South Carlsbad State Beach

Tucked between some of Carlsbad’s most well-known beaches, South Carlsbad State Beach offers visitors reliable surf & a family-friendly campground.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Why you'll love this beach
Why you'll love this beach
Bring the Surfboard or the RV to South Carlsbad State Beach
South Carlsbad State Beach
Overview
Go Pass & Save
Things to Do
Popular Activities
Get There & Parking
Featured Activity
Know Before You Go
Stay Nearby
Similar Beaches

Highlights

Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking
Things to Do
Tips
How to get there
Parking

Overview

Tents Overlooking the Ocean at South Carlsbad State Beach CampgroundMorning Surf at South Carlsbad State Beach

Many of Carlsbad’s beaches are known for being great surfing spots, and South Carlsbad State Beach is no exception. It’s a little off the beaten path, but between the beach itself and its attached campground, there’s a lot that I love.

I’m a surfer myself and a huge fan of all of San Diego’s beaches! I recently took my family to South Carlsbad State Beach for a few nights of camping so I’m personally familiar with this beach.

Unlike some of San Diego’s best beaches for sunbathing, most of the beach is on the narrow side, though there are wider and sandier parts. There’s still enough space to set up some chairs and towels though.

When I visited with my family for our night of family camping, we were there to see the high tide come in, when parts of the beach by the campgrounds were almost entirely swallowed up by the ocean.

While there aren’t any rules against it, South Carlsbad State Beach isn’t the best swimming beach either. The ocean floor just off the shoreline is mostly sandy, but there are little rocks that get kicked up by the waves.

Tent with a View at South Carlsbad State Beach Campground
Tent with a View at South Carlsbad State Beach Campground

Camping by the Beach

Don’t make the mistake of writing this beach off as just another of San Diego’s more than 75 beautiful beaches!

When it comes to surfing beaches that also offer camping by the ocean, South Carlsbad Beach is among the best, not just within Carlsbad but throughout San Diego!

Thanks to San Diego’s warm climate and sunny weather, the campground is open all year. It’s set a little ways back from the beach up by the bluffs, which helps protect campers from winds and riding tides without compromising on the incredible view of the Pacific Ocean at sunset.

Most of the beach’s visitors are drawn in by the camping, but the wave conditions attract surfers too. Don’t forget to grab a Go City San Diego pass using our discount code GVSD5OFF for additional savings when renting a surfboard or other beach gear!

More Waves at South Carlsbad State Beach
More Waves at South Carlsbad State Beach

Surrounding Beaches

South Carlsbad State Beach spans about 5 miles. It sits right between North Ponto and South Ponto Beach on Carlsbad’s coastline.

A little further north, you’ll find Carlsbad State Beach and the surf breaks of Terramar Beach.

The Cliffs and Surf at South Carlsbad State Beach
The Cliffs and Surf at South Carlsbad State Beach

What’s Nearby: Attractions and Things to Do

While a day or two or even a week at the beach can make for a fantastic family vacation, staycation or weekend getaway, I know that it’s good to have some nearby options for fun and entertaining things to do.

Heading north from South Carlsbad State Beach, the attractions nearby are especially great for families. You’ll have great shopping options like the Carlsbad Premium Outlets, one of San Diego’s best malls, or treat the kids to a day at LEGOLAND California, which is part of the All-inclusive Go City San Diego pass.

There’s also the flower fields at Carlsbad Ranch in the spring, plus some great golf courses like The Crossings at Carlsbad.

The Cliffs and the Beach at South Carlsbad State Beach
The Cliffs and the Beach at South Carlsbad State Beach

My Favorite Places to Stay Near the Beach

I love a good night of camping but I also understand that it’s not for everyone. If you’d rather stay in a Carlsbad hotel than the campsite, it’s helpful to know the best places to stay near the beach!

