Manresa State Beach Camping

Campsite 56, Manesa State Beach
Campsite 56, Manesa State Beach. Elaine at Flickr under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

Manresa State Beach is in Santa Cruz County, close to the town of Watsonville. It's open for day use, but many people go there for the camping.

It's no wonder. Manresa is one of the less crowded, cleanest, prettiest beaches in the Santa Cruz area. Visitors often get excited about seeing dolphins offshore and finding seashells and sand dollars in the sand. Even on a busy day, it won't be packed.

If having a quiet campfire under the stars at night and splashing in the waves during the day is what you're looking for, this is the place for you.

Manresa State Beach Campsites

Manresa is a tent-only camping spot, with 64 walk-in tent sites in their Uplands Campground. 

People like the large campsites at Manresa. They have enough space that you don't have to worry about bumping elbows with your neighbors. The campsites are big enough for you and a bunch of your pals.  Even for a group of 6 to 8 people, one site is enough.

None of the campsites at Manresa offer unobstructed ocean views, but the beach is only a five-minute walk away. And what a walk! It's not getting to the beach that's difficult; it's trekking back up all the stairs you just went down when you're done.

What Facilities Are There at Manresa State Beach? 

The campground has restrooms and paid showers. You can buy firewood at the campground, but you can have a fire only in the fire rings provided.

All of the camping spaces at Manresa are "walk in." That doesn't mean you don't have to drag everything from the parking lot to your campsite, though. You can take your vehicle there to unload, but the campground doesn't have parking spots next to the campsites.

After you're done unloading, you'll have to move it to the parking area in the upper lot for the rest of your stay and walk back down to your site.

If you're used to running back to your car to get stuff, it won't be easy at Manresa. Because you will be too far from your vehicle to see it, it's also especially important to lock your doors and take your valuables with you.

The campsites are very open with no trees. On a hot, sunny day, you'll be happy you brought that canopy.

What You Need to Know Before You Go to Manresa State Beach

  • You can get more information on the Manresa State Beach website.
  • If you forget your favorite candy or snack, there's no store at the campground. If you have the munchies, need supplies or want to go out for a meal — both Watsonville and Seacliff are nearby. While neither place is far away, it may take longer to drive to than you think on a busy, day.
  • If you know how busy California Highway 17 gets between San Jose and Santa Cruz on weekends, you can get to Manresa and avoid some of that traffic by going south on U.S. Highway 101 and taking California Highway 129 through Watsonville instead.
  • Reservations for Manresa are a necessity on weekends and during the summer. Make them as early as you can. That means as much as seven months ahead of time. Learn how to make California state park reservations.
  • You can go fishing at Manresa, where you might catch starry flounder, California halibut, surfperch, striped bass and surf smelt, but you need a fishing license.
  • Dogs are allowed in the campground and on the beach (but not on nearby Sunset State Beach). Keep them on a leash and owners; please pick up your pooch's poo.
  • If the Manresa campground is full — or if you would prefer camping in the same area but in an RV or camper, Sunset State Beach is nearby and offers more options.
  • Manresa State Beach is only one of the places you can go camping near Santa Cruz. You can find more places to camp near the beach, more places to camp near town and some campgrounds in the nearby mountains if you use this guide to camping at Santa Cruz.

How to Get to Manresa State Beach Campground

The park is 16 miles south of Santa Cruz off California Highway One. Take the San Andreas Road exit.