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“Nice, but the trains... midnight madness!” 3 of 5 stars
Review of San Elijo State Beach Campground

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San Elijo State Beach Campground
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Del Mar, CA   |  
Hotel amenities
Vancouver, Canada
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
28 helpful votes 28 helpful votes
“Nice, but the trains... midnight madness!”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed January 6, 2010

This was the southernmost stop of our 3-week road-trip through CA, mostly staying at State Park campgrounds. The park was in an awesome location, beach-wise and amenity-wise. It was difficult to get into sometimes as there is only one lane going in and if you are just returning to the campground you have to wait behind everyone else who is checking in.

Our problem: we hardly slept. There were trains going by every 15-minutes to half an hour until at least 1.30am and they started up again around 5am... and blared their horns for at least 10 seconds each time as there is a major vehicle/pedestrian crossing right by the campground. Trains I can sleep through, loud horns I cannot. My husband sleeps through anything and even he was terribly ticked off come 2am. Maybe campsites nearer the beach don't have it as badly, or ones further away from the crossing, but we ended up finding a hotel on our last night because we were exhausted from lack of sleep.

Stayed September 2009, traveled as a couple
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35 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    3 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    4 of 5 stars
  • Service
    4 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    4 of 5 stars
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Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
Santa Clarita, California
Reviewer
3 reviews 3 reviews
Reviews in 3 cities Reviews in 3 cities
5 helpful votes 5 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 1, 2009

We live a couple hours from this terrific campground. I wish we lived close enough to pop over every weekebd, it is that great! Our kids have told us it is their favorite beach campground...and we have been to many.
They are very strict about check-in time so do not bother to check in before 2pm, not even 5 monutes early, WE HAVE TRIED!
Easy fill-up & dump site. Most sites have hook-ups but you will pay more. Most are very easy to back into. Beach front spots are very hard to get but beautiful if you get lucky. In the summer, camp sites towards the back can get hot & have less air flow.
Bring bikes!!! great bike paths & access to the town of Encinitas & Cardiff by The Sea. Of the later make sure to get amazing donuts at VG's & breakfast at Pipes.

  • Stayed February 2009, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 5
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Southern California
Top Contributor
51 reviews 51 reviews
17 hotel reviews
Reviews in 25 cities Reviews in 25 cities
69 helpful votes 69 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2009

Well I was pleasantly surprised we got a site at the Southern tip loop (the last loop) site #68 which is not a Oceanfront site but we could see the ocean from where we were and you are literally less than 100 yards away from waves.

Friendly Ranger at the gate, crowded drive down to our site (but it IS the summer) LOTS of pets, bathrooms were dirty but not unbearable (i've been in worst) showers were clean-ER in the early morning than they were at night (token operated - get tokens from Ranger station NOT the General Store). They have a little taco stand connected to the general store that prepares breakfast burritos and all sorts of street tacos... there was also a coffee cart there as well. We did NOT hear trains all not long I heard them maybe once after 11:00pm then the next one I heard was at like 6:00am... Squirrels we saw early in the afternoon when we first arrived but didn't see nor were bothered by them in the night time. Relatively quiet camp site in the evening.

We went grocery shopping down there going pass Mira Costa College there is a Henry's Market, Trader Joes and a Ralphs but it was a drive to get there. If you get on the 5 south one exit after you get on there is a Von's much shorter distance. The wood was actually cheaper at the General Store than it was at Ralph's...

Overall very nice campgrounds would like to come for another visit again but think I would like to stay in the Southern Loop again less traffic.

Respectfully Reviewed

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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Los Angeles, CA
Senior Contributor
37 reviews 37 reviews
27 hotel reviews
Reviews in 20 cities Reviews in 20 cities
73 helpful votes 73 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 30, 2009

This place is the best ever! Spacious camp sites, bluffs over the most amazing ocean views. On site are plenty of hot showers, an enormous camp store to meet your every need, a taco stand and get this - an espresso cart!! And if that's not enough you can walk to town for great donuts, restaurants, a beautiful park with playground and art galleries. There is also a surf camp on site. The beach itself is lovely. Some people bum out about the tar but that is common at all SoCal beaches. Also the seaweed bothers people. Well if you must have a human groomed beach then go spend $300 for a decent hotel and you'll get your groomed beach and the biggest annoying crowds to go with it!

If you're into romantic sunsets and beach front camping with wireless access, espresso carts and warm showers, this is the place!

  • Stayed June 2009, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 8
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
USA
Top Contributor
61 reviews 61 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 27 cities Reviews in 27 cities
38 helpful votes 38 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed January 24, 2009

We discovered San Elijo State Beach a couple years ago. One of the few spots west of PCH with full hook-ups. Not all the spaces have hook-ups and they go fast in the springtime for the upcoming summer.

