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The Best Beaches for Bonfires and Camping in Southern California

Friends enjoying a bonfire on the beach

FlixBus puts Southern California within easy reach, giving you a comfortable and affordable way of enjoying the sunshine and laid-back vibe of the state's beach life. With three FlixBus stops in Los Angeles, one in Santa Barbara, six in San Diego, and one in Ventura, you'll soon be pitching your tent for some Southern Californian beach camping. 

You don't have to venture far from Los Angeles or San Diego to find some excellent beachside camping while other beaches require a local bus trip. For all Southern California's campsites, especially those near the larger cities, we recommend making an advance reservation to be sure of a pitch.


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Beach bonfires in Southern California

Part of the fun of tent camping is cooking your meals over an open fire and some beaches in California allow bonfires, while many others have fire pits. Indeed, enjoying a beach bonfire has a long history in many areas of Southern California. They're a way of getting together with friends or making new friends during the day or as the sun sets. Although it is possible to have your own bonfire on more out of the way beaches, visitors are encouraged to use official fire pits. These large cement rings are set into the sand at regular intervals. In most places, they're free to use so our tip is to get there early if you want to grab one. Other beachside campsites include a fire pit reservation in their pitch fee. Whether you are using a fire pit or building your own bonfire, be sure to read the local bylaws and enjoy your beach fun safely.

To get your holiday started we've put together a selection of beaches that have campsites, allow cooking over open fires or both.

8 Beaches for camping and bonfires near Los Angeles:

5 Beaches for camping and bonfires near San Diego:

Beaches for camping and bonfires in Orange County and Santa Barbara:


Beaches near Los Angeles

Laguna Beach Los Angeles

Huntington Beach, Los Angeles

Huntington Beach in Huntington City is a long sandy stretch where the surf is usually up earning it the nickname of 'Surf City USA'. Crowds gather around the pier but take a walk in either direction and you'll find a quieter spot. If you don't fancy cooking up your own meal in the beach's two hundred or so fire pits, restaurants line the beach and pier. If you do want to cook, however, you can even buy your firewood on the beach. Laze around or get active with a game of volleyball before pitching your tent in the Huntington Beach Campground.

You can easily reach Huntington Beach from Long Beach FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 45 min.
Find out more on Huntington Beach Official Page


Laguna Beach, Los Angeles

Laguna Beach is a hidden gem, an intriguing place of tide pools, sea caves, and sandy beaches. Beyond the beach are thousands of acres of protected wildlife perfect for hiking adventures. Artist colonies give the area a bohemian vibe and with beachfront campgrounds, everything comes together to create a go-to destination for relaxing tent camping. 

You can easily reach Laguna Beach from Anaheim FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 100 min.
Find out more on the Official Tourism Site for Laguna Beach, CA


Newport Beach, Los Angeles

Newport Beach is definitely one place where you can practice your fire pit cooking skills. The pits line the beach just a few steps from the iconic Boardwalk. This Boardwalk is a great place to chill over a drink with friends. These fire pits are very popular so our advice is to get there early in the morning and plan to spend the day swimming, sunbathing, and cooking up a storm. If you'd rather create your own bonfire, head along to the cliffs where Corona del Mar State Beach starts, a spot made famous by TV's Gilligan's Island.

You can easily reach Newport Beach from Anaheim FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 85 min.
Find out more on Newport Beach City Official Page


Bolsa Chica Beach, Los Angeles

Pitch your tent at Bolsa Chica Beach. Here you can set up camp for the day by a fire pit or build your own bonfire. You can even make like the locals and try catching fish such as grunion and guitarfish with your bare hands. They'll taste delicious when grilled on your bonfire or in the fire pit! If you want to stretch your legs away from the sand, cross the beach path to explore the nature trails of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

You can easily reach Bolsa Chica Beach from Long Beach FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 45 min.
Find out more about Bolsa Chica Beach, LA


Dockweiler State Beach, Los Angeles

Dockweiler State Beach is a wide sandy stretch that hugs the coast of Santa Monica Bay. Lifeguards ensure safe swimming while fire pits are part of the beach's facilities that also include showers, picnic tables, and volleyball courts. The beach campground can be found near the Imperial Highway entrance.

