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The Best Beach Towns Near San Francisco To Live In

The Best Beach Towns Near San Francisco To Live In

The beach towns near San Francisco are no less enticing than SoCal's and are equally deserving of our love and attention.


5 min read

April 01, 2024

Southern California’s sandy beachside metropolises tend to steal the spotlight far too often. However, the beach towns near San Francisco are no less enticing and are equally deserving of our love and attention. From ruggedly beautiful coastal enclaves to unique shoreside cities brimming with small-town charm, the best beach towns in Northern California are dreamy destinations you can never get enough of. Wondering which one you should relocate to or visit next? Here is the creme de la creme of coastal towns near San Francisco.

Monterey is more than a beach destination with a wharf and whale watching tours. It’s also a network of towns and villages with quirky features.

 The Best Beach Towns Near San Francisco


Median home price: $1,017,450
Drive from San Francisco: 1 hour and 56 minutes

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Beautiful coastlines, sweeping panoramas, rich history, and amazing attractions—Monterey is a beach town near San Francisco that you can’t help but fall in love with. Not only is Monterey an awesome destination to head out to on a weekend getaway from the Bay, but the former capital of Alta California has also introduced plenty of firsts to the Golden State’s history. The first public school, public library, printing press, theater, and newspaper all hail from 19th-century MontereyWon’t take our word for it? Drive there yourself and get to know its artistic community, beautiful forests, and coastal trails; we promise not to say “I told you so” the first chance we get.

Bodega Bay, a popular destination for everybody, is tucked away along Sonoma County's 55-mile Pacific Coastline, in an especially picturesque area.

Bodega Bay 

Median home price: $1,281,270
Drive from San Francisco: 1 hour and 19 minutes

Bodega Bay encapsulates the distinct spirit of Northern California beach towns in every way. Trading in the hectic cities, arid deserts, and pastoral scenery found in the southern parts of the state, this coastal town near San Francisco favors the winding Pacific Coast Highway, salty waves, and a slower pace of life. 

When in picturesque Bodega Bay, you’ll enjoy fresh seafood and shellfish on your daily menu, giant surf-worthy swells rolling under your feet, and an air of serenity that cannot be rivaled. What more could anyone look for in a cute beach town in California?

Sausalito might easily pass for a fishing community on the Mediterranean on a beautiful day.


Median home price: $1,615,220
Drive from San Francisco: 21 minutes

Sausalito is another quirky beach town near San Francisco that’ll make you swoon. Only about a short 30-minute ferry ride away from San Francisco, this otherworldly coastal town offers you sights of beautiful, brightly colored mansions, unreal views of the bay and beyond, one-of-a-kind floating homes, and opportunities for outdoor recreation and adventures abound. With Muir Woods National Monument, Sonoma, and Point Reyes all less than an hour's drive away from you, this cute beach town in California is one you can’t miss.

Santa Cruz is known for its moderate climate, the natural beauty of its coastline, redwood forests, and alternative community lifestyles.

Santa Cruz

Median home price: $1,246,350
Drive from San Francisco: 1 hour and 13 minutes

Santa Cruz is a quintessential NorCal beach town that is all about surf, sand, and sun. Nestled between Big Sur and San Francisco, this awesome beach town boasts a couple of the greatest colleges in California, touristy amenities, and a West Coast surf culture, all of which combined creates a vibe of its own. Whether you’re moving to this coastal town near San Francisco as a student or not, you’ll blend right in with the diverse scene. With no fewer than 34 amazing beaches, a charming downtown, and every amenity imaginable, we can’t see anyone visiting and not falling in love with this beach town near San Francisco. 

Half Moon Bay is a little beach village with a welcoming atmosphere, hidden away among gently sloping forested hills.

Half Moon Bay

Median home price: $1,508,470
Drive from San Francisco: 36 minutes

Half Moon Bay is one of the best places to live in Northern California for many reasons. Less than 40 minutes south of San Francisco, this quaint oceanside community is as picturesque as beach towns get. Visit and check out the stunning beaches perfect for tide pooling and big wave surfing, enjoy the breathtaking coastal sunset views, stroll around the quaint downtown, and do as much sightseeing, hiking, and golfing as your legs can take. This romantic beach town near San Francisco is a dreamy locale that’ll make you believe in love at first sight—with NorCal’s stunning towns that is. 

Pacifica is the ideal destination whether you're wanting to take in some local art, a delicious dinner, or a beautiful view.


Median home price: $1,313,630
Drive from San Francisco: 17 minutes

Unplug and unwind at an infinitely underrated beach town near San Francisco: Pacifica. Residing at the intersection of small-town life and bustling urban amenities, this San Mateo town boasts a long coastline, numerous surfing competitions, a weekly farmers market, plenty of picturesque hiking trails, and easy access to the San Francisco Airport, which is just 5 miles down the road. What’s more? This cute beach town in California is closer than you think. In fact, the drive from San Francisco to Pacifica takes less than 20 minutes total; it would be a crime not to check it out at least once.

Carmel-by-the-Sea's one-square-mile community is charming and unique: no high heels rule, no street addresses, etc.


Median home price: $1,986,410
Drive from San Francisco: 2 hours

A bit further down south, along the scenic Central Coast, Carmel-by-the-Sea is an amalgamation of beautiful sunsets, beach picnics, scenic hikes, and luxurious mansions. While the coasts at this beach town near San Francisco are absolutely to die for, the in-land activities are no less amazing. You can shop 'til you drop, meander through amazing art galleries, explore Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, and dine at world-class restaurants serving everything from ultra-fresh seafood to authentic Italian. We can’t think of one reason as to why anyone would dislike this cute beach town in California, and we’re sure you’ll agree when you visit and see for yourself.

With more than 90 wineries, Mendocino County grows more varieties of grapes than anywhere else in the United States.


Median home price: $488,230
Drive from San Francisco: 3 hours

If you were giving up on the idea of an affordable beach town in Northern California, don’t click off just yet. We couldn’t round up this list without including the ruggedly beautiful Mendocino on our list. A true artists’ community in essence, this cute beach town in California is dotted with charming cottages, pristine coasts, wildflower fields, lush coastal forests, and a picture-perfect lighthouse tying the scene together. 

When visiting Mendocino, it’s easy to disconnect from the hectic nature of city life and embrace the artistic touches in every corner. From the beaches and jagged cliffs to the quaint downtown and Victorian architecture, this beach town near San Francisco is a must-visit for anyone who hasn’t been yet.

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