El Capitán’s peaceful setting, sandy shoreline and close proximity to Santa Barbara make it a popular spot for camping, picnicking, wildlife viewing and other outdoor activities. Stands of sycamore, oak and eucalyptus trees create lots of shady spots throughout the park, and the well-maintained hiking trails lead to picturesque lookouts of the mountains and sea. Follow the stairway from the bluffs down to the beach and keep an eye out for marine life and wildlife. Between November and April, watch for whales in the distance as they migrate to/from Mexico!
Camping at El Capitán State Beach
With more than 100 single-family campsites and multiple group campsites, El Capitán campground can accommodate groups of all sizes. Campsites include a table, fire ring and grill and welcome tents, trailers or motorhomes (up to 42 feet).* Restrooms, drinking water, coin-operated showers, laundry facilities, picnic areas and a campfire center are all available for use on the campground. Campsites can be reserved April 1 through November 30 and are first-come, first-served the rest of the year.
*Please note, there are no RV hookups.
Things to Do at El Capitán State Beach
El Capitán State Beach has activities for outdoor enthusiasts and beachgoers alike. Hikers and cyclists can follow Ansio Trail – an easy 5-mile trail for all fitness levels – to Refugio State Beach. For a more strenuous workout, try Bill Wallace El Capitán Trail and Canyon and Ridgetop Trails, which reward elevation gain with expansive views. After exploring the trails, cool off in a kayak and see the shoreline from a different perspective.
Visitors can also fish off the beach for rockfish, calicos and halibut or try surf fishing – fishing while on a surfboard! Bird feeders around the campground make El Capitán a good spot for birdwatching, too, with hairy woodpeckers, American kestrels and red-tailed hawks making regular appearances. And of course, the blissful sandy shore beckons beachgoers with shaded picnic areas nearby.
How to Get to El Capitán State Beach
El Capitán State Beach is less than 30 minutes from Santa Barbara by car. Take Highway 101 north for 20 miles, and then take exit 117 toward El Capitán State Beach and turn left onto El Capitán State Beach Road.