While the city is endearing, some simply want to experience the exquisite sanctity of the natural world. If you’re considering escaping the hustle and bustle of San Francisco, San Diego, or Los Angeles, there are plenty of options to fit all of your needs. With hiking trails giving the most excellent views, the coast and it’s waves crashing into the rocks, or calm beaches begging to be combed, California has it all. Renting a camper van or RV to take you to your adventure can lead to the most pleasing experience. We have gathered up some of the most beautiful campgrounds across California, each with its own unique experience to ensure an incredible campervan trip.
Southern California Beach Camping near Los Angeles, California
The Los Angeles experience doesn’t have to be entirely characterized by the shiny lights, movie stars, glamorous lifestyle and tourism of Los Angeles City; Southern California has much more to offer. The serene coast and vastness of Redwoods and Oak trees give campers the complete outdoor experience of California. With a variety of campgrounds on the beach and in California State Parks you are sure to find the perfect place to stay as you experience the true beauty of Southern California.
San Clemente State Beach Campground – San Clemente, California
A rather lavish campground, San Clemente State Beach Campground hosts a variety of amenities to allow campers to enjoy Southern California camping truly. Due to its location in the foothills of The Santa Anas, the campground boasts incredible views overlooking San Clemente Pier, Capistrano Bight, Catalina Island, and the vast Pacific ocean. Just 10 minutes away from the beach, swimming, snorkeling, whale watching, fishing, and scuba diving are some of many activities campers enjoy while staying at the San Clemente State Beach Campground. Keep in mind that San Clemente State Beach is easily one of the busiest beaches in Southern California. In its peak season, guests from all over the world will crowd the shore. As such, consider booking your campsite early to ensure that you get to experience the fantastic views, activities, and experiences San Clemente State Beach Campground has to offer.
Amenities: full hookups on 72 sites, potable water, hot showers, picnic tables, swimming holes, amphitheater, ADA accessible, flushing toilets
Sycamore Canyon Campground – Malibu, California
Right in the heart of Point Mugu State Park lies Sycamore Canyon Campground. With its impressive 58 campsites and its proximity to Malibu Creek State Park and Topanga State Park, the campsite remains a popular attraction to those desiring a social camping experience all the while getting unparalleled views of the Malibu coast. Point Mugu State Park boasts over 5 miles of beachfront as well as over 70 hiking trails to allow guests to enjoy the beauty of Malibu itself. The campground is situated right next to the beach and hiking trails. With its prime oceanside location, Sycamore Canyon remains a popular spot amongst people eager to take advantage of the Los Angeles terrain.
Amenities: restrooms, fire rings, potable water, picnic tables, firewood available for purchase, token-operated showers only, RV dump station
Note: Token machines require one-dollar bills only and do not provide change. No hookups at the campground, so you will need to have a campervan with solar power or rent a minivan and plan to tent camp.
Moro Campground – Laguna Beach, California
A popular overnight location for avid coastal travelers, Moro Campground, is an excellent place to get a night’s rest before continuing an excursion elsewhere. Located in Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach, California, guests can take a relaxing break and enjoy the many features the area has to offer. Surfing, fishing, sunbathing, and hiking are amongst the many activities the campground’s pristine location holds. After a day on the beach, campers can come back inland to utilize the beach BBQ and get a good night’s rest before getting back to their travels.
Note: Compressed gas barbecues are permitted on the beach and in campsites, but no open flame wood fires or charcoal fires are allowed.
San Miguel Campground – Santa Barbara, California
San Miguel Campground, located just south of Santa Barbara and resting on Carpinteria State Beach, is a perfect, family-friendly campground on the coast of Southern California. With its pristine beachfront location, travelers can enjoy an array of beach activities such as boating, fishing, surfing, sunbathing, paddleboarding, and swimming. After a long day on the ocean, the Carpinteria Bluffs Trail is an easy hike to get a taste of the forest around the most serene areas of Southern California.
Amenities: restrooms, *fire rings, picnic areas, potable water, showers, full hookups, firewood available for purchase
Note: *Fire rings are not available on the beach row of San Miguel Campground. There are vehicle size restrictions, so make sure you double-check.
Bolsa Chica State Park Campground – Huntington Beach, California
Huntington Beach, California attracts thousands each year to its variety of beach and water sport activities such as surfing, swimming, fishing, and suntanning. Bolsa Chica State Park Campground houses central campsites to come back to after a long day on the beach. After obtaining a permit, you can fish bare-handed and catch some incredible ocean life. Dividing the coastline and the wetlands, a 7-mile path, most typically used for biking, takes you directly on to Huntington State Beach.
