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Exploring San Diego’s Coast by RV

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in Travel
Exploring San Diego’s Coast by RV

Sunset Cliffs beach coastline in San Diego. (

 The Journey Begins With One Question

By Joe Laing

A journey to explore the San Diego coast by RV begins with one question: “What would I like to do?” Besides the joys of RV camping, do you enjoy basking in the sun, hiking a trail, snorkeling, paddling or surfing? Are you hoping for full-hookup RV comfort, or does casual beach camping hold a certain appeal? Do you plan to find the best spots close to the beach to shop, dine and soak up local culture?

The answers to these questions are the launching point for your RV journey along San Diego’s glorious coastline. Your adventure can be as unique and interesting as you are. Here are just a few of the coastal camping possibilities to help you plan your own version of a San Diego RV camping adventure.



San Diego Coastal Camping Options    

Start your journey 40 miles north of San Diego by setting up camp at San Elijo State Beach campground. The views of the ocean can’t be beat, and the campground offers standard water/electric sites as well as a few with full hookups. Hot water showers and a seasonal camp store round out the campground amenities.

What to do on this leg of your San Diego coastal tour is wide open—this thin strip of sand is popular with surfers, snorkelers, beach joggers and folks who simply want to soak up the Southern California sun. If you’ve never experienced the wonder of the ocean in front of you with scenic cliffs rising behind, this is the perfect place to start. It’s also close enough for day trips into Encinitas and Cardiff-by-the-Sea.

Invitation sign on the road to Cardiff-by-the-Sea (Credit: Anton Dotsenko/

Invitation sign on the road to Cardiff-by-the-Sea (Credit: Anton Dotsenko/

Wind your way north up Coast Hwy 101 for 6 scenic miles to reach your next San Diego coastal RV destination: South Carlsbad State Beach. Famous for its bluff-top campground, this place defines ‘ocean views.’

Here’s what you need to know about the campground: There are more than 200 standard campsites, but make your reservations early, because it’s a popular place! The campsites are on the snug side, but token showers and a seasonal camp store add to the camping experience. Special note: maximum trailer/RV length is 35 feet.

Take the stairway down to the beach and then go skin diving or windsurfing, fish the surf for croaker and corbina or comb the beach for treasures left by the tide. It’s a wondrous spot, and one RV travelers shouldn’t miss when they come to San Diego.

View from staircase leading to South Carlsbad State Beach. (

View from staircase leading to South Carlsbad State Beach. (

If you want to fall in love with the rocky bluffs and endless sand beaches of Southern California, you owe yourself a trip 30 miles up the coastline from South Carlsbad SB to San Onofre State Beach.

As you approach the campground by RV, you’ll probably be thinking, “How can a place so close to civilization be so beloved by beachgoers?” Once you’ve parked the RV atop the bluff that shields the beach from the highway, you’ll begin to understand.

You won’t find hookups here, but once you’ve made your way down one of the trails to the beach, you will find a perfect place to go sea kayaking, bicycling, beach combing or birdwatching. Even if you don’t surf, you’ll also want to hike down the beach to the Trestles to watch surfers match their skills against the legendary breaks.

Masaki Kobayashi surfing at Lower Trestles at San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente (Credit: Nagel Photography/

Masaki Kobayashi surfing at Lower Trestles at San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente (Credit: Nagel Photography/

One more idea for your San Diego coastal RV odyssey: a stop at Silver Strand State Beach on San Diego Bay near Coronado. Stretching across the Bay on a narrow spit of land, it’s the quintessential beach camping paradise.

At the campground (for self-contained RVs only), you’ll find more than 100 electric and water campsites. Special note: The campground gates are locked each evening and the closure time varies by season. If you’re planning special outings beyond the campground, keep that in mind.

As for the beach, both the Bay and the Pacific offer plenty of ways to play. Whether your passion is surf fishing, swimming, picnicking on the beach or following a trail on foot or bicycle, you’ve come to the right place. With convenient tunnels to hike or bike to the ocean side, this is also a popular gathering place for surfers.

Storm clouds and sunset at Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado. (

Storm clouds and sunset at Silver Strand State Beach in Coronado. (

Planning your unique San Diego coastal RV camping trip starts with a question and ends with incomparable vacation memories. Keep in mind that these four suggested stops are only the state beaches—there are plenty of first-class private camping venues to welcome San Diego visitors. Whether you choose a no-frills, beachside campground or a luxury RV resort, one thing’s for sure: Your coastal San Diego RV journey will be unforgettable.

Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV, a nationwide RV rental company. Joe has been on the road working within the travel industry for over 20 years and greatly enjoys exploring the outdoors. Joe has been camping across the United States, from coast-to-coast, and makes a point to stop at national landmarks along the way. He is also actively involved in numerous campground associations, including RVIA’s Go RV’ing committee, as well as travel industry associations.


1 Comments on “Exploring San Diego’s Coast by RV

  • San Diego has tons of places to sight see by the beach but I’m partial to Paradise by the Sea Beach RV Resort. 90 FHU RV Sites with the best beach access in Southern California. West of Coast Hwy (101) and sparkling clean amenities such as pool, spa, firepits, picnic areas and adjacent to Buccaneer Park and Beach…Oceanside’s full service beach that includes state of the art playground/ropes course, café, gazebo, basketball court, lagoon and beach views, grassy picnic areas, and free parking.
    Joe, your El Monte renters come here all the time so thanks for sending them!

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