15 Beaches in Pacifica, CA That Love Dogs Almost As Much As You Do

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On the northwestern coast of California between Half Moon Bay and San Francisco, Pacifica has six miles of beach along the Pacific Island. It is mostly known as a surfing destination as wave riders flock to Rockaway and Linda Mar Beaches. However, there is plenty to do for others, including hiking, biking, fishing, and crabbing. There are also dozens of parks in Pacifica, many of which allow dogs. Activities like tennis, archery, and golf are all popular activities in this California city. 

Four of the main parks in Pacifica welcome dogs, but only one allows them to be off the leash, which is Esplanade Beach near the Land’s End Apartment Complex. But you will find many pup-friendly places in the city, from beaches to tours. You can learn to surf, enjoy a cruise, and take a ride on the Redwood Valley Railway. 

We found 15 fantastic dog beaches in Pacifica for you and your canine companion to visit to get you started. 

Esplanade Beach

Just a few minutes north of Pacifica, Esplanade Beach is the perfect spot to spend the day swimming and soaking up the sun with your pooch. Located near the Land’s End Apartments, this is the only official off-leash dog beach in the city of Pacifica. The sandy beach is a little bit narrow, especially when the tide is in, but there is plenty of space for your fur baby to run around and play all day long.

There are several ways to get to the beach, but the safest is on the north end by the apartment complex. As nice as this beach is, you can see where it is eroding, and the apartments are now unlivable because they are dangerous, sitting on a cliff that may not be there much longer. Also, the undertow here is dangerous, so do not let your pup go further than the shallow bank and put him in a doggie life vest. 

Rockaway Beach

Just south of Pacifica, Rockaway Beach is a small but lovely stretch of sand where you can bring your canine companion as long as he is on a leash. Although the beach here is surrounded by hotels and resorts, these properties have public beaches so you can enjoy all the sand. And since many of these hotels allow dogs, why not stay a few days? Some of them include America’s Best Value Inn and the Sea Breeze Motel. 

The water here is a bit ‘ruff’ for swimming, but if you keep his leash short and put a life vest on him, your pup can get in the water to play. Many locals come here to surf or to look for seashells. You will not find doggie waste bags here, so please bring your own and be sure to use them to keep the beach clean. And if you get hungry, try Nick’s Seafood or Moonraker.

Pacifica State Beach

Also known as Linda Mar Beach, Pacifica State Beach is just south of Rockaway and has a bunch of amenities and activities for you and your dog. In fact, there is a trail (the Pacifica-Rockaway Trail) that you can follow to visit both beaches. This is another one of the popular surfing beaches, so it is often crowded. Keep your fur baby on a short leash and bring doggie bags to clean up after him. 

Swimming is fine here, so you and your pup can get in the water together. Just keep his leash on, and you can play all day. Another popular activity here is fishing. Some of the commonly caught fish include striped bass, kingfish, and salmon. You may also enjoy crabbing here, which is free from November through July. If you are not into that kind of thing, feel free to just hang out on the beach and enjoy the view. And Taco Bell is just 100 feet away, so you can refuel. 

Montara State Beach

Further south down the beach to McNee Ranch State Park, you will find Montara State Beach, which is also a pup-friendly place. As long as you keep your canine companion on a leash under six feet long at all times, Fido can join you anywhere in the park, including the beach! You will not find yourself on an empty beach here since this is a very popular park with locals as well as visitors from all over the world. 

With high bluffs and a sandy shore sandwiched between hills at the base of Montara Mountain, the beauty is breathtaking, and the fun is just… fun. You can swim, surf, fish, or go boating. There is plenty to do on land too. If you and your pup like to hike, there are several trails here. And you can enjoy geocaching here as well, have a picnic, or just sit back and enjoy the scenery.

Mavericks Beach

Just to the south of Pacifica State Beach, you can find some of the largest waves in the world at Mavericks Beach. This small stretch of sand on Pillar Point became famous in 1999 when the best surfers in the world converged here for the Titans of Mavericks contest. Although the contest stopped being held after 2016 due to logistics, that does not stop the surfers from accepting the challenge of riding these waves. 

