Sunset State Beach Camping Near Santa Cruz

Camping at Sunset State Beach
Camping at Sunset State Beach.

Monica Bourne

The Sunset State Beach campground is a popular oceanfront camping spot near Santa Cruz, California. The groves of Monterey Pines around the campsites have beautiful trees and grass - and most sites provide ample space between you and your neighbors.

On the downside, the campground is next to a strawberry field. A breeze may carry the smell of manure used as fertilizer, and you may get an early wake-up call from a tractor or farm workers starting their day. If you are concerned about pesticide exposure, you may choose not to stay here.

Some visitors also complain that the restrooms and showers are too crowded. If you have a self-contained RV, you can avoid some of those issues.

Online reviewers comment: "This place lived up to every part of our expectations!!" They also like that it's dog-friendly and you can have a bonfire on the beach. Those who like it less comment that it's the least private campground they've ever seen. They also complain about other campers being too noisy. You can read more of their reviews on Yelp.

What about the beach itself? All that is in the Sunset State Beach Guide.

Sunset 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.

If you decide Sunset State Beach isn't right for you, you might like another Santa Cruz area beach campground like Seacliff State Beach, Manresa State Beach, or New Brighton State Beach.

What Facilities Are There at Sunset State Beach?

Sunset State Beach has 90 sites for tents, RVs and travel trailers up to 31 feet long, but no hookups. Sites 1 through 37 are closest to the beach, but only three of them have ocean views: 25, 26 and 28.

Sunset State Beach has restrooms and coin operated showers.

You can swim at the beach and lifeguards are on duty during busiest times. There's also a remote controlled glider port in the dunes - fun to watch even if you don't own one.

There is no camp store at Sunset State Beach. You can get camping supplies and snack foods at the gas station on Lee Road near CA Hwy 1, about 10 minutes away. You can buy firewood from the camp host.

Sand dunes between the campground and the beach block the wind and cut down on blowing sand. Large pine trees also shade the campground.

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

  • Reservations are required year-round at Sunset State Beach, and it's a necessity to make them far in advance for weekends and during the summer. Learn how to make California state park reservations. When the reservation window opens, time matters and even a few minutes' delay picking your site can make you too late. Check the campground map to be ready to snag a site when they become available.
  • The beach is a good walk - or a short drive - from the campsites. Pack what you need, or you'll be running back and forth all day.
  • Camping fees include one primary vehicle and one towed in. There's an extra fee for a second vehicle.
  • You can catch surf perch and sardines on the beach, but you need a fishing license to do it.
  • Generators can be used in the day, but not during quiet nighttime hours.
  • Group picnic tables are available beneath a shelter, but the sand dunes are between them and the water.
  • Despite what you read elsewhere and the comments from people online who took their dogs t, this is not an official "dog beach." The rules say that dogs are allowed in the campground but must be on leashes no longer than six feet, and they can't go onto the beach.
  • The campground doesn't have s dump station, but your entry fee gives you access to the station at New Brighton State Beach nearby.
  • Be sure all your food is safely stowed at night to keep the raccoons from getting into it.

How to Get to Sunset State Beach Campground

Sunset State Beach Campground
Santa Cruz, CA
Sunset State Beach Website

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