The Best Time to visit San Francisco

All you need to know about the best time to visit San Francisco

San Francisco is the fourth biggest city in the state of California, and is a dream destination for so many travellers. Along with Los Angeles, San Francisco is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Golden State. The city is famous world over for its sights, and none more so than the Golden Gate Bridge. But, if you’re planning to see the city, you do need to keep the best time to visit San Francisco in mind. If you get your timing wrong, you might not be able to see the bridge as it could be covered in a dense fog. In this article I will tell you how this fog forms. and what are the best times of year to visit the city so you miss the worst of the fog. With the help of climate tables, I will inform you of the high temperatures you can expect from January to December, and in which months you should expect the most rain or the most sunshine.


Climate data for San Francisco

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Max. temperature in °C 13 15 16 18 19 21 22 22 23 21 17 13
Min. temperature in °C 5 7 8 8 10 11 12 13 13 11 8 6
Hours of sunshine per day 6 7 9 10 10 11 10 9 9 8 6 5
Rainy days per month 8 7 8 6 2 1 0 0 0 2 7 8
Water temperature in °C 10 11 12 12 13 14 15 15 16 15 13 11

Climate in San Francisco

In San Francisco, a Mediterranean climate prevails. Cold air from the Pacific Ocean has a huge influence on the weather in San Francisco. The cold California Stream, which comes from the north, has an especial effect on the northern Californian city. Temperatures in San Francisco are mild year round, and there are no extreme temperatures in summer or winter. The temperatures very rarely drop into the minus between December and February, and snowfall is extremely rare. The coldest months of the year in San Francisco are January and December, which see minimum temperatures of five to six degrees Celsius. The warmest months are July and August, with 22°C, and September at 23°C.

You can expect the least amount of rainfall in San Francisco between the months of May and October. In fact, the months of July to September are practically rain free. The temperature of the water in the Pacific Ocean reaches 15°C for the months of July, August and October and up to 16°C in September, the highest it gets to. When you’re surrounded by 21°C temperatures, then the water seems pleasantly warm. It is sunniest in April, May (which get 10 hours of sunshine a day) and July (with 11 hours of sunshine). March, August and September also average about nine hours of sunshine daily.

When is the best time to visit San Francisco?

In general, the best time to visit San Francisco is between May and October. This is the time when the best weather conditions prevail. Holidaymakers can expect the highest temperatures, the most sunshine, and the lowest number of rainy days. This is also the summer vacation in the United States, so the city can become overcrowded and your trip may cost significantly higher than other times. So, the months of May, June and October are probably the best time to visit San Francisco if you’re looking for a quieter and cheaper holiday. In summer, temperatures rarely get higher than 25°C. So, that makes midsummer also a pleasant option for your San Francisco holiday. July, August and September are virtually precipitation free, with an average of zero days of rain in these months.

Winter is also relatively mild, with a minimum temperature of 5°C in January. The water temperatures in the Pacific can range from 10 to 16 °C, so it can be unsuitable for a beach holiday at this time. If you would like to explore the sights of the city, you can of course do this throughout the year. Spring and autumn (fall) are beautiful in San Francisco. An autumn hike through the mountains surrounding the city is bound to be a unique and incredible experience. Lombard Street in the city looks its best in spring, this is really when it’s in its best light. The weather in San Francisco can be quite volatile throughout the year. It can rain a lot throughout the winter, and summer days can be quite fresh because of the cool sea breeze. Whether you come in March, July or September, I recommend you always have enough to wear. Layers is the word of the day here, so you can be guaranteed to keep the cold out.

The best months to visit San Francisco at a glance

  • May: 19°C, 10h sunshine, 2 rainy days, 5 mm rainfall
  • June: 21°C, 11h sunshine, 1 rainy days, 3 mm rainfall
  • July: 22°C, 10h sunshine, 0 rainy days, 1 mm rainfall
  • August: 22°C, 9h sunshine, 0 rainy days, 1 mm rainfall
  • September: 23°C, 9h sunshine, 0 rainy days, 5 mm rainfall
  • October: 21°C, 8h sunshine, 2 rainy days, 31 mm rainfall

Fog in San Francisco

In summer and autumn, San Francisco is often covered in a dense blanket of fog, giving the city a mystical atmosphere. This fog is caused when the hot, dry air currents from the Sierra Nevada dessert meet the cool, humid air of the Pacific Ocean. It gives the impression of cool and moist air in the mornings. The fog often disappears during the day because of the sun’s rays. But, it’s still worthwhile to wake up early and check this amazing fog out. A ride through the foggy city on a cable car is truly charming. The mist-covered Golden Gate Bridge is such a special sight. If you still want to explore the city but would like clearer weather conditions, then I suggest to reschedule your activities for the afternoon.

In the districts of San Francisco that are found on the Pacific coast, there’s almost always fog cover in summer and early autumn. The areas in the east of the city are much sunnier and less foggy. Just travel a few kilometres from San Francisco and the weather is often 10° C higher than in the city centre. The sea air also brings a pretty great benefit – the strong winds blow the dirty air out of the city. So, there are only about 18 foggy days in San Francisco every year. This is much less compared to other cities. New York has 174 days of fog, while Los Angeles has 231 foggy days.

My conclusion on the best time to visit San Francisco

The best time to visit San Francisco is from May to October. The weather is ideal for a holiday to this coastal Californian city during these months. There is little rainfall in summer, and the number of hours of sunshine is also higher at this time. But, don’t worry, temperatures don’t get too hot in midsummer. Since the summer holidays in America are in July, August and September, the city can be relatively crowded at this time. Prices for holidays in the Californian metropolis rise significantly. My tips is to book a trip for May, June or October. These months are outside the American holiday season. Note that in the summer and early autumn, San Francisco is covered in a thick layer of fog, which usually disappears around noon.

With the right clothes, San Francisco can be an attractive destination year around. In terms of weather, the city is even pleasant in the winter. But, rainfall does increase. If you don’t mind, you can spend the whole day in mild temperatures of a maximum of 13 to 15° C. But, I recommend bringing your rain gear. The night time in San Francisco can get very wet and quite cool. Many holidaymakers visit San Francisco as part of a road trip across the American west coast. This trip often includes the cities of Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Diego. If you’re also planning a trip there, you can check out my travel calendars that give you all the weather information you need about the best time to visit Los Angeles and about Las Vegas. I also have an overview of the best time to visit California planned for you! So you will be more than well informed!


The best time to visit other destinations