Skip, dance, frolic. You may be inspired to do all three on your first visit to Black Sand Beach in Marin. This half-mile stretch of chocolate-colored coastline just northwest of the Golden Gate Bridge is roughly the size of Baker Beach—with only a fraction of the crowds. Walk ten minutes down the 253 wooden steps from the dirt parking lot, then spread a blanket behind one of the several rock outcroppings (a great windbreak on gusty days). Dip your toes in the refreshing 55-degree water when the afternoon heats up. Heads-up: Some folks here like to frolic bare-style, making the place a setting for many natural wonders.

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