We’ve rounded up some of the best Bay Area beaches for kids that include secret water holes, lakes, lagoons and shores worth setting up the sunshade and spending the afternoon. Don’t forget to pack the sunscreen and confirm hours before heading out.MoreLess
When the sun’s out, East Beach is full of families building sandcastles, digging and playing. The lagoon is an ideal splash spot for tots. The Beach Hut Café serves snacks and there’s ample parking. The west end of Crissy Field is another great option, with a cafe, BBQs and picnic tables, along with a gentler surf for the kids to play in. While the water is usually clean and safe, watch out for posted signs and wildlife and go in the morning as the wind usually picks up by midafternoon.
This spot is great if you don’t think your gang can hang for too long at the beach. The sandy beach and calm water are perfect for toddlers. Fisherman’s Wharf is a short walk away and you can tour historic boats at the Hyde Street Pier for a small fee. The park is also home to the famous Dolphin Club and their rivals the South Bay Rowing Club, so there are lots of serious swimmers in the water here. Parking can get a little tricky after mid-morning, but there are some garages a short walk away.
Tucked into a practically secret cove, this hidden gem in San Francisco’s Sea Cliff is a sweet sandy introduction for little beachcombers. Back in the Gold Rush days, it was the campsite of Chinese fishermen and their boats. There’s a monument commemorating this history at the beach’s entrance, where there’s also parking. You’ll need to go down a few steps to hit the sand. Take in the views of the Marin Headlands and build a sandcastle, but be careful of the surf, which can be unpredictable.
This hidden gem is tucked away on Yerba Buena Island. You’ll find the clean, sandy stretch of beach at the bottom of a set of stairs, leading down from the Clipper Cove Picnic area. Occasionally the small parking lot is roped off; if so, some people will park at the Marina and walk back. It’s worth the trek! The water is calm, shallow and usually warmer than other parts of the Bay. Consider grabbing some lunch and playing some outdoor games at the family-favorite Mersea Restaurant.
Accessed by ferry, Angel Island is a special place to hang out by the water. The gently lapping Bay waters and sandy beaches of Ayala Cove and Quarry Point are protected by winds, thus ideal for kids. There are picnic benches off the sand and grassy areas for a blanket. The only traffic is the guided-tour tram and park vehicles, so bring bicycles when a break is needed from all that water play. There are also great hikes, and the Angel Island Company Cafe serves up salads, sandwiches and wraps.
Tilden Regional Park offers tons of ways to escape the East Bay heat. In addition to hiking trails, the steam train, a carousel and The Little Farm, there’s the picturesque Lake Anza. Its dog-free beach is sheltered from the wind and typically gets plenty of sunshine. On weekends, the Lake Anza Beach Club offers a variety of food options including nachos, smoothies, sandwiches and ice cream. The Lake Anza swim season runs from the end of April to mid September with lifeguards on duty daily.
This lake and surrounding park are an easy destination in the Oakland hills. Ample parking is close to the beach, so it’s great if you have a lot of gear and/or friends joining you! The nearby beach house offers showers and changing areas (bathrooms are porta-potties, however). Lifeguards are on duty from mid-June through August. Beware: this beach has been closed periodically for algae blooms. Check conditions before you go.
A gentle gradient makes this lagoon ideal for smaller kids. They can splash around in the shallows and build up their confidence in the water while you enjoy the white, sandy beach and dig in for the day. Older kids might like to try out the diving platform. They'll just have to pass a quick swim test with a lifeguard. There’s a bathhouse with vending machines and lifeguards are on duty daily from June through to August, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. A beach access fee applies but parking is free.
This spot has not one, but two swimming beaches opening for the season. While swimming is allowed through much of the five-mile-long lake, the East and West beaches offer lifeguard services between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. from June through August. And when the family’s all toweled off, the park has picnic facilities, boat rentals and a visitor center to keep you occupied. There is not a separate fee for the beaches, but parking inside the park is $6.
