Photo Credit: Netflix –

San Diego boasts some of the best weather in the country. With the norm being 75 degrees and sunny for most of the year, it’s an easy argument to make. If you aren’t used to sleeping outside, camping in San Diego is a great way to test the waters.

The paradise climate makes the city’s surroundings a hot bed for camping. One of the greatest things about San Diego is how far the county lines extend. Even though the metro’s population is nearly 3.5 million, the area is so spread out that nearly everywhere you go is a scenic route!

With so many nooks and crannies scattered around, there is no shortage of spots where you can experience the heart of Southern California in all of its natural beauty. Here are four elegant San Diego area campgrounds perfect for first-timers.

1. The Ranch at Bandy Canyon

Photo Credit: Instagram

This is about entry-level as it gets when it comes to the term “camping.” In reality, it’s closer to the idea of camping. The Ranch at Bandy Canyon is great for a nice outing in the California sun. Perfect for those who want to experience the elements but don’t necessarily want to do so in an “off-the-land” situation.

The Ranch is a 144-acre property located in San Pasqual Valley; about 30 miles North of the City of San Diego and roughly 25 miles from the ocean.

The accommodations allow you to substitute the tents and the hard ground for cozy cabins with a number of amenities like a microwave, mini fridge, and coffee maker. Just be sure to bring plenty of snacks, as the units are not equipped with a stove. Your days on the Ranch will be filled with all kinds of outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, horseback riding, or just savoring the gorgeous scenery. Additionally, there are several wineries just outside the Ranch for you to tour.

Living large comes at a hefty price. Based on the time of year, booking costs for this San Diego “camping” spot generally start at a couple hundred dollars. Since the Ranch is located pretty far inland, your vacation here in the middle of summer will likely be spent in the pool. It’s recommended to stay here in the early spring or late fall to beat the heat.

2. San Elijo State Beach


Photo Credit: Instagram

San Diego is blessed with a surplus of picturesque beaches. If you love falling asleep and waking up to the sound of crashing waves and the refreshing ocean breeze, The San Elijo Campground is one of the best places in the area to pitch a tent!

Located near Encinitas in North San Diego County, the camping area is right on top of the bluffs overlooking the Pacific. The beach down below is family-friendly and not nearly as crowded as some of the ones closer to the big city.

This San Diego camping beach is so great that even the locals love staying here on the weekends to pack their days full of surfing!

Even though the primary modes of camping are tents and RVs, the area has communal bathrooms, showers, clean drinking water, and more so you aren’t exactly “roughing it.”

Each lot is equipped with a picnic table and a fire pit so you can spend your nights roasting marshmallows and lounging as you stare over the dark ocean.

For as awesome of a place as San Elijo’s is, the cost of camping is a steal. Prices range from $35-$65 depending on what you need. Due to this campground’s popularity, it tends to book up quick. Be sure to reserve your spot as far in advance as you can. You are allowed do so within six months leading up to your stay.

3. Campland on the Bay

Photo Credit: Instagram

Campland on the Bay is more than just a campground, it’s a community of vacationers and staycationers sharing a leisurely mindset. Located just south of Pacific Beach on the beautiful Mission Bay, this award-winning destination is perfect for a family getaway as there are plenty of activities to keep everyone occupied.

Other than sitting on the gorgeous beach and soaking up the rich California sun, the park has a schedule chock-full of fun things to do throughout the year. You can spend your days hanging out by the pool, throwing horseshoes, doing yoga, kayaking, paddle boarding, playing watersports, volleyball, and much more. Once the sun goes down, there are all sorts of festivities like live music, dancing, and enjoying the fireworks visible from SeaWorld.

In terms of amenities, Campland on the Bay has clean bathrooms and showers, free Wi-Fi, picnic tables at every campsite, a fitness center, and a security team.

Prices for sites start at $45, depending on the season.

4. La Jolla Indian Campground

Photo Credit:

This one is a little bit of a drive from the city. About 60 miles North of downtown San Diego, La Jolla Indian Campground is located in Pauma Valley next to the San Luis Rey River.

This is a fantastic place to escape the hustle and bustle for a long weekend and enjoy the fresh air. The fact that there’s a sports bar on the property is enough to know that even the most inexperienced camper can have a good time while easing into the whole outdoor lifestyle.

During the day, you are free to explore the area, cool off in the river, go ziplining, or simply enjoy the scenery. You can also rent a tube for $10 and take a nice float down the river.

Rates for this beautiful spot for camping near San Diego start at $35 and check-in is as early as 6am. CASH ONLY!

Keep in mind, this land is sacred. Do not bring in any glass bottles, don’t play loud music after 10pm, and leave your campground nicer than how you found it.

Final Words

Camping is not always for the faint-hearted. Luckily, you don’t have to be a master outdoorsman to step away from dense civilization and kick your feet up for a nice getaway.

The beauty of camping in San Diego lies in the fact that the outdoor season never really ends. These four spots are great happy mediums between a primitive camping situation and the comforting amenities you know and love.