It's easy to assume (incorrectly) that every inch of the Southern California coastline is packed with condos or lined with mansions. In fact, you can find lots of places to go camping at a Southern California beach, even in the middle of busy Los Angeles.
I'm here to help you find a great place to camp next to the ocean in SoCal. And to help you avoid a frustrating camping failure when that campground that sounded just great turns out to be across a busy highway from the ocean.
These are the best places to camp at the beach in Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego - and they are all located right on the beach, not across the street or a block away.
For any of the locations below that are state parks, you need to know that their reservation system can be confusing and that you'll need to reserve months ahead to get a spot. Use this guide to making reservations at Calfornia State Parks to find out how.
Southern California Beach Camping in Los Angeles
Los Angeles has only one beach campground, but it's spectacular. Dockweiler State Beach is situated just below the takeoff and approach path for LAX, between Marina Del Rey and Manhattan Beach. The west-facing beach has a sweeping view of the Santa Monica Bay, and it's right on the bike path that runs from Redondo Beach to Santa Monica. The only catch? It's for RV's only.
Southern California Beach Camping in Orange County
Orange County's southwest-facing shoreline includes a lot of state parks and private campgrounds that are all right on the beach but also close to restaurants and other things to do.
Bolsa Chica State Beach is a popular place for surf fishing and has a beautiful shoreline, but only RV's are allowed (no tents). It's also one of the best beaches in Orange County for wildlife watching.
Doheny State Beach is a big park with a campground on the south side, where some of the campsites are only steps away from the beach. It can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 35 feet long. The only downside at Doheny is that big events like the Doheny Blues Festival can disrupt camping and vehicle access.
Huntington by the Sea RV Park claims it's like "beach front property from your RV." It doesn't pass my usual rule that the campground has to be right on the beach and not across the street or blocks away, but I decided to include it here just because their advertising is a little misleading. They can accommodate big vehicles, even some more than 35 feet long and they allow up to 2 pets.
San Clemente State Beach can accommodate campers and trailers up to 30 feet long, with hookups and a dump station.
Orange County Beach Camping the Easy Way: If you think camping in an RV at the beach sounds like fun, but you don’t own one - or didn't bring yours along, the folks at Luv 2 Camp can help you out. They’ll not only rent you an RV; they’ll take it to your campsite and set it up for you. They serve several quite a few of the beachfront campgrounds - or ones near the beach in Orange County.
Southern California Beach Camping in San Diego
Chula Vista RV Resort has 237 spaces with full hookups adjacent to a private, 552-slip marina. Amenities include a general store, ladies boutique, picnic area, swimming pool and spa, laundry, full restrooms, club rooms and two full-service restaurants with waterfront dining.
San Elijo State Beach is between Del Mar and San Elijo north of San Diego, near the community of Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Facilities can accommodate campers up to 35 feet long. Reservations recommended.
San Diego Beach Camping the Easy Way: If you think camping in an RV at the beach sounds like fun, but you don’t have one - or didn't bring yours along, the folks at Luv 2 Camp can help you out. They’ll not only rent you an RV, but they’ll take it to your campsite and set it up for you. They serve several oceanfront campgrounds in San Diego.