Fun, healthy, active things to do abound around San Francisco Bay. They are very accessible, in gorgeous settings, and entertaining to watch even if you not adventurous enough to participate.
Here are a few of the very best. And, just click around this web site or search for many more details, pictures, and ideas. For example, check out nearby towns and San Francisco neighborhoods. You’ll be amazed at the number of pleasant, beautiful, truly exceptional activities!
by land … HIKING
The SF Bay area is a hiker’s paradise. Simply walking around SF’s unique neighborhoods is great fun if you know where to go. And, less than a half hour away from the city, are many more fantastic hikes to enjoy.
See some of our lists of best hikes below for good ideas:
- Half Moon Bay coast trails
- Best SF Bay dog walks… for people too!
- The Presidio’s walks & beaches
- San Francisco walking tours
- Marin County – Check out the Marin Headlands area. Or, the trails within the St. Hilary’s Open Space Preserve above Tiburon (see map) which has wildflowers and views that are rare, even for the Bay area.
- North Beach walks(hike north) & Chinatown(hike south) – start at Columbus & Broadway.
- Filbert steps – going down to the east from the top of Telegraph Hill.
- Lyon Street steps – perhaps the most wonderful stairs in San Francisco. The top is at Lyon Street & Broadway St from which you take the stairs down two blocks to Green St. From there it’s a nice walk along Lyon St to the Palace of Fine Arts and the SF Bay.
- Golden Gate bridge – Definitely something to put on your “bucket list” of things to do before you die. Start your hike or bike trip at one of the viewing areas (located at either side of the bridge with adjacent parking) or a little further away like at Fort Point or Fort Baker.
- Lands End trail – start at the parking lot a half block north of the Cliff House.
- Montara Mountain Trail – The Gray Whale Cove trail (2 miles roundtrip) and the North Peak summit trail (7-10 mile roundtrip) in McNee Ranch State Park are two hikes you will never forget. These are just south of SF on the coast between Pacifica & Montara.
- Princeton Harbor – south of the harbor along the beach, and north on the Pillar Point bluffs above the famous Maverick’s surfing waves. This area is only one of many described in Half Moon Bay walking trails.
- On the San Francisco Peninsula try the marshland nature trails at Redwood Shores or the nice 3.7 mile Stanford Dish loop trail up and around the beautiful foothills immediately behind campus.
by land … BIKING
Because of its astonishing natural beauty, mild weather, interesting terrain, and excellent access serious bikers truly love the San Francisco Bay area. Go to any good local bike shop, there are hundreds, for riding groups and detailed maps.
Just outside the City is some of the best biking in the USA. For example, Marin County around Mount Tamalpais is where mountain biking was invented. The coastal mountain range between Palo Alto and Coastal Highway 1 provides some of the most pleasant road biking and mountain biking in the world. Hellyer Park Velodrome, San Jose, is one of only 24 velodromes in the entire U.S. And, it’s often an important stage of “America’s Greatest Race,” The AMGEN Professional Bike Tour of California.
For several excellent but usually easy bike rides start by checking out:
- San Francisco bike tours
- Biking Skyline Ridge
- Bicycle Sundays – Canada Rd
In SF go to Golden Gate Park for car-free Sunday biking
- Redwood Shores and Foster City levees
by sea … WATER SPORTS galore
Wind surfing – is a lot of fun at almost any age and the best place I’ve ever seen to learn is at California Windsurfing in the Foster City Lagoon. It’s warm, rentals are reasonable, the people are nice, weekend classes are excellent and the wind is often just right for beginners.
Once you get better the next step up for me was windsurfing at Coyote Point. If you ever get great then check out Crissey Field, SF, or Waddell Creek north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1.
Kite surfing – is readily available for the stouter of heart too. Waddell Creek is one of the top spots in California. Another less thrilling location for learning is the end of 3d Ave by the San Mateo Bridge. If you are an expert try Crissey Field, SF. Or, try the Sacramento Delta (on the way to Sacramento) for high speed kite surfing on smooth water.
Paddle boats – for fun with the kids try Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park or California Windsurfing at the Foster City lagoon.
Kayaking – Rentals with access to great sea areas are available in the Marinship neighborhood of Sausalito, Princeton Harbor, and Moss Landing. It’s a bit of a trip but at Elkhorn Slough by Moss Landing, on the way to Carmel, you can kayak (or take a pontoon boat tour) some of the best bird and sea animal preserves in the world. Be ready to see otters and sea lions up very close and personal.
Surfing – Ocean Beach, SF, is where local city and even professional surfers hang ten. Santa Cruz’s Steamer Lane was made famous by surfing pioneers including three Hawaiian princes who introduced the sport to America right there. It is still one of the most popular surf spots in California. Surfers Beach in El Granada just south of Princeton-by-the-Sea is probably the best beginner/intermediate beach in between.
Of course, if you are serious surfer you’ve already heard of Mavericks, north of Princeton Harbor which has some of the biggest roughest waves in the world when (rare) conditions are right. Serious surfers and kite surfers also enjoy Waddell Beach, north of Santa Cruz.
even by AIR
Hang glide – above the ocean cliffs at Fort Funston, SF. Here, at the most beautiful dog park in the world, you can get up close and personal to hang gliders enjoying one of the best “hang-three” intermediate level hang gliding spots in the nation. On weekends there are often dozens enjoying this exciting sport.
Small planes – Two nice & convenient local airports for small plane pilots are the San Carlos Airport, San Carlos, and the Half Moon Bay Airport, north of Princeton Harbor. Both airports have good down-home type coffee shops where pilots and “wanna be” pilots love to gather.
From the Half Moon Bay airport you can easily walk over to Princeton Harbor for a relaxing good afternoon there as well. By the way, the Pacific Coast Dream Machines air show & exhibition, held at the airport in the spring, is something old plane and old car buffs do not want to miss. World War II pilots will especially enjoy seeing their old war planes in action. It’s low key and a lot of fun to look at the old machines and chat with their owners.
San Jose Airport & San Francisco Airport are scary places to fly in and out by small plane because of heavy commercial air traffic. We’ve done it several times with pilot friends but can’t recommend this adventure to amateurs.
Blimp tours – Dirigibles are flying over the San Francisco Bay area again (back in WW II they flew out of Moffet Field as submarine trackers). Flight starting at $395 for 45 minutes and up. This is not really an active sport but looks like fun if you’ve got the bucks.
Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the best San Francisco Bay area activities you really should know about. Check around the site for more. And, enjoy!