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 the beach. You can however bring your leashed dog to the area south of Lifeguard Tower 16.
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
Questions and Answers
San Elijo State Beach FAQs
Is San Elijo State Beach taking reservations?
The campground at San Elijo is open year round, and accepts reservations up to 6 months in advance. Visit Reserve California to check the availability of campsites at San Elijo and book a spot.
How do I reserve a San Elijo campsite?
Campsites at San Elijo State Beach are in high demand. So, you’ll want to book your campsite there as early as possible. Reservations are available up to 6 months before your arrival date. You can make reservations at San Elijo online on Reserve California. You can also attempt to book by phone by calling 1-800-444-7275. If San Elijo is sold-out for the dates you wish to camp, you can scan for cancelations at San Elijo.
How much does it cost to camp at San Elijo?
You can camp at San Elijo State Beach for as little as $35 per night for standard campsites. Sites with hookups cost a bit more at $60 a night. Meanwhile, premium oceanfront campsites can be had for $50 a night, or $75 a night with hook-ups.
Can I camp on the beach at San Elijo?
No, you aren’t allowed to camp on the actual beach at San Elijo. That said, San Elijo’s campground is just up from the beach on a bluff. You can book a campsite in San Elijo’s campground, and enjoy the epic views from camp. Then stroll down to the beach to partake in activities there. 😎
Do you have a map of San Elijo camping?
We don’t have our own campground maps, but California State Parks offers this brochure for San Elijo State Beach that contains maps of the region and of the campground.
Does San Elijo State Beach have hookups?
Most campsites at San Elijo do not offer hookups. That said there are 26 campsite at San Elijo that do offer full hookups, including electricity, water, and sewer.
Are dogs allowed on San Elijo State Beach?
You can bring your dog to the campground at San Elijo State Beach. As for the beach, dogs are only permitted on south of Lifeguard Tower 16 and must be leashed at all times.
Does San Elijo offer wifi?
Currently wi-fi is unavailable at San Elijo State Beach.
Got another question about San Elijo State Beach?
Ask us your question about camping at San Elijo State Beach, and we’ll try to find the answer for you!
ARE San Elijo State Beach campsites SOLD OUT?
We can help! Many campsite reservations are cancelled daily. Just tell us when you’d like to camp at San Elijo State Beach, and how long you want to camp for. We’ll text you when a suitable spot opens up!Scan for cancellations
Contact San Elijo State Beach
- California State Parks
- Booking site: https://reservecalifornia.com/Web
Spotted an error?
Whoops! Sometimes we make mistakes. Want to help improve the San Elijo SB listing? Please suggest a correction.
Best place to get away or stay a few days. Either hang down at the beach and surf, cross over to town and grab a slice of pizza at east coast, grab a beer at lost abby or a plate of BBQ at seaside market.. Can't never get bored camping at san elijo
Beach camp site!
We came on a cloudy, but beautiful night. The beach was steps down from the site and across the street from plenty of good food.
Our favorite camping spot!
Best location by the ocean, great surf, and stores/restaurants are within walking distance from the campgrounds. The only major downside is, since covid, the camp store is still closed and Bull Taco is no longer there. Hopefully this will change soon!
Favorite camp spot!
Even though I live locally, this is my favorite campground. Sleeping to the sound of the ocean, getting up for a morning surf then walking across the street for coffee and a burrito. It doesn't get much better. Great facilities, friendly camp hosts are a bonus.
This campground is hard to get into but worth the try. On the beach and in the great little town of Cardiff.
Location is awesome. Long slow lines for check in
UNABLE TO RESERVE A CAMPSITE?
Get notified when a sold-out campground has availability
Tell us when, where, and how long you want to camp for. We’ll notify you (via SMS) when a suitable spot opens up at that campground—so you can nab that sold-out campsite reservation!