Swimming in the lagoon is this park’s main attraction. The sandy beach is surrounded by trees and has easy parking. There’s a roped-off section at a depth of two feet for the little ones. Swimming is only allowed when lifeguards are on duty, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily during the summer. Beach umbrellas and wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis. After swimming, take a quick hike to find a hidden waterfall! It's down a small path near the entrance.
Crown Beach lives up to its name as one of the Crown Jewels of East Bay beaches, with more than two miles of sandy shoreline flanked by rocky jetties. So not only is it great for swimming, but you can find sea life in those nooks and crannies. You can learn more about any findings at the Crab Cove Visitor Center. Go for a swim year-round if you’re up for it, but note there are NOT lifeguards. Check the tides before you go; low tide can be great for exploring but not so great for swimming.
Just a mile outside downtown Pleasanton is a sweet, sandy spot for swimming, picnicking, boating and general fun in the sun. A former gravel quarry, this little swimming lagoon is ideal for kids to cool off and splash around; even early in the morning the water is far from chilly. There’s a bathhouse and refreshment stand open on weekends in spring and fall, and daily during summer months. Lifeguards are on duty June through mid August, but swimming is allowed throughout the year.
What about a nice, protected swimming lagoon in the heart of an 80-acre reservoir? Boating, picnicking, biking and nature study are all popular at Contra Loma Regional Park and the swim lagoon has a sandy beach with restrooms and a concession stand. Lifeguards are on duty 11 a.m.-6 p.m. daily from June to mid August. Similar to other East Bay Park swim spots, there is a small beach access fee.
You’ll feel like you’ve discovered a hidden cove when you visit this spot tucked away in Richmond. The crescent-shaped beach has fine, clean sand which is perfect for taking in the views of the Bay. On a clear day, you can see the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. The water is fairly shallow and even has tiny waves. Note: there are no lifeguards on duty. If you have a lot of gear, this is a good place to use that wagon or beach buggy as the beach is a bit of a trek down a paved path from the road.
This San Mateo beach comes with a bonus: a playground! On one side of the sandy swim beach there’s a play structure for kids, and on the other side, picnic tables if you prefer to keep the sand out of your sandwiches. The waters are part of the Marina Lagoon, between San Mateo and Foster City. You’ll find parking and restrooms as well as accessibility for boating and a sand volleyball pit.
This sandy beach, over two acres long, has a roped-off area for swimming in the peaceful waters. There is no lifeguard on duty but the site has picnic areas, restaurants and all the fun of watching the comings and goings of the nearby yacht club. The water is part of the Bay and is tested weekly for safety. There’s a flock of Canada Geese that have taken a liking to this beach, too, so watch for closure signs or check the County of San Mateo Health System site for details.
Its official name is Pacifica State Beach, but locals know it as Linda Mar or the beach by the nicest Taco Bell ever. Kid-friendly and dog-friendly, Linda Mar is popular with surfers, and often beachgoers will see surf campers being schooled in the art of riding the waves. Bring a picnic blanket and some sand toys, and get digging! Restrooms are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Parking is $5 for four hours, or $9 for all day.
This beach is especially good for families as it has protected waters and lots of parking. In addition to spending your day on the sand, here you can visit migrating Monarch butterflies and check out some amazing tide pools.
This quaint spot will give you breach vibes like no other with adorably-colored houses at one end and miles and miles of sandy beaches. There are a few paid parking lots that fill up fast (come early) and metered street parking. Beach Break by Marianne's is the perfect spot for a scoop of ice cream before you head home.
Set in a beautiful sheltered cove along the shores of San Pablo Bay, this narrow bayside beach offers a fun, safe place for swimming and water play. If the kids are happier in a swimming pool, there’s one right on the beach, open Wed.-Fri. from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. or 6 p.m. on the weekends. There’s also a snack bar, sand volleyball courts, picnic areas and newly renovated tennis courts. The gentle gradient makes carry-in boat access easy for kayaks and canoes.