Jalama Beach is one of the best spots for beach camping in the state of California! Planning a Jalama Beach camping trip should be at the top of every nature-lover’s bucket list. Situated about one hour north of Santa Barbara, Jalama Beach campground lies on a section of unspoiled, beautiful coastline. Keep reading to learn more and plan your camping trip!
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Jalama Beach Camping Trip Overview
- Nights: 1-2
- PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 0-1
- Cost: $
How to Get to Jalama Beach
Jalama Beach is located about 1 hour north of Santa Barbara. The drive there is super scenic – you cut inland a bit, driving up through rolling hills before you crest a hill and finally get your first glimpse of beautiful Jalama Beach. This section of beach is amazing because unlike most popular California beaches, there is no town nearby, no houses dotting the coastline. Just rugged, pristine beach, with a campground!
Santa Barbara is the closest major town nearby, and there is SO much to do there as well. I recommend spending the night prior in Santa Barbara to shorten your drive to Jalama Beach the next day (and because Santa Barbara is awesome!)
Recommended Santa Barbara Hotel: The Wayfarer
More recs: The Best Way to Spend One Day in Santa Barbara
Tips for Booking a Campsite at Jalama Beach
Where do I book a Jalama Beach Campsite?
You can book a campsite up to 6 months in advance, through SB Parks. Weekend spots fill fast – so make sure to plan in advance! There are a few walk-in sites, but you cannot check this online. You must show up in person to find out if there are any available (so I would not bank on this option).
What Types of Campsites Are At Jalama Beach?
Jalama Beach Campground has 98 sites, including both RV and tent sites. Some sites offer partial hookups, and some have full hookups. The best campsites are the beachfront ones: sites #53-64. Each campsite has a fire pit and a picnic table. There are bathrooms with running water at the campground as well.
If you don’t want to camp, Jalama Beach Campground also offers a few yurts and cabins for rent!
If you want to camp but also want the comforts of home, renting a campervan is a great option! My favorite campervan company is Travellers Autobarn. Their vans have a stove, microwave, fridge and sink, and can sleep 3 people inside of it. Also, they have unlimited miles which is something that most campervan companies don’t offer! You can pick up the van at their location in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Las Vegas.
What’s the Best Time to Camp at Jalama Beach?
Being on the California coast, the weather is pleasant year-round. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit in the winter months. If you want to potentially spot whales – visit from February to April. But really – anytime you can score a campsite is a good time to go! Note that Jalama Beach can get pretty windy, so bring layers.
What to Pack for Camping at Jalama Beach
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- REI Joule Sleeping Bag (this is the one that I have and I love it)
- Inflatable Sleeping Pad (this is the one that I use)
- Portable Rocking Chair (This thing is AWESOME!)
- REI Flexlite Chair – low profile camping chair that’s a big space-saver
- The COLDEST Water Bottle (seriously – stays colder than Hydroflask or Yeti!)
- Decathlon 2-Second Tent (I love this one – it’s super easy to setup and you can sleep longer because of the blackout material)
- Hiking Boots (These are my favorite!)
- Camping String Lights (these are the ones I have and I love them!)
- Travel Towel
- Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket (I bring this on EVERY camping trip. It packs up small and keeps you warm!)
- Sunski Polarized Glasses
- Camping Cooler
- Portable phone charger
- Cliff Bar Energy Chews (love these things for a boost of energy!)
- Kuhl Softshell Pants – These are my favorite pants to wear hiking or camping when the weather gets chilly!
- Periscoping Roasting Sticks – these come in handy when you want to roast smores or hot dogs over the fire!
- Camping Grill – this is the one I have, and I love it!
Best Things to Do During a Jalama Beach Camping Trip
Camping at Jalama Beach is a quintessential California camping experience. Sleeping on the sand and going to sleep hearing the waves crash such a great feeling! Here’s an idea of some awesome things to do while camping at Jalama Beach:
1. Take a Walk Along the Beach
While you’re camping at Jalama Beach, you’ve definitely got to take a nice leisurely beach walk! The coastline here is amazing, rugged, and pristine. There are little tide pools perfect for exploring, and there are also some beach caves to check out! Tar can sometimes be prevalent here, so just watch out that you don’t step on any.
2. Go Surfing
Jalama Beach is a great surf spot, so make sure you bring your board! It can get windy in the afternoon, so plan on going in the morning. The main surf spot – beachbreak – is right out front of the campground. There is a live surf cam you can check on Surfline to get an idea of the conditions before you go.
3. Eat the World Famous Jalama Burger
One thing you can’t miss while camping at Jalama Beach is eating the burger! There is a little general store and the “Jalama Grill” on site at the campground. The Jalama Grill has a sign out front prompting you to try their world-famous hamburgers, and they aren’t kidding! Even Sunset Magazine proclaimed the Jalama Burger as one of the best burgers in California.
4. Whale Watching
Keep your eyes peeled for grey whales! Jalama Beach is a great place to spot whales, especially if you are camping February-April or September-November during the whale migration.
5. Cook Dinner with a View
One of my favorite memories during our Jalama Beach camping trip was cooking dinner on the beach while the sun was setting. So peaceful and beautiful! This is the camping grill I use, and I highly recommend it. Afterwards, roast some smores and hang out around the fire while you look at the stars!