Sand City California is blessed with an abundance of, well, sand, including the highest dunes found along the state’s Central Coast. But this isn’t your garden-variety beach sand. We’re referring to spectacular dunes formed during the Pleistocene era at the tail end of the last ice age somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 to 15,000 years ago. Sand City Beach is also known for its strong winds, making even the summer months a tad chilly at times. With about a mile and a half of ocean, Sand City is virtually surrounded by much larger cities, like Seaside.
Look above the dunes, and you’ll see a sky full of para gliders. The same steady winds that lure hang gliders to Marina State Beach draw para gliders to its sister beach a little south. Sand City is one of the prime spots in the state for paragliding. The winds are perfect, the launch area ideal — and the view is incredible. The Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail runs right through the sand dunes, north to Castroville and south all the way to Pebble Beach. For a list of all the area beaches << Click Here >>.
Sand City Weather (When to Visit)
The best time to visit Sand City is between April and May. Spring offers warmer temperatures, fewer crowds and food festivals dishing out delectable eats, including Pebble Beach Food & Wine and the Artichoke Festival in Castroville. Summer is the most popular time to visit the Sand City. Located right on the ocean, the region experiences bitter winds, so bring a sweater regardless of the season. Fall is another good time to visit, but the likelihood of rain increases starting in October. Sand City’s central California location subjects it to mild temperatures during the winter, with the average low reaching 48 degrees. Winter also brings lower hotel prices and the celebrity-heavy AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am event held in February, making Sand City an attractive destination year-round.
Best Sand City Area Beaches
Sand City Beach
The small city of Sand City, California is completely wrapped around by the city of Seaside. The paved Monterey Bay Coastal Trail runs through the dunes providing access to trails that lead to Sand City Beach. The trails in the preserve are open to hiking, biking, and leashed pets, but don’t trample the vegetation next to the trails.
“The Crater” and its adjacent beach are best-known as a clothing-optional area, but should be known for the sandy playground that they comprise. The Crater is a huge depression in the dunes that has sand rising up around it on all sides. Some slopes are gentle while others are downright steep. Kids and adults can find a comfortable grade to climb and jump off of or slide down. The beach here is wide, sandy and feels remote.
Fort Ord Dunes State Park
Fort Ord Dunes State Park has a 1,500 foot trail to 4 miles of ocean beach with beautiful views of Monterey Bay. From the parking area visitors may also take a stroll on the new boardwalk to a bluff top viewing platform. Existing park roads are open to bicyclists, hikers and dogs on leash.
Monterey State Beach
This beach is a favorite place for surfers and tidepool watchers. Fishing is popular, too. Visitors also enjoy kayaking, kite-flying and volleyball. The flat beach is an excellent place for beachcombing.
Del Monte Beach
Del Monte Beach is a hidden gem known to Monterey Bay locals. There is a boardwalk trail through the dunes with benches and picnic tables to rest on. Del Monte is between two sections of Monterey State Beach, Window on the Bay Beach, walking distance to the south, and Houghton M. Roberts Beach.
Best Sand City Tours & Activities
Monterey, Carmel and 17-Mile Drive – Full Day Tour
Drive down one of the most scenic roads in California on this full-day tour from San Francisco. Cruise along the coast-hugging Highway 1, passing the mansions of Pebble Beach on the iconic 17-Mile Drive. Enjoy free time to explore Monterey, where you can stroll down Steinbeck’s Cannery Row or visit the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Browse the ritzy boutiques of Carmel-by-the-Sea and get a glimpse of Silicon Valley’s tech campuses on the return drive to San Francisco. Learn more about the Monterey, Carmel & 17-Mile Drive Full Day Tour.
Napa and Sonoma Wine Country – Full Day Tour
Escape to California’s famous wine country on this full-day tour from San Francisco. Taste regional varietals at multiple wineries in Napa and Sonoma, including both big-name and family-run estates. Learn about the winemaking process during guided tours of vineyards and barrel rooms, and savor the area’s gourmet culture with a stop for lunch in charming Sonoma Square Plaza. Learn more about the Napa & Sonoma Wine Country Full Day Tour.
Jail and Sail: Alcatraz Tour and Sunset or Twilight Bay Cruise
Cruise across San Francisco Bay twice in one day on this combo tour that includes entrance to the former island prison of Alcatraz, one of those most popular—and often sold-out—attractions in the city. Start with the ferry ride to San Francisco’s famous jail, which you’ll explore with a self-guided audio tour. After returning from Alcatraz, take a sunset or twilight cruise (depending on time of year) on the bay with an onboard buffet of hors d’oeuvres and a glass of wine or beer. Learn more about the Jail & Sail Tour.
Skip the Line: USS Midway Museum Admission Ticket
Take a trip through American naval history with admission to the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. This enormous ship, known as the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century, now offers a range of interactive exhibits, a self-guided audio tour and numerous restored aircraft across its 4-acre (1.6-hectare) flight deck and sections below. It’s an essential piece of San Diego’s, and America’s, military history. Learn more about the USS Midway Museum Admission Ticket.