You can easily reach Dockweiler State Beach from Long Beach FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 90 min.
Find out more about Dockweiler State Beach, LA


Leo Carrillo State Beach, Los Angeles

The Leo Carrillo State Beaches range from the wild and rugged to the more gentle and family-friendly. A large campsite with over 100 pitches can be found in a canyon just beyond South Beach. Have fun exploring tide pools, tunnels, rock arches, and caves or hiking in the hills that lead off from the campground and beaches.

Closest FlixBus stop to Leo Carrillo State Beach: Ventura, CA.
Find out more about Leo Carrillo State Beach, LA 


Sycamore Cove Beach, Los Angeles

Swimming, sunbathing, and hiking can all be enjoyed when you pitch a tent at the Sycamore Cove Beach Campground. The area is a gateway into the Boney Mountain State Wilderness Area, perfect if quiet seclusion is an important part of your getaway needs. The pretty beach itself has lifeguards and picnic areas.

Closest FlixBus stop to Sycamore Cove Beach: Ventura, CA.


Cabrillo Beach, Los Angeles

Not far from Newport Beach is Cabrillo Beach, which despite its tranquility is a favored spot of skilled surfers. As well as volleyball nets for when you're feeling energetic, the beach is lined with fire pits, picnic areas, and a host of facilities suited to all ages. It's the perfect place to light a fire and watch the sunset as you cook up your dinner.

You can easily reach Cabrillo Beach from Long Beach FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 40 min.
Find out more about Cabrillo Beach on the Official Website of the City of Los Angeles

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Beaches near San Diego

La Jolla Shores Beach San Diego

Mission Beach, San Diego

At Mission Beach, you'll find the privately owned Campland lying near a stretch of water that is safe from rip currents and big waves. There are lots of facilities and water-based activities at the campground and beach for all ages to enjoy. The beach is backed by Belmont Park, the only beachside amusement park in America. For most campers, though, the attraction of Mission Beach are the fire pits which line the sand just a few steps away from the three-mile-long boardwalk.

You can easily reach Mission Beach from Old Town San Diego FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 20 min.
Find out more about Mission Beach on the Official Page of San Diego


Ocean Beach, San Diego

Ocean Beach is one of the quieter beaches in and around San Diego and with sections that cater to swimming, surfing, and seclusion it offers something for everyone. This free beach has volleyball courts and restrooms while bonfires can be lit in its quieter sections. While there are no campgrounds in the nearby area, you can pitch your tent for the day, light your bonfire and soak up the sun and scenery.

You can easily reach Ocean Beach from Old Town San Diego FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 20 min.
Find out more on Ocean Beach Official Page


La Jolla Shores Beach, San Diego

As one of the world's most popular beach destinations, there is no shortage of campgrounds near La Jolla Shores Beach. This short beach is part of a longer stretch of La Jolla beaches and is backed with pine trees and broken up with rocky points. Here swimming, sunbathing, and surfing go hand in hand with the nearby thrills and spills of ziplining or river tubing. There are a limited number of fire pits on La Jolla Shores Beach so get there early if you plan on barbecuing and picnicking.

You can easily reach La Jolla Shores Beach from Old Town San Diego FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 50 min.
Find out more about La Jolla Shores Beach on San Diego Official Page


Shelter Island Beach, San Diego

Take a short boat trip to Shelter Island. With its offshore setting close to the city, the small beach of Shelter Island doesn't have camping facilities but it does have fire pits, picnic tables, and benches. It makes a delightful place to get a different perspective on the  San Diego skyline from across San Diego Bay. While on the island, be sure to visit the Japanese Friendship Bell at the south end.

