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San Francisco Beaches

When you are planning a vacation to Maui or Rio de Janeiro you may put beaches on the top of you list of things to see. However, when planning a trip to San Francisco, you may have heard of North Beach, but North Beach doesn't have any beaches (though the neighborhood was named after a beach that used to be on its north shoreline). If fact, San Francisco has several beaches that provide diversions for residents and visitors alike.

Make no mistake about it, San Francisco is not Los Angeles. Unless it's an exceptional day, San Francisco beaches tend to be a little chilly, windy and foggy. However, this should not deter you from enjoying a nice afternoon at the beach. Many San Francisco beaches have beautiful panoramic views of the Marin Headlands, Point Bonita Lighthouse and the Golden Gate Bridge. Just be prepared with a sweatshirt or jacket in addition to your shorts or swim suit. Because of the latitude of San Francisco, the waters may be too cold for swimming (unless you brought your wet suit). Bring your beach towels, a sand bucket, a good book, a kite and a Frisbee to make the best of your afternoon at the beach.

San Francisco's most popular beaches are Ocean Beach and Baker Beach. Although East Beach at Crissy Field in the Presidio has become quite popular since the restoration of Crissy Field.

Ocean Beach is San Francisco's largest and longest beach running 5 miles up the entire west side of San Francisco. The northern end of San Francisco Ocean Beach popular among locals, surfers and visitors. The Cliff House towers above Ocean Beach perched on the edge of a coastal bluff that borders the north end of the beach. The beach is perfect for building sand sculptures and hosts a yearly sand sculpture contest. Ocean Beach has a very slight slope, making it ideal for wading in the surf. Surfers wearing wet suits are a common sight along this section of Ocean Beach.

Baker Beach is located in the Presidio just south of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge. With its panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands, Baker Beach is a popular beach and picnic destination for San Francisco locals, especially on the weekends. Several picnic tables with barbecue pits are located to the east of the north parking lot. The beach has strong rip-tides, so swimming can be hazardous. A few fishermen may dot the shoreline. The north end of the beach is clothing optional, so families typically stay toward the middle and south ends of the beach.

Other beaches in San Francisco include Lands End Beach and China Beach, named for the Chinese fishermen who used to camp nearby. San Francisco Castro Beach is not really a beach at all. It's a park that has garnered the "beach" nickname because of all the Castro sun bathers that blanket its lawns.

Adding a beach to your San Francisco agenda may be a great way to slow down the frenetic pace of sightseeing and enjoy a more relaxed appreciation of San Francisco's natural beauties. Visit San Francisco Beaches for more information.

Jed Clark is a travel writer, photographer and long-time San Francisco resident. He maintains ZurdoGo.com, which contains travel tips and information about San Francisco destinations, attractions and neighborhoods.

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