If you think beach camping in Southern California is impossible because every inch of the coastline is packed with condos or lined with mansions, you are only partly right. If you know where to look, you can find places to go camping at a Southern California beach, even in the middle of busy Los Angeles.
This guide was designed 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. Learn how to make reservations here.
Beach Camping in Los Angeles
The city of Los Angeles has only one beach campground, but it's in a most spectacular spot. 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.
Beach Camping in Orange County
In Orange County, you can find state parks and private campgrounds that are all right on the beach. They are 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.
Waterfront RV Park claims to be "adjacent to the Pacific Ocean," but their advertising is a little misleading. They are included in this guide so that they don't fool you with it. Zoom in on the map, and you'll find it's actually about inland and you would have to cross busy Pacific Coast Highway just to get to the sand. They can accommodate big vehicles, even some more than 35 feet long and they allow up to 2 pets.
San Clemente State Beach is known for its scenery and ocean views. The beach is about a mile long, at the foot of a steep bluff. The campground 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 a camping vehicle — 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 of the beachfront campgrounds in this guide, as well as others that are 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.
Silver Strand State Beach is on the Coronado Peninsula. It can accommodate RVs and trailers up to 40 feet long. If you have a large vehicle that would block two campsites, they offer an oversized vehicle rate. All RVs must be self-contained. Sites 101 through 137 are immediately next to the beach, but no campsite is more than a few steps away from it.
San Diego Beach Camping the Easy Way: The folks at Luv 2 Camp can 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.