Skip to content

Sleeping On The Beach In California – A Complete Guideline

Disclaimer: As an affiliate I may earn a commission on any qualifying purchases, including those from, at no extra cost to you

You can be Sleeping On The Beach In California and you should! It’s an experience you won’t forget, and there are plenty of places to do it safely and legally. This guide will help you find out where you can legally camp on the California coast and get the most out of your sleeping on the beach in California experience. 

Plus, we’ll give you some tips on how to make your trip as safe as possible, so when you wake up in the morning, it will still be a good idea to keep sleeping!

Is Sleeping On The Beach In California Legal?

Yes, sleeping on or under a beach tent is legal, however, you are advised to contact local authorities before your trip and let them know where you will be camping for safety reasons. It’s also recommended that you not light a fire if there are dry conditions. 

If you do light a fire, make sure it is safe and that there are no local council by-laws prohibiting fires at certain times. You should never leave a fire unattended and extinguish it properly before leaving.

How Safe Is Camping On The Beach In California?

Camping can be a great experience, but it can also be quite dangerous. Having said that, you want to make sure you’re camping at one of those beach campsites that are safe. By safe we mean sites that have power outlets and running water. 

We’ve already covered how important it is for your vehicle to be outfitted with essentials like flares and spare batteries, as well as how important it is for everyone (including yourself) to wear life jackets whenever boating.

How To Stay Safe While Sleeping On The California Coast?

You can also check out our other related article:

Here are some tips from experienced campers about how to stay safe while sleeping on The California Coast: 

Find out if it’s legal first! 

The only thing worse than being awakened by a park ranger is realizing he’s not there to save you from the shark attack he just witnessed but rather ticket you for breaking rules against sleeping on public beaches.

Make sure it’s safe! 

There are lots of animals that call beaches home, some more friendly than others. Some common (and not-so-common) critters to look out for: raccoons, sea lions, coyotes, seagulls (not as scary as they sound), owls (maybe scarier than they sound), rats (oh boy), mice (oh my!), skunks (you get it), snakes and sharks.

Be prepared! 

The sun goes down faster than you think, so pack a flashlight/headlamp along with extra batteries. Also bring bug spray and sunscreen, though UV rays aren’t usually an issue after dark. It’ll give you a lot more flexibility when choosing where to set up camp each night during your trip because you won’t need an outlet nearby every time.

Bring earplugs!

Sounds obvious, but don’t underestimate how loud ocean waves can be especially when combined with wind and wildlife noises.

Bring an air mattress/sleeping pad! 

Sleeping On The Beach In California

Sand isn’t comfortable to sleep on, especially when it gets wet from ocean waves during high tide or overnight rain showers.

Don’t forget food and water! 

Though most campgrounds offer nearby food options (including restaurants), bringing some water along won’t hurt either.

How To Choose The Best camping California coast

There are endless beaches along the coast of California. Before you pack up your tent and head out, it’s best to understand what makes a beach a good spot for camping that way, you can pick your favorite. 

The Best camping California coast offers soft sand, plenty of shade from palm trees or coastal pines, warm water (but not too warm), waves that won’t knock over your tent at night, and few crowds. And if you want to camp overnight? Make sure there aren’t any no trespassing signs posted or any houses nearby where people might call the police.

How to Choose a Campsite

  • When it comes to choosing a campsite, there are plenty of variables you need to consider. If you’re a newbie, stick with familiar territory. That way, you won’t have any surprises and can focus on getting comfortable. 
  • Start by identifying some must-haves: beach access and privacy are big pluses; amenities like bathrooms, showers, and fire pits might be worth an extra fee (if applicable). 
  • Next, figure out your basic location options. Is there an established campground nearby? If so, pick that up as soon as possible; vacancy signs may be few and far between during peak season. 
  • If not, look for a good spot near public transportation or at least one that’s close enough to home for a quick trip back if you run out of something. 
  • Some other things to keep in mind: How much space do you need? Do you want to pitch a tent or sleep under the stars? And how many people will be sleeping under your roof (or sky)? 

Once you have all these details nailed down, check site reviews. Sites like these can help steer clear of bad spots and steer towards good ones! Lastly, don’t forget to make sure you’ve got everything else you’ll need before you head out. From air mattresses and bug spray to flashlights and sunscreen, our guide has everything you’ll need.

