15 Best Things to Do in Bolinas, CA

Bolinas, CA
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To the northwest of San Francisco, you will find the obscure community of Bolinas, California.

Its coastal location in Marin County sits near the San Andreas Fault.

Bolinas has an exciting reputation: its residents are known for removing road signs that lead to their community.

The residents repeated this act so often that the local government passed a formal measure, removing all road signs pointing to Bolinas.

This coastal community offers one of the best getaways in California, thanks to its calm ambiance, relatively older architecture, the sea surrounding it, and the Bolinas Lagoon.

If you want to visit the area, here are the 15 best things to do in Bolinas, California, that would make your trip memorable:

Visit the Alamere Falls

Scenic view of Alamere Falls
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If you’re feeling especially adventurous and are physically fit to endure long walks and hikes, visiting the Alamere Falls is an excellent activity in Bolinas.

From the heart of Bolinas, travel to the Palomarin Trailhead and begin the 13-mile back and forth hike to Alamere Falls.

What makes this waterfall special?

Well, it’s a tidefall, a rare waterfall that meets the sea directly.

Aerial view of Alamere Falls
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The gorgeous Alamere Falls faces the Pacific Ocean from over 40 feet and makes for a popular tourist destination, but getting there is a challenging feat because of the distance and the terrain.

Plan your trek to the Alamere Falls accordingly, especially since there’s little to no mobile signal and no water and toilet services are available on the trail.

But if you make it through, you’ll be rewarded with a natural landform that you’d have difficulty finding anywhere else.

Take some photos to commemorate your visit!

Water from Alamere Falls flowing to the sea
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Eat Healthy Food Options at BoVida

For a coastal town like Bolinas, the addition of a healthy food place is a welcome one that tourists and locals would love.

Known as BoVida, this restaurant has stood in its present location along Wharf Road since it opened its doors in 2018.

BoVida’s menu is all about organic foods and healthy living, and their primary specialty is their acai bowls packed with fruits and topped with honey, coconut flakes, and granola.

They also offer fruit smoothies to pair with their variety of paninis, sandwiches, and bagels for those looking for some meat in their meals.

Other items on their menu are salads and soups and coffee and other drinks, catering to everyone’s tastes.

Spend a Relaxing Afternoon at Bolinas Beach

Kayaks on Bolinas Beach shore
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The coastline of Bolinas offers some of the most breathtaking and intimate places in California, thanks to its fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean.

Ride down to near the end of Brighton Avenue, and you will see the glittering sand that stretches to the end of Wharf Road on the eastern part of Bolinas.

Here, you can spend an intimate and peaceful afternoon where you can bring lunch or a late afternoon picnic, but be very mindful of your trash.

Sands of Bolinas Beach
flamenc, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bolinas Beach is a leash-free beach, so you can also bring your dog for a relaxing day where they can explore the area.

Because of its proximity to the Bolinas Lagoon, the rolling waters off the coast of Bolinas Beach are an excellent spot for surfers.

You can spend a relaxing afternoon breathing in nature and watching surfers ride the waves, a genuine Bolinas experience.

Eat Out at Coast Cafe

Exterior of Coast Cafe
Eric Fredericks from Rancho Cordova, CA, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With its sea-breeze atmosphere, Bolinas sets a picturesque vibe for meals, exactly what Coast Cafe offers.

Its building is designed with iconic coastal architecture and can be found along Wharf Road, near Bolinas Museum.

Coast Cafe offers an impressive assortment of meal offerings from breakfast to dinner, with special brunches served during the weekends.

You can try their meals made of organic beef, chicken, clams, freshly caught fish, and vegan options.

Pair your food with their wines and beverages—both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options are available.

For a better experience, try out their outdoor seating to take in the calm Bolinas air.

Play Tennis at the Bolinas Park

If you like to walk and explore the area, you could stumble upon Bolinas Park along Brighton Avenue.

With its closeness to the heart of Bolinas, Bolinas Park is a great place to get away from the bustle and enjoy a quiet time.

Bolinas Park is home to a community tennis court where you and your friends can play a tennis match.

The tennis court itself observes the first-come, first-serve policy, so you should get there early.

There’s also a practice wall for solo players.

