Driftwood swing, Jalama Beach
  • Driftwood swing, Jalama Beach
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We left at 12:00 a.m., Tuesday, October 25, 2011, en route to Jalama Beach County Park from San Diego for a surf trip. Research told us that campers have to arrive at the park's flag post at 6 a.m. sharp in order to make a waiting list for the prime oceanfront real estate – miss the meeting, forget about a spot. It's first come, first serve.

Driving in the middle of the night is torture on the mind and eyes, but well worth it for patience’s sake since we missed the Sea of Brake Lights, Los Angeles. After arriving in Santa Barbara at 3:30 a.m., we filled the gas tank and rested in a bank parking lot. By 5:00 a.m. we were awake and prepared to complete our drive to Jalama.

On a map, Jalama appears to be a straight shot off Pacific Coast Highway 1. The small bush-covered sign on the roadside directed us to turn left to our destination. The joke was on us, however, when we encountered 14 miles of driving in darkness through switchbacks. Lurking between 10-15 miles an hour, the only sign that told us we were on the right track was the presence of bright spaceship-shaped oil rigs offshore.

We safely arrived at the campground a little after 6, before sunrise, without a ranger in sight and ample oceanfront camping spots.

After an hour of waiting, napping, then watching the waves, we set off and marked our spot with the tent, camping gear and surfboards. For $20/night, Spot 73 was our home for the next 3 days.

We enjoyed a technology-free surf trip, glassy waves, dolphins, long, peaceful walks on the endless strand of beach, classic California fall weather, gorgeous pink and purple sunrises, a nighttime sky full of stars (hard to miss), campfires, French press coffee, and crafty raccoons in the mix.

Jalama was a spontaneous choice, and one that I’m completely stoked about. I love this place. I really hope that it stays as it is – without developers even considering it as a location for the next coastal planned development.


1) 4.5 hr drive from San Diego (without cars on the road in the middle of the night)
2) Site rates vary by season, location and amenities
3) Fall is the best time of year
4) Shower usage costs $0.50 for 3 minutes
5) Store your food and coolers in the car at night to avoid raccoons
6) Clean up after yourself, and sometimes others
7) Lastly, enjoy this sliver of California coast that the Chumash Native Americans once occupied. They were savvy in their real estate pickings.

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