Day use parking and camping are available at several locations along this 3,000 acre park.
San Onofre Bluffs: camping & day-use parking along Old Highway 101 adjacent to the sandstone bluffs. Beach is accessed by rugged dirt trails. Campground includes outdoor cold showers and chemical toilets. No hook-ups.
San Onofre Surf Beach: Day use only. No camping. Fire pits available.
San Mateo Campground: an inland campground. Fire pits, picnic tables. Hookup sites are available with electricity and water. Other amenities includes a dump-station, hot indoor showers, and flush toilets. Camping is available year-round.
During our camping trip at San Mateo Campground which is about 1 1/2 miles inland from the beach of San Onofre, we drove into the State Beach area off of Basilone Road. The $15 entrance fee was waived because of our camping pass.
We drove south on the frontage road that parallels the 5 freeway until we reached the other camping and beach access areas of San Onofre Bluffs. We got all of our things out, started down the trail to the beach, and realized that we had a long trail, steep cliffs, and about 200 feet of elevation drop down to the water. Going down might not be a problem, but we knew going up would be.
Perhaps the beach would have been perfect for the day... and perhaps other families have had a great experience, but we decided to pack up our things and head to San Clemente State Beach where we knew the sand and water were a short walk from the parking lot.