The 15 Best Beaches In The Bay Area, Nude And Otherwise

 June 12, 2016
Posted by jenn

The weather is perfect right now to get out and enjoy some of our best local beaches. We truly are lucky to live in such a diverse wonderful place. Not get out there and enjoy.. read carefully since some of these gems are nude.

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Photo by jdegenhardt.

Alamere Falls
If you’re in the mood for a serious hike, this is the beach for you. Located in the Point Reyes National Seashore (which actually has a dozen different beaches), in spring at least, Alamere Falls drop down onto a wide and welcoming beach that is often full of relaxing hikers on a hot day. An important note about this one — although you may be tempted, do not try to shuffle down the side of the cliff to get to the beach (seriously, it’s super dangerous). Instead, if you’re intent on getting to the beach, follow the Coast Trail to the Ocean Lake Loop Trail and take that to the Wildcat Campground. From there, it’s super easy to walk (safely) to the beach and the mile or so back to the falls. The trip to the beach and back from the Palomarin Trailhead is definitely a full day’s hike, so bring plenty of water, snacks, and sunscreen. But this is one of the best hike/beach combos in the general Bay Area, so you won’t be disappointed. — Jack Morse
Point Reyes, CA

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(Photo: Adam Fagen)

Baker Beach
It’s arguably San Francisco’s prettiest beach. It’s the original home of Burning Man (ca. 1986-1990). It’s the semi-nude beach that appears to be the closest one to the Golden Gate Bridge from where you’re taking that selfie — but that honor actually goes to the narrower, gayer, dirtier stretch of sand past the rocks to the north, Marshall Beach (see below). The main Baker Beach parking lot fills up early on warm days, and because people are lazy, the northern, more naked portion of Baker, farthest from the lot, is often your best bet for finding some open pieces of sand on one of our 20 hot days a year — and it’s also accessable via the steep but manageable sand ladder up the road, near which you may find street parking. Turn right at the base of the sand ladder, and you will find clothed and non-clothed homosexuals, pansexuals, polyamorists and the like (and tolerant straight people). Turn left (south), and things gets a bit straighter, getting more family-oriented and paddle-tennis-friendly the closer you get to the parking lot. And, yes, there will sometimes be naked volleyball on the northern end, complete with flopping dongs. —Jay Barmann
Gibson Road, in the Presidio

Bean Hollow State Beach
This is the kind of beach (or maybe the actual one) you came to with your science teacher. A small, lovely, pebble-strewn beach, Bean Hollow is famed for its tafoni, pebble and rock formations sculpted by the water and wind for hundreds of years. Pebble Beach, a subset of the State beach, is about a mile north of Bean Hollow on Highway 1. —Caleb Pershan
11000 Cabrillo Hwy, Pescadero

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Photo by Jesse Wagstaff.

Bolinas Beach
Sometimes you need to get out of the city, hit a beach, sip some wine, and maybe go surfing. The beach in Bolinas, a roughly hour-and-twenty-minute drive north, hits all the necessary points. Not too crowded, easily accessible by car, surfer friendly, and beautiful — there’s a reason this spot frequently lands on best-beaches lists. If you head west along the sand, maybe climbing a few rocks and old peers in the process, there are numerous places to post up and take in the afternoon sun or watch it set. Make-out sessions and quick dips are highly encouraged. — Jack Morse

Bonny Doon
Just northwest of Santa Cruz lies Bonny Doon, a community known as the longtime home of SciFi writer Robert A. Heinlein, for its wineries and lavender farm, and for its longtime clothing-optional beach. At the base of a cliff just off Highway 1, the steep walls make for a tough hike down, but also creates a secluded area that’s been known as a great place to take your clothes off (warning: it’s unclear if that nudity is officially sanctioned, so take care and watch for the cover-up cops) since at least the 1970s. Be warned: Some present-day Yelpers complain of “pervs” who aren’t too cool to gawk at the pantsless — I’ve never seen this first-hand, but it is worth noting. — Eve Batey
Highway 1 at Bonny Doon Road about eight miles north of Santa Cruz

Black Sands Beach
Another beach near the city that’s divided into more-clothed and less-clothed sections is Black Sands in the Marin Headlands. It’s a quick drive over the Golden Gate, and you take the Alexander Avenue exit, stay to the left, turn left onto Alexander and then right onto Conzelman Road, driving all the way down it until it becomes one way, and then you’ll see a small parking lot on the left side about a half mile down, with signs for the Upper Fisherman’s Trailhead. Head down the steep-ish path, and you’ll be at the main section of the beach, which has stunning views of the bridge and the city. But head north a bit, climbing over the rock outcropping in the photo above (not advised unless you’re a decent hiker/climber) and you’ll find the traditionally more nude, and gayer section of the beach. Pro tip: This beach is often a tad warmer than Baker and Marshall on borderline warm days because it’s angled away and sheltered from the wind. — Jay Barmann
Conzelman Road, Marin County

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Photo by Mitchel Jones.

