A day at El Capitan State Beach, seventeen miles north on highway 101 from the City of Santa Barbara, could rival any European vacation. On the summer day we spent at El Capitan State Beach, the sea was mild, with gentle waves and morning dolphins. Gliding and splashing about in the ocean, a look back at the shoreline was a view of beautiful bluffs carved by the Pacific, beach-goers with colorful umbrellas, and the coastal hills.
El Capitan State Beach allows day-use visitors for a fee. The area is most commonly used for picnicking, surfing, sea kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, boogie boarding, swimming, fishing, biking, tide-pooling and camping. A small general store and bathrooms are found in the day-use parking area. A paved bike path stretches between El Capitan State Beach and Refugio State Beach, reaching about three miles in total.
Sleeping to the sound of ocean waves and the distant train makes the El Capitan camping experience downright dreamy. El Capitan State Beach is on the Southern California coastline, between Goleta and Point Conception, and includes a campground on top of a bluff overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean. The view, alone, is worth the overnight trip. This shady campground has 132 sites that can be reserved in advance. The bathrooms include flush toilets and coin-operated hot showers, a nice end to a day in the salty ocean (quarters and shower shoes are necessary!).
Campers can access the beach using a short cut path and stairway, while day-use beach-goers have access to the beach via a parking area. Be ready to scrub tar off the bottoms of your feet after being on the beach.
At low tide there is plenty of sand for a beach day, but a high tide will run every person and their umbrellas from the beach. It is advised to plan your beach day at El Capitan State Beach using a tide chart.