Compared to the lauded sands of SoCal, most Northern California beaches don’t lend themselves to sunbathing or bodysurfing. And beach attire isn’t a bathing suit; we prefer layers (and lots of them) due to the often-foggy coastline that stretches from Big Sur to Mendocino, where you can beachcomb, fly a kite, and can the waves for seals, otters, and whales.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Bay Area beach vacations year-round, especially if you enjoy crisp autumnal weather. Here are the best vacation rentals near the beach in areas north and south of San Francisco. Each spot is ideal for taking in coastal sunsets from oceanside hot tubs, wrap-around decks, and floor-to-ceiling windows.
Serenity in Sea Ranch
Local architect Don Jacobs built this classic Sea Ranch abode on a coastal hillside in 1971. Get lost in 180-degree Pacific views from a window seat in the stunning great room, or breathe in fresh air from the private oceanside hot tub or deck bar. Pets are welcome and guests also have access to shared pools, saunas, and tennis courts nearby. Black Point beach is located one mile away, accessible via a staircase. $272 a night.
Cozy cabin in Timber Cove
Cell service can be spotty in Timber Cove, so take the opportunity to unplug for a weekend in this rustic cabin along the quiet Sonoma Coast (don’t worry—there’s still working WiFi). Soak in the best of both worlds: forest and ocean views from this two-bedroom with soaring ceilings, a furnished deck, a fireplace, and loads of natural light. Several nearby beaches and state parks are only one to four miles away, but dining options are almost non-existent, so come prepared to cook in the chef’s kitchen. $155 a night.
Farmhouse in Bodega Bay
This Bodega Bay chalet was renovated inside and out in 2019 by the designers and owners of Harvest Home, a furniture boutique that was a San Francisco staple for more than two decades before it moved to Sonoma. Perched on a secluded, four-acre hilltop overlooking the bay, this rental has floor-to-ceiling windows and a wraparound, sun-drenched deck. The inside feels like a luxurious, modern-day farmhouse and comes equipped with a fireplace, gourmet kitchen, laundry room, three marbled bathrooms, and four bedrooms that sleep up to 10. The best part: In only ten minutes, you can sink your toes into the white sands of Bodega’s two-mile-long Doran Beach. $1,475 for two nights.
Cliff-side in Stinson Beach
Just over the Golden Gate, a perfect beach getaway awaits you and seven of your closest pals on the edge of a cliff overlooking Stinson Beach. Whale watch from the hot tub, fire pit, or copper bathtub. And on chillier days, take in panoramic views—once Karl clears, of course—next to the wood-burning fireplace. The quaint town of Bolinas and the beach are both a quick drive away. $1,200 a night.
Beach staycation in Pacifica
This top-floor Pacifica home sits literal steps from the beach and is an easy 20-minute drive from San Francisco. Sunlight drenches an ocean-facing terrace and streams through 10-foot windows that look out over the pier. The brand new, two-bedroom interior is ultra-modern, posh, and stark white—so maybe leave the kids at home for this one. $232 a night.
Dunes-day in Pacific Grove
You won’t get closer to the sand than this Pacific Grove home, which was built literally on top of the Asilomar Dunes. Do your best “I’m the king of the world” Titanic impression from the front deck, which looks just like the bow of a ship and then wraps around the entire house. There are ocean views from picture windows in nearly every room (it sleeps up to seven), but you’ll want to claim the stunning master bedroom before anyone else. $699 a night.
Camera-ready in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Live your best life like Madeline, Celeste, and Renata in Big Little Lies (before everything hit the fan). This 12,000-square-foot coastal mansion was featured in the hit HBO series and sits on two private and pristine acres of Carmel coastline. It has eight bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms (six with ocean views) and a long list of luxury amenities that include a commercial-grade kitchen, a library, a pool, two hot tubs, fire pits, an ocean-view gym, and a staircase that leads you right down to the waters. $6,500 a night.
R&R in Big Sur
Find inner peace at this Big Sur wellness retreat equipped with a dry sauna, copper soaking tubs, outdoor showers, fire pit, and six acres of grounds for practicing sun salutations—all with Pacific Ocean views. A private beach can be accessed via an easy walking trail from this massive, multi-level house that sleeps up to 12. Take your zen to the next level by booking a private massage treatment or group yoga session. $1,195 a night.