Your Destination Guide to San Francisco

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Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach

© David Baron

Shiver-me-timbers temperatures, impenetrable fog, freezing water, and waves that will knock you off your feet – Ocean Beach certainly has a reputation. For most of the year, it doesn't look or feel like a typical seaside attraction. Instead of throwing on a bikini, you opt for a fleece hooded sweatshirt instead. However, the beach's enormity makes up for its nearly year-long inconvenient conditions. Five miles of sand, running along the city's entire west coast, provides ample space to construct majestic sand castles and write a message using a piece of driftwood or your own toe. Between Lincoln Way and Fulton Street are ten to 20 bonfire pits, some in the shape of sea creatures. Hosting parties around burning blocks of wood is a popular activity among teenagers and families, so you must show up a few hours before the sun sets, in order to successfully grab a pit. If you start a fire in the sand, watch out for the beach patrol, who will definitely cut your shindig short.

From the 1880s to 1972, Ocean Beach enticed people to take a day off at nearby Playland at the Beach, which boasted numerous amusement park rides and concessions. One of the most popular attractions was the Fun House, in which you could climb three stories to barrel down a 200-foot indoor slide. Also located near Ocean Beach is the Cliff House restaurant, which has offered one of the best sunset views since 1863. Next door, marvel at what remains of the Sutro Baths, the world's largest indoor swimming pools, built in 1896.

In a sense, Ocean Beach represents San Francisco: it's expansive, covered in fog, and open to everyone. With minor exceptions like the prohibition of alcohol, you can choose to do almost anything you want here. Go for a run, surf (carefully), or poke at dead jellyfish that wash up on the sand. Just don't expect a tan.

Attraction Information

  • Hours:
  • The Lincoln Way parking lot closes at 10pm
  • Admission:
  • Bonfire parties over 25 guests require a permit of $50
  • Metro Stop:
  • Muni train N: exit at Judah and La Playa
  • Muni buses 5, 18, 31, 38
  • Contact:
  • Location: Along the Great Highway to Sloat Boulevard, San Francisco, CA
  • Phone: 415-561-7690
  • Website:
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  • 72°
  • A Few Clouds
A Few Clouds