Every nomad who visits Southern California wants to go to a beach where they can park their van or RV and step out directly onto the sand. This is the goal for most van and RV nomads, and they want the pictures to prove it.
Even though Southern California has a lot of beaches, there are not a lot of beaches that allow you to step directly onto the sand from your van.
Most beaches have parking lots located a short distance from the beach and the sand. Some parking lots are elevated or situated behind a series of bushes and shrubs before the actual sand starts.
This means there are only a handful of beaches where you can park directly up to the beach, step out, and feel sand between your toes. I have compiled a list of the best beaches where you can do that in Southern California between Los Angeles and San Diego.
The best beaches to pull your van right up to the beach are:
- Will Rogers State Beach
- Santa Monica Beach
- El Segundo Beach
- Bolsa Chica State Beach
- Huntington Beach
- Aliso Beach
- Doheny State Beach
- San Onofre State Beach
- Tamarack Surf Beach
- Fiesta Island Mission Bay
- Ocean Beach
Each of these beaches offers you the opportunity to pull your van directly onto the sand. Beware, do not pull up too far or you will end up getting stuck and yelled at by a lifeguard.
I like to park backward to open the rear doors and get an amazing view of the sand and the ocean. Then I will take a picture, as you see above, and send it to all of my friends to make them jealous.
Just make sure you arrive early because these prime beachfront parking spots fill up quickly. Everyone from van and RV nomads, soccer moms, surfers, romantic couples, cops, and a group of teenagers want to park directly at the edge of the sand.
There are only two requirements to make it on this list of best beachfront parking spots, and they are:
- There must be parking spaces directly at the edge of the beach, and if you pulled up too far, you would get stuck in the sand.
- The parking spots must accommodate a regular-sized van or small RV under 25 feet.
Although most of these beaches on this list allow you to park directly up to the sand, there are a few beaches that will have a boardwalk in front of your parking area. I consider this to meet the criteria because you would be right into the sand if you just kept on driving forward across the boardwalk.
Tips for Getting That Beachfront Parking Spot
As you have already probably figured out, the biggest issue of getting that prime beachfront parking spot is beating the crowds. Everyone who goes to the beach wants one of these spots. That is why it’s imperative that you get to the beach early.
Here are a few tips to getting that beachfront parking sport:
- Get there EARLY (Before 8 am; surfers get up early)
- Go on the weekdays
- Grab the furthest spot away
Best Beachfront Parking Beaches
The beaches mentioned here fulfill that van or RV nomad dream of pulling right up to the beach and stepping out into the sand. Each of these beaches offers a unique experience for any van or RV nomad visiting or traveling around Southern California.
The beaches are arranged from Los Angeles to San Diego.
Will Rogers State Beach
Will Rogers State Beach is a great beach to park your van or RV and spend the day. The only beachfront parking is located at the South Volleyball courts. The other beach-facing parking spots are located on a shrub embankment.
The beach is less crowded than Santa Monica or Malibu and offers plenty of parking.
The beach is one and three-quarters miles long and includes volleyball courts, playgrounds, and gymnastic equipment. The beach is great for families as it is popular for surfing, surf fishing, sailing, and windsurfing.
Visit: Will Rogers State Beach
Santa Monica is a major tourist attraction and a place you must visit at least once on your journey around Southern California.
The Santa Monica Pier northern parking lot has several parking spaces that allow you to pull right up to the sand and spend the day.
Although there is a boardwalk directly in front of these parking spots, it still gives you an awesome experience of pulling right up to the sand. The boardwalk also allows you to spend the entire day people watching from the comfort of your van or RV.
I do not have to tell you how quickly these prime parking spots are taken, so arrive early if you want one of them.
Venice Beach is a major tourist attraction, and somewhere you must visit at least once on your journey around Southern California. The parking lot at the Venice Pier has several parking spaces that allow you to pull right up to the sand and spend the day.
They are not as plentiful as the parking spots in Santa Monica, but the parking lot is not as crowded. You do not have to arrive so early to get a prime parking spot, especially on the weekdays.
El Segundo Beach
El Segundo Beach is a small and quiet beach between Manhattan Beach and Dockweiler State Beach. There is one row of beachfront parking that allows you to pull right up to the sand.
The beach is a great place to spend the day surfing, cycling, playing volleyball, or just sunbathing.
Visit: El Segundo Beach
Belmont Shores in Long Beach has several parking lots where you can pull your van or RV right up to the sand.
It is often overlooked by most for the more popular Venice and Santa Monica.
