Best Spots to Beat the Summer Heat
No proper Californian summer is complete without fun a day in the water. When summer temperatures get too hot for comfort, cool off at one of the Bay Area’s many venues to splash, swim and lounge water-side. Note: prices subject to change.
Coolest of the Cool
Our top picks are worth a trip to make a splash, from beaches and lakes to the Bay Area’s biggest water park.
Aquatic Park Cove. A short walk from Fisherman’s Wharf and next to Ghirardelli Square, this small beach within a historical maritime district park is great spot to enjoy beautiful views while kids splash around in calm waters and serious swimmers do some laps. Open at sunrise. FREE. 499 Jefferson St., San Francisco. nps.gov/safr/planyourvisit/aquaticparkcove.htm.
Crown Memorial State Beach. The water is warm and shallow and there are picnic tables, making this a great beach for families. Enjoy mild temperatures at times the rest of the East Bay is melting, and an unbeatable view of San Francisco. $5 parking fee Memorial to Labor Day, but free street parking also available. Eighth Street and Otis Drive, Alameda. 510-544-3175. ebparks.org/parks/crown_beach.
Cull Canyon. This lagoon is popular with families because its shallow waters are great for little ones who are just getting used to the water. Toddler floatie vests are available to borrow. Find plenty of picnic tables for outside the gates. East Bay Regional Park District lifeguards are on hand to administer swim tests for kids who want to venture into deep waters. Weekends and holidays Memorial Day weekend through mid-September. Plus Thu.-Fri mid-June through mid-August. $2.50-3.50, under 1 FREE. 18870 Cull Canyon Road, Castro Valley. ebparks.org/parks/cull_canyon.
Heart’s Desire Beach. Unlike many beaches in the North Bay, this beach, nestled in Tomales Bay State Park, has calm waters that are perfect for families with new swimmers and vista point picnic facilities. Hiking trails will take you to Indian Beach, Pebble Beach and Shell Beach. Pierce Point Road to Tomales Bay State Park. 8am-sunset. $8 parking, payable by credit or debit card only. parks.ca.gov/?page_id=470.
Raging Waters. Northern California’s largest water park, serving the area for more than 30 years, with more than a dozen slides, a river ride, a wave pool, a playground for tots and other attractions. Open May-September. $33.99-39.99. Coupons can often be found online. Season passes and discounts available. 2333 S. White Road, San Jose. rwsplash.com.
The Rest of the Best
Warm summer days are for water play. These Bay Area water venues will complete your summer experience.
Antioch Prewett Water Park. This city-owned facility features five pools and five waterslides. Open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. $8-16; season passes available. 4701 Lone Tree Way. ci.antioch.ca.us/citysvcs/prewett.
Aqua Adventure Waterpark. Water slides, a 200-yard lazy river, a 25-meter lap pool and other attractions. Open Memorial Day weekend through September. $19.99-20.99, $10 on Fri., 3 and under $3. 40500 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont. goaquaadventure.com.
Brentwood Family Aquatic Complex. Features a lap pool, children’s pool and several slides. Swim classes available. Recreational swim open mid-June to mid-September. $3-9. 195 Griffith Lane. https://www.brentwoodca.gov/gov/parks/water/complex/default.asp.
East Oakland Sports Center. This recreation center boasts daily swim hours, an indoor water park and reasonably priced swim lessons. Be sure to check the website for pool and water park hours before heading over. Open year-round with changing hours. $3-10. FREE on Fri. on a first-come, first-serve basis. 9161 Edes Ave., Oakland. oaklandnet.com/gGovernment/o/opr/s/aquatics/oak029284.
El Cerrito Swim Center & Splash Park. A spray park for babies and kids of all ages, plus a pool with drop-in swimming hours and swim lessons. Check website for summer hours. You may enter the splash park only for $3 during Splash Park-only times. Otherwise, it is part of the admission to Family Swim at the pool: $6 adults, $4 ages 7-17, $3 ages 6 and under.) el-cerrito.org/156/swim-center.
Pleasant Hill Aquatic Park & Sprayground. Enjoy a sprayground, a 25-yard pool with two diving boards, a second wading pool and picnic areas. Find various play structures on the other side of the fence. Recreational swim Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. $4-5, 2 and under FREE. 147 Gregory Lane. pleasanthillrec.com/446/aquatic-facilties.
Quarry Lakes. A swim complex with a white, sandy beach and lifeguard service. Be sure to call or check the website before you visit: The lake is sometimes closed due to toxic algae blooms. FREE, but $5 parking fee. 6am-8pm. 2100 Isherwood Way, Fremont. ebparks.org/parks/quarry_lakes.
