Most of the time the first image that comes to mind when you think of camping is mountains, valleys, pine forests, and river towns. But never really beaches. But guess what? The coastline is as good as any for your next camping trip!

Believe it or not, Malibu – a beach city favored primarily by surfers, beach lovers, and celebrities – has some of the best campgrounds in the state of California.  

As one of California’s most popular beach areas, Malibu and the surrounding region stretches for about 27 miles, and is nestled between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Mountains. With a temperature that rarely-ever goes below 50 Fahrenheit, the climate in Malibu is warm and temperate.

As a result, for most days of the year, you don’t have to worry about your Malibu camping trip being ruined by bad weather. Especially with an average of 280 sunny days a year!

As we know this place well, we’ve decided to share with you our favorite Malibu campgrounds below. All will bring you breathtaking views and wonderful adventures in one of California’s most beautiful spots. (Related: Incredible Hikes in Malibu for Adventure Lovers).

We then share with you information on dispersed camping in Malibu and the rules around it, before looking at the best time to go camping in Malibu.

So read on to begin your Malibu camping adventure!

Malibu camping

The Six Best Campgrounds in Malibu for Fun, Views & Adventure!

There’s a wide range of landscapes in Malibu, from dramatic mountains and canyons to those world-famous Malibu beach scenes.

Our six favorite Malibu campgrounds and RV parks will bring you all of that, as well as all the fun and adventure you could possibly need!

1. Malibu Beach RV Park

With Malibu being a beach city, it is to be expected that one of the city’s best RV parks is situated on the beach!

Located to the west of Pepperdine University this place has 142 RV sites and up to 35 tent sites – all with either an ocean or mountain view. In fact Malibu Beach RV Park is one of the largest of its kind in the area, so expect lots going on and plenty of opportunities to socialise.

Apart from common beach activities such as swimming, body surfing, and beachcombing, the park also facilitates activities like fishing and hiking, and has some of the best facilities in the area (see below).

You can spot dolphins all through the year from this Malibu campground and RV park, but whale watching is limited to the months of March-April and October-November. If you’re looking for a Malibu beach camping experience, this will be a hard one to beat!

Amenities and Facilities

Unlike most of the state park campgrounds in the area which have quite basic facilities, this privately-owned park offers a large number of amenities.

Starting with basic requirements such as bathrooms with heated showers, picnic tables, and fire pits, this site even has self-service washers and dryers, a convenience store, and cable TV hookup! So your stay will likely be immensely comfortable, no matter how long it might be. The park also offers limited WiFi.

Tired of sunbathing and want to rest in the shade for a while? No problem. This Malibu campground and RV park has a recreation room with a large screen TV just for situations like these.

A children’s play area and an outdoor game room with a ping-pong table and pool table can also be found on site.

What’s Close By

Solstice Canyon: 1.5 miles away from the park lies the Solstice Canyon, featuring various options for easy, moderate, as well as difficult trails passing by attractions such as Keller House, Solstice Waterfall, and Roberts Ranch.

Escondido Falls: One of the finest waterfalls in Los Angeles when it flows strong, this one is a 3.8 mile round trip hike that starts just off the Pacific Highway.

While this waterfall’s 150 feet tall upper-tier is hard to reach, it has a lower tier that is 50 feet tall. Do visit and give yourself a chance to sit beneath the falls and feel the water sprawling onto the rocks below. It’s pretty special.

Calamigos Beach Club, Restaurant, and Lounge: Top your amazing weekend with a bite from this restaurant that has an ocean view, live music, and a great ambiance. Click here to find out more! 

The Important Info

Rates: Starting at $70 per night

Address: 25801 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

Malibu camping

2. Malibu Creek State Park Campground

Just 30 miles from urban Los Angeles and four miles south of Highway 101 on Malibu Canyon Road lies the 8000-acre beautiful landmass of Malibu Creek State Park.

Known as the ‘Yosemite of Southern California’ for its endless plains, gigantic peaks, and wildlife, this park has been a popular film location for years due to those gorgeous natural landscapes. 

