Sunset State Beach | Outdoorsy

Sunset State Beach
Guide

Introduction

While you may know Santa Cruz, California for its bustling pier, you might not be aware that just a short distance south is a perfect RV destination: Sunset State Beach. Built next to breathtaking views of a coastal bluff, beyond the spacious sandy beaches, Sunset State Beach is located amidst lush farmland and shady woodlands. This beautiful state park features the largest dunes in the country at 200 feet high.

Sunset State Beach features a unique ecosystem of coastal scrubs and woodlands, as well as dunes and marshlands. Marine wildlife enthusiasts will love the chance to take unforgettable pictures of bottlenose dolphins and seals. Birders can spot a diverse variety of species, including California brown pelicans, red-winged blackbirds, and red-tailed hawks.

You won't get bored for a minute during your camper escape to Sunset State Beach with so many aquatic activities to choose from all year round. You’ll love a fun-filled day at the beach sun tanning, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, and boating. Fishing is a popular sport since you can catch surf perch, sardines, and striped bass. If you want to go for a stroll, you can hike along the dunes or the beach and check out some incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. During the summer, you can participate in a nature program, including guided hikes and ranger talks. No matter what time of year you take a motorhome trip to Northern California, you’ll enjoy sunny weather and loads of fun at Sunset State Beach.

Share this Guide

Camping Accommodations

31'
Max RV length
31'
Max trailer Length
Electrical hookup
Water hookup
Generator use
Food storage
Sewer hookup
Dogs & cats

RV Rentals in Sunset State Beach

Transportation

Driving

Sunset State Beach is located just 25 minutes south of Santa Cruz off Highway 1 and about 40 minutes north of Monterey. You’ll want to use caution on the winding roads, but there are no driving restrictions for RVs or trailers. Once you’re inside the park, local roads will take you to all the main areas including the picnic areas, beach spots, and campgrounds.

Parking

There are four main parking lots at Sunset State Beach located near the park entrance, near the Dunes Camp, South Camp, and by the Lower Ramada Picnic Area. Parking is available for RVs and trailers, although spots may fill up quickly during the peak season of the summer.

Public Transportation

Campgrounds and parking in Sunset State Beach

Campsites in Sunset State Beach

Reservations camping

Dunes Camp

With 26 sites to choose from, the Dunes Camp can accommodate tent or RV campers and trailers up to 31 feet long. There are no hookups, but a dump station is available for your use and generators are allowed from 10 AM to 8 PM. This campground is close to the Beach Trail and is closest to the entrance. Centrally located restrooms and pay showers are available for your convenience. A shared fire pit is also available. Leashed pets are allowed in the campground, but they are not allowed on the beach.

Pine Hollow Campground

The centrally-located Pine Hollow Campground has 26 sites with a hiking and biking trail running through it. Sites can take rigs up to 31 feet long and do not have hookups. Although the sites do not have hookups, generators are allowed to run between 10 AM and 8 PM. A dump station is available for your use. Pets are allowed on six-foot leashes at the park and on some trails, but not on the beach. This campground has nearby restrooms as well as coin-operated showers.

South Camp

South Camp offers 37 primitive sites that are open to tents and RVs up to 31 feet in length. Located at the south end of the park, this campground is close to the beach and trails. These pet-friendly campsites feature a food locker, fire pit, and picnic table.

No hookups are available, but generators are allowed from 10 AM to 8 PM. Pay showers and restrooms are located nearby. There is a centrally located fire pit for your use. No fires are allowed at individual sites. Quiet hours are observed between 10 PM and 6 AM. You can make reservations up to six months in advance. The maximum trailer and RV length is 31 feet.

First-come first-served

Pine Hollow and Dunes Camp

During the winter, from November to February, the sites at Pine Hollow and the Dunes Camp are first-come, first-served. These camping areas are located in the center and the northern end of the park. You’ll have access to a picnic table, storage locker, fire pit, restrooms, and showers. You’ll be within walking distance to the Pacific Ocean and hiking trails. The maximum trailer and RV length is 31 feet.

Seasonal activities in Sunset State Beach

In-Season

Swimming

Once you park your trailer and head on over to the beach, you can enjoy a fun-filled day of swimming in the Pacific Ocean and building sandcastles on the beach. You can explore the dunes and splash in the waves during your RV trip to the beautiful Sunset State Beach. After a morning of playing in the waves, soak up some rays on the warm sand and have a picnic on the beach. Beach bonfires are permitted in designated areas as well. No lifeguards are on duty, so never swim alone.

