Having stayed at San Mateo Campground previously, and being somewhat unimpressed, my husband and I decided to try San Onofre Bluffs Campground for a last minute weekend getaway. You can view most of this campground driving south on the 5 freeway just past the nuclear power plant. Most sites are directly adjacent to the freeway and also the train tracks.
We have tent camped at all state beaches along the SoCal coast, so are used to the frequent trains as well as freeway noise at most campgrounds in the area. That being said, this is particularly noisy, especially during the day and early evening. Nights tend to quiet down a bit, but I still needed earplugs to drown out the traffic noise even in an RV. I cannot imagine tent camping here. If you want to be lulled by the ocean, I would strongly suggest South Carlsbad, San Elijo or San Clemente.
Our site (#18) had a remarkable ocean view, and after driving the entire length of this campground, we felt pretty lucky. Most sites have either a partially obstructed view or no view at all. As mentioned in other reviews, the tent sites are virtually a parking lot in a valley between the bluff and the freeway. Very tight quarters for everyone and many folks were actually spilling out onto the asphalt to sit and chat, eat and barbecue.
Also, our site was decent sized. Enough room for our 28ft. Class C motor home with awning extended as well as our Jeep and plenty of room to move around. The issue is there is no separation between sites, and our neighbors, were right on top of us. This wasn’t particularly problematic, except one group had about 16 people crammed onto their site with 3 tents and about 10 kids; well over the 8 person max.
A recommendation we overheard was to book 2 sites, which may provide a bit more room and the cost (currently $35/night) wouldn’t be prohibitive, and comparable with other beach sites. Another thought is to bring some sort of barrier, like caution tape, rope lights or other mechanism to prevent wandering campers from invading your space.
Shade is also a non-entity. Bring an EZup or awning if you want to escape the sun.
All in all, this wasn’t the most relaxing weekend due to the noise and congestion. Unless I was desperate, I would not choose this campground again, and since I don't surf, probably won't return.
If you decide to stay here, I would recommend Sites 1-23 or 105-112 because they have the best ocean views. I would try to avoid sites 24-45 because they are directly below the Border Inspection and Truck Weigh Station and unless you have a group and don’t care about the noise factor, would not tent camp here under any circumstance.
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