As for camping, the park contains 62 tent campsites and four RV campsites for RVs of 30 ft or less. All of which are surrounded by breathtaking peaks and often visited by herds of deer. If you have dogs, note that they are allowed on the campground, but not on the trails. 

This Malibu campground is a great place to stay for hikers and mountain bikers. The park is known for its 15-mile trail up the mountains that winds its way through oak and sycamore trees. But it offers various hiking options for everyone from beginners to those looking for a demanding climb.

Due to its steep terrain, the park and its campground really is the perfect base for some serious biking. Mountain bikers prefer Bulldog Road and Mesa Peak Motorway for their reduced number of hikers, while beginners can have as much fun along Crags Road, the primary hiking trail of the park. Other activities you can engage in while camping here include rock climbing, kayaking, horseback riding, and bird watching. 

If you’re looking for a Malibu camping option jam-packed with outdoor activities, but still with good facilities, this will be a great choice.

Amenities and Facilities 

The campsites have picnic tables and firepits, while the campground itself has clean flush toilets, and showers. The showers are solar-heated, but anyone who needs a guaranteed hot shower may have to purchase tokens at the front office. 

If you prefer to have someone explain the wildlife and history of the park to you while you hike, then try out the “Welcome to Malibu Creek State Park Walk”. Starting at 10 am on one Saturday or Sunday of each month, a park employee leads you through a two and half hour hike under the oak trees that span the park. 

What’s Close By

M*A*S*H set: Though most of Malibu Creek’s Hollywood legacy has been lost over time, the exterior set of the M*A*S*H television show still remains along Crags Road, the main hiking trail in the park.

Malibu Hindu Temple: Interested in learning a bit about the Hindu religion and its culture? Head over to the Malibu Hindu temple half a mile from the campground. Built in 1981, the white marble structure has intricate carvings and breathtaking designs. 

Malibu Wine Hikes: Situated 10 miles away, this tour along the vineyards is a treat for your eyes and tastebuds! Click here to find out more. 

The Important Info

Rates: Starting at $45 per night

Address: 1925 Las Virgenes Road, Calabasas, CA 91302

Malibu camping

3. Sycamore Canyon Campground

Tucked in a grove of sycamore trees, the Sycamore Canyon Campground is home to around 58 campsites for tents and RVs of 31 ft. or less. It’s basic, but this place is all about getting back to nature.

Housed within the Point Mugu State Park along with the Thornhill Broome Campground, this Malibu camping option is within walking distance of 3.6 miles of ocean shoreline. This side of the park is complemented by rocky bluffs, sand dunes, rugged hills, grassy valleys, and two major river canyons spaced across the rest of the area. 

Hiking trails spanning around 70 miles leading from the shores of the beach to peaks of the Boney Mountains State Wilderness Area are major attractions for campers who use this Malibu campground.

But owing to its popularity due to being in such a fantastic natural setting and within walking distance of the coast, this campground is packed with visitors during the holidays. So for popular times of the year it is best to reserve spots at least 6 months in advance.

The campground rules regulate that all loud music be turned off by 10 pm, giving a quiet and serene touch to any camping experience here. You will go to sleep and wake up to the sounds of nature. It’s bliss.

Biking is an activity favored by most visitors, and the Sycamore Canyon Campground offers some ideal trails if you aren’t looking for something too demanding. .

The Sycamore Canyon Trail is very popular amongst hikers, and it’s a must do trail if you stay at this campground. But there are also numerous single-track trails branching off of it, which will bring you moments of solitude away from the crowds to enjoy the beautiful landscape.

Plus with great waves and breaks on its nearby beach, this Malibu campground is also an excellent choice if you want to try surfing. 

Amenities and Facilities

All campsites have fire rings and picnic tables, while there are showers and bathrooms situated at three locations across the site.

Pets are allowed within the campground, and it’s also wheelchair accessible in most parts. 

What’s Close By

Sycamore Cove: This sandy beach is unlike most of the rock-strewn shores along the Sycamore Canyon Campground. It’s ideal for swimming, body surfing, and fishing.

The five miles of coastline there also have picnic tables and barbecue pits, and a nearby nature center offers information on the area’s wildlife.

