Situated on the scenic California shore, South Carlsbad State Beach is the perfect getaway for beach bums and nature enthusiasts alike. Towering bluffs overlook miles of pristine beach and crashing ocean waves. Located three miles south of Carlsbad, California, and 50 miles north of San Diego, the park is a must-see stop on your next West Coast road trip.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or your hundredth time, this trip to the beach has something for everyone. Enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling, and surfing in the Pacific waters, or stay landside with fishing, hiking, biking, and picnicking. In the winter months, watch with wonder at the whales and dolphins that come to visit.
Once you park your camper at the bluff-top campsite, take the easy stroll down the connecting staircase to the beach. Explore tidal pools to catch a glimpse of ocean life. Hunt for geocaches at the waterside. Return to your campsite to enjoy nights by the fire with the comforts of home.
With a temperate climate, a variety of activities, and ample amenities, South Carlsbad State Beach is the perfect RV destination at any time of year. Peak season is March through November.
South Carlsbad State Beach is easy to access by RV or car. The beach is located three miles south of Carlsbad, CA, off of Interstate 5. Note that the campground entrance isn’t accessible directly from Poinsettia Lane. Drivers should instead continue north on Carlsbad Boulevard and make the first legal U-Turn at Breakwater Road.
Once you enter the park, drive freely on all local roadways. Both inland and ocean campsites offer ample room for parking your rig and gathering with your group. Be sure to park within your assigned campsite to leave access for emergency vehicle access.
The campgrounds are located on top of a bluff with stairs leading to the beach. The area is easily walkable, and bikes are allowed on paved roads and designated bike trails. Motorized scooters are also allowed in the park with the proper license. Helmets are required.
South Carlsbad State Beach features 223 pet-friendly campsites for tents and RVs all year round. Choose from inland and oceanside sites, all with access to electricity, water, and sewage. Generators can be used from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Amenities include restrooms, indoor and outdoor showers, and a camp store open during peak season, March through November, for firewood, ice, and groceries. Pets are allowed in the campground and must be kept on a leash. During the peak season, campers are limited to a stay of seven consecutive nights. December through February, that stay is extended to 14 nights. Check-in time is at 2 p.m. Reservations are highly recommended.
Pelican Point group campsite offers a large group camping option at South Carlsbad State Beach. The site can accommodate up to 40 people with 10 vehicles, but be aware that only two of those vehicles are able to park in the campsite itself. The rest may use the parking lot. The site includes six picnic tables, one fire pit, and two water hookups.
If you love the water, then South Carlsbad State Beach is for you. The ocean provides the perfect venue for a wide range of aquatic activities. Three miles of beach offer plenty of room for playing in the waves and swimming close to shore. For the more adventurous swimmer, try snorkeling or scuba diving in deeper waters. Don’t forget basic ocean safety practices. Never turn your back to the ocean, learn best practices for combating currents, and don’t swim alone.
In every season of the year, you’ll find surfers hitting the waves at South Carlsbad State Beach. Still, the warm summer months are the most popular time of year. Since it is less well-known than other Californian surf spots, you can avoid crowds and easily take your pick of the waves. Board surfers are joined by body surfers and boogie boarders too. During the summer months, all lifeguard towers are staffed, and a more limited number of towers are staffed in the spring and fall.
Fishermen of all skill levels and ages can enjoy a relaxing day chasing the perfect catch at South Carlsbad State Beach. The park offers fishing year-round, and professional fishermen often teach surf fishing clinics right on the shore. Check the park events calendar before you go to see what classes will be held during your stay. The beach is home to some of the biggest surf fish on the California coast. You’ll most likely catch a variety of barred surfperch, walleye surfperch, corbina, halibut, spotfin, yellowfin croaker, and corvina.
The scenic setting and ample camping and RV space makes South Carlsbad State Beach a hot spot for geocaches. Grab your group and your GPS and enjoy easy hikes around the park. Most of the caches are even ADA accessible. The caches vary in size. Some only have room to sign your name, so don’t forget a pen or pencil. Others contain a collection of small items left by fellow geocachers. Bring along your own souvenir to add to the mix.
South Carlsbad State Beach allows biking on all paved roads. Peddle along the bluff and enjoy breathtaking ocean vistas. You can also bike to the Visitor Center for exhibits and programs. After a day at the beach, cruise to the Camp Store for a cool drink and a snack. Designated bike trails offer unique views you can’t experience from the car. Bicycle riders under the age of 18 must wear a helmet, and if you’re biking after dark, you must have a light.
There’s nothing better than a picnic at the beach. Set up in one of South Carlsbad State Beach’s designated picnic areas or find a spot on the shore. Beach wheelchairs are available to visitors with special needs at no cost. Check one out with a photo ID at the campground entrance kiosk. The winter months are the perfect time for whale watching and catching a glimpse of large dolphin pods. Squirrels and other land animals may stop by for a visit, but please don’t feed them. Fires are allowed in established fire rings, but not on the beach.