Booking a hotel near the beach is a great way to arrive early and beat the crowds. While there are lots of excellent hotels by LEGOLAND, if you’re looking for something beachside, one of the best is Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach, a Hilton Resort and Spa.

The walk to the beach is just a short half mile trek, and once you’ve had your fill, you can kick back at the hotel’s pool deck and enjoy views of the sea.

Whale Watchers Save BIG!

Whale Watching by Hornblower Cruises
Whale Watching Cruise
Bring your binoculars because your All-Inclusive Go City Pass includes a cruise for whale watching! Look out for sea lions, dolphins and a variety of sea birds too. You'll love this four hour cruise out in the stunning Pacific Ocean!
Buy Now
Local Tips
What is a Go City San Diego pass?

The Go City San Diego pass allows visitors to experience more attractions while simultaneously saving money.

With the pass, you can visit San Diego’s top attractions like the San Diego Zoo or LEGOLAND, all while saving up to 55% off on admissions. Plus, the pass gives you the ability to skip the line when visiting select attractions.

Use our exclusive discount code GVSD5OFF to save an extra

Things to Do

Camping
Camping
Running
Running
Sunbathing
Sunbathing
Tide Pooling
Tide Pooling

Why South Carlsbad State Beach Is Worth the Visit

Camping and surfing are the two biggest activities at South Carlsbad State Beach, but there are lots of other things to love as well.

The Amazing Campground at South Carlsbad State Beach
The Amazing Campground at South Carlsbad State Beach

Camping

Camping is the number one reason to come to South Carlsbad State Beach. There are options for full hook-up sites, and campers have access to token-operated showers, restrooms, and a camp store.

Picnic tables are set up around the campsite, as are fire pits for roasting s’mores at night.

Like San Elijo State Beach, the grounds can get popular in the summer, so reserve a spot ahead of time.

Getting Ready to Surf at South Carlsbad State Beach
Getting Ready to Surf at South Carlsbad State Beach

Surfing

South Carlsbad State Beach offers fairly consistent surf throughout the year.

It’s an exposed beach break with both right-hand and left-hand waves. When conditions are right, with wind blowing from the eastern side of the beach, you can get some incredible groundswells from the southwest.

The surfing conditions here are similar to Grandview Surf Beach in Leucadia, with both giving off the feel of a local or “neighborhood” surf spot compared to more crowded options like South Ponto Beach.

Note that the riptides can be strong here, and since the seafloor is somewhat rocky, it’s not recommended for less experienced surfers. Beginners can take a surfing lesson at Solana Beach to polish their skills before tackling these waves.

Having Fun at the Dog Friendly Campground at South Carlsbad State Beach
Having Fun at the Dog Friendly Campground at South Carlsbad State Beach

Beachside Walks and Hiking

At 5 miles long, South Carlsbad State Beach is a great spot to take a stroll in the sand. Dip your toes into the water as you walk along the shoreline.

The beach is flat and easy to navigate, even for families with kids. When walking along the cliffside up on the bluffs, I found some great spots to take photos.

Right across the highway is the Batiquitos Lagoon, which has scenic nature trails and excellent birdwatching.

Checking Out the Surf at South Carlsbad State Beach
Checking Out the Surf at South Carlsbad State Beach

Fishing

Since this beach doesn’t draw the big crowds of some spots nearby, it’s a favorite among fishers looking for peace and quiet, especially on weekdays and during the surfing off-season.

You can fish right off the shore at some quieter points, or when the waves are higher, head out in a boat. Common catches include yellowfin croaker, California corbina, barred surfperch, and even some leopard sharks.

Popular Activities

The World Famous San Diego Zoo
The World Famous San Diego Zoo
Discounts Available
Learn More
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
Visit SeaWorld San Diego
Discounts Available
Learn More
Carlsbad Local Food Tour
Carlsbad Local Food Tour
$70 per person
Buy Now
Surf Lessons in La Jolla
Surf Lessons in La Jolla
$134 per person
Buy Now

How to Get There & Parking

Neighborhood Parking
Neighborhood Parking
Street Parking
Street Parking

]Whether you’re driving or hopping a local bus, here’s how to get to the beach and where parking is available.

