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The Best California Beach Campgrounds


Beach camping allows you to channel your inner beach bum while dramatically cutting your vacation expenses and travel time to the beach. Most beaches in California are day-use only, but many allow camping. RV camping is the most common for beaches, but tents are also allowed in some cases. State and county beaches often have limited camping facilities, so you need to make your reservations well in advance. The following 10 beaches offer some of the best camping in California, primarily from San Diego to San Luis Obispo counties.

San Elijo State Beach

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Address: 2050 S. Coast Highway 101
Details: San Elijo State Beach consists of two miles of coastline near Cardiff, with stairs from the highway to the ocean. The main draw for this beach is surfing, although it also offers various interpretive programs. San Elijo is the only beach in this area that allows camping, as nearby beaches like Cardiff State Beach, Leucadia State Beach and Moonlight State Beach are day-use only.

The day-use area at San Elijo is limited, but it offers beachfront campsites for $50 per night and inland campsites for $35. The RV camping sites have full hookups with electricity, sewage and water. The RV beach sites are $75 and the inland sites are $60. The RV length limit is 35 feet.

Silver Strand State Beach

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5000 Highway 75
Details: Silver Strand State Beach is about 4.5 miles south of downtown Coronado. It offers surfing lessons from the Coronado Surfing Academy and kayak rentals at the Crown Cove Beach Aquatic Center. This beach is unusually wide, leaving lots of room for flying kites. It also provides various programs by park rangers, a café and restrooms. San Diego Bay is accessible from nearby hotels like the Hotel del Coronado via pedestrian tunnels.

This beach only allows RV beach camping, with a campground that’s essentially a paved parking lot with hookups for water and electricity. The maximum length for RVs is 40 feet. Beachfront sites are $65 per night, while inland sites are $50. The maximum RV length allowed is 40 feet.

South Carlsbad State Beach

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Address: 7201 Carlsbad Blvd.
Details: South Carlsbad State Beach is 3 miles from Carlsbad and just south of Carlsbad State Beach, which is a day-use only beach. South Carlsbad Beach is lined with bluffs, making it popular for surfing and swimming. Park rangers also offer interpretive programs like wildlife viewing and other programs for kids several times each week. Beach camping sites are $50 and inland sites are $35. Beachfront sites with full hookups are $75 and inland sites with hookups are $60. The RV length limit is 35 feet.

San Onofre State Beach

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Address: 5200 S. Pacific Coast Highway
Details: San Onofre State Beach is one of the most popular beaches in California and is close to Camp Pendleton Marines Corps Base. It covers 3,000 acres that include the Trestles, a world-famous surf break. You can also see whales migrating during the winter from this beach. 

San Onofre only offers primitive camping at $40 per night. Each campsite includes a parking spot, picnic table and fire ring. The campground has cold showers and chemical toilets. It doesn’t have RV hook-ups, but it does have an RV dump station. The RV length limit at San Onofre Beach is 25 feet.

San Clemente State Beach

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Address: 225 W. Calafia Ave.
Details: San Clemente State Beach in San Clemente is a popular surfing spot, largely due to its sandstone bluffs. It also has a visitor center and other infrastructure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

The cost of tent campsites ranges from $40 to $45 a night, depending on location. RV sites with hookups are $65 a night, with a maximum limit of 30 feet. The beach also offers three vintage travel trailers that have a full bed, two twins and a bunk for $189 a night.

Doheny State Beach

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Address: 25300 Dana Point Harbor Dr.
Details: Doheny State Beach is located near the San Juan Capistrano Mission and Dana Point. It’s California’s oldest state beach, and its north end is a highly popular surfing spot. In addition, the tide pools and aquariums at the visitor center provide opportunities to observe marine life.

Campsites start at $40 a night, and go up to $60 a night for premium sites with an ocean view. RVs up to 35 feet in length are welcome, although there aren’t any hookups. Fire rings for beach camp fires are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Crystal Cove State Park

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Address: 8471 N. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach
Details: Crystal Cove State Park is between Newport Beach and Laguna Beach. It consists of 2,400 acres of wilderness, with 3.2 miles of beach. It also has bluffs that provide scenic views of the Pacific Ocean.

The park has a historic district along Los Trancos Creek that features 46 cottages with architecture from the 1930s and 1940s. These cottages are available for rent, ranging from $38 a night for one-person dorm to $269 a night for a nine-person cottage. The maximum stay is one week, and the cottages are typically booked six months in advance. RV campsites without hookups are $55, with a length limit of 25 feet. Sites with electricity and water hookups are $75 with an RV limit of 38 feet.

Jalama Beach County Park

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Address: 9999 Jalama Road
Details: Jalama Beach County Park is about 45 minutes from Lompoc. It’s well secluded because it’s surrounded by Vanderberg Air Force Base and private property. Check out the NASA launch schedule from Vanderberg, as these launches are easily visible from the beach. Amtrak’s Surfliner train runs just outside the park, which you can see as it travels up and down the coast.

Jalama Beach offers camping sites for day use, camping and RVs. The cost ranges from $30 to $50 per night, depending on location and amenities. This beach also has one and two-bedroom cabins for rent that start at $190 a night. The campgrounds include hot showers and flush toilets.

Point Mugu State Park

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Address: 9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway
Details: Point Mugu State Park is located in Malibu, one of the northernmost beach campgrounds in California. It has five miles of shoreline, with rocky bluffs due to its proximity with the Santa Monica Mountains.

Point Mugu has two campgrounds, including Thornhill Broome Campground. This campground is on the beach and has showers, but no RV hookups. The camping fee is $35 a night.

Carpinteria State Beach

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Address: 205 Palm Ave.
Details: Carpinteria State Beach is located in the quaint beach town of Carpinteria. The Civilian Conservation Corps has developed this beach, which includes a mile of shoreline and many tide pools at low tide.

Primitive beach camping is available in the San Miquel Loop, with a maximum vehicle length of 19 feet. These sites start at $45, and go up to $60 for beachfront sites. RV sites with hookups are $70 a night, with a size limit of 35 feet. The campgrounds have bathhouses with showers.

Let us know where you’ll be headed this summer in the comments below!