Sandy Dune: Lay out your picnic blanket and watch the vibrant sunset at Sandy Dune, half a mile west of Sycamore Canyon Campground. Climbing to the top of the dune can be quite a workout, but it will be worth the effort!

The Important Info

Rates: Starting at $45 per night

Address: 9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265 

Malibu camping

4. Thornhill Broome Campground

Located 15 miles south of Oxnard on Pacific Coast Highway in Point Mugu State Park, this wonderful beachfront campground provides up to 68 campsites for tents and RVs of 31 ft. or less.

Unlike many of the campgrounds in Malibu and the surrounding area, Thornhill Broome does not have direct access to hiking trails or many shady spots. As a result, this place is much more suited for RV campers than tents.

The main attraction of the campground is that except for the rocky coast there is nothing between your allotted campsite and the crashing waves! So if you are looking forward to parking your RV on the beach and treating yourself to a beautiful sunset, this is the place for you. 

Owing to the fact that the campground is situated right on the coast, there isn’t much chance for recreation except for sunbathing. Since the beach is highly rock-strewn, swimming isn’t recommended either. 

But this really is a wonderful Malibu beach camping option if you’re looking for gorgeous seafront views.

Amenities and Facilities

The campsites have picnic tables, fire pits, and token-operated toilets. But other than this, the campground doesn’t really have too much facility wise. However it is one of the cheapest Malibu camping options available.

Since the nearest convenience store is about 12 miles away, make sure you come packed with all the supplies you need. 

What’s Close By

Scenic Trail: A few minutes away from the campground lies this moderately difficult trail, offering stunning views of everything from the Santa Monica Mountains and the Thornhill Broome Beach to the sand dunes below. 

La Jolla Beach: Located north of Thornhill Broome Campground lies La Jolla Beach with its rocky shores and small crowds.

If you are lucky, you might be able to catch a glimpse of seals, dolphins, and pelicans. The beach is a favored family picnic spot among visitors. 

The Important Info

Rates: Starting at $35 per night

Address: 9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Malibu camping

5. Leo Carrillo State Park Campground

What is the point of vacationing in a beach town if you don’t get to explore some coral reefs? If you happen to have similar thoughts, Leo Carrillo State Park could be the place for you. 

Located 28 miles northwest of the Santa Monica Mountains on the Pacific Coast Highway, this state park is unique for its tide pools, reefs, and coastal caves. With a huge kelp forest and substantial reefs that extend past the kelp covers into the depths, the beach at Leo Carrillo is one of a kind.

As for camping, the campground here consists of 135 sites that can hold tents as well as RVs of 31 ft. or less. There’s also better than usual facilities considering it’s a state park campground.

The vibrant marine life and shallow bottom make Leo Carrillo State Beach an ideal place for snorkeling as well as scuba enthusiasts. The beach offers numerous options for diving, but we think the spot next to lifeguard tower number 2 might be a better choice due to the kelp forest nearby.

Leo Carrillo Beach Trail, Yellow Hill Trail, and Nicholas Flat Trail are a few of the popular trails in the region too. 

If you’re a keen snorkeler or scuba diver, then it’s hard to beat this Malibu camping option.

Amenities and Facilities

Each campsite on the park is provided with its own picnic table and fire ring, and a few of the sites even have electric hookups for RVs.

Forgot some camping essentials? No issues. Leo Carrillo has its own camp store in the middle of the campground. Flush toilets and coin-operated showers are also part of the facilities available on site. 

What’s Close By

Nicholas Flat Trail: It’s one of the most challenging hikes in Leo Carrillo, but walking along Nicholas Flat is a highly rewarding experience.

Climbing almost 1700 feet above the Pacific Coast, the trail moves through different plant communities. The grasslands at the top are most beautiful in the spring when the wildflowers start blooming. 

Dog Beach: Half a mile away from the campground lies this clean, quiet, and dog-friendly beach. This is one of the only beaches in Malibu where dogs are allowed, although dogs are still expected to be kept on a leash. 