Empty Chairs Ready for a Campfire at South Carlsbad State Beach Campground
Empty Chairs Ready for a Campfire at South Carlsbad State Beach Campground

Accessing the Beach

South Carlsbad State Beach is somewhat tucked away, and you’ll need to descend a flight of stairs to reach the ocean. This is a blessing in disguise, as it also keeps the beach from getting as crowded as some of its neighbors.

If you’re traveling from Carlsbad’s downtown, the beach is about 3 miles to the south when driving down I-5. Both South Carlsbad State Beach and the campground are accessible from Carlsbad Blvd.

Alternatively, if you’d prefer to leave the car at home, San Diego has excellent public transit options. The 101 bus line spans the coast from Oceanside to Encinitas, with the nearest bus stop at Carlsbad Bl & Poinsettia Ln within walking distance of the beach.

The COASTER also stops nearby at Carlsbad Poinsettia Station.

The Rv Friendly Campground at South Carlsbad State Beach
The Rv Friendly Campground at South Carlsbad State Beach

Where to Park

The closest parking is street parking to the north, with a few spots diagonal to the beach along Coast Hwy 101. These spots are mainly used by surfers.

If you’re coming to camp, the campsite has its own parking lot that charges a small fee.

Featured Activity

Seahorse at SEA LIFE Aquarium LEGOLAND California
SEA LIFE Aquarium Hopper Ticket
Meet underwater creatures like sharks and stingrays at the SEA LIFE California Aquarium! Explore interactive displays and animal experiences. Enjoy your second day of family fun FREE with this hopper ticket!
Learn More

Know Before You Go & Tips

Lifeguards
Lifeguards
No Alcohol
No Alcohol
No Glass Containers
No Glass Containers
No Smoking
No Smoking
Public Transportation
Public Transportation
Restrooms
Restrooms
Trash Cans Available
Trash Cans Available

Tips for the Best Beach Day

Let me steer you right with a few tips before you arrive at South Carlsbad State Beach.

Coming up the Cliffs at South Carlsbad State Beach
Coming up the Cliffs at South Carlsbad State Beach

Are Dogs Allowed?

Like San Elijo State Beach to the south, dogs are not allowed on the beach itself, but are allowed on the cliffs above the beach and in the campground.

Chairs Around the Campfire at South Carlsbad State Beach Campground
Chairs Around the Campfire at South Carlsbad State Beach Campground

What Amenities are Available?

The beach has trash cans and outdoor showers. Restrooms are available by the campground, or at South Ponto Beach’s parking lot.

Are There Lifeguards?

Lifeguards are present daily in the summer, with limited staffing in the spring and fall. There are no lifeguards in the winter.

South Carlsbad State Beach
is Known For:
Camping
Camping
Know This:
Outdoor Showers
Outdoor Showers
Pier
Pier
Restrooms Available
Restrooms Available
Trash Cans Available
Trash Cans Available
This Month's Forecast
67°F / 77°F
Sunny in July
Aug
69°F / 79°F
Sunny in August
Sep
67°F / 79°F
Sunny in September
Oct
63°F / 78°F
Sunny in October

Stay Nearby

Carlsbad Seapointe Resort
Family Friendly
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Carlsbad Seapointe Resort
from $175 / night
View Hotel
Carlsbad by the Sea Hotel
Near Legoland
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Carlsbad by the Sea Hotel
from $108 / night
View Hotel
The Cassara Carlsbad
Near Legoland
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
The Cassara Carlsbad
from $167 / night
View Hotel
Residence Inn San Diego Carlsbad
Near Legoland
3 Star Rating3 Star Rating3 Star Rating
Residence Inn San Diego Carlsbad
from $166 / night
View Hotel
Show more San Diego Hotels >>