Only a small percentage of visitors to Southern California insist on camping instead of booking rooms at the many resorts and hotels near the ocean. Those who prefer camping and are lucky enough to get a spot in one of the 14 campgrounds on the Socal coast will be rewarded with one of the best experiences.
Few of these campgrounds allow camping right on the sand, but most are close enough to walk to the beach. Some are only for recreational vehicles and don’t allow tent camping period. Others have spaces for tents, but none of the Southern California campgrounds are tent camping only.
Read about each campground and adjacent beach to learn rules like where campfires are allowed and where dogs can be walked. Reservations are highly recommended as these limited camp spots are highly coveted especially in the summer months.
Traveling north of Socal? Check out our full list of beach camping in California.
San Diego County
Silver Strand State Beach Campground, Coronado (RVs only)
This is a large paved parking lot for RVs that the state park calls a campground. If you have an RV, this is a superb spot for camping as it is right on Silver Strand State Beach and has easy access to Crown Cove with calm water and rentals for many different water activities.
Campland on Mission Bay, San Diego (Tents & RVs)
Campland is a private campground on the shores of San Diego’s Mission Bay. It has rentals and water toys big and small and is geared for families. You’ll enjoy excellent facilities here including an arcade, swimming pools, cafe, store, wifi, laundry, skatepark, volleyball courts, horseshoes, and a private beach.
San Elijo State Beach Campground, Encinitas (Tents & RVs)
San Elijo is a linear campground on the bluff above a long sandy shore in the Cardiff-by-the-Sea area of Encinitas. It has 170 camp spots but these still fill up fast so reserve early. Long wooden staircases lead down to the beach where lifeguard towers are manned during peak times. They have a cafe and camp store in the summer making it even easier for families to enjoy camping here.
South Carlsbad State Beach Campground, Carlsbad (Tents & RVs)
This is another linear blufftop campground in North County. It has stairs and ramps to the beach and several lifeguard towers. Like San Elijo, South Carlsbad is a great place for family camping.
San Onofre State Beach – Bluffs Campground, San Clemente (Tents & RVs)
This linear campground is high on the bluff above the beach. The entrance is in a hard-to-find spot on a dead end portion of the Old Highway 1 Road. Six different trails meander down the steep eroding bluffs to remote feeling beaches. Dogs are allowed at beaches 1 and 6.
San Onofre State Beach – San Mateo Campground, San Clemente (Tents & RVs)
This campground is one of the farthest from the beach, but it’s an excellent location on the outskirts of San Clemente. A 1.5 mile long trail and paved path leads down to a famous surf spot called Trestles Beach. There are several other sandy beaches nearby in this state park.
San Clemente State Beach Campground, San Clemente (Tents & RVs)
San Clemente State Beach has two campgrounds, one for RVs and one for tents. Each campground is fairly large and both have easy access to a fantastic sandy beach.
Doheny State Beach Campground, Dana Point (Tents & RVs)
Doheny has over 100 camp spots on the beach right in Dana Point. The beach here is quite popular. It’s a pleasant walk or short drive to the marina where you can find restaurants and rentals for kayaking or supping on the calm waters of Dana Cove.
Crystal Cove State Park – Moro Campground, Laguna Beach (Tents & RVs)
Moro Campground is just across Pacific Coast Highway from the beach. Half of the 60 camping spaces are for RVs and the rest are for tents, vans, and smaller trailers. This park has a long beach to walk, paved paths on the bluff, and a historical district with a restaurant and bar. Trails head inland and uphill from the campground to ridgetops and viewpoints.
Bolsa Chica State Beach Campground, Huntington Beach (RVs only)
This state beach has a paved lot with electrical and water hookups that can accommodate 50 RVs (tent camping is not allowed). Visitors can walk on the long sandy beach, bike the paved path that meanders along the shoreline, or cross the highway to explore nature trails at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
Los Angeles County
Dockweiler State Beach RV Park, Los Angeles (RVs only)
RV campers can park here in a large paved parking lot right on the sand. It’s near the flight path of planes coming and going at LAX Airport, but it is also close to some huge sandy beaches. A long paved path snakes through the sand for exploring the coastline of Santa Monica Bay.
Leo Carrillo State Park Campground, Malibu (Tents & RVs)
Leo Carrillo has a large campground with 140 spots in a canyon right behind South Beach. The beaches here have caves, arches, and tidepools making this a desirable campground for families. Hiking trails take off into the hills right from the campground and visitor center.
Sycamore Cove Beach Campground, Malibu (Tents & RVs)
Sycamore Cove is technically in Ventura County but it’s just west of the county line from Malibu. The Sycamore Canyon Campground is right across the highway from a picturesque sandy beach. Hikes into Boney Mountains Wilderness Area begin from the campground.
Thornhill Broome Beach Campground, Malibu (Tents & RVs)
Here you can pitch a tent or park your RV next to the ocean. The facilities are minimal and the campground parallels a busy highway, but it’s hard to get closer to the beach than this.
Catalina Island Camping (tents & tent cabins for rent)
Catalina has several campgrounds and most are on or near the beach. They also have secluded small beaches that allow camping if you want to kayak or boat into them.