The beaches of Southern California have long drawn crowds to their shores, and for those who visit for the golden sand and the sun and the carefree atmosphere, there’s little better than the notion that you don’t really have to leave. Fortunately, there are plenty of camping options along California’s southern coast, whether you’re pitching a tent or parking an RV. Spend your days riding the waves, lay out in the sun, toss a frisbee or smack a volleyball around—there’s so much to do on the beach—and when you’re done, build a campfire above the Pacific and fall asleep to the exhalations of the ocean.
Two coastal corridors along the southern coast of California are nestled between the sprawling metropolises of Los Angeles and San Diego, from San Clemente to Encinitas and Malibu to the Gaviota Coast. Each has its own character, but both have a standard of comfort (showers! camp stores!) that you’d only find in the dappled spotlight near the City of Angels. Likewise, camping on the Southern California coast can be expensive—but think of the amenities you'd otherwise find in a hotel.
When you think of a beach, you likely think of a place like San Onofre, where wide white sands are licked by tongues of bright blue waters. World-renowned surfing conditions characterize the beaches between L.A. and San Diego, and they are a must-visit destination along the Southern California coast.
The beaches west of L.A. offer a different vibe than those found farther to the south, nestled beneath the wilderness of the Santa Monica mountains. Whereas the focus is firmly set on the water in the south, camping here gives visitors the option of turning inland toward the mountains and the hiking and climbing opportunities they offer. Still, you can’t beat a night near the waves—and these campgrounds have the amenities to make it more than worthwhile.
Here are some great camping options if you're spending more of your time on the Northern California coast.