Best Beach Camping in Southern California: Top Spots in LA, San Diego & Orange County

Southern California, with its extensive coastline, offers a unique camping experience that puts you just steps away from the Pacific Ocean. As a frequent camper, I’ve had the opportunity to explore a variety of beach camping sites in this region. In this blog post, I’ll share my experiences and insights of my favorite beach campsites.

Quick Overview of the Beach Campgrounds

CampsiteFeaturesActivities & RecreationAmenities & AccessibilitySpecial Notes
Leo Carrillo CampgroundNestled within a landscape of sycamores and close access to the beach.Surfing, swimming, sunbathing, hiking and backcountry trails.Showers, restrooms. Short walk to the beach.Popular for its natural beauty and range of amenities.
Doheny State Beach CampgroundLocated right on the sand and offers spectacular ocean views.Boogie boarding, biking, picnics on the beach, fishing, and whale watching at Dana Point.Hot showers, camp store.Booking a beachfront spot is competitive, especially in summer.
Crystal Cove State Beach CampgroundSituated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Offers a beautiful camping experience with hikes along the beach and trails.Hiking, beach activities, exploring historic beach cottages.Low impact and also RV sites with water and electricity hookups. Short walk to the beach.Known for its rustic beauty and serene beach atmosphere.
Newport Dunes RV ParkA luxurious oasis in Newport Beach with waterfront sites, marina, watersports rentals, and a swimming lagoon.Watersports, swimming, enjoying the pool, marina activities.Well-equipped with resort-like amenities.Offers a blend of comfort and adventure, more expensive.
Bolsa Chica CampgroundDirect access to the beach with unbeatable views of the Pacific Ocean.Swimming, biking by the beach, enjoying spectacular sunsets. Proximity to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve for educational visits.Basic but adequate facilities, emphasizing natural beauty and simplicity of beach camping.Feels like a hidden gem with its simplicity and ocean access.
Huntington Beach RV CampgroundLocated near the pier with easy access to shops, restaurants, and beach activities. Beach activities, exploring local shops and restaurants.Ideal for visitors looking for a lively atmosphere.Preferable for those seeking proximity to urban amenities.
San Onofre CampgroundKnown for great surfing waves, nestled on bluffs overlooking the Pacific. Offers a rugged, natural setting.Surfing, enjoying rocky beaches, hiking trails with stunning views.Perfect for both tents and RVs, with beach access via winding trails.Challenging access to the beach with a stroller, but ideal for surfers.
San Clemente Beach CampgroundSerene spot on a bluff overlooking the ocean, known for breathtaking views and laid-back vibe.Beach activities, evening walks along the San Clemente Beach Trail.Peaceful retreat with easy access to San Clemente.Perfect for listening to waves, stargazing, and enjoying the charming town.
Campland on the Bay CampgroundLocated on Mission Bay shores, offers activities and amenities for a family-friendly adventure.Kayaking, paddleboarding, boat and gold cart rentals, live music and entertainment.Well-equipped for RVs and tents, lively atmosphere with something for everyone.Committed to creating a welcoming and fun experience.
Silver Strand State Beach CampgroundNestled between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, offers serene and picturesque camping with easy access to water activities.Surfing, swimming, fishing, boating, biking along scenic paths.Peaceful with easy access to the ocean.Unique spot with sites right on the sand, similar to Doheny.
San Mateo CampgroundSet slightly inland, walking distance to Trestles beach. Hiking to Trestles Beach, a world-renowned surf spot. Exploring nature.Spacious sites for tents and RVs.Offers a refreshing contrast to beachfront campgrounds, with a scenic hike to the beach.

My Favorite Beach Campsites in SoCal

LA County Beach Campgrounds

My favorite campground in LA county is Leo Carrillo.

