Camping in San Onofre, California

As novice campers, my family and I have had our fair share of struggles during camping trips. After some disastrous experiences, we were apprehensive about choosing another camping spot at the last minute. Our initial plan to camp at Big Bear campground was thwarted by heavy downpours in August. Moreover, a friend who was already at the campsite informed us that they were stuck in their tent for two days due to the inclement weather and didn’t enjoy their camping experience. Discouraged by their feedback, we decided to cancel our trip and sought a refund from the National Park Service. Thankfully, my wife managed to secure a reservation at a different campground, San Onofre, near Fallbrook, California, which was within walking distance to the beach. She had always wanted to camp by the ocean, eager to fall asleep to the soothing sound of crashing waves.

Upon arrival in the late afternoon, we set up our tent, although we were not entirely confident in our tent-pitching abilities. Earlier that day, we enjoyed swimming at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, about 30 miles from Fallbrook, despite getting drenched by high tides occasionally.

The San Onofre campground stretched for 3 miles along Interstate 5 on one side and the ocean on the other. We were thrilled about spending time there, but as we arrived at the site, we were disappointed to find that all 175 camp spots were already reserved. Notorious for not thoroughly checking our tent equipment, we hoped that this time our new tent came with all its necessary pieces. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, and we had to rely on my old tent mounting beams to make it work.

With much effort, we managed to set up the tent, securing it with various makeshift supports such as benches, the fire ring, and nearby bushes. While neighboring campers seemed to pitch their tents effortlessly, we struggled and felt frustrated with our repeated tent-related challenges.

Despite the challenging tent setup, the night promised a delightful walk across the campground towards the San Onofre beach, a popular spot for surfers and swimmers. Walking through the bluffs, we reached the rocky beach, where surfers were already riding the waves. The rocks on the beach were stunning, but walking on them proved tricky. Our son took delight in skipping and smashing rocks, keeping himself entertained for hours. As we returned to the campground, we stopped at the store to buy dinner ingredients and then enjoyed a mesmerizing sunset along the bluffs. The vibrant colors of the sunset reflecting on the dark blue ocean left us with a magical memory.

Back at the campsite, we cooked and enjoyed dinner before going for a stroll to explore the different sections of the campground. Each area had its unique characteristics, ranging from exposed spots to those with ocean views, and some situated closer to the bathrooms. We realized that finding the right section for camping might be crucial for our future visits, as the bluffs obstructed the Oceanview we had hoped for.
However, a surprise awaited us as we settled into our tent for the night. The continuous noise of passing trains along the line and the traffic from Interstate 5 disrupted our anticipated ocean breeze and crashing waves, keeping us awake throughout the night.

Despite the sleepless night, we woke up early and enjoyed coffee and breakfast. Surprisingly, the campground’s bathrooms were unusually clean and well-equipped with running water and showers. The site was pet-friendly, which added to the positive experience. Despite the unexpected noise, we still cherished our time at San Onofre due to its proximity to the ocean, a feature we truly loved.
In the end, we left with fond memories, knowing that the allure of camping by the ocean would entice us to return to San Onofre campground in the future.

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