Campers love staying at San Elijo State Beach on the California coast for many reasons. Campsites perched on a bluff give campers epic views of the Pacific Ocean. From here, they can partake in a wide variety of outdoor activities in a comfortable year-round climate.
Camping at San Elijo State Beach
The campground at San Elijo contains ~170 campsites, with some specifically for RVs/trailers, tents, and one shared hike or bike campsite (that’s available on a first-come, first-served basis).
Approximately half of San Elijo’s campsites offer water and electricity, and a few premium sites have full hookups. San Elijo campsites include picnic tables and fire rings. Roughly a third of the campsites at this park offer unobstructed ocean views.
Amenities at this campground include restrooms (with showers and flush toilets) and laundry facilities. Additional conveniences include a restaurant, camp store, and a dump station.
A handful of campsites at San Elijo State Beach are accessible. These feature (wholly or partly) paved surfaces and accessible controls on water fixtures. The shared restrooms have accessible toilets, and a beach wheelchair is also available.
Location, geography, and history
Situated in Encinitas on the San Diego Coast, San Elijo is one of the area’s most popular state beaches. The park’s two miles of coastline extends along Historic Route 101 to Cardiff State Beach.
The park’s campground is atop a bluff that overlooks the ocean. Visitors can descend the stairs to access the expansive and tranquil beach peppered with large boulders. This area is just part of San Diego County’s 70 miles of Pacific Ocean beach.
For thousands of years, the indigenous Kumeyaay people have lived in the San Diego region. Europeans settled in the area in the 1700s. After some years of Spanish and Mexican rule, San Diego became part of the United States in 1848.
Features, wildlife, and vegetation
Southern California’s Mediterranean-like weather conditions afford campers mild conditions year-round and warm ocean temperatures. Many enjoy San Elijo State Beach’s proximity to city amenities, as restaurants and attractions are within driving distance.
The region’s avian wildlife is rich in seagulls, shorebirds, and migratory waterfowl. Birdwatching is excellent in the morning. On the beach, visitors might see invertebrates or jellyfish (especially at low tide). You might also spot sea lions and dolphins a little further into the ocean.
The county’s diverse soil and climatic conditions (wetland, desert, mountains) encompass many different vegetation types. Coastal prickly pear and California brittlebush are just a few of the wildflowers found in the region.
Activities at San Elijo State Beach
Pipes, Cardiff Reef, and Leucadia are some of the world-famous surf breaks found on the San Diego Coast. These breaks make San Elijo a popular destination for those seeking lots of waves and variety. Not a surfer? Perhaps try skimboarding or boogie-boarding.
Scuba divers also frequent the area due to the kelp patties, underwater caves, and nearby reef systems. Those more inclined to lounge about might enjoy a picnic, swim, or a sunset stroll. Southern California’s beaches are also home to volleyball, pier fishing, and various festivals.
Risks, cautions, and notes
The ocean presents risks like riptides, large waves, and inshore holes. These can be dangerous, so know your limits and ask a lifeguard where it’s safe to swim.
Trains pass through the area, which can be a bother to some. Consider packing earplugs just in case.
Campsites at San Elijo are in high demand and get booked quickly—especially during the surf season. If you plan to camp at San Elijo, do your research and book early.
Information about San Elijo State Beach
2050 S Coast Hwy 101, Cardiff, CA 92007
San Elijo State Beach extends along Coast Highway 101, 3/4 mile north from San Elijo Lagoon’s entrance channel (near Cardiff-by-the-Sea). Exit Interstate 5 at Encinitas Blvd. and head west. Turn left on South Coast Highway. Follow the highway south, for approximately 2 miles.
65 ft (19 m)
Up to 6 months in advance of arrival date
1-800-444-7275 (between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.)
Number of sites
12:00 p.m. (noon)
Dogs allowed only in campground but not on beach
Permitted (fire bans may apply)
Max. site occupants
8 including children
Vehicles per site
2 (one driven and one towed)
Maximum vehicle length
Picnic table, fire ring, some sites with full hook-ups
Number of accessible sites
4A, 26A, 58A, 92A, 143A, 164A
5, 7, 18, 19, 27, 29, 31, 38, 47, 49, 51, 59, 145, 146, 147, 149, 150, 151, 165, 167, 168
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Contact San Elijo State Beach
- California State Parks
- Booking site: https://reservecalifornia.com/Web
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