For the best beach camping in SoCal, come down Doheny way, where everybody’s gone surfin’, surfin’ USA! Doheny State Beach, that is, situated on 62 acres of coastline in Dana Point, and California’s first official state beach.
Though immortalized in the Beach Boys’ 1963 hit, the real appeal of Doheny is its beachfront camping and consistent surf conditions, as well as endless opportunities for fun in the sun. The best sites are literally steps from the sand, with nothing in between you and the beach. There’s nothing quite like snagging your own piece of beachfront property, even if it’s just for the night! The less-ideal campsites are right up against the railroad tracks—not a big deal if you’re RVing, but they can create a rough night for those in tents. Even so, just a short walk across the campground, and you’re on the beach!
The seclusion of the beach in front of the campground is awesome, but if you’re looking for a more classic beach experience, head to the other side of San Juan Creek, closer to the day-use area. There you can explore tide pools or birdwatch around San Juan Creek, making sure to keep your eyes open for black-crowned night herons, snowy egrets, and sanderlings! Or bike ride along the boardwalk, passing by life-size paintings of different sea mammals as you cruise along the coast. Don’t have your own bike or surfboard? Hit the rental shop right on the boardwalk, located next to the Boneyard Beach Café (named after one of Doheny’s four surf breaks). Grab some lunch, or maybe a frozen treat or a beer, kick back, and relax … you’re on surfari to stay!
Doheny State Beach is at 25300 Dana Point Harbor Dr. in Dana Point. From the I-5, exit onto CA-1 north, Pacific Coast Highway, and head north toward Capistrano Beach/Doheny State Beach. Turn left onto Dana Point Harbor Dr., and the beach entrance will be on your left. You’ll definitely want to book early for this popular spot. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance via Reserve California. Sites start at $40 a night. Dogs are allowed in the campground, but not on the beach.