San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise
What better way to end a day in San Francisco than a sunset catamaran cruise? Sail across San Francisco Bay at twilight to admire the city skyline as it begins to light up for the night. With an experienced captain at the helm, you’ll glide past Alcatraz Island and cruise underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. Light hors d’oeuvres and two drinks are included. Learn more about the San Francisco Bay Sunset Catamaran Cruise.
Best Sand City Restaurants
Wild Fish $31 – 60
Wild Fish offers only the finest organic provisions, purchased directly from local purveyors with exclusive plates crafted by our premier chef. From the headland where we sit, there’s a view of waves combing the crags of Little River Cove, with a stunning sunset beyond. Where delectable fresh dishes meet a wistful atmosphere, Wild Fish makes every meal a spectacular dining experience. Telephone: 831-373-8523 Web: Wild Fish.
Chart House $31 – 60
Chart House is a fine dining restaurant serving seafood & steak and famous for their spectacular views. Chart House restaurants specialize in dazzling views, unique cuisine and exceptional service. From fresh fish specialties to slow-roasted prime rib, the renowned chefs of Chart House have tailored a menu that adds a unique touch to local flavors. And the Chart House happy hour is a guest favorite, where guest favor our signature cocktails and delicious bites you are sure to enjoy. Telephone: 831-372-3362 Web: Chart House.
Montrio Bistro $31 – 60
Montrio is an upscale “Bistro” offering a diverse menu rich in local ingredients. Wood fired grill and brick oven are used in many of the dishes. Montrio features: Prime Steaks, Natural Pork, Seasonally Local Seafood, Free Range Chicken and the Best in Local Produce. Telephone: 831-648-8880 Web: Montrio Bistro.
Passionfish $31 – 60
Passionfish offers serious food in a fun and causal atmosphere. The combination of Chef Ted Walter’s uniquely flavorful culinary creations and an award winning wine list have earned Passionfish a place among California’s finest restaurants. Passionfish’s ever-changing menu makes each visit a new adventure. Although the name Passionfish naturally conjures up visions of fresh seafood, the menu also offers many tantalizing alternatives, including steaks, fowl, and vegetarian dishes. And the wine flows freely at Passionfish, from a list as diverse as any in the world. Telephone: 831-655-3311 Web: Passionfish.
Jeninni Kitchen & Wine Bar $11 – 30
A coastal and southern Mediterranean cuisine. Their menu consists of many small plates and changes almost daily with focus on local and organic ingredients. Their diverse wine list designed by the owner Sommelier offers high quality wines from our local Monterey County appellation and from around the world. Telephone: 831-920-2662 Web: Jeninni Kitchen & Wine Bar.
Best Sand City Bars
Post No Bills Craft Beer House
They offer a wide range of Craft Beer, and Ciders from all over the world. With 17 rotating taps, and over 300 bottles for consumption on or off premise. Telephone: 831-324-4667 Web: Post No Bills Craft Beer House.
Cuz’s Sportsman’s Club
A locals bar with three dart boards, pool table, and live music on Thursdays. Wednesday night hosts Monterey Bay Dart League matches. Tuesdays there pool and/or dart tournaments. Telephone: 831-394-2666 Web: Cuz’s Sportsman’s Club.
Carbones is a great bar, reminiscent of cheers. Sal the owner is friendly and kind and if you are new and or by yourself he will make you feel welcome and introduce you to other friendly customers/regulars. There is a nice fire pit outside. Dart boards inside and outside, pool table and Foosball table. Wednesday nights they have a luck of the draw darts tournament and good fun people participate. Telephone: 831-643-9169 Web: Carbone’s.
Best Sand City Hotels
Quail Lodge & Golf Club
Quail Lodge & Golf Club, a family-friendly hotel that brings the best of Carmel to your doorstep. Quail Lodge & Golf Club features a 24 hour front desk, outdoor furniture, and newspaper. In addition, as a valued Quail Lodge & Golf Club guest, you can enjoy a pool and breakfast that are available on-site.
The Old St. Angela Inn
Within this turn-of-the-century, shingle-style home is rooms of distinctive individuality and warmth, designed to provide comfort and serenity. Each of our nine guest rooms has private baths and are decorated in the craftsman style of the original house. Antiques, teddy bears and other delights provide a relaxing and informal feel.
In downtown Carmel, this inn features free Wi-Fi and offers an in-room breakfast basket and fresh baked cookies daily. Flat-screen cable TV with pay options is available in guest rooms.
Carraige House Inn
Tucked onto a quiet side street, the Carriage House Inn is just one block south of Ocean Avenue, the hub of this quaint yet elegant village. Guestrooms boast feather beds, fireplaces, flat screen TVs and luxury linens, with most including jetted tubs and vaulted ceilings.
Andril Fireplace Cottages
Andril Fireplace Cottages offers a welcome that feels like a homecoming. Nearly all of the twenty units are separate buildings set among the trees and lawns of the spacious grounds. Their outdoor setting is perfect for your family, almost regardless of size.
What a great article, makes me want to go on a beach holiday right now, you’ve provided useful information. I will put this on my list of places to visit, and will come back to your post for useful reminders. Thank you
You are very welcome Habib. Thanks for stopping by Sand City California. _Please do come back when you are ready to start planning.