Bolinas Park’s closeness to and view of the ocean makes it an excellent spot for picnics.

Swim at the Agate Beach

Clear waters of Agate Beach
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Head west of Bolinas to the jagged and rocky cliffside shoreline of Agate Beach for an unforgettable adventure.

This challenging terrain is quite hard to hike, but your reward for braving the trip is a broad view of the Pacific Ocean, perfect for some time alone or with friends.

Sunny day at Agate Beach
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The waters off the shore of Agate Beach are rocky and relatively shallow, so it’s a great spot to enjoy a day just swimming around.

Be mindful of the waves, though.

If you want to walk to the neighboring Duxbury Point, you can bring along your dogs but keep them leashed.

After a day of swimming, you can head to the tidal pools off the coast of Agate Beach and check out some of the critters that appear during the low tide.

The sand of Agate Beach
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Visit Larner Seeds and Demonstration Garden

If you head west of the Bolinas area and into the Bolinas Quail Refuge, you will find Larner Seeds, a gardening shop that’s also well-known for its Demonstration Garden.

With its location along Grove Road at the heart of Bolinas Quail Refuge, Larner Seeds is one of the best botanical gardens to visit when you’re near Bolinas.

Larner Seeds specializes in native plants, and you can see this with their Demonstration Garden, which is home to over 100 native and coastal plants.

Larner Seeds is also home to different gardening tools and books to get you started on your journey toward creating a garden in your backyard.

Since they’re located inside the Bolinas Quail Refuge, you can also explore the area, which is lush in trees and local wildlife.

Explore Art Collections at Bolinas Museum

Exterior of Bolinas Museum
flamenc, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Despite its small size, Bolinas holds one of the premier art museums in Marin County—the Bolinas Museum.

Built in 1983, the Bolinas Museum has since stood on its coastal location along Wharf Road and hosts five art galleries for tourists to see.

Its free admission means that guests can freely walk in and marvel at the different art collections that the museum has.

Bolinas Museum boasts an expansive collection of fine arts, historical artifacts, archives, and photos, celebrating local artists.

Apart from that, Bolinas Museum also hosts different events throughout the year, such as concerts and talks, giving guests more things to do in the area.

Find Sea Creatures at the Duxbury Reef Tidal Pools

The shores around Bolinas are teeming with sea life, and there’s no better place to see them firsthand than at the Duxbury Reef Tidal Pools.

Head to the area during the low tide, and the sea will welcome you with the sight of a shallow and rocky reef that extends a bit into the sea.

The reef houses tidal pools that get exposed during the low tide, and you can find all sorts of sea life in them, such as mussels, snails, and nudibranchs.

Take note that the Duxbury Reef is a protected area, and it’s illegal to bring the animals home, so observe them with your eyes.

The Duxbury Reef Tidal Pools are also great with children, making them an excellent place for family bonding.

Get Your Fill of Mexican Food at Smiley’s Saloon, Hotel, & Kitchen

Exterior of Smiley’s Saloon, Hotel, & Kitchen
flamenc, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Are you looking to spice up your palate during your stay in Bolinas?

Try out Mexican food at Smiley’s Saloon, Hotel, & Kitchen, an all-in-one restaurant that you can find along Wharf Road near Bolinas Museum.

Since its establishment in 1851, Smiley’s Saloon, Hotel, & Kitchen has catered to everyone’s taste buds with burritos, nachos, and other fried and grilled options.

True to their name as a saloon, they also offer alcoholic beverages for those looking for something with a kick.

If you need a place to stay while you’re in Bolinas, you can try out the rooms above the restaurant, and all of these have a kitchenette attached.

Nights in Smiley’s Saloon, Hotel, & Kitchen won't be boring because music performances are available inside and outside the premises.

Board an Orchid with California Orchids

If you time your visit to Bolinas right, you can get a unique souvenir during your stay.

Visit California Orchids, a shop by Aspen Road, during their spring and autumn sales when they are open to the public and select your orchid.

California Orchids specializes in boarding orchids, meaning that you won’t bring the orchid back home and instead wait for the shop to deliver the flower to you as soon as it has bloomed.

Then, when the orchids have stopped flowering, California Orchids pick them up and bring them back to their greenhouses for professional care.

