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Best beach town in San Francisco area for a week's stay?

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Jul 5th, 2013, 08:37 PM
  #1
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Best beach town in San Francisco area for a week's stay?

Looking for some advice on beaches in the San Francisco bay area. Our family is taking a trip to San Francisco in the fall and we'd like to spend 1 week at the beach and one week in the city. I found a great apartment in the city, so that part is taken care of. Now I'm hoping to find a great beach community less than 25 miles away from San Francisco. We'd prefer a sandy beach to a rocky one and some place with a nice town to explore even if it's small. I don't really know where to start since I'm not at all familiar with the area outside of downtown San Franciso, there seem to be so many nice options. Someone recommended Stinson Beach. Ideally I'd love to be able to get a vacation rental where we could walk to shops, restaurants and groceries and enough diversity to go out to a different restaurant each day for a week. Our other option is to drive to Santa Cruz but I'd rather stay closer to the city for a variety of reasons.

I'd love to hear any suggestions! Thanks!
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Jul 5th, 2013, 09:40 PM
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Take a look at Half Moon Bay. Not sure about a sandy beach though.
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Jul 5th, 2013, 10:57 PM
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You do realize that the Pacific Ocean in NorCal is pretty cold, as in wet suit.

The closest, really, is Santa Cruz, and it's still wet suits for most of the surfers.

Don't expect warm weather at the beach, even in the fall.
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Jul 5th, 2013, 11:37 PM
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There really is no place that will fill your entire wish list w/i 25 miles. What do you envision for your beach stay? Beachy/swimming/tide pools/??

Farther there are places like Capitola.
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Jul 6th, 2013, 06:16 AM
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Half Moon Bay has a lot of what you want except for water warm enough to swim in.
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Jul 6th, 2013, 09:03 AM
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the OP will not be dissuaded from what she wants. If she wants a sandy beach close to SF she will have one!
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Jul 6th, 2013, 12:33 PM
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newtome - if she finds one, I hope she lets us locals in on the secret.
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Jul 6th, 2013, 12:43 PM
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Half Moon Bay won't have warm air temps either - average high in September is in the 60s (not sure the average high is ever higher than that).

Stinson Beach is much warmer (air).
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Jul 6th, 2013, 01:38 PM
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Carmel is the obvious choice, but that is too far. Capitola would also be the perfect place except you don't want to go that far. We love spending time in the fall at Pajaro Dunes, but again that is too far for you and there is no town within walking distance. Stinson Beach is close, but doesn't have the facilities you are looking for.

I live in the Bay Area and I don't particularly get the attraction of Half Moon Bay, unless you want to blow the wad and book the whole family at the Ritz Carlton. There are some fun and funky places to eat, some cute shops downtown and I love the area out by the harbor, but I wouldn't call it a "beach town". There might be some vacation rentals out by the Miramar, which is a nice oceanfront location/community. Not sure about the beach there though. I don't know if I would spend a whole week there either.

Maybe you should fly to southern California for the second week.

To quote Mick Jagger, "You can't always get what you want..."
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Jul 6th, 2013, 01:51 PM
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Although Stinson Beach is sandy,it can be cold and foggy even in summer. And swimming not so much.

We used to live in Marin County and that was our go-to beach for kite flying, just to give an idea.

I agree that I would probably go south, for a "beach town" where you might spend time in the water if you are warm blooded, I like the north San Diego towns like Solana Beach, Del Mar/Torrey Pines, etc.
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Jul 6th, 2013, 02:21 PM
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wekewoody, your " There are some fun and funky places to eat, some cute shops downtown and I love the area out by the harbor, but I wouldn't call it a "beach town" sounds just like Maine to a New Englander. I've been there, and it qualifies. You can't swim in Maine, either.
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Jul 6th, 2013, 02:46 PM
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Hmmmm... and here I went swimming at Stinson Beach all the time, growing up in the area. Of course, I learned to swim in the Puget Sound and spent my summers up there with family, so it's all relative. Nowadays, living in Florida, you couldn't get me near that cold water.

Looking for OP to return and weigh in on whether or not swimming is the plan, or just a beachy atmosphere.
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Jul 6th, 2013, 02:51 PM
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sludick, I grew up in Florida and the Caribbean, and moved to California, no way could you get me in that water above my ankles, even in summer!
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Jul 6th, 2013, 03:36 PM
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When you're young, just being at the beach is exciting.

