Santa Barbara has its fair share of spectacular hotels, that’s for sure, but there’s just something about sleeping under the stars. The crickets chirping, waves breaking on the shore, and that rustling in the woods which is probably just a rabbit but definitely sounds like a bear ― it’s the perfect recipe for some much-needed rest and relaxation.
Whether sleeping with your toes in the sand sounds like a dream or a traditional campsite in the woods is what you need to unwind, you are bound to find something you love when you go camping in Santa Barbara. Lakes, mature forests, mountains, beaches, and more — Santa Barbara County is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, and it’s waiting for you to come and explore.
Imagine yourself peacefully paddling across glimmering waters smooth as glass. You look up, and all around, you are snugly embraced by the majestic Santa Ynez and San Rafael Mountains. That’s what you can look forward to when you camp at Cachuma Lake in Santa Barbara. Mild temperatures, bright skies, and one of the best fishing spots around, you’ll find Cachuma Lake Recreation Area offers a relaxing getaway year-round.
Enjoy lake cruises, a nature center, fishing piers, hiking trails, and playgrounds when you visit. A year-round marina will suit all your fishing needs — be it tackle, bait, fishing licenses, or fuel. Guests have access to a gas station, general store, potable water, dump station, coin laundry, and coin-operated hot showers while camping. For a small daily pet fee, you can also bring your furry friends, but please keep them leashed, and bring a current copy of their rabies vaccinations.
Tent, Trailer, and RV Sites
Nestled amid mature oak trees or out in the open with awesome views, Cachuma Lake campground offers a traditional camping experience. Each of the 100+ campsites, many of which have lake views, have either full hookups or partial hookups with water and 30 amp electrical service, a fire pit, and picnic table. If you anticipate a large crowd, there are ten group campsites that can accommodate anywhere between 32 and 120 people.
Sleep in something semi-permanent
If tents are not your style, you can consider renting a cabin or yurt. Yurts are a cross between a permanent tent and a tepee and the ones at Cachuma Lake sleep between three and six people. Inside the yurt, you’ll find bunk beds, an electrical outlet, a heater, ceiling light, screened windows, and a lockable front door. Outside, a picnic table, fire pit, charcoal barbecue, front porch, and water spigot await.
Cabins sleep anywhere between two and six people and have full bathrooms, living rooms, kitchenettes, and electricity. Just bring your bedding, pillows, towels and toiletries, and groceries. Outside, your cabin has a private porch, two patio chairs, a fire pit, and a charcoal barbecue.
Camping on the beach is in a league of its own. There’s nothing like falling asleep to the sound of waves softly crashing on the shore with the cool ocean breeze enveloping you as you lull off to sleep. Jalama Beach County Park is a 23.5-acre park in Santa Barbara County and offers a respite from the busy seaside parks while remaining in proximity to conveniences and amenities.
If you forgot something at home, pick it up at Jalama Store, which sells firewood, fishing bait, groceries, personal care items, ice, beer, wine, and more. Not in the mood for campfire food? Check out Jalama Grill. While camping at Jalama Beach, you’ll also have access to potable water, hot showers, coin-operated laundry, and a dump station.
Tent, Trailer, and RV Sites
Jalama Beach County Park has 107 campsites either on the beach or overlooking the ocean. Each site has a picnic table and a fire pit and many have electrical hookups. There are also two group sites. Abalone Point holds 20 people and Starfish Cove can accommodate 32 people. Both include several picnic tables, a fire pit, and barbecue grill. Starfish Cove also has two preparation stations, a sink, and two 30-amp RV pedestals.
Jalama Cabin Rentals
If “roughing it” is not your style, you could reserve one of Jalama Beach cabins. There are three large cabins and four medium-sized cabins. Each of the cabins sleeps four people and offer spectacular views of the ocean from the front porch. A cabin rental includes place settings for six, kitchen appliances, toilet paper, couches, a Blu-ray DVD player, and DirecTV service, among other amenities. Outside, two patio chairs (or a bench), a fire ring, a charcoal barbecue, and front porch await your use.
El Capitán State Beach
Sandy shores, rocky tidepools, and mature (hammock-friendly) oaks and sycamores, El Capitán State Beach offers exceptional swimming, fishing, and surfing opportunities year round. Car camping and RV camping is permissible here, but if you do have an RV, it will have to be self-contained as there are no hookups. However, there is a dump station. Each campsite has a fire pit, barbecue grill, and picnic table. There are ADA accessible coin-showers, flush toilets, a laundromat, a picnic area, and potable water nearby. You can also bring your pets.
When you’re not hanging out in your tent or RV, El Capitán State Beach is ideal for all things ocean. If you enjoy marine wildlife, do some bird watching, wildlife viewing, or keep your eyes peeled for whales just beyond the coast. Trying to work up a sweat? How about some mountain biking, hiking, or kayaking? Looking for some reprieve from the Californian heat? Then dive into the warm waters and enjoy snorkeling, SCUBA diving, surfing, or swimming. No matter your idea of “fun,” you can have it when you reserve a campsite at El Capitán State Beach.
Channel Islands National Park
Relatively close to the coast yet worlds away, a visit to Channel Islands National Park is one you will never forget. The Channel Islands, off the coast of Santa Barbara, are accessible only via plane, boat, or kayak and requires some definite planning ahead. You can camp on any of the five Channel Islands; each island currently has one established campground. Just note that advanced camping reservations are required.
Camping at Channel Islands is primitive, and because there is no transportation on the island, visitors must carry all their gear to their campsite, so pack lightly. All campgrounds have picnic tables and pit toilets, but there is no potable water (except Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa campgrounds), so make sure you bring at least one gallon of water per person, per day.
Whether your ideal campsite is just off the coast, tucked away in some old-growth forest, or in a remote location only accessible by boat, Santa Barbara County has a spectacular place for you to pitch a tent and rest your head.