Coyote Point is a recreation area with a public beach on the north most tip of San Mateo, California. With a semi sheltered stretch of water between the rocky point itself and Fisherman’s Park it’s one of the few places open water swimmers can take a dip in the bay and get some yardage in the bay. I’ve been swimming there on occasion since the summer of 2016 when I moved to the SF penninsula. I’d recommend it as a decent beginner spot for swimmers looking to get into triathlon or open water swimming.
While I’ve found a meetup group (Peninsula Tri-ers) and a facebook group (Coyote Point Swimming Club) I’ve rarely seen other people in the water beyond wading, kayaking, boating, or windsurfing. But besides Aquatic Park up in SF and a couple spots in East Bay I haven’t found another true open water spot (note: the Penninsula Tri-ers does commonly swim in the lagoons of Foster City, which are warmer, more sheltered, and died vibrantly green). If you’re interested in testing the water at Coyote Point here’s what to expect.
As with any open water swimming, be careful, try to swim with a buddy, and look out for water quality warnings before getting in.
Water Temperature: The water temp varies between the high 40s in the winter and low 70s in the summer but remains fairly consistent from week to week. Check out the temp for the nearby Redwood City bouy. For reference, above 70 is like a cool swimming pool, 70–60 is tolerable sans wetsuit for me, 55–60 I’d recommend a 3mm full suit, and 55–50 is painful but doable. Anything below 50 I wouldn’t recommend anyone that’s not a veteran OWS to get in.
Times: Go in the morning before the wind picks up. Both because of the chop and because as a popular spot for windsurfers you don’t want to get run over. I’d recommend before 10am at the latest.
Hazards: There are fishermen primarily in Fisherman’s Park, but also some along the Coyote Point Beach and occasionally in small boats in the water. Watch out for any lines and boat traffic, it’s safest within the cove area highlighted here, but keep an eye out. I don’t think it’s required to have a swim bouy for visibility, but it couldn’t hurt. If you get close to Coyote Point itself there are rocks that protrude from the water and some below, if visibility is low and/or the water is choppy I’d stay away.
Water Quality: check for signs posted by the beach, or before you go for water sample test results.
Tides: I’d recommended to swim during higher tides. This beach is actually pretty shallow far out and the water get’s muddier and the clay like mud is unpleasant to walk in.
Current: Within the shelter of the area mentioned before there’s not a noticeable current. Further out you may feel a pull directionally depending on which way the tides are going.
Coyote Point Recreation Area
Parking: It is currently $6 to enter the park area with a car. Bikes or walking in is free, I often bike in and park my bike at the Boardsports building.
Location: My preferred spot to start is right by the Boardsports building from the ramp. I leave my pack on the rocks along shore and haven’t yet had an issue. One of the great pluses to this beach is there are hot showers in the restrooms by the shop that have been open every time I’ve swam (amazing after a chilly swim).
Route: I’m a bit of a chicken and don’t venture too far out into the bay. The water get’s choppier once you pass the shelter of the Fisherman’s point barrier and boat routes are more common. I do occasionally see swimmers go further out, but I’m pretty satisfied with my ~1mi loop.
The Park: The recreation area itself is small but quite pleasant. The eucalyptus covered area has some trails and the open area has grassy fields, picnic areas, and playgrounds.
Hypothermia: As someone that’s needed to be rescued from a swim by kayak, please be careful. Some warning signs of hypothermia: inability to speak clearly, slower stroke rate, and inability to close the gap between your fingers. Being that cold does mess with cognitive function so always be on alert if the water is cold.
Sighting: There aren’t any bouys to sight off of like an ocean beach, but there are a few markers I like to use. The rocky island off coyote point, the board sports shop, the tallest white building, on the north side, and the top of Fisherman’s Park.
Sandals: I always forget but would recommend sandals due to the beach and ramp being a bit rocky.
Coyote Point is no Avila Beach, but may be one of the best true open water swimming options on the peninsula. It’s usually calm and warm, it’s close to town, and the hot showers are clutch. Have a great swim and maybe I’ll see you out on the water!