It still amazes me how beautiful the shores of California are. Though I’ve never been to many of the areas you lay out here, your descriptions make them clear as day for me. Moreover, they make me want to go back there. Thank you for the information. Well done.
You are so welcome Skip! I am glad you have enjoyed visiting beach travel destinations. Yes, the California coast is beautiful. One of those areas to keep going back to. I don’t think you can see it all in one visit.
I really enjoed this post. Your website is very professional. It is like a one-stop website for travellers. I like that you cover pretty much everything: hotels, beaches, bars, things to do. You have done all the hard work and research and share your experience with future travellers, which is wonderful.
On a different note, I have lived in Australia on and off for 5 years and your post brought sweet memories.
I am glad you enjoyed Tanya 🙂 Thanks for visiting beach travel destinations and taking the time to leave me comments 🙂
Sand City California is a beautiful place to visit. I was in California a few years ago to see my uncle that lives there, and if I knew about this place, I would have gone there for sure! But it’s never too late:) I am traveling next year to California to revisit my uncle, and this time I will not miss the opportunity to visit this place. Just a question, please if you don’t mind. My uncle lives in Los Angeles, do you know maybe the distance from Los Angeles to Sand City California by car or by bus?
Thank you for this excellent post!
You are so welcome Daniella! The distance is going to be about 300 miles, or a 5 hour drive. But it will be a beautiful drive! Please let me know if you need anything else. I would be glad to help!
What great scenery in the ride along the rocky shoreline. Plenty to see and do in the surrounding area too. How did that tree survive in that rock formation on the cliff? Amazing! Great video! You can have a great time in Sand City, California for sure!
Yes, you can have a great time! And 17-mile drive is something not to miss for sure! Ends up being an all day jaunt…stopping off and seeing all of the wonderful coastal scenery.
Wow what a great in depth article, I have never been to Sand City but it looks beautiful and I’d love to get out to California. When I get there I’ll know where to god for food, drinks and entertainment. Thanks for the post, really helpful.
Yep, there is definitely lots to do in the area. Stay tuned as I will be writing more about the coastal community neighbors to Sand City California. Thanks for visiting Beach Travel Destinations.
Thank you for helping to plan m next California trip. California is one of our go-to places to escape the snow and cold of winter. I have never heard of Sand City California but it looks so wonderful and April and May is perfect because of spring break. It looks up and coming with wonderful restaurants and activities and a place I think me and my family need to explore. Thanks for letting us know about this hidden gem.
It is definitely a hidden gem, and also more budget friendly than some of the other larger California coastal cities. Of course, you are close enough to everything, which makes this a wonderful beach destination!
I love your website and post! You are so thorough in your descriptions, weather, attractions, lodging, everything! Your website is the go-to place for anyone wanting to travel to the beach destination!
Great 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed. Beaches are definitely my passion and I love going to different beaches and writing about them. Thanks for stopping by!
What a beautiful site! I had never heard of Sand City before but it looks like the smaller less crowded destinations that I prefer. I’m so glad you provided such detailed information including activities, restaurants and hotels.
Yes, Sand City California is a very small town nestled next to Monterey. So you kind of have everything you need, should you want to head to the big city as well. Thanks for visiting Beach Travel Destinations Kyle!
Looks like a great place to visit! This is so helpful for me and my husband as we love to travel when we have the chance and our bucket list just gets bigger and bigger. Endless list! Thanks for this travel idea! I love the beach anyway so I can just stay under the sun laying on the sand and I’m all set!
Yes, that is kind of how I am too. Give me a nice tropical frozen drink, and I am set! But, there is also plenty to do in the area should you want to. Thanks for reading about Sand City California.
This is another great post from you. Sand City looks really beautiful with all those area attractions and things to do. Would love to go there once, just have to make sure it is April or May to have the best impressions.
April and May is a beautiful time of year to visit Sand City California, and the area in general. Glad you enjoyed reading and learning. Thanks for stopping by!
Hey Leahrae 🙂 This is awesome. I was just watching the video! I’ve only been to San Diego once and loved it. That’s about the only place I’ve been in California. This place looks so inviting because I love the beach and the shore. But I also love what you write as far as places to eat and everything. This is a place for me next time I get to California! Thanks Leahrae! 🙂
Central California is beautiful Rob, you will love it here. The coastline is just awesome, and there are so many great beaches, things to do, wonderful food, just everything. I hope you can visit Sand City California soon!
As a former California resident, I can completely attest to all of the great attractions and things to do for travelers of all ages at this locale! Such beautiful scenery and the weather, well, it’s hard to beat! Don’t miss the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival either if you’re into that scene – it’s excellent! Thanks for all the great information consolidated in one place 🙂
And I will agree with you on Sand City. Beautiful and wonderful weather. Cannot be beat. Glad you enjoyed visiting beach travel destinations!
Ahhhhh…your article just makes me want to go to the beach! Very good and informative. Love the images too! Love your whole site…so refreshing and lots of information. Saving it to favorites.
Thank you Paulette and glad you enjoyed visiting beach travel destinations. Thanks for stopping by!