6 Awesome Bay Area Swimming Holes (Summer 2023)
Splish splash! It’s time to grab your swimsuit and jump in. We’ve rounded up some of the best beaches and swimming holes to beat the heat and dive in in the North Bay, East Bay, South Bay, and San Francisco.
North Bay Swimming Holes
Heart’s Desire Beach, Tomales Bay State Park
Heart’s Desire Beach, located in Tomales Bay State Park, is a nice sheltered cove on Tomales Bay with calm waves. It’s perfect for families with small children where little ones can paddle around in gentle water. The water of Tomales Bay tends to be a little warmer than the water at the ocean-facing beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore; plus it’s protected from the wind which makes it feel warmer.
In addition to swimming and picnicking, there are also several hiking trails that start from Heart’s Desire Beach. These trails lead to other beaches, tide pools, and redwood groves.
Heart’s Desire Beach is a great place to spend a day exploring the natural beauty of Marin County. It is a popular spot, so it is best to arrive early on weekends and holidays.
Address: 1100 Pierce Point Road, Inverness
There is an $8 per vehicle entrance fee ($7 for anyone 62 or over) required for parking at Heart’s Desire Beach. Fees are payable by credit or debit card only.
Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach
Healdsburg Veterans Memorial Beach is a popular swimming hole on the Russian River, located just south of the city’s historic, steel-truss Memorial Bridge. The beach features a wide, sandy beach for sunbathing, as well as shady picnic areas, lawns, and restrooms. A temporary dam, in place from July through Labor Day, creates a calm swimming area in the river. Lifeguards are on duty daily throughout the summer.
- The beach is open from July through Labor Day.
- Lifeguards are on duty daily from 11am to 7pm.
- There is a $7 parking fee.
- Dogs are not allowed on the beach or in the river.
- Alcohol is not allowed in the park.
Address: 13839 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg
Monte Rio Beach, Monte Rio
Monte Rio Beach is a popular swimming beach located on the Russian River in Monte Rio, California. It is the largest public beach on the lower Russian River and is ADA-accessible. The beach has a long, sandy beach for sunbathing. There’s a concession stand on site with cold drinks, soft-serve ice cream, and lunch items. There are also volleyball courts and horseshoe pits to enjoy.
Address: 20488 Hwy 116., Monte Rio
East Bay Swimming Holes
Crown Memorial State Beach, Alameda
Crown Beach is a 2.5-mile beach, with sand dunes bordering a bicycle trail in Alameda, California. It is located on the shores of San Francisco Bay and is a part of the Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach. The beach is known for its calm waters, which make it a great place for swimming, especially for families with young children. The water temperature is typically warmer than at other beaches in the Bay Area, due to its sheltered location in a cove.
The beach has a sandy bottom and is relatively shallow, making it a safe place to swim. In addition to swimming, Crown Beach is also a popular spot for sunbathing, picnicking, kiteboarding, paddleboarding, and fishing. There are restrooms, showers, and picnic tables available on the beach.
Crown Beach is a great place to spend a day enjoying the outdoors. It is easily accessible by public transportation and parking is available on-site.
Address: 8th Street, Otis Dr, Alameda
South Bay Swimming Holes
Garden of Eden, Henry Cowell Redwood State Park
The Garden of Eden is a popular swimming hole located in Henry Cowell Redwood State Park in Santa Cruz County, California. It is a picturesque wilderness area featuring a riverside loop trail and a natural swimming hole. The swimming hole is fed by a series of waterfalls and is surrounded by towering redwood trees. The water is clear and cool, making it a refreshing spot to cool off on a hot day.
There’s two ways to reach the Garden of Eden. For option 1, park in the day-use area off Highway 9 in Felton. From there, follow Pipeline Road for 0.5 miles and cross the seasonal bridge across the San Lorenzo River. Continue on Ox Fire Road next to the railroad tracks for 0.75 miles. Make a left onto Ox Fire Road and head down towards the river and Garden of Eden.
This route is only available in the summer when the seasonal bridge is in place. The total distance is 1.5 miles one-way. The hike is moderately challenging, with some steep sections.
Ox Road Trail – Alternatively, park in the Ox Fire Road turnout, which is located 0.75 miles south of the park’s main entrance on Highway 9. Look for the State Parks sign and the green gate. This is a small parking turnout, so parking in the day-use area during the busy summer season is recommended. The trailhead is on Ox Fire Road, just past the green gate. The hike is approximately 0.75 miles one-way, with an elevation change of 200 feet.
Please call the park at 831-335-4598 to inquire about the seasonal bridge status. There are also no lifeguards on duty, so swim at your own risk. There are no facilities at the Garden of Eden, so be sure to bring your own water, snacks, and sunscreen. Be aware of the current and swim at your own risk. Respect the natural environment and leave no trace.
The Garden of Eden is a popular spot, so it can get crowded on weekends.
Coordinates in Felton: 37.024832, -122.057680 – YouTube channel Vinh Kha Nuguen shows how to get here and what it’s like.
San Francisco Swimming Holes
Although we may not think of San Francisco having a “swimming hole,” the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park on the city’s northern waterfront has a cove that is protected from the open ocean by a breakwater, making it a calm and safe place to swim. And since it’s a protected cove, the water is a tad bit warmer than the open ocean (but still pretty cold!), making it a great place to cool off on a hot day. There’s a small sandy beach, concrete bleachers and a sloping lawn that faces the cove which makes it a great place to watch swimmers, plus there are gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin just beyond.
Address: 900 Beach St. San Francisco