Leo Carrillo Campground

our Leo Carrillo campsite area
Our Leo Carrillo campsite

My adventure in Southern California started at Leo Carrillo Campground, a spectacular spot that’s as rich in natural beauty as it is in amenities. Nestled within a landscape of sycamores, the campground offers spacious sites that cater to both tents and RVs, ensuring everyone finds their perfect spot.

leo carrillo camping
Leo Carrillo beach

What truly sets Leo Carrillo apart is its access to 1.5 miles of beach, ideal for surfers, swimmers, and sunbathers. I spent my days enjoying the beach, hiking the backcountry trails, and enjoying evening campfires.

roasting marshmallows at leo carrillo campground
Roasting marshmallows at Leo Carrillo campground

The campsite is well-equipped with showers and restrooms. The campground is not right on the sand but it’s a very short walk to the beach.

big rock at leo carrillo beach
Big rock at Leo Carrillo beach

Beach Camping in Orange County

My favorite campsites in Orange County are Doheny and Crystal Cove campgrounds. I’ve been there many times and always looking forward to go back again. However, there are other beautiful beach campsites in Orange County I’ve been to. Check them out below.

Doheny State Beach Campground

Doheny campground
Camping with the kids at Doheny Beach

My next stop brought me to Doheny State Beach Campground. I love this place because you could get a spot right on the sand.

The campground itself is a lush, well-maintained area with sites that accommodate both tents and RVs, many of which offer spectacular ocean views.

making a bonfire at Doheny campground
Making a bonfire at our campground

Waking up to the sound of the waves and the sight of the sunrise over the Pacific is something truly magical.

The campground’s proximity to Dana Point allows for easy access to additional recreational activities like fishing and whale watching.

camping with kids at doheny state beach campground

The camp facilities, including hot showers and a camp store. My days here were spent boogie boarding the friendly waves, biking along the scenic paths, and enjoying picnics on the beach.

kids playing doheny state beach

Check out my detailed Doheny campground review here.

Crystal Cove State Beach Campground

our spot at crystal cove state campground
Our site at Crystal Cove State campground

Crystal Cove State Beach Campground offers a unique blend of rustic beauty and a serene beach atmosphere. Situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific, the campground provides a more primitive camping experience, ideal for those looking to disconnect and immerse themselves in nature.

crystal cove state park campground

Some are low impact sites and others are RV sites with water and electricity hookups. My stay was a delightful return to basics, with hikes along the beach and trails that reveal breathtaking views of the ocean and the rugged coastline.

camping at crystal cove state campground

The historic beach cottages, just a short walk away, add a touch of nostalgia and charm to the whole experience. Crystal Cove is a place where you can truly appreciate the beauty of Southern California’s coast.

sunset at crystal cove beach
Sunset at Crystal Cove beach

Newport Dunes RV Park

Newport dunes RV campground
Newport dunes RV campground

There’s something truly special about Newport Dunes RV Park, a luxurious oasis nestled in the heart of Newport Beach. Unlike the more rustic campgrounds I’ve visited, Newport Dunes offers a blend of comfort and adventure.

kids playing at newport dunes rv park

The waterfront sites are quite expensive, however they provide stunning views and immediate access to the water. My stay here felt like a resort experience, complete with a marina, watersports rentals, and a swimming lagoon.

camping at newport dunes rv park

The sites are small but we spent most of our days on the beach anyways. The evenings were fun using the campground’s pool, creating a perfect setting for family fun.

newport dunes campground pool
Newport Dunes’s campground pool
kids playing in the water at newport dunes rv campground
Kids playing in the water at Newport Dunes

All the park’s amenities added an extra layer of convenience to the camping experience.

Bolsa Chica Campground

camping at Bolsa Chica campground
Camping at Bolsa Chica campground

Camping at Bolsa Chica Campground feels like a hidden gem experience, with its direct access to one of Southern California’s most beautiful and surf-friendly beaches.

our Bolsa Chica campground in Huntington Beach
Our Bolsa Chica site in Huntington Beach

This campground is all about the simplicity of beach experience that puts the ocean at your doorstep. The sites are spacious and ideal for both tents and RVs, with a number of them offering unbeatable views of the Pacific Ocean.

our spot at Bolsa Chica campground in Huntington Beach

My time at Bolsa Chica was spent on swimming in the ocean, biking by the beach and enjoying the spectacular sunsets. The campground’s proximity to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve added an educational twist to the trip.

Bolsa Chica campground in Huntington beach
Bolsa Chica campground in Huntington beach

Huntington Beach RV Campground

Huntington Beach RV campground

Huntington Beach RV Campground is located near the pier. It’s a good fit for people who like to have easy access to shops, restaurants, and beach activities.