Our parents would take us to San Gregorio for picnics and such and we'd let the frothy waves crash against our legs and maybe we'd end up getting soaked, but in the end our teeth were chattering and we were never allowed to actually go into the water and go swimming.

A very good friend of mine got caught in a riptide at San Gregorio and drowned.
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Jul 6th, 2013, 09:47 PM
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Thank you for all of the responses, wow lots of good input here! I guess I should have been more specific as to what we're looking for, to us cold is GREAT, love cold weather and desperately seeking it as it can be 100+ degrees in AZ in October. That after having suffered through 5 months of 100+ degree weather before June-Sept, so the colder the better, rain not so much but cold weather is for sure a plus.

Swimming definitely a no for us, we don't even swim when we visit San Diego in peak summer, we're more beach walkers than swimmers. A sweater and jeans at the beach sounds lovely to me. What we enjoy when visiting a beach town are walks on the beach and a bit of a town area to explore, eat, maybe shop. For the most part it's just being in sight of the ocean, again being from AZ desperate for the beautiful sights and sounds of the ocean that are so rare and delightful to us desert dwellers. I would even enjoy sitting on a balcony where I could just see the ocean with a good book (and wine)!

Doing a little more reading about the beaches within that driving range and it's echoing what you are all saying, cold and foggy and unrealistic to find something that close that has much of a town. I'm open to going further than 25 miles, like one poster said, you can't always get everything you want.

Monterey, Carmel and Santa Cruz have all been suggested, it's not such a bitter pill to drive further I was just trying to be conservative with the distance but clearly it's unrealistic. I was in Capitola briefly 20 years ago but I have almost no memory of it. I do remember Santa Cruz during that same trip and my memory of the scene there was a younger crowd but I was in my 20's and it was peak summer so that could be why I remember it that way. We're in our mid 40's with a toddler so definitely not hitting the bar scene these days. Looking more for relaxing and meandering and a beach rental with a view.

What are thoughts about Capitola? There are so many mixed reviews online. Hard to know what to believe because vacationing is so subjective. I'd love to hear some input from locals.

Thank you so much!
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Jul 7th, 2013, 05:49 AM
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Pacific Grove is lovely and an easy drive from San Francisco. Ticks all your boxes too.
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Jul 7th, 2013, 06:01 AM
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(And I hear what you are saying about needing a water "fix." Originally from an east coast city on the water, I love living in NM but I long for the water. I too love being near the water in San Francisco and just seeing, smelling and hearing the ocean. I don't swim much anymore, but just being able to walk on the beach makes my blood pressure drop 20 points. Enjoy)

One thing to keep in mind, SF has THE best weather of the year in October, so you may not find the cool weather you are looking for, but it will be way better than AZ. We will be there at that time too! Can't wait.
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Jul 7th, 2013, 07:09 AM
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I like Capitola a lot.
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Jul 7th, 2013, 07:40 AM
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I would get on vrbo.com and start looking at places in Carmel. Pacific Grove, Capitola and La Selva Beach, and Monterey. CYou don't mention a budget, so be prepared for a little sticker shock as these are premium locations.

The other place that I would look at that would be a bit of wild card is the Point Reyes Station/Marshall area. We stayed here in Marshall and loved it. Shortish drive to beaches and to town, but we were right on Tomales Bay. Lots of wildlife. The owners have kayaks for using in the Bay. We walked to a couple of restaurants. It is fabulous. Being close to Point Reyes National Seashore is a real plus. Dillon Beach is a few miles north. There are lots of waterfront cottages in this area for rent. Good luck.

http://www.vrbo.com/360090

http://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationR...alifornia.html
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Jul 7th, 2013, 10:36 AM
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Point Reyes and Tomales Bay are lovely areas very close to San Francisco. It's a very popular weekend destination. It may be too quiet and not enough variety for a week's stay for a family though.

Santa Cruz and the Monterey Peninsula are both lovely areas but they are packed with people especially if the weather is nice.

You might look a little further north at the Mendocino Coast. The small towns there offer a great variety of lodging and dining and there are many vacation rentals. Some of the beaches are very lovely but there are rocky headlands too. Kayaking is possible in the ocean and in the river. Nearby are some beautiful redwood groves and the wonderful Anderson Valley which is famous for its apple farms and vineyards. Some of the best sparkling wine and pinot noir comes from that area.
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