We always stay in space 13 or 15 which are on the west side of the campground and on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Believe me, you can't spend the night at anyplace more beautiful for under $250/night! Facilities are great, close to town and shopping. The train tracks are close and a crossing is directly across PCH from the campground so if you don't like trains (and their horns) stay home! Otherwise, come and enjoy!!!!

Weather year round is awesome and this place is probably the best state campground between LA and SD.

  • Liked — Proximity to the beach
  • Disliked — Train noise
  • Stayed April 2008, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 3 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Glendale, Arizona
Senior Contributor
24 reviews 24 reviews
8 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
13 helpful votes 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 27, 2007

What a week! This was my second year here and it was better than the 1st. We stayed on the ocean side this year and it was fantastic. The views were great, the sites were clean. There are bathrooms on site along with showers, all cleaned daily. The park staff is very friendly. You can rent body boards from the camp store, they have fire wood for the nights and sell just about everything you could imagine. They even have a laundry facility on site! We will return!

  • Stayed July 2007, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 7
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Washington DC, District of Columbia
Senior Contributor
29 reviews 29 reviews
18 hotel reviews
Reviews in 23 cities Reviews in 23 cities
39 helpful votes 39 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2007

Great place to stay at the beach. Del Mar is where someone put it, but it's a bit north of there, between Encinitas and Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Booked online through Reserve America. Caught a last minute opening. Because you can cancel a reservation up to 24 before, last minute openings can appear even though all these campgrounds are generally booked well in advance.

I just got 2 single night reservations and had to move over after the first night to a new site, but only a few campsites down. Most people are there for the week with thorough RV setups or large campsite groups with 3 or more tents. Plenty of families. Lots of kids and teens moving about on bikes and skateboard and scooters.

Bathrooms were great- 3 unisex single person use toilets and 3 single person showers in each bathroom structure, and there was a bathroom structure every 10 sites down or so. Cleaned at least once a day, they take abuse since they are at the beach, but no bugs or other gross campground issues. BYO-hand soap. Showers are coin-op and not a ton of water flow, but they do get good and warm. Space outside shower to change- still inside private locked outside door. Very comfortable.

Laundry available at the camp store, along with plenty of food, drinks and souvenirs.

Awesome waterfront location, the sites are pricey for public tent camping- $35/night plus online reservation fee, but hotels in towns nearby are mostly $200 plus.

Sites are very close together, with sparse shrubs/trees separating you from your neighbors, so they can keep you up or wake you up. Also the train whistle is startling and loud, but plenty of people complain about hearing it at the $200/night hotels too. It's not too often, and if you wear yourself out riding waves you'll get back to sleep fast.

The beach itself was OK. There were lifeguards there in the summer. The waves were alright, it was pretty choppy when I was there, but that's the weather not the beach.

The issue I did have with the beach is the reef there can make for some nasty footing. I got some pretty bad scraps the first day, made sure I had something (even regular socks help) on my feet after that. There was also some serious seaweed type plants that would occasionally try to tangle my foot- an unnerving situation, and my foot fell into a coral hole more than once which was also a little scary because they had big overhangs and were only a little bigger than my foot, so it could get caught it there - but I was more worried about that b/c I was wearing fins for bodyboarding. There wasn't a ton of nice space most of the time for lounging on the beach or beach games. The water came close to the bluff at high tide, so the back end of the beach that was clear at lower tides had a lot of seaweed and other sea debris, which little bugs love. So not the best spot to sit, especially without a chair.

Plenty of people made out just fine, but if you're looking for the best beach to hang out, I'd plan on commuting a bit. Most people would just head down to surf and then come back up to the campsite to hang out and enjoy the views from there.

Warning to anyone with bad knees, or older people, there are ALOT of stairs to get down to the beach. You get a great view from the campground but if you want to go down there is no way around the rustic wood stairs.

Seaside Market in Cardiff great place to get food to go- they have a fancy deli, with prepared meal items- grilled meats and fish, sandwiches made to order, pasta salad etc as well as groceries and even fancy desserts. Pipes Cafe right near the market also very good- breakfast food until 3pm- order at the counter and then take out or eat in the classic surf cafe inside or outside seating.

  • Liked — location, location and clean and generally available restrooms and showers (for camping)
  • Disliked — noise with close together campsites and train- but hey, you can sleep when you get home!
  • Stayed July 2007, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Check in / front desk
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Business service (e.g., internet access)
Was this review helpful? Yes 11
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about San Elijo State Beach Campground

Address: Del Mar, CA
Location: United States > California > Del Mar
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 Specialty Lodging in Del Mar
Number of rooms: 171
Also Known As:
San Elijo State Beach Campground Hotel Del Mar

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