If you are choosing to attend Berkeley because of the awesome location, I totally second that decision. We are so lucky to have both the urban vibe of the city and the peaceful escape to nature in the Berkeley hills. Even better, while we are not quite located near the beach, we have access to some fantastic spots, many of which I have been visiting my whole life growing up locally.
I think one of the best outings you can have during the pandemic is going to the beach by yourself or with your household. Even in the colder months, the ocean water is so healing, the sunshine peeks out every so often, and perhaps you can even arrange a socially distant hang-out with folks outside your household!
If you have access to a car, here are some of my favorite spots within two hours drive from Berkeley:
Just south of Santa Cruz you’ll find Capitola, the tiny village-by-the-sea, which is just a few walkable blocks of stores and restaurants. On one side, you will also find colorful vacation condos which are perfect for a fun photo shoot. My family and I used to stay in a beachside motel here every winter and you can stay entertained here for a full day. I’m also an avid, albeit amateur surfer, and this is my favorite local wave to surf. It’s a great spot if you wanna learn because the water is gentler here.
Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay
About an hour away, you have to check out the charming and foggy town that is Half Moon Bay (HMB!) If you venture to the north end, you can spot a huge white “golf ball” on the bluffs over Pillar Point Harbor. My first memories here were for family beach days, but I’ve since rediscovered this natural space because it is the closest strip of land to Mavericks, one of the biggest waves in the world! If you head out between December and March, there is a good chance you can spot some of the world’s most fearless surfers taking on waves up to 60 feet!
Stinson Beach, Marin County
If you’ve ever ventured to Mt. Tamalpais or Muir Woods, you might have also stumbled by this beautiful beach which honestly takes my breath away during sunset, every time. A lot of folks make a whole day trip out of the journey and hike in the local state parks, then take a dip at Stinson after! It is a tiny town so the weekends get incredibly packed, so I recommend going on a weekday or evening to avoid the traffic.
If you are like me and do NOT have access to a car
If you are comfortable taking public transportation, you can work your way to Ocean Beach (or Baker Beach, just north!) in the city. You can either BART, then transfer to the SF MUNI train/local bus, or if you want to get active you can bring a bike to finish the journey. Baker Beach is a fan favorite because it has the most stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge which really makes you feel lucky to be a local! Make sure to leave time for a stroll through the Sunset or Richmond Districts, the hip neighborhoods that border the beaches.
I’ve left out my very favorite spots because a local can’t give away all her secrets, but I do hope you get out to the sand and sea for a much needed recharge this quarantine season!