What Beaches Can You Camp On In Santa Cruz?

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Big waves, windswept beaches, craft beer, redwood forests, lounging sea lions, and an old wooden roller coaster overlooking the sea are all found in California’s original Surf City. What better way to experience Santa Cruz than pitching your tent on one of its breathtaking beaches? However, you might be wondering what beaches you can camp on in Santa Cruz.

Some of the best campsites near Santa Cruz are world-renowned for their tent and RV camping. You can camp on the following beaches in Santa Cruz, California:

  1. Sunset State Beach
  2. Seacliff State Beach
  3. Manresa State Beach
  4. New Brighton State Beach
  5. Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park

Santa Cruz is situated on the northernmost tip of Monterey Bay. On the west side of town, you’ll find some of the most famous surf breaks and beautiful shorelines and some of the newest and most memorable places to eat and drink. To find the coastal campsite best suited to your needs, we have compiled a short guide on the best beaches to camp on in Santa Cruz.

The 5 Best Beaches To Camp On In Santa Cruz

Beach camping is a rite of passage in California. Securing a camping spot on the California coast is an excellent way to spend a weekend between epic sunrises, sunsets, and bonfires. Nothing beats falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves and waking up to the sounds of seagulls.

Santa Cruz is the ideal place to spend a summer camping on the Californian coast. This eclectic surf town boasts a variety of coastal activities bound to keep you entertained. We have compiled a list of the best beaches to camp on in Santa Cruz, with several magnificent spots from which to choose.

1.     Sunset State Beach

Sunset State Beach has long been a popular beach camping spot. Campers can enjoy the rolling waves, hiking trails, and the seemingly endless stretches of California beach. Sunset State Beach not only promises a memorable summer getaway; during the winter, campers can look forward to whale watching from the bluffs.

This idyllic Californian beach is perfect for falling asleep to the sounds of the sea and taking in the breathtaking views of Monterey Bay. Thankfully, campsites are protected from strong winds, with most of the sites located on the bluffs or hidden among the trees. Sunset State Beach Campground has 85 grounds divided into three areas: the Dunes Camp, the Pine Hollow Camp, and the South Camp.

Nine campsites are only for RVs or trailers, while the remaining 11 are only for tents. The campground can accommodate RVs up to 31 feet long. The sites do not have hookups, but there are restrooms and coin-operated showers. Although the campground permits dogs, they are not allowed on the beach.

2.     Seacliff State Beach

The Seacliff State Beach campground shares the same beautiful stretch of coastline as the New Brighton State Beach campground but with easier access to the beach. Seacliff is famous for its grand fishing pier that reaches into the bay and the ruins of a concrete ship that can be found at its end.

You can look forward to strolling along the pier, picnicking on the beachfront, or simply frolicking on the driftwood-strewn beach. Dogs are permitted on the beach and camping grounds, but they must always be attended to on a leash. Finally, you can reminisce about the day around the allocated campfire spots.

It should be noted that the Seacliff State Beach Campground is exclusively for RVs and self-contained trailers. Camping in a tent is not permitted. The 63 campsites are arranged along the sand’s edge, offering campers excellent ocean views from their RVs.

Reservations are accepted at most sites, and each day at noon, a limited number of non-hookup campsites are sold by lottery. Prospective campers must arrive with their RVs before noon to enter the lottery. Any remaining campsites will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

3.     Manresa State Beach

Close to Sunset State Beach, Manresa State Beach is another beachside option for Santa Cruz camping. You’ll need to carry your belongings from the parking lot to one of the 60 tent-only campsites on the grassy Manresa Uplands overlooking the beach.

However, these remote and tranquil campsites are well worth the trek. You’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Monterey Bay, the sandstone cliffs, and the Monterey Peninsula’s forested hills. Manresa beach is the perfect spot for summertime activities. Should you plan on casting your fishing line, you must first ensure that you have a fishing license.

There are clean bathrooms and shower facilities. However, it is advisable to bring quarters since the fee to use camping showers is 25 cents. Furthermore, sites are strictly available by reservation which can be made through their website. No walk-ins are allowed.  

4.     New Brighton State Beach

New Brighton is the ideal combination of sun, shade, and beach. A wooded bluff of Pine and Cypress trees overlooks the magnificent Monterey Bay, and 114 campsites are perched on it. Campers have the option of tent and RV sites, which are open all year round.

Nine premium campsites boast magnificent views of the ocean. Furthermore, these sites are connected to the beach by short trails. There are restroom and shower facilities at each campsite and picnic tables, fire rings, and food storage lockers to ensure a comfortable stay.

Wander the path from the campground down to a sandy stretch of beach, where you can join families, kayakers, and stand-up paddleboarders enjoying the calm waters of Monterey Bay. Keep an eye out for ocean mammals such as dolphins, otters, and grey whales.

5.     Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park

Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park is a popular coastal camping spot that offers easy access to several beaches and restaurants and downtown Santa Cruz, Capitola, and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Get cozy around the campfire, picnic on the beach, and explore the nearby forests of coastal foliage.

It should be noted that the harbor beach is about a mile away from the RV parking areas and that the campground only allows self-contained RVs. Furthermore, there is a seven-night maximum stay, with a fee of $58 per night with sewer, electric, and freshwater hookups. Reservation by phone and full payment in advance is essential to secure your spot.

The Best Time To Camp In Santa Cruz

The beauty of the California coast is that the weather is almost always pleasant. However, this does not always make it ideal for camping. Certain times of the year are better than others for camping.

The months of April and June are possibly the best for camping in Santa Cruz. It’s still early in the season, so the popular campgrounds aren’t too crowded. In addition, the weather is ideal for camping at this time of year. It is neither too hot nor too cold.

The months of June through August are the most popular for camping. The state forests are popular with visitors, so be aware that you will be among many others. Summer is the best time to visit if you enjoy the heat. This is the hottest time of the year. Just make your campsite reservation as soon as possible to ensure you get a spot.

Fall is an excellent time to go camping, especially if you want to avoid crowds. As the kids return to school, the state parks are less crowded, so you’re more likely to get a reservation. The weather is also ideal for going camping. While the summer heat persists during the day, the temperature drops dramatically at night, making it highly comfortable.

In Santa Cruz, winter is the least popular time to go camping. There’s a reason for this. Many state parks close for the winter season, making camping impossible. So, before you plan a trip, make sure the park accepts campground reservations.


Big waves, windswept beaches, craft beer, redwood forests, lounging sea lions, and an old wooden roller coaster overlooking the sea are just a few reasons to pitch your tent or park your RV in Santa Cruz. You can camp on Sunset State Beach, Seacliff State Beach, Manresa State Beach, New Brighton State Beach, or Santa Cruz Harbor RV Park.