Amenities: restrooms, showers, fire rings (first come first serve), picnic tables, potable water, electric & water hookups
Note: This is an RV only campground. Max length of RV is 40,’ and there are several restrictions. Please visit the California Department of Parks & Rec.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground – Big Sur, California
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park boasts incredible views, burley Sycamore and Redwood trees, and a plethora of wildlife to entertain guests. Located within the park is Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground, which houses campsites big enough to fit campervans and RVs, however, keep in mind that there are no hookups on the campground. Due to its beauty and location in the State Park, the campground is often bustling with campers. To land an amazing campsite for your next campervan adventure, make sure you book far ahead to ensure its availability.
Note – there are no hookups at Pfieffer Big Sur State Park. You will need to have a campervan with solar power or plan to tent camp.
Kirk Creek Campground – Big Sur, California
With just five miles between Sand Dollar Beach and Kirk Creek Campground, the campsites here are an excellent location for guests hoping to spend time on the longest stretch of sand in the Big Sur. Just a short walk from your campsite is another beach. Although much rockier, the serene nature of the waves crashing against the rocks, the terrestrial and glimmering news of the night sky, and innocence of the natural world around you allows for the area to be the perfect location to sneak away on your next campervan trip.
Amenities: fire rings, grills, vault toilets, trash & recycling collection, picnic tables, beach access, creek access, and firewood available for purchase.
Note – there are no hookups at Kirk Creek Campground. You will need to have a campervan with solar power or plan to tent camp.
Doheny State Beach Campground – Orange County, California
Doheny State Beach Campground’s incredible location, lying on the southern end of Doheny State Beach, has a history of being named “Orange County’s best camping site.” With over a mile of sandy beach and warm water, ocean activities near this campsite do not disappoint. Campers often are found sunbathing, surfing, paddle boarding, fishing, and swimming throughout the day. And if they’re not in the water, they’re exploring Sycamore Trail at Dana Point via hiking, biking, or walking. The campground boasts 33 beachfront campsites rounding out its total of 113 campsites, and the views beachfront are unparalleled in all of Southern California. Doheny is extremely popular, and thus often booked for advance. Make sure you book early to ensure you experience the beauty of Doheny State Beach.
Amenities: restrooms, showers, fire rings, picnic tables, potable water, RV dump station near the visitor center
Pro Tip: Try and reserve a campsite closer to the beach. The campsites in the back are near the Amtrak tracks so that you will hear a bit of noise. There are no hookups at Doheny State Beach Campground, so plan to book a campervan with solar power or tent camp.
Canyon Campground in Leo Carrillo State Park – Santa Monica, California
Located in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California, Leo Carrillo State Park Campground (aka Canyon Campground) is a gem amongst the bustling everyday life of Los Angeles. With 135 campsites, Canyon Campground is often one of the busier campgrounds and attracts tourists from all over. The short walking distance to the beach, the giant sycamores standing tall on the campsite, incredible biking and walking trails leading in every direction makes Canyon Campground a prime spot for Southern California camping. And if it’s the right time of the season, Leo Carrillo provides some of the best whale watching experiences California has to offer.
Amenities: fire rings, picnic table, restrooms, showers (token only), RV hookups, RV dump station, and lifeguards on duty
Beach Camping near San Diego, California
If you are looking for a place farther from the bustling Los Angeles, but still want to explore the southern California coast, consider San Diego for your next camping adventure. With miles of golden sand and turquoise, shimmering water, the beauty of the San Diego coast attracts many. As such, make sure you book in advance to snag a campsite.
San Elijo State Beach Campground – Encinitas, California
Only a few miles north of San Diego, San Elijo State Beach Campground is a popular location for those seeking a camping experience before traveling elsewhere. As it sits on the bluffs, unparalleled views are offered to campers while still being able to experience the sanctity of the beach (just down a few steps!) Water sports and activities are prime advantages of this area. Fishing, swimming, suntanning, snorkeling, and surfing are some of the many activities enjoyed at the San Elijo State Beach. Campsites are rather close, and with the convenience store and fast-food restaurant, keep in mind the campsite might seem a little less outdoorsy and a little more urban.
Amenities: full hookups at some sites, showers, convenience store, fast food restaurant.
Refugio State Beach Campground – Santa Barbara County, California
Refugio State Beach exhibits what comes to mind when thinking about the California campervan adventure: palm trees swaying in the light breeze, salty waves crashing into the coast, and a warm sun shining down. Refugio State Beach Campground is an excellent place to stay to experience the best of California. With 63 campsites accommodating all types of camping, the campground is the perfect home base to come back to after a long day of surfing at El Capitan Beach or Rincon Point, kiteboarding at Leadbetter Beach, biking and hiking the Ansio Trail, or fishing right off of the Gaviota Pier. No matter the adventure, Refugio’s incredible views and proximity to the hubbub of Southern California gives the perfect experience for its guests. Keep in mind the beach has rules and regulations such as dogs must be on a leash 6 ft long, and there is a curfew for those under 18 years old, and an adult must accompany them after 8:30 p.m.
Note – There are no RV hookups at Refugio’s State Beach Campground, so plan to book a campervan with solar power or bring a tent.