Huntington Beach RV campsite

The campground has a friendly environment, ideal for visitors looking to experience the lively atmosphere of Huntington Beach. My stay there was relaxing but with kids, I prefer to stay in quieter and not so busy areas.

San Clemente Beach Campground

our camp spot at san clemente state beach
Our camp spot at San Clemente State beach

My journey through Southern California’s beach campgrounds led me to San Clemente Beach Campground, a serene spot known for its breathtaking ocean views and laid-back vibe.

camping at san clemente state beach

Situated on a bluff overlooking the Pacific, the campground offers a peaceful retreat with easy access to the charming town of San Clemente.

san clemente state beach campground on the bluff
Our campsite was right on the bluff

My campsite was right on the bluff, perfect for listening to the waves and stargazing at night. I spent my days enjoying the beach and spending time with family.

bluffs of San clemente campground

The highlight of my stay was the evening walks along the San Clemente Beach Trail.

San Diego County Beach Camping

My favorite campgrounds in San Diego are Campland, San Onofre, and Silver Strand. San Mateo campground is wonderful too, although not right on the beach.

San Onofre Campground

san onofre campground
Our campsite at San Onofre campground

San Onofre Campground is a surfer’s paradise, a place where the waves are great for surfing. Nestled on the bluffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean.

trail down to the beach from san onofre canpground
Trail down to the beach from San Onofre campground

This campground offers a rugged, natural setting. I loved my stay here.

my kid playing with rocks at san onofre beach
Kids liked playing with rocks at San Onofre beach

The campground’s sites are perfect for both tents and RVs, with easy access to the beach via winding trails that offer stunning views at every turn.

san onofre rocky beach
Rocky beach

It’s somewhat challenging going down to the beach with a stroller. Going down is easy but pushing the stroller back up can be a challenge. I’ve gone up and down with e-bikes without a problem though. The beach is very beautiful with lots of rocks.

beautiful bluffs of san onofre
Beautiful bluffs of San Onofre

Campland on the Bay Campground

view of the bay at our camping spot
View of the bay at our camping spot

Campland on the Bay Campground is a huge family-friendly campground. Located on the shores of Mission Bay, this campground offers plenty of activities and amenities that make every day an adventure. From kayaking and paddleboarding in the calm waters of the bay to enjoying the live music and entertainment organized by the campground.

Our campsite right by the bay at Campland
Our campsite right on the water at Campland

I’ve gone there multiple times and every time my stay was filled with joy and excitement. The sites are well-equipped for both RVs and tents, ensuring a comfortable stay for all.

kids playing in the water at Campland
kids playing in the water at Campland

What sets Campland apart is its commitment to creating a welcoming and lively atmosphere with something for everyone to enjoy.

fun Campland sign to take pictures
Fun Campland sign to take pictures
kids having fun on the floaty at Campland
We rented a ski boat at Campland and kids were having fun on the water

Check out my comprehensive Campland review here.

Silver Strand State Beach Campground

Silver Strand beach campground
Silver Strand campground right on the sand

Silver Strand State Beach Campground is similar to Doheny were you can get the site right on the sand. This unique spot, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and San Diego Bay, offers a serene and picturesque setting for camping.

Silver Strand campground
Picnic tables at Silver Strand campground

The campground’s location provides easy access to both the ocean and the bay, allowing for a diverse range of water activities, from surfing and swimming to fishing and boating. The facilities are basic but adequate, emphasizing the natural beauty and simplicity of beach camping. The one thing I didn’t like is that they closed the bathrooms already at 5:30 pm.

Silver Strand Campground San Diego

The highlight of my stay was biking along the scenic path that runs through the campground, offering stunning views of both the ocean and the bay.

Silver Strand campground in San Diego
To get the beach spot, you need to reserve it ahead of time.