Rankin Aquatic Center. This aquatic center boasts a water structure with a gigantic tipping bucket and two pools – a deeper one for the older kids (complete with diving board) that is fenced off from the water structure and a smaller, shallow pool for less experienced swimmers. Bring your own lock for the outdoor lockers and use your towel to secure your spot in the shade or at a picnic table. The only food available for purchase on-site is from a vending machine, so bring your picnic basket. Opens in late spring. $4-6, under age 2 FREE. 100 Buckley St., Martinez. cityofmartinez.org/depts/recreation/swimming/default.asp.
Shadow Cliffs. The former gravel quarry turned 266-acre park features an 80-acre lake with a swimming beach and fishing opportunities. 2500 Stanley Blvd., Pleasanton. May-Labor Day hours, 6am-9pm. $6 vehicle fee. ebparks.org/parks/shadow_cliffs. For more swimming opportunities at East Bay Regional Park District pools, lakes, shorelines and lagoons, visit ebparks.org/activities/swimming/facilities.htm.
Silliman Family Aquatic Center. This indoor pool and water park features water slides, spouts, a lazy river and a lap pool. Check website for summer hours. Waitlist sometimes required on peak days. $9 ages 3 and up, $3 ages 0-2. 6800 Mowry Ave., Newark. newark.org/departments/recreation-and-community-services/aquatic-center-hours.
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. The site formerly known as Waterworld California was reopened in 2018 as a Six Flags destination offering world-class rides, slides and attractions for all ages. New to the park: Splashwater Island, a multi-faceted, interactive water play structure. May 4-Oct. 6. $29.99-$34.99, under 2 FREE. 1950 Waterworld Parkway, Concord. sixflags.com/hurricaneharborconcord.
The Wave in Dublin. A 31,000-square foot indoor/outdoor facility with an indoor pool, outdoor sports pool, waterslide tower and splash zone with water-play features. Certain water slides that were closed for safety concerns were reopened in 2018. Opens Memorial Day weekend. $11-17, $3-4 ages 2 and under. 4201 Central Parkway, Dublin. thedublinwave.com.
Crissy Field East Beach. Renowned as one of the greatest kite-flying destinations in the world, this sandy beach offers spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the downtown skyline. Walk the promenade, have lunch at the picnic tables and visit tidal marsh overlooks. Open 24 hours. FREE. 1199 East Beach. presidio.gov/places/pages/crissy-field.aspx.
Hamilton Recreation Center. Recently renovated, this city-owned swim center with a large, heated pool has the only two indoor waterslides in the city. Offers swimming lessons and is available to rent for swim parties. Closed on holidays. Check website for daily open swim hours. $6 adults. $1 children. 1900 Geary Blvd. 19th Street and Cunningham Place. sfrecpark.org/destination/hamilton-rec-center/hamilton-pool.
Koret Children’s Quarter. Kids can make a splash at the water feature at this famed playground in Golden Gate Park, where they can build dams in the water and sand area. Bonus: The Carousel is open Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends. 8am-8pm. FREE. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bowling Green drives.
Mission Community Pool & Playground. Neighborhood park a short walk from the BART station, with an active water-play structure (FREE) and a city pool ($6 adults, $1 children) with daily recreational swim hours. Swimming lessons available. Check website for schedule. sfrecpark.org/destination/mission-playground/mission-community-pool.
North Beach Swimming Pool. Lap pool and recreation pool offering lessons for all ages. Daily recreation swim year-round, except holidays. Outside, there’s a great neighborhood park packed with play structures. 651 Lombard St. $6 adults, $1 children. For more San Francisco city pools – Balboa, Coffman, Garfield (to reopen in 2020), Martin Luther King Jr., Rossi and Sava – visit sfrecpark.org/recreation-community-services/aquatics-pools.
Ocean Beach. When the weather is really warm, head to Pacific Ocean beach – but know the water will still be frigid. Point Lobos Avenue and Great Highway. Opens at sunrise. FREE. parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/ocean-beach.html.
Bolinas Beach. This small, quiet sandy beach at the mouth of Bolinas Lagoon is an off-beat favorite nestled in the charming tiny town of Bolinas. Build sand castles, splash in the surf and let your dog play off leash. FREE. Brighton Avenue and Cliff Road.
Stinson Beach. A popular and beautiful beach with facilities and a snack bar open in summer. On hot days, the parking lot often fills by 12pm. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend. 9am-sunset. FREE. 3785 Shoreline Highway, Stinson Beach. nps.gov/goga/stbe.htm.
Half Moon Bay State Beach. A four-mile stretch of beach popular for surfing, swimming and sandy play. Find camping facilities, trails for biking, hiking and horseback riding. FREE. parks.ca.gov/?page_id=531.
