Seafood restaurants and ice cream, surf shacks and gift shops, a pier and plenty of places to wet your whistle make Pismo Beach, a small oceanfront community on the San Luis Obispo Bay, a premier California beach experience. It’s popular with surfers after the break at the pier and families exploring the many kid friendly parks alike. In the wintertime (October – February), a
butterfly grove hosts some 10,000 butterflies every year. Breathtaking ocean views, sandy caves and, of course, ample camping abound as well.
Beach Camping at Pismo Beach
If you’re looking to camp immediately on the beach, Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (GPS: 35.1055, -120.6307) is your best bet. Just a few miles south of Pismo Beach, in the community of Oceano Beach, this California State Park-run facility allows you to get tires-in-the-sand close to the ocean. Just remember, you need to get a permit and it is imperative that you speak with rangers at the park’s visitors center. High tide is no joke, and can swallow RVs, getting you stuck or worse. And while the notion of beach camping with your toes hanging out the back of one of our rental RVs may seem idyllic if you’ve seen such a thing on Instagram, given that this is one of few places in California that you can actually pull this off, it is an extremely popular area, so expect to have quite a few neighbors. That said, with a little planning, you can enjoy the feeling of stepping directly out of your van onto the cool sands here like you’ll rarely experience in the United States. Our Winnebago Revel is an absolute must if you plan to camp on the sand. At $10 per night, it’s also some of the cheapest oceanfront camping you’ll find in the State of California.
If the idea of sand in your sheets isn’t exactly ideal, there are plenty of other places to camp just next to the beach.
Oceano Campground (GPS: 35.1067, -120.6271), part of Pismo State Beach, will get you the closest to the sand while still leaving your tires on firm footing. This campground offers water and electric hookups, showers and relatively nice restrooms with flushing toilets. Sites are decently spacious, so you won’t be right on top of the next camper, and even though some campers complain that there is little shade, if you’re in one of our Class B RVs, you’ll have no trouble keeping cool and out of the sun.
North Beach Campground (GPS: 35.1319, -120.6359), at the northern end of the same state beach, is easily the most popular beachfront campground in the area, geared more toward those who like a more traditional camping experience: there are no hookups, though water is available throughout the park. Showers, clean, flushing toilets and beach access are still available, though you can’t really see the beach directly from your site with the surrounding trees and dunes.
Both Oceano and North Beach charge $25 per night to camp, despite the differences in hookups.
If you can’t get into any of the state-run facilities, several RV parks are positioned near enough the beach that you’ll still be able to taste the salt in the air. Pacific Dunes Ranch & RV Resort (GPS: 35.0933, -120.6165) is probably the most popular private RV park in the area, even though it’s a bit further from the ocean and most spots are just spaces in a paved parking lot. The park has full hookups, WiFi, laundry facilities, showers, restrooms and even a general store. Pismo Coast Village RV Resort (GPS: 35.1341, -120.6381), on the other hand, offers the same types of facilities, but also tosses in a swimming pool, clubhouse, recycling, basketball, mini golf, clubhouse and more, with somewhat greener, more tree-lined sites. Both of these private RV parks will run you somewhere in the vicinity of $75 per night.
Additional options include Le Sage Riviera RV Park (GPS: 35.1238, -120.6315), the highlight of which is its close proximity to Pismo State Beach and the town of Grover Beach. That closeness to the water, and at a rate about half of the other private establishments in town, are the primary draw here. If you couldn’t get into the state park or state beach, a county park by the name of Coastal Dunes RV Park & Campground (GPS: 35.1123, -120.6253) provides a somewhat similar experience, but for twice the price.
More Camping Near Pismo Beach
Holiday RV Park (GPS: 35.1364, -120.6376) – a standard RV park experience, with small spaces, full hookups, laundry and a pool and hot tub.
Port San Luis Harbor (GPS: 35.1736, -120.7561) – expensive waterfront camping about 10 miles north of Pismo Beach.
Avila Hot Springs (GPS: 35.1803, -120.703) – warm mineral springs and a heated pool, 5 miles north of town.
Morro Bay State Park (GPS: 35.3466, -120.842) – gorgeous forested beach on Morro Bay, great for birdwatching and generally spending time in nature. Half an hour north of Pismo.