San Mateo Campground

beautiful mountain view from our campsite at san mateo
Beautiful hill view from our campsite at San Mateo

San Mateo Campground is set slightly inland from the coast, it offers a refreshing contrast to the beachfront campgrounds, with its lush, rolling hills and easy access to some of Southern California’s most pristine beaches.

san mateo campsite

This campground is not right on the beach. However, it’s a walking distance to Trestles beach. Even better if you have a bike, you can bike to Trestles to surf or just enjoy the beach.

path to the beach from San Mateo campground
Path to the beach from San Mateo campground

My experience at San Mateo was a peaceful relaxation in the nature. The campground is well-equipped with spacious sites for tents and RVs, clean facilities, and hot showers.

kids enjoying a campfire at san mateo campground
Kids enjoying a campfire at San Mateo campground

One of the highlights was the trail that connects the campground to Trestles Beach, a world-renowned surf spot, offering a scenic hike and excellent surf.

Making Reservations for Beach Camping

When I plan a beach camping trip, I ensure that making reservations is a priority, as popular campgrounds fill up quickly. I usually check each campground’s reservation policies as they can vary. State parks often provide an online reservation system, such as ReserveCalifornia.

Here’s a quick guide I follow:

  1. Choose the Campground: I select from numerous beachfront options, such as Doheny or Crystal Cove campground.
  2. Book in Advance: I typically reserve at least six months ahead of time, especially for peak summer months. Some campgrounds might allow booking up to a year in advance.
  3. Details to Provide: I’m ready with details like the number of people, tents, and vehicles, as this information will be necessary upon reservation.
  4. Stay Informed on Regulations: Each campground has its own set of rules and regulations. I always check these to avoid any last-minute surprises.

Beach Activities and Adventures

Southern California’s coast offers numerous activities for adventure seekers. Whether you’re looking to ride the waves or explore coastal trails, there’s something for everyone.

Surfing and Swimming

Surfing: Southern California is synonymous with great surfing spots, with waves suitable for all levels. Beginners can take lessons at gentler beaches like San Clemente State Beach, while more experienced surfers often head to spots like lower Trestles.
Swimming: Many beaches along the coast provide ideal settings for a swim with their clear waters and sandy shores. Always check local conditions and lifeguard instructions for the safest experience.

Hiking and Biking Trails

Hiking: For those who enjoy scenic treks, SoCal beaches often have adjacent trails offering breathtaking ocean views. For example, the trails around Crystal Cove State Beach provide spectacular lookout points.
Biking: Several beaches feature well-maintained biking trails. Cyclists can enjoy the coastal breeze on paths like those near Morro Strand State Beach, which combine sunbathing opportunities with an active day out.

Wildlife Watching

Tide Pools: Rocky tide pools are excellent for observing marine life in its natural habitat. I always recommend visiting during low tide for the best experience.
Whales: For those interested in larger marine animals, certain times of the year afford the chance to spot whales migrating. Keep binoculars handy and your eyes on the horizon!

Seasonal Considerations for Beach Camping

When planning a beach camping trip, consider the weather as a key factor.

Spring: I’ve found the spring months to be pleasant with the weather warming up and fewer crowds. This can be an ideal time for those who prefer a quieter campsite. During spring, the low tide is especially revealing, offering wider beaches and exposing tide pools.

Summer: As many campers know, summer is the most popular season, with warm weather and sunny skies. However, I remind campers to book well in advance as sites fill up quickly. Additionally, Southern California beaches are prone to overcast mornings, a phenomenon known as “June Gloom.” Despite this, I ensure my afternoons are spent enjoying the peak of the summer sun.

Fall: My favorite camping experiences often happen in the fall when the weather remains warm, but the summer crowds have dissipated. The water temperatures stay comfortable, and I find the low tides exceptional for exploring coastal marine life.

Winter: While Southern California doesn’t have harsh winters, I prepare for cooler temperatures and potential rain. The beach experience is still rewarding. Plus, winter low tides offer a unique beach camping experience.

Exploring Southern California’s beach campgrounds has been an adventure filled with sun, surf, and unforgettable memories. Each of these campground offered its own unique charm, from the rustic beauty of San Onofre to the lively atmosphere of Campland on the Bay. Southern California’s coast has something for every camper.

me on the beach
About the author

Hi, I'm Kat, the adventurous spirit behind TasteCaliforniaTravel, your guide to the hidden wonders of California. Having called California home for the last 15 years, I am thrilled to take you along on my journey and share the adventures that this incredible state has to offer.

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