San Diego is known for its fortuitous combination of stunning beaches and sunny weather, making it the perfect destination for beach camping in Southern California.
San Diego beach camping comes in a variety of flavors and ranges from North County all the way to Imperial Beach near the border with Mexico. These campgrounds offer something for everyone, whether you’re looking to kayak, SUP, surf, hike, swim, or just relax in the sun. In this guide, I’ll cover the various camping options up and down the coast and share some local insight into each campground
San Onofre State Beach Campgrounds
San Onofre State Beach is one of Southern California’s most popular state beaches, offering easy access to many attractions including legendary surfing breaks. The park offers two campgrounds, San Onofre Bluffs Campground and San Mateo Campground.
San Onofre Bluffs Campground
San Onofre Bluffs Campground is located along Route 101, near the western edge of the Camp Pendleton Marine Base. The campground offers 175 spacious campsites that are surrounded by lush greenery and rolling hills. The campsites are equipped with basic amenities such as a picnic table and a fire pit with a grill, making it a perfect place for families and friends to gather and enjoy a night under the stars.
One of the most appealing features of San Onofre Bluffs Campground is its location. The campground is situated just off Route 101 and is within walking distance of the stunning San Onofre State Beach. This means that campers can easily enjoy the beach and all its activities, including sunbathing, swimming, surfing, and fishing.
San Mateo Campground
San Mateo Campground is adjacent to the San Onofre Bluffs Campground and lies a short distance inland from the Coast. The campground is within walking distance of trails that lead to hiking in San Mateo Creek State Park and to a San Onofre State Beach and the Trestles surf breaks. The quiet campground offers 157 campsites for tents, trailers, or RVs in an open area with few trees.
One of the most appealing aspects of San Mateo Campground is its location. It is within walking distance of trails that lead to hiking in San Mateo Creek State Park and to San Onofre State Beach, as well as the famous Trestles surf breaks. This means that campers can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities that Southern California is known for, including hiking, swimming, surfing, and fishing. The beach and state park offer miles of breathtaking coastline and stunning natural beauty, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
In addition to its scenic location, San Mateo Campground also offers a number of amenities, including a picnic table, fire pit, and grill, and the campground also has restrooms, showers, and potable water available for campers. There is also a camp store on site that sells essentials and camping gear, making it easy for campers to pack light and still have everything they need.
Location & Information
For additional information on both campgrounds, visit the San Onofre State Beach website or call (949) 492-4872. The address for San Onofre Bluffs Campground is 5200 S. Pacific Coast Hwy, San Clemente, CA, 92672. The address for San Mateo Campground is 830 Cristianitos, San Clemente, CA, 92672.
South Carlsbad State Beach
South Carlsbad State Beach Campground is a family-friendly camping destination located in Carlsbad, California. Park of the state parks system in San Diego, it boasts 223 campsites that are situated just steps away from the stunning South Carlsbad State Beach. This makes it a perfect place for families who want to enjoy all the beach has to offer, including swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and beachcombing.
In addition to its prime location, South Carlsbad State Beach Campground also offers a variety of amenities, including modern restrooms, hot showers, and a children’s play area, making it easy for families to enjoy their stay. The campground also has a camp store on site that sells essential items and camping gear, so campers don’t have to worry about packing everything they need.
Nearby is downtown Carlsbad, a vibrant city with a rich cultural heritage, and it offers a wealth of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. There are also a number of nearby attractions, including the famous Legoland California Resort and the world-renowned Seaworld San Diego.
Location & Information
South Carlsbad State Beach Campground is located on the southwest side of Carlsbad at 7201 Carlsbad Blvd, Carlsbad, CA 92008. The phone number for the campground is 760-438-3143.
For more information, see our complete guide to South Carlsbad State Beach Campground.
San Elijo State Beach Campground
San Elijo State Beach Campground is located across the coastal highway from the surf enclave of Cardiff-by-the-Sea, one of Southern California’s idyllic beach towns.
Located on bluffs overlooking Cardiff State Beach, the campground features 165 campsites and offers a range of amenities, including showers, bathrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits with grills. Several wooden staircases bring you from the campground down to San Elijo State Beach. At the top of some of the stairs are showers to wash the sand and saltwater off.
The campground is close to some great surfing spots and is within walking distance of the San Elijo Lagoon and Swami’s beach, which is a great place to go tide pooling.