Boating, Surfing, and Windsurfing

Whether you want to cruise on your boat or surfboard, Sunset State Beach offers a myriad of opportunities to get out on the Pacific Ocean. Once you park your RV by the beach, you can be out on the water in minutes. The Pacific Ocean hosts some of the best waters in the country for surfing and windsurfing. You could also head out on your motorized boat, kayak, or rowboat. Small boats can be launched right from the shore. Make sure everyone on board has a required life-vest.

Fishing

If you’re a novice or avid fisherman, you’ll enjoy the chance to bait your hook during your motorhome escape to Sunset State Beach. Whether you want to fish from your boat or surf fish from the shore, you can catch your limit of surfperch, sardines, and striped bass. Pack your favorite lures and pole and get ready to cast your line in the beautiful Pacific ocean. Take your catch back to the RV for a camp fish-fry. Make sure to get a sport-fishing permit to fish at Sunset State Beach.

Remote-control Gliders

If you’re an enthusiast of remote-control gliders, you’re in for a treat since Sunset State Beach features a glider port. This is an activity the whole family can enjoy. Everyone will enjoy flying a mini remote-control airplane glider above the sea and dunes in this beautiful setting. Once you park your trailer and head on over to the glider port, you’ll be in for a gliding adventure.

Nature Programs

Sunset State Beach features regularly scheduled nature programs throughout the summer season. You can learn all about the diverse marine wildlife at the park from expert rangers at a ranger talk or take an interpretive hike with a local volunteer. You can explore the unique ecosystem of the dunes and coastal scrub at one of the guided nature hikes. There are scheduled activities just for kids too. Check at the park office or online to see what activities are planned during your RV stay.

Off-Season

Picnicking

No matter what time of year, a southern California beach is the perfect place for a picnic. There are two main picnic areas located in the park, the Upper Ramada Picnic Area in the north and the Lower Ramada Picnic Area in the south. Both offer plenty of picnic tables and grills so you can cook up delicious food and enjoy a meal in the serenity of the great outdoors. You can dine and take in breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean unlike anywhere else. But if you want an old fashioned beach picnic, you can always pack your lunch and throw a towel down anywhere along the beach. Sit back and enjoy your lunch while you watch the kids build a sandcastle, making RV vacation memories they'll never forget.

Geocaching

If you’re looking for a new hobby, geocaching is a great option that you can try out during your RV stay at Sunset State Beach. Geocaching is like a modern-day treasure hunt, where you use GPS coordinates you can find on websites and smartphone apps to search for trinkets hidden within the park. This is a fun-filled activity the whole family can enjoy, but make sure to replace the trinket, so the next treasure hunter that comes along won't be disappointed.

Photography

Just like the name implies, Sunset State Beach is home to some of the most incredible and photogenic sunsets around. Attracting professionals and amateurs alike, the spectacular beach views are the perfect subject for your camera. It's a prime spot to take incredible nature photography, whether you want to snap a picture of the rolling waves, the marine wildlife, or high sandy dunes. There are several unique habitats within the park that feature different types of animals and fauna. You’ll love exploring the best spots to take amazing shots, whether you’re a novice or an avid photographer.

Hiking

Once you park your camper, you can hit the trail at Sunset State Beach. There are several hiking paths, including Beach Trail, that will take you all around the park through coastal scrub, coastal woodlands, and marshlands. You can also explore the dunes or hike on the beach while taking in incredible views of the ocean. Remember, dogs are not allowed on the beach, but you can hike the woodlands with your furry friend.

Wildlife Viewing and Birding

Make sure you pack your binoculars in your camper since Sunset State Beach is a prime destination to see unique coastal animals and birds. The late fall is an ideal time to see northern waterfowl migrating to the south via the Pacific Flyway, such as ducks and sandpipers. You might also be able to spot dolphins, seals, and lizards. If you are interested in bird watching, there are one-of-a-kind species in every area of the park. In the coastal scrub, you can see red-tailed hawks and Anna’s hummingbirds, while in the marshlands you might spot cinnamon teals and savannah sparrows.