The Best Camping Spots On The Coast Of California

The great thing about camping is that you can do it almost anywhere: by a lake, beside a river, or even on top of a mountain. The coast of California is no exception. There are some excellent best beach campgrounds in California. This post will highlight them and show you how you can get there and enjoy them for yourself.

Big Sur

The Big Sur coast is both stunning and wild. It’s also virtually impossible to reach without a car (and even then, it’s rough going). So bring a tent if you want to spend a night under starry skies. 

The south end of Pfeiffer beach has better access for campers: park at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, set up your tent, and then walk down to enjoy magnificent views of cliffs and crashing waves from Big Sur’s picturesque coastline.

Huntington Beach

Although Huntington Beach’s pier is a tourist attraction, it also provides beautiful sights of sunsets and ocean waves. If you want to sleep under the stars in Huntington Beach, then you can set up camp at Bolsa Chica State Park, which is located just a short walk from there. 

The park is pet-friendly and has nice views of its own. You’ll need a camping permit that costs $20 per night. If that price tag seems expensive, note that rangers patrol nightly and will send you packing if they find that you don’t have one.

Manhattan Beach

If you’re looking for a high-end beach experience, head to Manhattan Beach. With a maximum occupancy of 350 people, it’s an upscale alternative for those looking for more than just sand and surf.  

The $37/night fee gives you access to showers, restrooms, electricity, and water stations. You must bring your own sleeping bags and blankets but can purchase food from their outdoor café within walking distance of any given campsite. Everything else is provided including linens!

San Diego

Of all of California’s coastal cities, San Diego is generally considered to be one of the best for beach camping. It has a laid-back atmosphere that makes it ideal for families and outdoor enthusiasts alike, and there are plenty of great camping spots both near and far from downtown. 

A brief drive south leads you into Mission Bay Park, where a few miles of beaches provide ample space for hiking and sightseeing as well as opportunities for surfing and fishing.

Santa Barbara

If you’re heading down to Los Angeles and have time for a day trip, consider hiking Anacapa Island (which is only accessible by boat). The island has tide pools brimming with sea life, so bring your snorkel gear and don’t forget your tent! 

You can set up camp right next to one of Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches. With an elevation of only 250 feet above sea level, temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees at night. It gets a little chilly sometimes, though; when we were there in June, it was close to freezing. Pack some warm layers just in case!

Whalers Cove

If you’re dreaming of a vacation near some of California’s most beautiful coastlines, but want an experience that feels a little more removed from civilization than camping and hotel accommodations can provide, Whalers Cove is your place. 

Located about 15 miles south of Mendocino, Whalers Cove offers up waterfront camping for $30 a night at its lovely eucalyptus grove campsite; as well as RV parking for $40/night.

Cayucos State Beach

Sleeping On The Beach In California

With sunny, warm weather and a wide beach, Cayucos State Beach is one of our favorites. It’s on Highway 1 just south of San Simeon and Monterey. The park offers 44 campsites that include picnic tables, fire rings, access to running water, restrooms, showers, boat launch ramps, and fishing piers. 

There are plenty of campsites here that look out over Cayucos Bay although there aren’t too many trees so you might want to bring a shade canopy if you camp here. In addition to being dog-friendly (there are separate areas for dogs), Cayucos is also pet-friendly!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the some Frequently Asked Questions:

What are the rules for camping?

You can camp anywhere on the state beaches, except in designated primitive areas, and on federal lands. The rules vary depending on where you are camping. 

Can I bring my dog?

Yes! Dogs are allowed everywhere except in parks that have pet-friendly policies. Make sure your dog is well-behaved and doesn’t bark too much or get into any fights with other dogs. Keep your dog leashed at all times when outside of a designated area.

How long can I stay in a campground or state park?

In general, there are no restrictions on the length of stay at a campground or state park. You can stay as long as you want, but if you wish to leave your site early (e.g., when you want to hike during the day), this is fine. You’re not required to stay at a campsite for the full length of your stay.


Even though California’s camping season is short, we think you’ll fall in love with the state’s beauty and all it has to offer. Whether you’re looking to camp at a specific California beach or just want to find places where you can legally sleep on the beach in California. Some Coastlines give you permission for camping there and some are restricted due to security issues. Before going camping on the beach in California, be prepared and follow all the safety precautions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *