California is well-known for its beaches, but San Francisco's weather makes swimming in the surf rather chilly. Regardless of the water temperature and weather, a walk along the beautiful coastline is always a rewarding activity.
One of the most interesting beaches in the area is Baker Beach, a former fort. This beach provides a picturesque view of the Golden Gate Bridge and lovely nature trails filled with cedars and wild flowers. What makes this spot wholly different than the other beaches in the area is the hidden fort located on the shore, complete with a 97,000-firing "disappearing" cannon.
Beware of the far north part of the beach; this area is deemed a clothing optional area.
Gibson Road at Bowley Street
San Francisco, CA 94129
Land's End Trail
If you are looking for a hiking or walking experience that is much more challenging than Baker Beach, consider heading to the Land's End Trail. This breathtaking nature park offers wild cedar forests, wild flowers, rocky beaches, windswept cliffs and another nature-filled photo opportunity for the Golden Gate Bridge.
Be sure to take the stairway down to the beach below. Enjoy tide pools loaded with mussels, sea stars and sea anemones. Walk a little further south down the rocky beach, and you'll see just what happens when a concrete bathroom falls from the unstable cliffs above. Lest you think it's a complete waste, the dilapidated structure is now a striking canvas for many talented graffiti muralists.
Land's End Trail:
East end of Point Lobos Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94121
Few tourist attractions in the Bay Area are nearly as rewarding as the prison island of Alcatraz. Not only does this island have a riveting history, it also offers fantastic natural beauty and a striking view of the city. Don't miss out on the self-guided audio tour; it's both educational and entertaining.
Pier 33, Hornblower Alcatraz Landing
San Francisco, CA 94111
Rent a bike
San Francisco is a very progressive city. It's very bike friendly. Visiting cyclists are doing themselves an injustice when they fail to rent a bike and enjoy all the cycling this area has to offer.
One of the best bike routes is the one crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and continuing up to Sausalito. Just how far you continue on the path is up to you, but don't miss the opportunity to ride across the bridge. Experience a fantastic view of downtown San Francisco while feeling the gentle sway of this massive suspension bridge. This route is not exclusively for cyclists; exercise caution to avoid the meandering pedestrians.
756 Stanyan St.
San Francisco 94117
2715 Hyde St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
Coit Tower & Telegraph Stairs
Telegraph Hill--the hill Coit Tower sits upon--provides one of the best views of downtown San Francisco and the Fisherman's Wharf. Once you ride the elevator to the top of the tower, the view is even more striking. Don't forget to take in the three beautiful murals inside the building as well.
Once you've finished looking around the tower, take a walk down the 800 stairs of Telegraph Hill. Here you can enjoy beautiful flowers, picturesque views and lovely architecture. Keep an eye out for the wild parrots that inhabit the area; their tropical coloration provides a vivid contrast to the natural wildlife in the city.
1 Telegraph Hill Blvd.
San Francisco, California 94133
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is a perfect place for a walk or jog within the city limits. Feel free to let yourself wander. You may run into buffalo, a 100-year-old carousel or a tulip field surrounding a windmill.
Don't be afraid to spend a bit of cash to enter some of the park's lovely gardens. The Japanese Tea Garden is a popular attraction within the park, and the Conservatory of Flowers offers around 1,700 species of plants.
While you're in the park, swing by the California Academy of Sciences. Enjoy the massive, ecologically-friendly museum's aquarium, planetarium and indoor rain forest. Locals and tourist alike can't get enough of the city's new super-museum.
Japanese Tea Garden:
7 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr,
San Francisco, CA 94118
Conservatory of Flowers:
501 Stanyan St
San Francisco, CA 94118