Jalama Beach County Park
An hour’s drive from Santa Barbara, Jalama Beach is a part of the Santa Barbara County Parks. From the 101 freeway, the drive in to Jalama Beach is fourteen miles of some of the curviest road you’ve experienced. However, it is an opportunity to experience ranches, vineyards, undeveloped California landscape, and an end at the spectacular Central California coastline. The campground is tucked in some lowlands, with dramatic cliffs and coastal hills just beyond. This area can be enjoyed as day use ($10), but is best appreciated by spending evening time on the beach, having a burger at the grill for dinner, and camping overnight.
Staying Overnight at Jalama Beach
Camping at Jalama requires reservations for a minimum of two nights on weekends (Friday/Saturday), and three nights for three day holiday weekends. Reservations can be made up to six months in advance and start at $30 per night. Additionally, there are sixteen walk-in sites. These are not reservable, rather, the front gate starts a wait list each morning at 8am.
The campground offers tent sites, RV sites, water spigots, barbecue pits and picnic tables. It is obvious that seagulls spend a lot of time on, or above, the tables, so a table cloth is recommended. Restrooms with flush toilets and sinks are available, as are showers in individual room stalls. Showers are coin operated and you will get a three minute luke-warm shower for four quarters. The Amtrak Surfliner train cruises by the campground a few times a day, but, maybe because the tracks are up on the hillside or because the winds are howling here, the noise of the train didn’t seem to be a problem. For four walls to protect you at night from the winds, Jalama offers a reservable cabin option. Cabins sit on the hillside and have sliding glass doors with a world class view of the Pacific Ocean, private bathrooms, and kitchenettes. Note that there is no cell service at Jalama Beach. I found a local wi-fi, but was unable to connect to it. Cell range is about half way out the winding road.
The Beach at Jalama
The beach can be accessed by multiple spots from the campground. The sand is only steps from campsites, there. The Jalama Beach Store broadcasts a live Surf Cam, if you’d like to take a look at the beach, it’s surf break, or surf forecast. At low tide, the tide pools are exposed salt water pools of small sea life, including crabs, sea urchins, and mussels. Non-slip water shoes are advised, as is tar remover. The Jalama Beach Store sells single use packets of tar remover if you need it.
Windy. That is all.
Although Jalama Beach is a thirty minute, carsick ride to the City of Lompoc, the campground does have a small store with basic camping and cooking supplies that include basic groceries and pick-up food. In fact, the Jalama Beach Store is world famous for its Jalama burgers, no kidding. Try telling the people around you, vegetarians included, that you are going to Jalama. Chances are, they will respond with, “They have really good burgers.” The mystery of the Jalama Burger is that no one knows if it is the sauce, the pickles, the seasoning on the meat, or simply the view that makes these burgers so good. I will say that it was the best burger I have ever had.
A key camping comfort item for trips like these is the Sea to Summit kitchen sink for washing dishes. It comes in a few sizes and is made of fabric, so it can be folded up when not in use. The Basin is the largest, holds twenty liters, and is the size featured in this photo. When filled with water, the kitchen sink will stand alone. These camping sinks are the answer to dish washing in a camp kitchen. We fill ours halfway with cold water from the campground spigot, then heat water to pour into the sink to make the washing water warm.