To cap off my teenage years by the ocean—that has long been part of my bucket list. Having been based in San Francisco for almost half a year now, I decided to grab that chance to cross off at least one item before I left the city for good. My birthday month turned out to be the ideal season to visit Baker because the perfect weather, combined with seemingly uninhabited shores, was a deal no one could resist.
Baker Beach, although a hidden paradise, is a stone’s throw away from downtown San Francisco.
It is just two bus rides (or a quick 18-minute drive) away from the heart of the city if you are coming in from the Market-Powell intersection.
Nestled within the outskirts of the seven-square mile area of the city, Baker Beach is home to one of the best views San Francisco can offer. Combining modernity with the tranquility of nature, the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge towering over the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean is enough to make Baker an instant favorite among tourists and locals alike.
The mile-long stretch of ochre sand starts from the Legion of Honor down to the historical Battery Chamberlain. Baker Beach was once part of the American military base in the Presidio area, and these landmarks serve as reminders of what once transpired during the World War II era. In many ways, Baker Beach contrasts the past and present—highlighting modernization of what has become of the city, while retaining the natural solace it has to offer.
Local patrons often end their day with relaxing walks along Baker after having a dose of Monets and Picassos down at the Legion of Honor. Since Baker Beach is not an itinerary staple or known attraction for most tourists, the profile of those who frequent Baker is often composed of small families, couples, people with their dogs, and some fishing enthusiasts who find the strong current and uneven cliff terrain a challenging addition to the practice of their hobby.
Picnics, pictures and surprises in between
That particular Friday afternoon had clear skies and a sun that was more than happy to show off its rays. Thinking that it was the beginning of the weekend and the weather was a tempting package that sun-loving San Franciscans could not resist, we expected heavy traffic once we arrived in Baker.
To our surprise, the shore was practically ours to enjoy, save for a few runners and people with Frisbees and dogs. Our group was probably the biggest there, boasting a makeshift camp of four blankets on the sand—enough to fit all ten of us—complete with food and a whole lot of bubbles.
After settling in and having our fill of Schubert’s famous 1911 chocolate mousse, we frolicked like children on the shore, enjoying the waves in 30-second intervals at the most. Although the sun provided us with enough warmth, the water from the ocean was still as cold as ice. There were a couple of surfers that afternoon, and only the professional water sports enthusiasts were the ones who waded through the freezing water. Most beach goers do not really go for swims here at Baker, but rather stay for the view, the undisturbed tanning privileges, and yes—the option of going au naturelle.
The latter that I have mentioned did not occur to us until our photo session was interrupted by someone asking us for a quick favor. “Can you take my picture over here?” he said. “Sure, where do you want to have it?” my friend, Natalia responded. “Oh, just over here,” he says as he points to the bridge. When Natalia peeked through the viewfinder, she wanted to take her question back and rephrase it with a “Where do you want to have it and what should I include in it?” Yes, folks, it slipped our mind that the northern part of Baker takes pride in being an openly nudist beach—I guess we’ve wandered off a little too far. As we all have firsts, I’m actually glad that we got to experience some of the unique quirks that Baker had to offer. Although a slightly awkward experience, it was definitely one for the books. So if you come to Baker, you should definitely be open to meeting a few Adams and Eves.
We approached the rocks situated in the far north of the shore and climbed up to see the view. Although not advisable for the faint of heart, the spectacular sight that awaits you at the awning will be the cherry on top of your stay in Baker. This trail is not a mandatory activity to do in Baker, and should you decide to go on it, you must proceed with caution. But the safety hazards are far worth taking the risk for the scene you are about to experience. The fluid blend of the roaring sea crashing onto the sun-kissed Golden Gate, which by the way, was giving off a reddish glow, transported us into a whole different dimension. The horizon made us feel indestructible and the goose bumps that soon came after was a definite sign of that heart stopping moment that swept us off our feet.
Resuming our shoot and excessive bubble blowing, we came across a couple in their wedding ensemble. With a crew of no more than just the photographer, we took initiative in helping make this couple’s wedding a bit more interesting. Since we had tons of bubble bottles in hand, we approached the trio and offered to add bubbles to the background of their pre-nuptial photos. The couple gladly accepted with huge smiles and the photographer went on to directing not only the engaged pair, but also our tiny bubble-blowing unit. The rose petals scattered on the shore combined with our round creations complemented the perfection that is the backdrop of Baker Beach. It was a rewarding feeling to know that we have made someone’s special day a little more memorable, especially that it was in one of the most beautiful beaches we have ever been to.
New found love
Baker Beach is not one that sun-loving, beach bodies are in constant frenzy about. Seeing that it is located in San Francisco, one would not expect the same kind of weather or water temperature similar to what you would find in the tropics or the Mediterranean.
However, Baker is one of those places that make you fall in love the moment that you set foot in its warm embrace. Its breathtaking view, relaxed environment and virgin beauty are free from anything commercialized.
Baker Beach is literally an escape from the city, which is not too far away. It serves as a haven for wandering minds and souls who are in the constant search for life’s meaning. This beach shines bright like a beacon of hope for anyone who seeks beauty beyond the hills, cable cars and gaiety of San Francisco.