As we were prepping for our move from Southern California last month up to the Bay Area, I started to give up the idea that we were going to have any more classic California summers, with those long, idyllic summer days where you stake out your claim on the sand early in the morning for a full day of surfing, swimming, building sand castles, and just enjoying the sunshine and beautiful views. But, Pacifica Beach has given me a glimmer of hope that beach days with swimsuits can be a real thing up here in Northern California too.
On most days, you’ll find beachgoers around the Bay Area clad in jackets to combat the cold and wind. Thankfully, it seems like there are some happy stretches where the sand is warm, the sun greets your face, and it makes getting in to the cold water not so bad. One of the best beaches in the Bay Area is Pacifica State Beach (also called Linda Mar Beach). This mile-long crescent bay is ringed with sand, and the waves have a soft and gentle break, making it a popular spot for beginner surfers and perfect for little kids to splash around.
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How to get to Pacifica Beach
Pacifica State Beach is about 17 miles or 30 minutes south from the middle of San Francisco without traffic (but there will probably be traffic). Located in the town of Linda Mar, it’s pretty easy to get to from anywhere on the northern part of the peninsula in the Bay Area.
Parking at Pacifica State Beach
There are a few parking options for Pacifica State Beach. The main parking lot is a small paid parking lot right by the sand which is incredibly convenient, but also expensive. The lot gets full on warm weekends and weeknights with decent surf. Parking costs $7 for 4 hours and $9 for all day between the hours of 8 am and 8 pm. There are a few free spots that are limited to 30 minutes. Use the small kiosks on the sidewalk to pay for parking, and make sure you place your receipt on the dash. They do check these parking lots often and we’ve seen plenty of windshields with a ticket.
Unfortunately, even though this is a state beach, it is not covered by California’s State Park Pass. To check out a map to see which state parks are covered by the park pass and which ones aren’t, check out this map here. You can purchase a separate parking pass just for Pacifica State Beach, which costs $72.
If the main lot is full, or you’re looking for a cheaper parking option, the NorCal surf shop in the Pedro Point Shopping Center charges $5 to use its private lot. You can also purchase something from one of the businesses and get free parking for 2 hours. People used to park here for free, but it sounds like it became an issue when customers couldn’t find a parking spot because it was full of beachgoers.
This beach has bathrooms and outdoor showers to rinse the sand off. There’s even a Taco Bell Cantina right on the sand if you get hungry! If you do plan to picnic on the beach, note that fires and BBQ grills, alcohol and glass containers are not allowed.
Best Surf Gear for Pacifica
If you are heading to Pacifica to surf, bring your longboard or foamie. You can pick up a Wavestorm 8 foot surfboard from Costco for pretty cheap (they’re usually $99 in store, or $180 online), and you’ll see a lot of them out at Pacifica. If you want to invest a little more in your board, CatchSurf and Almond, both SoCal surf shops, make awesome foamies.
➳ Read more: 10 Awesome Beach Products You Need This Summer
Pacifica Surf Cam
For the live Pacifica Surf report, head on over to Surfline. The Pacifica Surf Cam is part of Surfline’s paid premium content, but you can still read the daily surf report for free.
Where to stay in Pacifica
If you want to extend your beach day into a little vacation, check out these hotels near Pacifica Beach:
Pacifica Beach Hotel – The Pacifica Beach Hotel is located directly across from the beach on the other side of the Pacific Coast Highway. The rooms are fairly basic, but you can’t beat the location if you’re there for the beach. Check rates and availability for Pacifica Beach Hotel here.
Lighthouse Hotel – This hotel is about 1 mile up the road, near Rockaway Beach. The rooms are a bit larger and more upgraded. Since the hotel is located on the beach side of the highway, the ocean views can be pretty amazing. Check rates and availability for Lighthouse Hotel here.
Beach View Apartment on Airbnb – Airbnb has a few great options that are still walking distance to Pacifica Beach. This studio apartment also includes two Wavestorm surfboards, so you won’t have to worry about renting a board if you plan to surf. Check rates and availability for this Airbnb here. If you’re new to Airbnb, use our referral link here for 15% off your first home booking, up to $400 off! You can also use it for $15 toward an Airbnb experience of $50 or more.