You and your fur baby can enjoy the waves and water closer to shore while you watch the experts. Besides swimming and surfing, other popular activities here include shelling, hiking, and picnicking. Or you can play in the sand, enjoy a game of fetch, or just soak up the sun. Please make sure you bring your own doggie waste bags and use them to keep the beach clean, and do not let your fur baby irritate the wildlife. 

Pillar Point Beach

Around the corner from Mavericks Beach, Pillar Point Beach is located in Pillar Point Harbor. Your fur baby is welcome as long as you keep his leash on at all times. Being protected by a sea wall makes this a safe place for your canine companion to dive in. There are no strong currents and rough waves like you will find right next door at Mavericks. The jetties are a nice way to walk out and see the water or toss in a line and try to catch the “big one.” 

There are all sorts of shops and eateries here along the road and at Pillar Point Harbor, where you can get a drink or a bite to eat. You can even get some fishing gear and other items at Mavericks Surf Company or Half Moon Bay Sportfishing & Tackle. But please ask permission before you bring your fur baby into any establishment. 

Poplar Beach

Keep going south past Surfers Beach, Roosevelt Beach, and Venice Beach to get to this popular spot in Half Moon Bay. Poplar Beach is one of the only coastal beaches in the area that allows both dogs and horses, so it is frequented by locals with four-legged family members. The beach at the end of Poplar Street in Blufftop Coastal Park is close to neighborhoods, so it is not a popular party hangout, which is good news for pet parents. 

There is quite a steep hill to get down to the beach, so make sure you wear some sturdy shoes to follow this trail. Once you get down to the sand, you can take off your shoes and dig your toes in the sand! Your fur buddy will need to stay on a leash at all times, and you will need to bring doggie poo bags to clean up after your pup. 

Bean Hollow State Beach

Just 20 minutes down the coastline past Pescadero State Beach, you and your canine compadre will love visiting Bean Hollow State Beach. The San Mateo Coast here is known for its pebbly beaches with rocks that are polished by the sea. However, you are not allowed to collect them. This beach runs about a mile from Pebble Beach down the Arroyo de Los Frijoles Trail, where you can take Fido on a hike. 

This part of the ocean is not good for swimming because of its currents and heavy surf, but if you keep him on a leash and only allow him to splash in the shallows, your fur baby can cool off. But remember, the water is cold so do not let him stay in long. The park itself has 44 acres of trails, picnic areas, fishing spots, and even some playgrounds for the kids. There are also restrooms and water fountains for your convenience. 

Phillip Burton Memorial Beach

Between Thornton State Beach and Fort Funston, Phillip Burton Memorial Beach is a large stretch of sand by the Olympic Club Golf Course where you and your fur baby can spend the day in the water and sand. It is almost always empty because so many people pass it up on their way to the bigger beaches like Fort Funston. In fact, the best way to get to this beach is by walking down the sand from there. 

One very unique feature of this beach is the cave. If you have a flashlight, bring it. If not, use your phone to take a look inside. Make sure the tides are low for safety. Keep your pup on a leash here to keep him from running off into the cave, where he may get lost. It is a deep cave. The beach is named for an American politician who was a US representative, helping promote recreational areas nearby. 

Fort Funston Beach

Just a few miles up the coast in San Francisco, Fort Funston is a pup-friendly paradise that allows your pooch to run free as long as he is under strict voice control. One of the prettiest beaches in San Francisco and a haven for hang gliders, Fort Funston, has bluffs that stand more than 200 feet tall. You and your fur buddy can splash in the water while you watch the gliders sail over the ocean. But be careful of the surf and current here. 

The beach has golden sand you and your pup can play in building sandcastles, tossing around a frisbee, or playing ball. The park has several trails that run through the park, along the bluff, and past the historic sections such as Battery Davis, a WWII military post. There are restrooms, and water fountains in the park and concession stand nearby. But you will need to bring your own doggie poo bags and make sure you use them. 

