Welcome to the feeling of camping in the 1970s: Advance registration for single sites is not available at Jalama Beach Park, located west of Lompoc in Santa Barbara County. From Highway 1, the 14-mile Jalama Road winds through coastal canyons and oak groves, rendering cell phones useless. WiFi – why no.
Known as “Jalama,” this is a serious place for surfers and windsurfers who brave the unpredictable winds, kelp-tangled currents and frigid waters year-round. Beachcombers, dogs and their best friends can explore miles of pristine sands, taking care to step around driftwood and unctuous black tar seeping from submarine deposits.
Jalama is named for the Chumash village of Xalam, meaning “bundle,” because Xalam was a gathering place between coastal and interior villages.
Camping is $20 a night. The famous Jalama Burger, cooked on the grill at Jalama Beach Store, helps warm the body after surfing in 49-degree summer water.
Be prepared for summertime crowds (think Kindercare in full operation) and expect to spend a first night in Buellton or Lompoc awaiting clearance for next-day camping. Jalama’s appeal is no secret – campers become numbers on a first-come, first-served wait list.
It’s an equidistant five-hour drive from San Diego or Santa Cruz for California friends meeting halfway.