El Capitán State Beach is a protected beach in the state park system of California. The most easterly of three state parks along the Gaviota Coast, it is located about 20 miles (32 km) west of downtown Santa Barbara, in Santa Barbara County. The beach is named for José Francisco Ortega, who retired from the Spanish Army in 1795 with the rank of captain and received the Rancho Nuestra Señora del Refugio as a land grant.
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Contact El Capitan State Beach
- California State Parks
- Booking site: https://reservecalifornia.com/Web
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Huge sites, great beach
The sites are huge and the park itself is very spacious. Fun for the kids to run around and play. The beach is a bit of a hike, but once you're there it's gorgeous. Be prepared to carry all your stuff for about 1/4 mile to get to the sand, depending on where your site is. We'll definitely go back!
This campground has it all! Most sites are spread out from one another. The beach is right there along with a small store. On the other side of the freeway is a private campground ($$) which you can bike to and get a bbq lunch. It is far enough away from Santa Barbara to be "away from it all" but close enough if you need to run in and get a few supplies.
Groups. Groups. Groups.
El Capitan is not for the big rigs. There's a train trestle that precludes anything that has an inspirational name on the overhang. The cell service is strong. The hike bike spot used to be at the top of the hill, and now - it's close to the pay station. (Big win, imagine all the times cyclists pulled in after a long day on the PCH only to find that they had to clime ONE> MORE> HILL>?)
The walk to the beach is comfortable in flip flops. And, be sure to time your stays with the AFB, as they regularly make space (ha ha) to shoot off one of Mr. Musk's rockets.
The Catch: Yes - there's a seasonal store onsite, but if you forgot anything it's miles in either direction to town. And town will know you are desperate.
The day use area is packed in the summer. Not all of the spots are good for the solar panels, and many of the sites are not level. Who cares, stay here - swim in the ocean, wear yourself out, sleep well...as long as you put your tent so that your feet are higher than your heart.
great beach stop on PCH
The south-facing beach at this campground is beautiful and it is only 2 hours from downtown Los Angeles. Sites are on the small side--but you are at the beach, right?! Try to snag a site with a beach view if you can, they go fast. The sites closer to the highway (we were in 94) can have a bit of road noise. Regardless of where your site is, grab a chair and find a spot on the bluffs to watch the sunset.
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