Ocean Beach picture
canbalci/Getty Images

Key Info

Price & Hours

Free
24/7 daily

Details

Beaches, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, Free Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
3.8

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 3.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

Located in the northwestern corner of San Francisco, Ocean Beach separates attractions like the San Francisco Zoo and Golden Gate Park from the Pacific Ocean. This 3 ½-mile stretch of sand is a welcome respite from the city's bustling downtown. Visitors and locals can walk the beach, while experienced surfers brave the frigid water in search of the perfect wave. While swimming is not encouraged here due to strong currents, travelers can build a bonfire and hang out and soak up the scenery by one of the 16 fire rings that pepper the beach. Average temperatures at the beach typically hover around 50 degrees. Also, keep in mind that fog shrouds the shore during the late spring and summer, while the sunniest months are September and October.

Past visitors praise the views from the beach, as well as its soft sand. They also echo the National Park Service's sentiment that the water is best left to expert surfers, as riptides make casual swimming exceptionally dangerous. While parking at the beach is free (located along the Great Highway side), some travelers warned that it can be a challenge to get a spot on days when the weather is particularly nice.

To avoid the issue of parking, visitors can opt for public transit like the N line on the Muni Metro or the No. 5R and 18 bus routes, which also stop nearby. The beach is open around the clock daily, though the best times to visit are between sunrise and sunset. For more information on Ocean Beach, check out the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy website.

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California Academy of Sciences1 of 26
Golden Gate Bridge2 of 26
Type
Time to Spend
#1 California Academy of Sciences

Attention all traveling families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and even a rainforest. 

The Steinhart Aquarium is home to about 40,000 animals representing more than 900 different species, including a penguin colony from Africa, a swamp with an albino alligator, a shark lagoon and a separate 100,000-gallon tank that mirrors the ecosystem of the California coast. Meanwhile, the Osher Rainforest houses 1,600 animals, including 250 free-flying birds and about 100 reptiles and amphibians in its four-story complex. The Morrison Planetarium is known for its 75-foot-diameter screen, which screens "Tour of the Universe" shows daily. And the Kimball Natural History Museum boasts dinosaur fossils, an interactive science exhibit and a unique earthquake simulator. 

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