Joinville Swim Center. One of two San Mateo city swim centers offering summer swim lessons, Joinville has two large pools and a kiddie pool. The outdoor facility is open year-round for recreational swim at 1pm. $4.50, $3 under 16. 2111 Kehoe Ave., San Mateo. cityofsanmateo.org/3396/Joinville-Swim-Center.
Menlo Swim & Sport. Two year-round pools with youth, adult and community programs, including drop-in open swim hours. Check website for hours. Baby pools open in May. $7. Burgess Pool: 501 Laurel St. Belle Haven Pool: 100 Terminal Ave. menloswim.com.
Pacifica State Beach. Better know as Linda Mar Beach, this sandy spot is popular with surfers and people walking along the surf or on the paved trails. Outdoor showers available. Sunrise to sunset. FREE. State Highway 1 and San Pedro Avenue. parks.ca.gov/?page_id=524.
Parkside Aquatic Park. Bordering the Marina Lagoon in San Mateo, this park has a sandy beach with roped-off swimming area, a boat launch ramp, a picnic area, playground, sand volleyball pit and restrooms. Sunrise to sunset. FREE. 1595 Seal St., San Mateo. cityofsanmateo.org/3340/Parkside-Aquatic-Park.
Great America’s Boomerang Bay. A water park within a vast amusement park offering waterslides, a lazy river, wave pool and other attractions for kids big and little. $39, 2 and under FREE; parking $20. Open seasonally. 4701 Great America Parkway, Santa Clara. cagreatamerica.com.
Golfland Emerald Hills. Three twisty tube slides lead into a plunge pool below at this miniature golf course and arcade game center. Waterslide riders must be over 42 inches tall. Days and hours change seasonally. $8.99-11.99. 976 Blossom Hill Road, San Jose. golfland.com/sanjose/.
Morgan Hill Aquatics Center. This city pool also boasts a slide, fountains, geysers, music by the pool and more. Open year-round for lessons; recreational swimming offered Memorial Day weekend through Sept. 15. $7-16, 2 and under FREE. 16200 Condit Road. morganhill.ca.gov/189/aquatics.
Rinconada Pool. A city-owned, year-round heated lap pool with diving boards, plus a seasonal wading pool with geysers, a waterfall, a small slide and “aqua ducks” that shoot water. Open daily. $4-6. 777 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto. paloaltoswim.com.
Water Oasis at Gilroy Gardens. Learn to conserve water by playing in it in this half-acre water play area. A splash pad, wading pool, kiddie slides and more. The 2019 season boasts new, bigger slides and cabana rentals. Complimentary life jackets available. May through early October. $58, 2 and under FREE. 3050 Hecker Pass Highway. gilroygardens.org.
Capitola City Beach. Swimming and surfing just steps away from restaurants, shops and the charmingly colorful Capitola Village. Free outdoor movies and other kid-friendly special events common in the summer. Sunrise-sunset. FREE. Capitola Esplanade. capitolachamber.com/things-to-do/beaches.
Carmel Beach. This long white sand beach is popular with families and heaven for dogs. 6am-10pm. FREE. Foot of Ocean Avenue. ci.carmel.ca.us/beach.
Manresa State Beach. A long beach for walking, surfing, fishing, collecting sand dollars and recreation. 8am-sunset. $10 vehicle fee. 400 San Andreas Road, Watsonville. parks.ca.gov/?page_id=545.
Monterey State Beach. A favorite for surfing, tide-pool exploring, kayaking, beachcombing, kite flying and volleyball. Whales are known to make an appearance. Del Monte and Park avenues, Monterey. FREE. parks.ca.gov/?page_id=576.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. When your family is ready to take a break from games and rides, picnic on the beach and play in the surf. Beware of sneaker waves near the water. Look out for free concerts and outdoor movies in the summer. Lifeguard service is provided during peak seasons. For quieter area, try Cowell Beach on the other side of the wharf. FREE. 400 Beach Street (Main Beach) and 101 Beach Street (Cowell Beach). cityofsantacruz.com/government/city-departments/parks-recreation/parks-beaches-open-spaces/beaches-aquatics.
Twin Lakes State Beach. A great alternative to the Boardwalk in Downtown Santa Cruz with a mile of sandy beach with a lighthouse view, small craft access, hiking trails, nature exhibits programs, restrooms and showers. Park wisely; visitors warn of liberal ticketing. Also consider Seabright State Beach nearby. 6am-10pm. FREE. East Cliff Drive at Seventh Avenue, Santa Cruz. parks.ca.gov/?page_id=547.
Malaika Fraley is the Silicon Valley calendar editor of Bay Area Parent.