a beach bonfire for a memorable night.
Getting Around San Francisco
San Fran is one of the best bus cities in America — it’s one of those places where you could stare out the window all day long and never get bored. There’s just so much to see. Plus, its hilly nature and unexpected frigid temps make it less than a breeze to navigate on foot. To visit any one of SF’s beaches, which line its Pacific Coast and the San Francisco Bay, your best bet is chartering a bus with a professional driver. Consider a large vehicle like a school bus for bigger groups, or a mini coach bus for smaller groups with maximum comfort. No hassle, all fun: San Francisco, here we come!