01 of 05
Santa Cruz Camping
Santa Cruz is home to a popular seaside amusement park. Set between a long stretch of sandy beaches and the Santa Cruz Mountains, the town is an excellent base for all kinds of activities. If you're going there for a couple of days, you'll find ideas and for things to do in the Santa Cruz Weekend Getaway Planner.
If you need a map - and if you're like me, you do - check the one at the end of this guide.
Tips for Choosing a Place to Camp in the Santa Cruz Area
In this area, you can find a campground near the beach, near town or in the nearby mountains.
When you're picking a place to stay, beware of commercial campgrounds with the word "Santa Cruz" in their name. Don't be fooled into thinking that means it will be in or very near town. If you don't check the map, you could end up frustrated when you end up as much as a 30-minute drive away.
The Santa Cruz area is rich with state parks. As you would expect, their campsites are very popular. For any location below that has "state" in... its name, you'll need to make reservations as far ahead as you can. It's a tricky process but never fear. You can find out how to do it in the California State Park Reservation Guide.Continue to 2 of 5 below.
02 of 05
Santa Cruz Beach Camping
If you think "Beach Camping" means stepping out the RV door onto the sand or pitching your tent on the beach, you'll be disappointed around Santa Cruz.
The coastline is dotted with state parks. Most of them have camping areas, but not a single one is directly on the beach. These campgrounds are close enough to the beach that you can walk, but not quite right on the sand.
Manresa State Beach Campground has walk-in tent sites and is very close to the beach.
New Brighton State Beach Campground is a big campground with room for more than 100 sites for RVs and trailers, some hookups and a nice, shady area.
Seacliff State Beach Campground is in one of the most beautiful spots along the coast. It sits along a stretch of beach and is backed by wind-blocking bluffs. They allow self-contained RVs and camping trailers only.
Sunset State Beach Campground has sites for tents, travel trailers and RVs, but no hookups. It's near the beach but separated from it by sand dunes.Continue to 3 of 5 below.
03 of 05
Other Santa Cruz Area Camping
You'll find one campground in the town of Santa Cruz and others outside of town. The distance to each one is listed below.
Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park is the one campground that has a convenient location in the town of Santa Cruz, about a mile from the beach. It can accommodate fully self-contained vehicles only, up to 42 feet long.
These campgrounds are in the Santa Cruz area, but not in or close to town:
Costanoa calls itself an "eco-adventure resort." It has a lodge, but also some upscale tent cabins and a KOA Kampground with RV and tent sites. It's about 25 miles north of town on CA Hwy 1. The location has its pluses and minuses, and you should read reviews at Tripadvisor before you decide to go.
KOA Santa Cruz/Monterey is the nearest KOA to Santa Cruz, but it's actually in Watsonville, 11 miles south. It's a good location if you plan to visit both Santa Cruz and Monterey.
Santa Cruz Ranch RV Resort is in Scotts Valley, about a 15-minute drive from the beach. Both RV and tent sites are... available. It has a swimming pool, shower and laundry, and WiFi. And they welcome well-behaved pets.Continue to 4 of 5 below.
04 of 05
Camping in the Mountains Near Santa Cruz
The Santa Cruz Mountains are a great place to go camping in the midst of natural beauty. But they aren't close enough to town to make a quick trip convenient.
To get to some of them, you have to drive on reached via a winding road that might not be appropriate for a big RV or if you're towing a trailer. Check the distances and roads before choosing one of these places to stay.
Big Basin Redwoods State Park is a lovely park, and it has almost 150 sites for all kinds of camping, including some tent cabins. It's nearly an hour's drive from town, reached by a winding road. - and probably a better choice if you're planning to stay put there than if you want to go into town.
Castle Rock State Park is in the mountains and closer to the Silicon Valley towns of Los Gatos and Saratoga than to Santa Cruz, Castle Rock has backpacking sites that are about a 2.5-mile hike from the parking lot.
Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park is a few miles out of town near Felton (about 15 minutes from Santa Cruz) and... is one of the prettiest ones in the area, with more than 100 sites.
Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort is near Henry Cowell Redwoods in the town of Felton about 15 minutes' drive away from Santa Cruz. They have tent and RV sites, hookups, and free WiFi.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Santa Cruz Camping Map
In case you want to see more detail than this or want to get driving directions and check distances, check this Google map I made just for you.