Beach Camping California
Gather round, campers!
Whether you live in the Golden State or you're looking to take a summer vacation, there is no better way to enjoy California's hundreds of miles of gorgeous coastline than with beach camping.
Of course, trying to determine which of the hundreds of campsites will best fit your needs can be difficult.
Luckily, we're here to help.
Hitch up your trailer and pack your day bags as we take you through some of the best spots to camp by the beach in California.
California State Beach Camping
Most all beach campsites or campsites near the beach that you'll find in Northern and Southern California are state-run. Because they are state-run, you will need to make reservations ahead of time, as they get very crowded during the summer, and you will need to pay in advance.
While having to pay might throw some people off who come from different states or regions in California where camping is open and accessible, the beauty of these state-run beach campgrounds is that they are very well taken care of.
You'll find tons of amenities, such as bathrooms, picnic tables, fire pits, trailer hook-ups, and more.
All reservations can be made on ReserveCalifornia.com Booking campsites is more accessible than it ever has been. Just make sure to do it long before you want to go, as many beach campsites in California fill up fast.
The 10 Best Places For California Beach Camping
Beach Camping Southern California:
Bolsa Chica State Beach Camping
With mellow surf, perfect for beginner and intermediate surfers, Bolsa Chica State Beach is one of California's most popular beaches.
The campsite sits just between Huntington Beach to the south and Newport beach to the North.
You can enjoy camping right next to the beach, and with 60 campsites to choose from, all with hook-ups for electricity and water, you have plenty of options. Note that tent camping is not allowed at this beach, as it is for RVs and trailers only.
The majority of the campsites are beachfront (which is surprisingly not the case with all beach campgrounds).
For everything there is to know, visit our Bolsa Chica State Beach camping guide!
San Onofre State Beach Camping
Between Oceanside and San Clemente lies San Onofre's State Park, known as Bluffs Beach, where you'll find some of the best beach campgrounds in So-Cal. You can reach the campsites by descending from the parking lot on one of six trails. You'll find plenty of restrooms and tons of RV camping spots in this State Park, so no worries if you don't want to go au natural for the weekend.
This area is world-renowned for surfing, as you'll find Trestles beach, which has three access points, and Surf Beach.
Check out our San Onofre State Beach camping page for a comprehensive review.
Carlsbad State Beach Camping
You won't find more beach campsites at any other State Beach than at Carlsbad State Beach, with more than 223 single-family campsites on the bluff.
So whether you're looking to fish, surf, swim or take jogs along the sand, it's a beautiful place to stay.
This state park has group camping available, as well as plenty of amenities including its own casual outdoor eatery.
Want to learn more? Click on Carlsbad State Beach camping.
San Elijo State Beach Camping
No matter what you're looking to enjoy on your camping trip, whether it be surfing, swimming, or serving up some good eats with the family at the picnic table, San Elijo State Beach is the place to be.
This sandy stretch of coastline lies in the northern San Diego County, next to Encinitas and Cardiff-by-the-Sea. There are many unique restaurants and shops for you to visit while you're there too.
There are 165 campsites to enjoy, about 1/3 of which are on the bluff with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
We answer all commonly asked questions at San Elijo State Beach camping.
Leo Carrillo State Beach Camping
If you're thinking of hanging near Los Angeles and want to enjoy some scenic camping off of Pacific Coast Highway, we recommend hitting the beach campgrounds at Leo Carrillo State Park.
With 1.5 miles of beautiful coastline for surfing, fishing, and general beachcombing, Leo Carrillo State Park is one of the most popular places to camp in Southern California.
Plus, if you're into natural exploration, you can enjoy the many coastal caves, tide pools, and back-country hiking trails.
Many people get in trouble for fishing without licenses, so make sure to apply for yours before going out with your gear.
Once you've had enough sun, you and the family can retire to one of 135 campsites shaded among the sycamore trees.
From tent camping to RV camping to trailer camping, Leo Carrillo has it all.
To discover all this campground has to offer, see our Leo Carrillo State Beach camping guide.
Crystal Cove State Beach Camping
When it comes to 20th-century So-Cal coastal towns, Crystal Cove State Park is the idyllic, lofty west coast State Park. You'll find the campsites a few miles north of Laguna Beach. If you want to spend the night in a tent or your RV, you'll find 59 beautiful beach campsites, 29 of which have hook-ups at Moro Campground.
You could also opt for one of 46 coastal cottages, perfect for those who want a vintage and rustic oceanfront experience. If you decide to reserve a cottage instead of staying at the campground, be sure to do so far in advance.
There is much to be enjoyed at this location. We explain Crystal Cove State Beach Camping in further detail here!
San Clemente State Beach Camping
Since the late 1930s, San Clemente State Beach has been one of Southern California's most popular family beaches.
Not only can visitors enjoy miles of gorgeous coastline, but it also happens to be one of the best places in the state to catch good surf and enjoy well-kept beach campgrounds.
San Clemente sits on the southern end of Orange County and has a whopping 160 campsites for campers to enjoy!
If you're bringing your RV, make sure to grab one of the 72 campsites with hook-ups.
If you want to have a little fire while you watch the sun dip behind the Pacific Ocean, you can even buy firewood at the campground.
For more info, check out our San Clemente State Beach Camping article.
Beach Camping Central California:
Carpinteria State Beach Camping
You won't find white sand in many places along California's coast, though Carpinteria is one California State Park that's got it. There are over 200 campsites to enjoy and a huge day-use facility near Linden Ave.
If you're looking for a campground in close proximity to shops and restaurants, we recommend this one.
But that's not all, for all the details visit Carpinteria State Beach camping.
El Capitan State Beach Camping
Just twenty miles west of Santa Barbara lies El Capitan State Beach.
Here you'll find large campgrounds and a multi-use picnic area with unreal ocean views.
When the tide gets low enough, you can enjoy the small tide pools that line the shore.
You'll find many surfers here on the nearby right-hand break, as well as hikers that take the Bill Wallace Trail, located just on the other side of the State Park property.
You get easy access to surfing and hiking! Its just a short walk up the hill for one of the best viewpoints in Santa Barbara.
Before booking your site, learn more at El Capitan State Beach camping.
Pismo State Beach Camping
The campsites at Pismo State Beach are known as Oceano Beach Campgrounds, which lies just in front of Oceano Beach. Gorgeous sand dunes surround this vast sandy beach with plenty of trees, shrubs, and flowers.
Many visitors go out during the day to explore the vast hiking trails and the Oceano Lagoon, where you can watch birds and explore the nature reserve. If you come with a 4WD vehicle, you can drive all the way to Grover Beach on the sand!
Our Pismo State Beach camping guide provides all the need-to-know details.
What To Pack
- Beach Chairs:
When relaxing on the sand all day, you're going to need a place to plop your behind.
So make sure to bring some comfortable beach chairs for yourself and the family!
Don't get burnt on your summer vacation. Instead, bring some high-quality surfer sunscreen and lather up every few hours!
- Beginner surfboards:
Even if you're not a surfer, being out on the California coast is the best time to learn. Take a look at our list of the best cheap surfboards on the market to get yourself the perfect shred stick.
What's a hang by the beach without some cold drinks and fresh eats? If you're looking to get a new cooler for your coastal camping trip, Yeti makes some of the best coolers on the market.
- Beach tent:
Whether you're looking to keep yourself from being as red as a lobster by the end of the day, or protecting your gear from wind and sun, take a look at some of our favorite beach tents.