Sunset State Beach
Guide

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Introduction

While you may know Santa Cruz, California for its bustling amusement 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’ll be greeted with loads of adventure during your camper escape to Sunset State Beach with 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 go on 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.

RV Rentals in Sunset State Beach

Transportation in Sunset State Beach

Driving

Sunset State Beach is located just 16 miles south of Santa Cruz off Highway 1. You’ll want to use caution on 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 during the summer.

Public Transport

Campgrounds and parking in Sunset State Beach

Campsites in Sunset State Beach

Reservations camping

South Camp, Pine Hollow, and Dunes Camp

Sunset State Beach offers 90 campsites that are open to tents and RVs. This campground is divided into three areas: South Camp, Pine Hollow, and Dunes Camp. The South camp is located in the southern end of the park, Pine Hollow is centrally located, and the Dunes Camp is on the northern end of the park.

These pet-friendly campsites feature a food locker, fire pit, and picnic table. No hookups are available, but showers and restrooms are located nearby. No matter which site you choose you’ll be within walking distance to the beach and hiking trails. 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 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.

Alternate camping

Seasonal activities in Sunset State Beach

In-Season

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. 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.

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, watching a mini remote-control airplane glide 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.

Fishing

Whether you’re a novice or avid fishermen, you’ll enjoy the chance to bait your hook during your motorhome escape to Sunset State Beach. You can catch surf perch, sardines and striped bass in the glistening waters right on the beach. A fishing permit is required to fish at Sunset State Beach.

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.

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 sand castles on the beach. You can explore the dunes and splash in the waves during your RV trip to the beautiful Sunset State Beach. Beach bonfires are permitted in designated areas as well.

Off-Season

Photography

Sunset State Beach is a prime spot to take incredible nature photography, whether you want to snap a picture of a beach sunset, 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 avid photographer.

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 a fun-filled activity the whole family can enjoy.

Picnicking

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.

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.

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. 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.

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