Location & Information
San Elijo State Beach Campground is located near San Diego at 2050 South Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007. The phone number for the campground kiosk is 760-438-3143.
Campland on the Bay
Campland on the Bay is located on San Diego’s Mission Bay area and is one of the closest campgrounds to downtown San Diego. The campground covers over 20 acres of land and offers a variety of camping options, including RV sites, tent camping sites, and cabin rentals.
Campland is more of a resort than a campground (though you do have to camp to stay there), offering a wide range of amenities and activities. The campground features two swimming pools, a hot tub, a sand volleyball court, a small skatepark, and a variety of other recreational activities. The campground also has a marina where you can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, or boats to explore Mission Bay.
In addition to its recreational activities, the campground also offers a variety of dining options. There is a snack bar that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as a convenience store that stocks groceries, ice, and other essentials. The campground also has a large, open-air recreation hall that is perfect for hosting events and gatherings.
Campland on the Bay has been in operation since 1972 and has received numerous accolades over the years. It has been named one of America’s Top 50 RV Resorts by Trailer Life Magazine multiple times and is known for its friendly staff and clean facilities. While it’s not exactly a place you go to get back to nature, access to Mission Bay offers an opportunity to get out on the water easily. Also, the proximity downtown can make it a nice base of operations to explore the city if you are traveling in an RV or camper van or car camping.
Location & Information
Campland on the Bay is located in San Diego at 2211 Pacific Beach Drive in San Diego, CA 92109. The phone number for the campground is 858-581-4205
Silver Strand State Beach Campground
Silver Strand State Beach Campground is a great choice for RV enthusiasts who want to experience the best of both worlds – the calm waters of San Diego Bay and the excitement of the Pacific Ocean. The campground is situated on a 7-mile-long strip of land that extends into San Diego Bay, providing easy access to both bodies of water. The campground is an RV-only facility, so visitors will not have to worry about tents or other camping gear getting in the way.
The campground has a total of 141 RV sites, each equipped with electrical and water hookups. There are also several restrooms and showers available for campers to use, as well as a dump station for RV waste.
In addition to its close proximity to the beach, the campground is also ideal for tide-pooling enthusiasts. The area around the campground is teeming with marine life, making it a great place to explore the tide pools and discover the amazing creatures that call them home.
Water sports enthusiasts will also love the location of Silver Strand State Beach Campground. The area is a popular destination for kayaking, fishing, and boating. Visitors can explore the calm waters of San Diego Bay or take a short trip to the Pacific Ocean to enjoy the surf.
Location & Information
Silver Strand State Beach Campground is located on Coronado at 5000 Highway 75, Coronado, CA 92118. The phone number for the park is 619-435-5184.
Beach Camping Tips
Camping near the beach can be amazing, but it can also present specific challenges, in particular those having to do with wind, water, sand, and sun. Here are some beach camping tips that will help make your adventure safer and more comfortable.
- Choose a sheltered campsite that provides protection from strong winds.
- Bring a windbreak, such as a tent or a tarp to block the wind.
- Pack windproof gear, including jackets, blankets, and sleeping bags.
- Know the tides and set up camp at a safe distance from the waterline.
- Bring plenty of drinking water, as saltwater is not safe to drink.
- Pack a waterproof container to keep your belongings safe from sand and water.
- Use a groundsheet or tarp to protect your tent from sand buildup.
- Bring sand-friendly gear, including sandals, sunglasses, and hats.
- Pack a lightweight and compact beach blanket to relax on the sand.
- Set up camp in a shaded area, or bring a sunshade to create a cool space.
- Wear sunscreen and reapply regularly, especially during peak sun hours.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and avoiding excessive sun exposure.
Can you sleep on the beach in San Diego?
Other than camping at beach campgrounds, it is illegal to camp on the beach in San Diego. Most beaches have a curfew and prohibit overnight camping. Additionally, the San Diego Police Department enforces local laws and regulations, including those related to sleeping on the beach.
Can you have a fire on the beach in San Diego?
Based on the information provided, you can have a fire on a beach in San Diego only where fire pits are provided and available on a first-come, first served basis. The fire must be contained within the fire pit and only wood, charcoal, or paper products may be used as fuel. The height of the fuel cannot exceed 12 inches above the upper edge of the fire container. The fire must be extinguished before leaving the beach and coals must be removed or deposited in hot coal containers. Open beach fires outside containers are prohibited and fires are not allowed between midnight and 5 a.m. The burning of rubbish is also prohibited.