El Capitan State Beach
Guide

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Introduction

El Capitan State Beach has to be one of the most beautiful places in California. It is located in Goleta, 17 miles west of Santa Barbara on Highway 101. El Capitan State Beach was originally less than 200 acres, but due to an initiative in 2002, over 2,000 acres were added to make the state beach as large as it is today. The magnificent beach is surrounded by enormous cliffs and rolling mountains. There are plenty of trails and miles of shoreline to explore on your visit.

Because of its location, the weather is very moderate and often cool in the fall and winter, with warmer days in the spring and summer. If you plan to stay here for a few days, make sure you take a look at the cliffs and maybe go for a picnic on the beach. El Capitan State Beach offers a wide range of activities for you to enjoy all year round. You’ll have the opportunity to go surfing, hiking, biking, boating, and more. While the state beach is rather large, there are a limited number of spaces for RVs and trailers. Nine spaces are specifically available for RVs and trailers to use. With so few spaces, you’ll be guaranteed some peace and quiet. There are no hookups, but you can use your generator. There’s so much to discover at El Capitan State Beach, so experience it all when you bring your RV.

RV Rentals in El Capitan State Beach

Transportation in El Capitan State Beach

Driving

The state beach is nestled on the two sides of Highway 101 and is 17 miles west of Santa Barbara. If you are traveling north or southbound on Highway 101, your exit will be 117. From there, you can drive towards the ocean, where you will be able to find the entrance with ease. The campground will be a smaller area compared to the rest of the camp. The road is paved and has plenty of helpful signs to guide you to the RV camping area.

There are a few things to be mindful of when visiting the beach. They may close the park due to inclement weather, but if they don’t, then you must be careful of the waves if you plan on getting in the water, as they can get up to 25 feet tall. If you arrive at night, then there is a self check-in process that you can use at the entrance of the park. There are grocery stores nearby if you need to pick up a few things for dinner or breakfast and the camp store is also a good place to get a snack.

There are two large parking lots in the park that offer spaces for trailers and RVs at the Day-Use Parking area and the Extra Vehicle Lot. While in the park, you can get around by driving if you need to, but it is recommended that you use a bicycle or go on foot to further enjoy the experience. The camp store provides maps of the beach and suggestions of things to do during your stay. The beach has an extensive shoreline and can easily be navigated on foot.

Parking

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in El Capitan State Beach

Campsites in El Capitan State Beach

Reservations camping

Del Mar Campground

There are over 130 campsites at El Capitan State Beach, although there are only nine campsites specifically marked for RV and trailer camping. The sites are paved and partially shaded for your convenience. The pads for the RV campsites can hold vehicles up to 42 feet in length. There are no hookups available, but you can bring your own generator and there is a filling station to get water. You can only run your generator during the day and you could be fined if you don’t follow the rules. It is best to keep your shoes on at all times while in the park, even on the beach, due to tar balls polluting the area. Bring a pair of old shoes or water shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty.

Amenities include coin-operated hot showers, restrooms, a picnic table, and a fire ring. The camp store sells firewood and food if you need any. Fires are only allowed in designated areas, so be sure to follow the guidelines. You can reserve a spot up to three months ahead and you’ll need to reserve a spot at least one day ahead of your trip. You can stay here up to seven nights and you can re-register as long as they have space available. If you are staying with a large party you can choose one of the five group campsites, which can hold from 40 to 100 people.

First-come first-served

First-Come, First-Served

There are no first-come, first-served campgrounds at this state park.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in El Capitan State Beach

In-Season

Fishing

There are plenty of fishing areas available on the shoreline. Deep sea fishing is also available. You may need a valid fishing license to go on the water, but from the shoreline, that will not be needed. You can go surf fishing - where you fish while on a surfboard - or simply fish from the shoreline. If you plan to go surf fishing during your RV trip, avoid areas with a lot of seaweed and look for areas that have darker water so you have a higher chance of catching anything. You should bring some sunscreen with you if you plan on being outside for a long period of time.

Surfing

With the beach right next to the campground, it’s kind of obvious that you may want to go surfing. Due to its location, there are many chances to catch a wave – some that are even 25 feet tall. Be sure to watch the weather report before you go out on the ocean. You may also want to talk to the lifeguards on duty to give them a heads up if you want to go further out into the ocean. Depending on when you decide to visit, you may find some pretty nice swells west of the beach in fall and winter when it is low tide.

Taking Guided Tours

The camp offers guided tours for you and the whole family. There will be a fee associated with the tour so be sure to ask one of the camp staff before you go on the tour. Tours are led by the Santa Barbara Adventure Company and include walking and kayak tours. The kayak tours go on for about three miles, and during that time, you will explore the areas between Refugio and El Capitan beach. On the tour, you will learn about over 1,500 species of plants and animals that call the area home. Taking a guided tour during your RV vacation is a great way to learn more about this beautiful area.

Off-Season

Birding

A variety of birds can be spotted in the park, especially if you go to El Capitan Canyon. Normal sightings include the Hairy Woodpecker, American Kestrel, and Red-tailed Hawk, which you can see year round. Because of the huge diversity of terrain from the coast to the woodlands, there are many different types of birds that you will be able to spot. There are also a few bird feeders around the camp as well. You might see the Anna’s Hummingbird feeding on some of the delicious treats. Be sure to pack your binoculars and a good pair of hiking boots in your camper before heading out.

Hiking

You can hike along the shoreline, but be sure to check the forecast before you go. If you decide to hike along the cliffs, the rocks are known to erode over time and the cliffs may have a few unstable rocks, so be careful of your surroundings. There are a few trails that you can go on, but the Bill Wallace Trail is the longest and will take you around the entire area, from the beach to the woodlands. Pets are allowed on the trails and you can bring a bike on it as well if you wish.

Geocaching

El Capitan State Beach is one of the few parks in California that participate in geocaching. There are different kinds of geocaching, but to put it in simple terms, it is like a massive treasure hunt. To play, you will need a pen or pencil, sturdy hiking boots, a water bottle, and a device that has GPS. Remember to write your name in the logbook when you find it and bring along little trinkets that you can trade out for the treasure you find. Be sure to leave each site as undisturbed as you found it to keep the adventure going.

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