Gray Whale Cove
Just south of Pacifica, Gray Whale Cove is a state beach surrounded by cliffs — with breathtaking views pretty much anywhere you stand. While plopping a blanket down up top and taking in the scenery (as the above photo shows) is awesome, walking the long staircase down to the beach is definitely better. With huge waves and a pretty precipitous drop off, swimming is not really advised (although I will admit to jumping in and immediately running out on particularly hot days). However, the sense of being in your own little world makes the trip to the beach worth it — swim or no. This is one of those places that remind you how much you love California. — Jack Morse
Route 1, Montara

Half Moon Bay State Beach
Made up of Roosevelt Beach, Dunes Beach, Venice Beach, and Francis Beach, Half Moon Bay State Beach is four miles of wide, sandy beaches beloved by sun bathers, campers, hikers, and surfers willing to brave the area’s dangerous currents and extremely cold water. Francis Beach boasts a 52-site campground and picnic tables, and is the most popular and “sceney.” Venice is bordered by two fresh-water creeks that flow into the Pacific, so it’s popular with birds and their watchers. Dunes is known for its, duh, dunes, and the trails through Roosevelt are beloved by hikers. Just remember, you’re in NorCal, and things can turn cold fast. Even if the Mission is a million degrees, pack a sweatshirt if you’re headed to Half Moon Bay, as the weather turns on a dime. — Eve Batey
One half-mile west of Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay

Marshall Beach
San Francisco’s quintessential gay nude beach used to be far less easily accessible than it is these days, thanks to a well cut and maintained trail that was redone by Golden Gate National Recreation Area in recent years. There is limited parking in the lot near Battery Godfrey at the end of Langdon Court, off Lincoln Boulevard, and you take the trail toward the south which will lead to the winding trail down the cliffside from the overlook area. In recent months, the southern half of Marshall Beach, south of the rock outcropping, has been especially rocky due to erosion, and at high tide traversing this area can be a challenge. Also, the more nude section to the north, closest to the Golden Gate Bridge, is quite narrow and can be inundated with water at high tide, so check tide charts before you venture. But if you want to see the gay dream of the 1970’s in San Francisco alive and well, with tanned, attractive men packed in tight, drinking wine from solo cups and forgetting about civilization, just head here on a sunny Saturday — but it better be a legitimately hot one, or else this place can get very chilly when the 4 p.m. winds start. — Jay Barmann
Lincoln Blvd and Langdon Court, San Francisco

Montara State Beach
Montara Beach is small but full of treasures and tide pools, surrounded by rolling hills. Expect breezes, though. Make a vacation out of your day trip and crash at the Montara Point Lighthouse, a hostel established in 1875 as a fog signal station. —Caleb Pershan
Corner of Highway 1, Montara

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Muri Beach Overlook, Kristina D.C. Hoeppner via Flickr

Muir Beach
Take in the views from the Muir Beach overlook trail at this small cove, a more secluded spot than some other nearby beaches. No, you won’t find a burger shack or the like — just pristine sand and waves. Very pet friendly. Don’t forget to check out the delightful Pelican Inn, where you can get a pint, some bangers and mash, and if you’d like, a bed for the night. —Caleb Pershan
199 Pacific Way, Muir Beach

Pacifica State Beach
Also known as “Linda Mar” (because that’s the name of the housing development that abuts it), Pacifica State Beach is the one with that great looking Taco Bell — words I never thought I’d type until I saw it for myself (sadly, however, the food is standard TB fare). Extremely popular with surfers (as I write this early on a weekday afternoon, I count at least ten on the Linda Mar livecam), it’s also the place to begin your career on the board, with numerous surf schools conducting classes there on the regular. Dogs are allowed (just keep them leashed), and while picnicking is fine, forget the booze, glass, or BBQ grill: they’re all banned. — Eve Batey
Just off Highway 1 in downtown Pacifica

Red Rock Beach
A definitively straight nude beach sometimes nicknamed Little Stinson — known to be frequented in recent years by a guy they called Chester the Molester who would lure young women up into the rocks with him and, basically, try to molest them — Red Rock lies just south of Stinson Beach, and sometimes Stinson Beach-goers even use its parking lot. You get to it by heading toward Stinson but pulling off of Route 1 a half mile before you get there, a quarter mile past the gate for Steep Ravine Beach — or you can access it from Stinson at low tide by maneuvering around the boulders at the southern end of that beach. And this place can be quite crowded on warm sunny days — it’s probably the most popular nude beach in Marin — so get there early, and make sure it’s at low tide, because there may not be any dry beach otherwise. — Jay Barmann
Shoreline Highway, Stinson Beach

San Gregorio State Beach
Though it’s no guarantee, one possible gamble you can make on a foggy SF summer day when you know it’s hot everywhere else is to head south and hope that you emerge from the fog somewhere with sand. This has happened to me at least once or twice with San Gregorio State Beach, which is about 10 miles south of Half Moon Bay along Route 1, and therefore far enough south that you might just escape the fog bank that plagues the upper part of the Peninsula and much of Marin County from June to August. The place can be littered with driftwood — which you’re not permitted to remove — but it can also be a lovely place to picnic and chill. And, naturally, there’s a nude beach here too, just to the north, called San Gregorio Private Beach (19429 Cabrillo Hwy), which is thought to be the first nude beach in the US. It’s accessible via what looks like a private driveway off Route 1 just north of the official San Gregorio parking area (it will be gated when beach access is closed), or via the main beach itself or trails along the bluff. It’s primarily gay, but there will be straight nudists at the southern section, closer to the more family-oriented section nearer the highway. — Jay Barmann
Cabrillo Highway (Route 1), San Gregorio

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Ballou Point overlooking Stinson Beach, Daniel Hoherd via Flickr

Stinson Beach
In the perennial Stinson/Bolinas boho beach town rivalry, I come down on the Stinson side of things. For an example of that in action, see the annual 4th of July tug-of-war (here’s the event from 2014) held over the Bolinas Lagoon, a small bit of water dividing them like a moat. To get to Stinson, take a hike on Mt. Tam and descend to the beach or just drive up Highway 1, which is among my all-time favorite bits of road. While you’re in town, check out the weekend jazz brunch at the Sand Dollar, a seafood spot and bar that dates to 1921. — Caleb Pershan
GGNRA, 1 Calle Del Sierra, Stinson Beach

(Sfist)

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