The Important Info

Rates: Starting at $45 per night

Address: 35000 W. Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

6. Circle X Ranch Group Campground

Interested in setting camp in the valley of Boney Mountain? Then head over to the Circle X Ranch Group Campground – a single campsite that accommodates large groups.

This former boy scout camp features a handful of recreational activities from hiking and mountain biking to boulder scrambling through spots with names as intense as Death by Chocolate and Crash and Burn. 

Unfortunately, the campgrounds are made to accommodate only tents. The climate around Circle X Ranch features hot, dry summers, and wet winters.

The area around the campground is filled with every kind of plant species, most of which are shrubs and ferns. The trails leading out of the campground pass through rugged terrain, so you will need the right kind of hiking gear. 

Amenities and Facilities

The campground features a single campsite that can accommodate a maximum of 75 people. The site is spacious and has picnic tables, barbeque pits, fire rings, water hookups, and a comfort station. 

What’s Close By

The Grotto: This boulder-filled canyon is situated at a 475 feet descent from the campground. The three-mile round trip single-track trail from the visitor center to the Grotto is one of the most attractive features of Circle X Ranch. It follows a creek down the mountain and is surrounded by wildflowers on both sides. 

Inspiration Point: Partake in a moderate-intensity hike of three miles from the ranch along the Backbone Trail to this spot of 2800 feet elevation. The reward is a breathtaking view of the valley below. 

The Important Info

Rates: Starting at $35 per night

Address: 12896 Yerba Buena Road, Malibu, CA 90265

Dispersed Camping in Malibu & California

The city of Malibu has a No Camping Ordinance that clearly restricts all forms of overnight camping within the city limit, except in designated campgrounds. The city limit stretches for some miles outside the actual urban area of Malibu.

Though people tend to ignore that ordinance from time to time, it is recommended that you visit one of the above-mentioned campgrounds so as to have a safe and seamless camping experience. 

So while you can’t camp on the beach in Malibu or close to the city, you should be able to camp inland as dispersed camping is allowed in California as long as it’s on state ground and you abide by certain rules.

Malibu camping

Land looked after by the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and other state institutions will be publicly owned. Typically any areas that are green on Google Maps are also publicly owned. A great state map, such as this one could help in finding camping spots too.

Just be aware that there are a few areas where dispersed camping in California is forbidden:

  • You are not allowed to camp in or near paid campsites (you must be at least one mile away), trailheads, or recreation areas.

  • You are not allowed to camp within 100 meters of a water source (springs, rivers, water catchments etc).

  • Areas that specifically state ‘closed to camping’ or similar are forbidden (such as within city limits). Each state forest and BLM area also often has several regions where dispersed camping is not allowed. When you know which region or state forest you wish to camp in, you can check that state forest or BLM area’s official page for where restrictions exist.

  • Campers are asked to not camp in the middle of a clearing or meadow, and to make any campsite hidden so not to spoil the landscape for other people.

Sometimes permits are also required to camp – often in the most popular parks. 

Malibu camping

Malibu Camping: The Best Time to Camp

Like most beach towns, Malibu is also famous for its summer. But as with most beach towns, these are also the most crowded months, making it next to impossible for you to find space or privacy in any of the city’s designated campgrounds.

Luckily, Malibu has a year-round climate with around 280 sunny days, meaning the city and region can be just as fun in the fall, spring, and winter as it is in the summer. But it is probably better to avoid winter if you and your tent don’t want to be caught in an unexpected downpour!

Another way to fix a month for your getaway is by taking a look at what’s happening in Malibu round the year. The famous Malibu Chili Cook-Off happens in the month of September and is followed by the Beer and BBQ festival and major food festivals. So if you’re a keen foodie you may want to play your Malibu camping trip around these events.

Winter brings whale migration with it and also turns Malibu into a surfer’s paradise. Whilst spring is probably the best month for hikers and trekkers, as the temperatures are decent for hiking and this is when the trails and canyons IN the Santa Monica Mountains bloom with wildflowers. 

So pick a season that suits you, keep an eye out for major events happening at the time, book a spot at the campground of your preference, pack your tent, and come enjoy Malibu!