Stinson beach is a pretty drive north of San Francisco. Its a very nice beach close to a major city and not directly facing the Pacific Ocean, so its a bit calmer. On warm weekends get there early or expect to walk. If you find yourself in San Francisco and want to see a beach, this is closer than Santa Cruz. Either one is fine if all you're after is a beach. More pictures and a few brief comments at Lingamish, Joy's Blog, and James E. Lee's Blog.