Ocean Beach

Right next to Fort Funston, past the zoo, you will find Ocean Beach, where there is a fantastic off-leash section for dogs at the northern end of the beach by the Cliff House. The 1.5-mile section starts at stairwell 1 and runs to stairwell 21, which is by the beach chalet and soccer fields in Golden Gate Park. South of that area, your pup can be on the beach but must be leashed. 

The entire beach is over 3.5 miles long and runs from the San Francisco Zoo to Point Lobos. Ocean Beach is one of the most popular beaches in San Francisco, with all sorts of activities and amenities, but swimming is not encouraged here due to the rip currents. Surfers often venture out if they are experienced, but it is best to keep your dog in the shallows. There are restrooms, water fountains, and even a few eateries nearby for your convenience.

Golden Gate Park

One of the largest parks along the coastline in San Francisco, Golden Gate Park is less than five miles north of Fort Funston and features more than 1,000 acres, including lakes for fishing, fields of gardens, several playgrounds, and meadows full of flowers and trees. Besides the beach, you can also find horseshoe pits, disc golf, and several ball fields, as well as a boathouse with rentals, a buffalo and bison paddock, and two really awesome windmills. 

The park is pup-friendly and has four different dog play spaces. In the northwest corner of the park by the Dutch windmill, there is a sandy section just for dogs. Way across the park in the northeast corner, there is another dog play area by the horseshoe courts. You will find another in the southeast corner near Kezar Stadium. The last one is in the southwestern corner by the Murphy Windmill. So, no matter which corner of the park you are in, there is always a place for your pup to play. 

Baker Beach

Keep heading north past the zoo, and Baker Beach is a large stretch of beach that allows dogs to play on and off the leash. The off-leash area is from Lobos Creek to the north to Coyote Gulch, which is about 90% of the beach. There are two historical sites here to see as well. Make sure you take the time to get a few pictures of them.

The Battery Chamberlin is just behind the beach to the northeast of the parking lot where you can see the last disappearing gun on the western coast. It was built in 1904 to protect the coastline and still stands where it was then. You should also go see the Baker Beach Sand Ladder. This quarter-mile set of steps takes you up 200 stairs to the best views in the city. You may have to take a break or two, but it is worth the climb.

Crissy Field Beaches

On the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge but still in the Presidio of San Francisco, Crissy Field Beach is actually two beaches in one. Crissy Field East is the most popular, located in the northeastern corner of The Presidio of San Francisco. You will enjoy stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge as you and your canine companion meander along the promenade. If you follow the promenade, it stretches all along the San Francisco Bay from Crissy Field to Torpedo Wharf.

Crissy Field South Beach is just to the west, and it features a unique water feature, the Crissy Field Marsh. You probably do not want to let your fur baby play in the water here and keep your pup leashed because there are alligators in the marsh. But you can also see over 100 different species of birds, like kingfishers, terns, egrets, and pelicans. Be sure to bring some binoculars and a camera. 

Rodeo Beach

Keep going north across the Golden Gate Bridge and to the northwestern corner past the Marin Headlands, and you will find Rodeo Beach. It is just down the hill from Battery Townsley between Fort Barry and Fort Cronkhite. This unique pebbly spot is located between Rodeo Cove and Rodeo Lagoon, so you have all sorts of water to explore. Your pooch will love sniffing all the animal scents from local dogs as well as wildlife. 

The pebbles on the beach make this a popular spot for sensational selfies and photographs. You can see jade, agate, carnelian, and black jasper here. And while these vibrantly colored pebbles are beautiful, you are not allowed to take them with you. Your fur baby has to stay on a leash, but he can swim in the cove. However, do not let him swim in the lagoon. Not only is it protected, but it is also home to alligators. 

The Final Woof

Want to take your canine companion on a shopping spree? If you are looking for fishing equipment or some other sports-related items, Sports Basement on Old Mason Street welcomes friendly dogs as long as they are on a leash. 

For something sparkly and fancy, you can have your own jewelry personalized at Love and Luxe on Valencia Street, and your pup can join you! Looking for more variety? Union Square is a 2.5-acre plaza in downtown San Francisco where you and your fur buddy can shop, dine, and be entertained all in one place. Union Square has all sorts of brand names like Saks, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, and Macy’s. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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