This unique arrangement has seen California Orchids tend to more than 12,000 orchids across their five heated greenhouses.

Note that California Orchids only serves Marin County, so they won’t offer delivery and pickup services if you're from outside.

Birdwatch at the Bolinas Lagoon Nature Preserve

Bolinas Lagoon Nature Preserve's marsh
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Along the northern and eastern coast of Bolinas, you can find the Bolinas Lagoon Nature Preserve.

These 1,100 acres of estuaries are home to wildlife, particularly seabirds and other migratory birds that stop resting in the lagoon.

Here, you will find snowy egrets and blackbirds and pelicans in the summer, ducks in the winter, and herons in the spring.

A bird at Bolinas Lagoon Preserve
Len Blumin from Mill Valley, California, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These seabirds also breed in the lagoon, so you can expect to find hatchlings, especially during May and June.

As an additional treat, there are also harbor seals in the area.

Don’t disturb the seabirds and instead observe them from a distance using your binoculars.

Play Sports at the Mesa Park

Bolinas doesn’t have a shortage of open spaces for you to spend the rest of your day.

One of these is Mesa Park which can be found to the north of Bolinas and features an open space suitable for activities.

While you can use your time to enjoy the quiet, hang out with friends, or play with your kids, Mesa Park is better known for its sports amenities.

By the roadside, you can find the football field while getting to the basketball court near the parking lot.

There’s also an open skatepark complete with ramps, pipes, stairs, ledges, and space for a baseball field.

Whatever sports activity you’d like to do, Mesa Park is your go-to location in Bolinas.

Get Some Quiet Time at Palomarin Beach

Scenic view of Palomarin Beach
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There’s one more thing that you can do when you’re interested in making a trek from Palomarin Trailhead—explore the secluded Palomarin Beach.

Just to the side of Mesa Road en route to Palomarin Trailhead, you can get off at a designated parking space and begin the roughly one-mile hike to Palomarin Beach.

The hike is generally well-maintained and passes through a valley and meadow before climbing back up.

The last stretch of the path is a steep descent onto the beach, where you will be greeted with the sight of the rocky shore that stretches quite far into both sides.

You can expect to find a quiet Palomarin Beach as it’s not frequented too often, allowing for a calm afternoon to get some quiet time while you’re in Bolinas.

Some tide pools are visible during low tide, which is excellent for watching sea critters but be wary as the high tide can leave the beach with a pretty narrow space.

Shop for Fresh Produce at the Gospel Flat Farm Stand

In the northern part of Bolinas, there stands a unique shop that sells fresh produce popular among locals and tourists alike.

Head up to Olema Bolinas Road to the Gospel Flat Farm Stand, a shop that has sold produce to the surrounding area since its establishment in 1982.

This open-air establishment is unmistakable with its vast sign and invites customers to go through its farm-fresh produce such as fruits, vegetables, and eggs.

The family farm also bakes bread such as sourdough.

A unique feature of the Gospel Flat Farm Stand is its honor system, where customers will weigh their items, note the total price, and pay through a box with no one looking at them.

The owner devised the honor system because he didn’t want to spend a lot of time away from the farm, and it proved to be an effective way of raising profits.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Swim at the Stinson Beach

Aerial view of Stinson Beach
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About 7 miles southeast of Bolinas lies the white sand shores of Stinson Beach, a hugely popular destination among those visiting the area.

Because of its unobstructed view of the Pacific Ocean and its waves, Stinson Beach is a great place to swim or do other water activities.

Sunset at Stinson Beach
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As a public beach, Stinson Beach attracts a massive crowd of people, especially during the summer months.

Apart from swimming, the beach is also famous among surfers, rafters, and body-surfers.

Because of its proximity to Bolinas, Stinson Beach is a decent place to visit when you want to break free from the more laid-back atmosphere in Bolinas.

Sunny day at Stinson Beach
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Final Thoughts

Thanks to its reclusive residents, Bolinas is one true gem hidden in Marin County and overshadowed by more popular tourist destinations.

Grab quiet time away from the crowds, Bolinas welcomes you, even if residents might prefer peace.

Try out Bolinas’ atmosphere today!