Belmont shores is a perfect place to paddleboard or learn to windsurf. Located in the harbor allows it to be a perfect location to learn both activities.
Bolsa Chica State Beach
Bolsa Chica State Beach is an excellent place for any van or RV nomad to visit. The beach has no shortage of beachfront parking since it’s three miles long. Although there is a boardwalk running in front of all these parking spots, it is still a great place to pull up to the edge of the sand.
The beach offers many activities, including surfing, paddle boarding, volleyball, three cafes, and the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve next door.
Visit: Bolsa Chica State Beach
Huntington Beach and Huntington Beach State Park offer beachfront parking along its shore. The beach runs a few miles, so you will have ample opportunity to find a beachfront spot.
There is also a boardwalk that traverses in front of the beachfront parking spots. Great place to watch the crowds go by from the comfort of your van.
Huntington is a great place to spend the day on the beach, surfing and enjoying the pier and boardwalk.
Visit: Huntington Beach
Newport Beach and Balboa Island
In Newport Beach, there are two areas for beachside parking: the Newport Pier parking lot and the Balboa Bach parking lot. Each of these parking lots offers beachfront parking that you can enjoy.
However, Newport is crowded, so you must get there early to secure any of these spots. I prefer Balboa Beach over Newport Pier since it is a little less crowded, and the parking lot is not so tight and restrictive.
Aliso Beach is one of those hidden jewels that most van and RV nomads neglect to visit. The beach is beautiful with tidepools, amazing scenery, and white sand. The only problem is that it only has one and four handicapped beachfront parking spots.
This one beachfront parking spot is sought after, but you might be able to get it if you arrive early.
The waves at Aliso Beach are shore break, so there no surfing, but you can still go for a nice swim. The beach has restrooms, outdoor showers, and a cafe.
In my opinion, it is the most beautiful beach on this list, so that why I included it even though it only offers one spot.
Visit: Aliso Beach
Doheny State Beach
Doheny State Beach is one of my favorite places to spend the day in my van. It makes the perfect place for any van or RV nomad looking to enjoy the beach and go surfing.
Doheny offers a long stretch of beachfront parking opportunities, which makes it an extremely popular place. I recommend you get there early to secure one of these prime spots and enjoy your day.
The beach has restrooms, showers, an aquarium, a cafe, trash bins, and ample parking. Doheny also has a campground where you can spend a few nights.
San Onofre State Beach
San Onofre State Beach is one of my favorite beaches to spend the day at as a van or RV nomad. The beach only offers beachfront parking and is the best place to achieve that dream of stepping out of your van or RV onto the sand. I’ve actually gotten my van stuck in the sand here but not paying attention.
San Onofre has restrooms, showers, and trash bins and is a great place to meet many fellow van and RV nomads. Everything a nomad needs for the day.
San Onofre is locally known as “Old Mans” and is one of the most popular surf spots in Southern California.
Visit: San Onofre State Beach
Tamarack Surf Beach
Carlsbad State Beach, or what the locals call Tamarack Surf Beach, is a long expansive beach perfect for any van or RV nomad looking to spend the day. The beach offers a limited number of beachfront parking spots.
Tamarack offers surfing, fishing, volleyball courts, restrooms, showers, and everything you will need for the day.
Visit: Carlsbad State Beach
Fiesta Island Mission Bay
Fiesta Island Park is in the middle of Mission Bay and is a perfect place to spend the day for any van or RV nomad. The entire island is open for beachfront parking and is the only place where you can drive on the sand. Lucky the beach sand here is compact, so you can drive on it and not get stuck.
The park is trendy for running, swimming, windsurfing, paddleboarding, jet-skiing, biking, van gathering, and special events. There are bonfire rings on the beach, and dogs are allowed off-leash.
Visit: Fiesta Island Park
Probably the most prime beachfront parking in all of San Diego is at Ocean Beach. Ocean Beach a good amount of beachfront parking spots, but they do fill up, especially on the weekend.
Ocean Beach is a great place to spend the day on the beach. You can meet many van and RV nomads spending the day here in the sun.
Next to the parking area is Dog Beach, so if you have a dog, this will be their favorite beachside parking spot as well.
Each of the beaches mentioned in this blog will allow you the opportunity to pull your van or RV directly up to the beach and step out into the sand. No trip to Southern California is complete without accomplishing this goal. Just make sure you arrive early to beat the crowds. I hope to see you out there.
References and Other Adventures:
What are the Top 5 best beaches in SoCal for anyone traveling in their van or RV to learn to surf? Answer: There are many