South Carlsbad State Beach Campground – Carlsbad, California
Views on the beachfront of South Carlsbad State Beach are second to none. Whether it be sunset, sunrise, or the middle of the day, the beach and its beauty are unparalleled. As such, the area remains a popular spot, so consider booking an RV site in advance. Only 13 of the 223 sites have hookups, but all have access to toilets, showers, and other amenities. All of this, as well as its central location to restaurants and grocery stores, beach, and hiking trails, making this campervan campground one of the best places to stay. If you’re looking to be close to San Diego yet still experience the outside feel of the coast, South Carlsbad is your spot.
Amenities: full hookups on 13 sites, reservation only, recycling, Wi-Fi in certain areas, showers, toilets, and water hookups, Barbecue grills, fire rings, camp store
Silver Strand State Beach – Coronado, California
Located on the outer edge of San Diego Bay between Coronado and Imperial Beach lies Silver Strand Campground. With San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean at hand, the area gives some of the best views and recreational activities in all of Southern California. Swimming, fishing, surfing, sunbathing, beach volleyball, and picnicking are some of the many activities offered and encouraged throughout the area. Keep in mind that some of the RV sites are reservation only, and there is a restriction on pets and how close you must be to them at all times. No tent camping allowed and the gates to the campground or closed at night.
Amenities: water & electric hookups, fire rings, dump stations
Northern California Beach Camping near San Francisco
The greater San Francisco area gives guests from all over an incredible experience enjoying the coast, the mild climate, and the peacefulness of the mountains and all that is in it. Camper van and RV camping is an inexpensive way to escape the city and have a great place to come home to after a long day of exploring. With the beach at hand and many trails to discover, beach camping near San Francisco is an exquisite experience.
San Francisco RV Resort – San Francisco, California
In the cliffs facing the Pacific Ocean lies San Francisco RV Resort. There are 162 paved and level campsites in this oceanside RV park, boasting views of all of San Francisco, including some of the most famous sites in the world. Campers get the best of both worlds as the beach is just steps away.
Amenities: full hookups at most sites; restroom, shower, and laundry facilities; and a picnic and barbecue area; outdoor pool and hot tub, clubhouse, and playground
Note: the sites directly on the ocean have no hookups.
Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park – Santa Cruz, California
While you will not get an outdoorsy feel at the Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park, you will find yourself centrally located to incredible downtown Santa Cruz, Capitola, the Santa Cruz boardwalk, fabulous restaurants, and beautiful beaches. Harbor Beach is only one mile from your campsite, and free water taxis are available throughout the year to move through the northern and southern areas of Santa Cruz. Not only is the ocean one of the main selling points of this area, but there are also many hiking trails near Santa Cruz that give guests a break from the water. A few things to keep in mind are that dogs are allowed but must stay on a leash, and there’s a maximum night stay of 7 nights.
Amenities: full hookups, dump stations
Manchester Beach/Mendocino Coast KOA Journey – Manchester, California
The incredible area of Mendocino Coast is enough itself to bring travelers from all over, eager to experience the many unparalleled views and experiences that are in Manchester, California. Amongst the incredible places to visit include two local lighthouses, Anderson Valley Wineries, the Angelic city of Mendocino, vast Redwood forests, and of course, the miles of the Pacific Ocean, calling visitors to the beautiful coast. The KOA itself boasts a small-town feel, thanks to the host, Theresa Cannon, and the rest of the stuff. Community events and activities are always an option for guests, including community dinners, competitions and activities, and game nights in the community hall. If the ocean and atmosphere of the campsite are not enough to sell you, there are also beautiful hiking trails that escape through the Redwoods and out into beautiful Southern California.
Amenities: full hookups, boccie courts, disc golf course, dog park, hot tub, communal fire area
Francis Beach – Half Moon Bay State Beach in Half Moon Bay, California
Located among four miles of prime coastal trails lies Half Moon Bay State Beach campsite. The area has unparalleled views and attracts many campers throughout the year, and the incomparable amount of hiking trails gives outdoor enthusiasts the perfect place to explore. At the beach, guests can enjoy swimming, picnicking, surfing, and fishing. With an equestrian trail leading from Roosevelt Beach to Francis Beach, horse lovers can enjoy the beautiful views around them while riding horses on permitted trails. Keep in mind that during the peak season, there’s typically a maximum stay of 7 nights for guests. Booking in advance can ensure the beautiful experience Half Moon Bay State Beach has to offer.
Amenities: electric hookups, dump stations, water stations, coin-operated shower, flushing toilets, fire rings, barbecue grills, equestrian trails, and picnic tables
California beach camping should be on everyone’s bucket list! Book a campervan and get your California road trip started. Here are a few other articles you may find helpful.
Bastian is the Sales & Marketing Manager here at Travellers Autobarn. He holds a Master of Commerce in Marketing and International Business Management, and 20+ years experience in campervan hire, road trips and travel.