With its counter-cultural roots, rocky coastline and twinkling views of San Francisco in the distance, you can understand why Bolinas wants to keep a low profile. But everybody’s favorite West Marin hideout is no secret, in spite of sign-swiping locals’ best efforts. That’s especially true for surfing.
With big surf and cold water, Northern California beaches are not usually kind to beginners, yet on small days Bolinas is a haven for newbies who clog the shallow inside section with foam boards and flailing arms. But the truth is, when a south swell is pouring in or a winter swell out of Alaska wraps around Duxbury Point and hits the channel, Bolinas is no place for beginners. Fast peeling waves in shallow water rifle to the left and sometimes right, providing a cover up for those on their game and able to dodge the human flotsam on the inside.
"Northern California beaches are not usually kind to beginners, yet on small days Bolinas is a haven for newbies"
After a day in the water you’ve got to eat. Coast Cafe is the go-to spot in town for seafood and burgers. Their tiny coffee hut keeps folks caffeinated and satiated with great pastries, burritos and pies. If a historic tavern is more what you're in the mood for, Smiley's Saloon is the place to be. A Bolinas cornerstone, this local watering hole has been serving the community since 1851 and is reported to be the oldest continually operating saloon on the west coast. If your taste is a little more modern, Sisters Rebecca and Kate Sterlin pulled off a rare trick and opened a new restaurant in Bolinas. Eleven offers hand-tossed pizza, oysters and a great wine list to go with it. It’s also got a cozy little B&B if you don’t feel like driving home. Who would?
"Naked surfing and cozy eateries aren't the only things locals are good at."
Naked surfing and cozy eateries aren't the only things locals are good at. A stroll through the tiny town will uncover art hiding in the most unlikely (and likely) places. Local artists have painted the town rainbow, using the breakwalls and sidewalks as their canvas. The better-than-your-average graffiti, colorful (in language and in color) statements and doodles are an integral part of the scenery in Bolinas.
On weekends, parking is a mess. If the waves are good, even showing up before dawn means you'll be hunting for a spot. Your best best bet is to come on a weekday, preferably a cold and dreary one when most people don't think of going to the beach. But if there are waves, you will have plenty of company no matter the weather.