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“The Sands of Jalama Beach”
Review of Jalama Beach

Ranked #4,685 of 9,172 things to do in California
Attraction details
Reviewed July 7, 2011

An unspoiled stretch of sand curves into the northern horizon, bending beneath rolling coastal hills turned light brown by the approaching summer. Dark gray cliffs stand in sharp contrast to the sun-lit beach and run parallel to the ocean’s green edge of breaking wind-whipped waves. The cliff walls lean slightly away from the water, almost balking at the sheer eroding force applied by wind and waves that originate from an unseen Pacific source.

As we stare from a turnout on the last stretch of a 14-mile winding drive off Highway 1, Jalama Beach seems to be a stepping-stone on a path to the edge of the world. Just outside of Lompoc and near the southern boundary of Vandenberg Air Force Base, the windswept Santa Barbara County park has increased in popularity over the years but is still secluded enough to be passed over by all but the most avid wind-surfers, campers and hikers.
Jalama Creek, swollen from recent rains, flows along the park’s northern border into the ocean. The 10 to 15-feet-wide creek, though shallow, is a significant natural obstacle for visitors wishing to stay dry as they cross to explore Jalama’s northern stretch of beach.
Preceded by the mountainous drive, crossing the creek further convinces the visitor that nature’s hand is intentionally making progress up the beach difficult. Blowing sand even conspires against photography by threatening lens damage.

Despite the day’s lack of visitors, the park’s 110 campsites and recreational vehicle parking places are consistently filled to capacity between June and Labor Day. Jalama’s campsites operate on a first-come, first-served basis, which often leaves campers facing a three to four-day wait for space on a 100-person waiting list during the peak summer season.
Buying groceries in the Jalama Beach Store and Restaurant, which is famous for its juicy Jalama hamburgers is an experience never to be forgotten. The concession shop has changed hands a number of times since its construction in the early 1960s, but the same family has held the lease from the county for the past several years.
With the exception of a set of railroad tracks, several lines of barbed wire cattle fences and a lone strip of power lines that span the landscape, Jalama Beach appears largely untouched by civilization. As we walk north, headlong into the wind, the blowing sand erases our footprints as quickly as they are imprinted.

We walk the same sand that Chumash Indians traversed for centuries before Spanish explorers and settlers moved them to La Purisima Mission. A Chumash settlement called Shilimazshtush used to occupy land near Jalama Creek and if you are slightly superstitious, you can feel movement about you while in this sacred area of the beach. A sign positioned at the mouth of the creek tells of an Indian stealing a knife from a visiting Spanish galleon crewman and how the entire group of Indians made him return it peacefully. The camp was renamed to signify the incident.

In 1923, less than 15 miles north of Jalama Beach, seven United States Navy destroyers ran aground in darkness and heavy fog on Sept. 8 at Point Honda, which is now part of Vandenberg Air Force Base. According to the Lompoc Valley Historical Society, 23 sailors were killed in what is considered the largest peacetime accident in Navy history. Newspaper clippings and photos on the wall of the Jalama Beach Restaurant document the disaster, which a later investigation blamed on a series of navigational errors while the battle group was traveling too fast under radio silence.

The Richfield Oil Corp. (ARCO) donated the 23.5 acres that currently make up Jalama Beach to the county in 1943 for lack of petroleum underground or nearby.
We reach an impassable rocky outcropping where the waves break directly against the cliff wall. The wind is blowing harder than ever and the sun is setting, so we turn around and head back south along the beach. The Jalama winds seem all too happy to push us back toward the parking lot, but I will be all too happy to return again.
John Linder

8  Thank JohnLinder
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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9 - 13 of 14 reviews

Reviewed May 23, 2011

I went on a February day. The weather was cold, and (thus) the beach was largely deserted. As I understand it, you can't reserve sites and during the summer you have to show up very early for a spot. Being February, I had no trouble getting a great spot: the camp site was right on the beach. Very cool. The premium sites are little spendy, but worth it. The beach itself is very beautiful. Highly recommended.

1  Thank crumford
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 1, 2010

almost a 3 hr drive from los angeles...
this is in the middle of nowhere practically so if you need something from the nearby wal mart, it will take about 20 mins to drive out of the campsite area & unto civilization (lompoc is the nearest city)
but no worries;; theres a little shop that has everything!
& i mean everything! for it being so tiny, you'll find everything!
just dont trust their can opener; it broke before i was able to use it!
the beaches may be a bit rough for new swimmers (me) but the sand makes up for it (it gets hot!)
we went in august & our 3rd day there, it sprinkled in the morning!
& it was overcast! we left before noon so not sure if it cleared up..
but it did get hot while here. & very cold at night...
my husband had to drive out here 3 days before we left for our trip to book a campsite & his 1st morning there, they did a raffle & he wasnt called. so the campsite director advised him to return the next morning.
so my poor but amazing hubby stayed at the worst ever motel in lompoc & showed up the following morning, 1st in line! & he snagged us 2 sites!
i dont rememeber how much each site cost per day, but i know it was not alot..
i am a cheapskate & i would rememeber any ridiculous prices..
completely dog friendly; dogs can run free on the beach!
& the showers are clean!
4 quarters per 5 mins .. or something like that.
can not wait to go back this aug!

2  Thank belindalnv
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 15, 2009

I don't know about camping, but a drive (particularly on a motorcyle) from Hwy 1 to the Jalama Beach store was worth it to have one of their burgers - something special.

Thank PTrompet
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 28, 2004

My family has been camping at Jalama for at least 10 years now. My wife's family (my in-laws) have been camping there for at least 20 years now. I must say that it is a very nice place to stay because you are surrounded by great scenery. You are either looking at a beautiful ocean in front of view or rolling hills behind you. One of the things that I really love about this place is that nothing else is nearby to this campground. You have to drive maybe 40 minutes to get to the nearest city. The campground has a general store and a grill that cooks up the famous "Jalama Burger" which is awesome. There is a playground for kids. There are showers and restroom facilities. You can camp very close to the beach if you can get a spot there. Or you can camp away from the beach at a higher elevation. It all depends on what you prefer and the availability of the sites. The type of people that go there are general families that are generally well behaved. You don't see people there partying and acting obnoxious. During the day you get some locals that go to surf of wind surf. Alot of people bring there dogs. The beaches are beautiful. There are times when you see different marine life travel about through the ocean. I would say that it is a very nice place to just relax and unwind. It is a nice drive away from places like Solvang. You can take a trip there and do some shopping or dining. Now, here are some drawback to keep in mind. Overall the weather is usually good there throughout the year. Some days get really windy. Some people don't like that much wind. The other thing is you can't make reservations. It is first come-first serve. You may want to get there at the middle of the weekend for a better shot at getting a spot. Although the beaches are beautiful, there are spots of oil that you have to be mindful of. There was a major oil spill many years ago and the beach and sand are still showing signs of it. You just have to mindful of where you are walking as you take strolls down the beach. Don't get me wrong, it's not like oil is every where you turn. It's just kind of sad to see such a beautiful place get tainted by such an unfortunate thing. The water is always very cold and rough. Your best bet is to wear a wet suit and know how to handle rough waters. I have been there when people have drowned because of rough water. This does not bother me since I don't go swimming in the ocean anyway. Overall just a really nice place to spend time at. Take your camera; there is some great photo ops.

8  Thank Anthony G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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