San Onofre State Beach is a 3,000-acre state park in San Diego County, California. The beach is 3 miles south of San Clemente on Interstate 5 at Basilone Road. The state park is leased to the state of California by the United States Marine Corps. Governor Ronald Reagan established San Onofre State Beach in 1971. This beach area is filled with gorgeous cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean with bluff-side campgrounds that are private and beautiful overlooks. This beach is a surfer’s paradise and a fun spot to surf for the day and or camp overnight. This is definitely one of my favorite beach camping spots in southern California.
This beach is the site of an ancient sacred California Indian village called “Panhe.” It was a large village and burial site of the “Acjachemen” people over 8,000 years ago. Many Acjachemen people trace their lineage back to Panhe. The site continues to be a sacred, ceremonial and cultural location for Acjachemen Indians.
How to get there
San Onofre Beach is 40 minutes south on the I-5 from Orange County area or an hour and a half from LA city on the I-5 south. This is a great day trip or quick overnight that is a beautiful beach and area that is the perfect weekend getaway and a hidden gem of the area.
This state beach is 3 miles south of the city of San Clemente on Interstate 5 at Basilone Road. San Onofre Bluffs and San Onofre Surf Beach are located south of San Clemente on I-5 (Exit Basilone Road). The San Mateo Campground is located on the outer edge of San Clemente; 1 mile inland from I-5 (Exit Cristianitos)
San Mateo Campground
San Onofre State Beach
San Onofre State Beach is one of California’s most popular beaches where you will find surfers, swimmers, sunbathers, campers, kayakers, fishermen and bicyclists. It has almost 2.5 million visitors per year and it is one of the top five most-visited state parks in California. Whales, dolphins and sea lions can be seen offshore if you are lucky. Governor Ronald Reagan established San Onofre State Beach in 1971. The state beach has three distinct areas: the San Onofre Bluffs, the San Mateo Campground and the San Onofre Surf Beach.
San Onofre Bluffs
San Onofre Bluffs is located at 5200 S. Pacific Coast Hwy, San Clemente, CA, 92672 and offers camping and day-use parking along Old Highway 101 next to the beautiful sandstone bluffs. This beach below the bluffs is a great spot for swimmers and surfers with six dirt access trails cut into the bluff above. All campsites include a fire pit and picnic table. The campground offers cold outdoor showers and chemical toilets. No RV hookups are available, however, there is a RV dump-station.
These bluffs have some of the coolest nature trails and hiking as well as trail running. This is one of my favorite spots for some beach side hiking and views.
San Onofre Campground
San Onofre – San Mateo Campground is at 830 Cristianitos, San Clemente, CA, 92672 a short distance inland from the 3.5-miles of sandy beaches within San Onofre State Beach. A 1.5-mile Nature Trail connects the campground to “Trestles Beach,” the world class surfing site. Surfers came with redwood boards to San Onofre since the 1940s; San Mateo Creek flows east of the campground towards the ocean making riparian and wetland habitats which are home to some rare species (which is why birders come here as well). All campsites include a fire pit and picnic table. RV Hookup sites are available with electricity and water. Other amenities includes a dump-station, hot indoor showers, and flush toilets. Camping is available year-round. San Onofre Bluffs Campground has 157 campsites and the campground has to trails that lead down to the 3.5 miles of sandy beach as well as trails that lead upwards, into the bluffs. The campsites here have access to picnic tables, fire pits, restrooms, showers and some ocean views. Book here early – these campsites get taken up quickly (especially in the peak summertime).
San Mateo Campground Facilities
- 157 tent or RV sites with electric and water hook-ups
- Restrooms with coin-operated, hot showers
- Picnic tables, fire pits
- 1½-mile Nature Trail to Trestles Beach
- Dump Station
San Onofre Bluffs Campground Facilities
- 3½-mile long campground on bluffs overlooking ocean
- 157 sites, some designated for tents only, most for RVs
- Group campsite
- No hook-ups
- Restrooms, hot showers
- Picnic tables, fire pits
- Trails down to beach
- Dump Stations
Reservations and Fees
San Mateo Campground
Sites 1-100 open to reservations year-round
Sites 101-157 can be reserved April 1 to September 30 and over major holidays (otherwise these sites are closed)
Bluffs Campground open for reservations May 16 to September 30 (otherwise closed)
Day-Use Parking: $15
San Mateo and Bluffs Campgrounds:
$35 Peak Season*
$25 Non-peak season
$200 – $225
*Peak season is April – October
Online Reservations at ReserveCalifornia:
San Onofre State Beach Campground Reservations
or call (800) 444-PARK (7275) between 8 AM and 6 PM>
San Onofre Surf Beach offers a world renowned and historical surf break. This area of the beach is only for “day-use” and not for camping. There are chemical toilets, cold showers, and fire pits. Note: Alcohol is not permitted on any beach area at San Onofre. No vehicles over 25 feet are permitted at this location.
San Onofre has several surf breaks from beginner’s gentle breaking waves to one of the premiere surf breaks in the United States at Trestles for more experienced surfers.
• Trestles – Trestles is inaccessible by vehicle; a long walk on a nature trail from either the north or south end passing under the Trestles Bridge is necessary for access. This world-famous surfing area is known for its consistent waves.
• Church – Located near the Camp Pendleton Beach Resort, Church provides sunbathing and bird watching. The name refers to the chapel which was located near the site.
• Surf Beach –The area of beach is divided by the locality (named from north to south) into three breaks spots known as “The Point,” “Old Man’s,” and “Dogpatch.” All perform best on a south swell, though the beach takes any surf and slows it down to a very slow pace. The entire area is covered by a rock reef, often making walking into or out of the water hard.
• Trails – Trails is the most southern of surf spots in this region and includes both rock bottom and sandy breaks. Trails is also the last point to camp at San Onofre. Camping is on the bluffs with cold showers and ‘flush’ pit toilets nearby.
Surfline provides an internet source of beach weather and surf reports, including live streaming video feeds, and is Proud Partner of California State Parks.