You can easily reach Shelter Island Beach from Old Town San Diego FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 50 min.
More info on Shelter Island Beach Official Page


Mission Beach, San Diego

At Mission Beach, you'll find the privately owned Campland lying near a stretch of water that is safe from rip currents and big waves. There are lots of facilities and water-based activities at the campground and beach for all ages to enjoy. The beach is backed by Belmont Park, the only beachside amusement park in America. For most campers, though, the attraction of Mission Beach are the fire pits which line the sand just a few steps away from the three-mile-long boardwalk.

You can easily reach Mission Beach from Old Town San Diego FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 20 min.
Find out more about Mission Beach on the Official Page of San Diego


San Elijo State Beach, San Diego

The long San Elijo State Beach is part of a state park with tent camping and plenty of visitor facilities. You camp on a bluff above the beach and walk down long stretches of stairs or ramps to reach the sand. Be careful swimming here, the rip currents can be ferocious. It is, however, a great spot for experienced surfers. While no fires are allowed on the beach, the campsite does have a cafe and a store.

You can easily reach San Elijo State Beach from La Jolla FlixBus Stop with public transportations within 60 min.
More info on San Elijo State Beach Official Page 

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Beaches in Orange County

San Onofre State Beach, Orange County

Whale watching is just one of the treats you can enjoy from San Onofre State Beach or the  Bluffs Campground that sits high above the sand. Several trails wind their way down to different beach sections from the campground. Secluded stretches of this beach are popular with naturists. A small charge is made to access if the beach if you're not camping.

Closest FlixBus stop to San Onofre State Beach: Anaheim, CA.
More info on San Onofre State Beach Official Page


Doheny State Beach, Orange County

At Doheny State Beach you have the double benefit of both camping and fire pits. Lifeguards, picnic tables and the fire pits make this long narrow stretch of beach a pleasant and safe way to while away a few hours in the Californian sunshine. The campground has over 100 pitches which lie virtually on the beach at Dana Point. If you don't fancy cooking, take the short beachside stroll to dine in the restaurants that line the nearby marina.

Closest FlixBus stop to San Onofre State Beach: Anaheim, CA.
More info on Doheny State Beach Official Page


A Beach near Santa Barbara

Gaviota State Park

Just north of the town of Santa Barbara is the beach and campground of Gaviota State Park. Each pitch is just a few short steps away from the sandy beach while hiking trails stretch inland. As there are only 39 pitches at the campground, it is always worth making a reservation, especially at peak periods. Trees provide privacy for the pitches each of which has a picnic table and its own fire pit with built-in grill.

Closest FlixBus stop to San Onofre State Beach: Santa Barbara, CA.
Find out more about Gaviota State Park on the Official Website

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What Should I Bring when I Camp on the Beach?

Good question... If you really want to enjoy your time while camping on the beach, here is a list of essentials you really shouldn’t forget to take with you:

  • Ground cloth/tarp
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Sunscreen
  • Tent
  • Air pillows
  • A big jug/bucket for water
  • Trash bags
  • Containers for food storage
  • Silverware/Plastic Silverware
  • Coolers/dry ice
  • Thermos/Thermic bag for food and beverages
  • A bottle opener
  • Campfire grill/BBQ grill
  • A lighter
  • Mosquito spray


Beach Bonfire Safety

While bylaws about beach bonfires and fire pit use vary slightly from district to district and town to town, there are a few general rules that apply everywhere. Southern California is a dry region and fires are common so never leave fire pits or bonfires unattended and ensure they are totally extinguished before leaving the beach. Most areas state that:

  • Fires are not permitted between midnight and early morning.
  • Rubbish must never be burnt on them.
  • Only wood, paper or charcoal can be used as fuel.
  • Wood must not be stacked up more than 12" above the rim of the fire pit.
  • If fire pits are provided, open bonfires are not permitted.
  • Any remaining ashes or charcoal must be placed in the hot coal containers on the beach.