People love to visit a city like San Francisco for lots of reasons. There’s the cool architecture, great food in places like Chinatown, tons of shopping, and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. But you might be surprised to find one of the most popular attractions has to do with sea lions. 

Yes, that’s right! 

One of the best cities in the country to see sea lions in is San Francisco. And it’s one reason people flock to this part of the country.

In this post, we’re going to highlight all of the main spots and hidden gems you can check out sea lions. From the biggest tourist spots to some of the secret places the locals know about, you’ll find them all here. 

Ready to get started?

Pier 39

Sea Lions scattered all over the dock on Pier 39 in San Francisco

The first place most people head to see sea lions in San Francisco is Pier 39. Just off the pier, there are a number of floating wooden pallets that the sea lions love to lounge on when the sun’s out. You can watch them interact, swim, and yes, nap, right from the heart of San Francisco. 

If you want to learn a little bit about sea lions, head to the San Francisco Sea Lion Center. It’s adjacent to Pier 39, and you can chat with naturalists and watch daily presentations all about the life of sea lions.

Marine Mammal Center

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, you can visit the Marine Mammal Center. The center is both a hospital and an educational facility for local mammals like sea lions, otters, and seals.

Vistors can get up close and personal with the ‘patients’ as well as learn quite a bit about both the mammals and the local ecosystem as well.

Baker Beach

Waves and water blowing in the wind on Baker Beach with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distant background

Baker Beach is popular with locals and visitors alike for its incredible views of the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge and prime picnic location.

With its strong waves and current, it’s also a sneaky spot to catch some sea lions. The key here is to go in the early morning and keep your eyes peeled. You might luck out and spot some porpoises too.

Aquatic Park Cove

As a part of San Francisco’s National Historic Park, the Aquatic Park Cove is a protected area that attracts swimmers and boaters from all over the country.

Increasingly, it’s becoming a favorite spot for sea lions to swim around. So, while wandering this area, it’s beautiful on its own as a place to stroll or ride a bike, you can also spot a few sea lions bobbing in the water too. 

Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Anytime you’re out looking for sea lions, whether in San Francisco, or anywhere else, be ready! Keep your eyes on the horizon and have your camera ready! You won’t want to miss it when one of these guys pops their head of out the water. 

Need to see more Sea Lions in San Fran? Start planning your trip now, and stop by our sister site,, for the best last-minute hotel rates in the area.