El Capitan Camping Santa Barbara
Get out into nature by camping or Glamping in Santa Barbara at El Capitan Canyon! This post contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a commission if you shop through them.
El Capitan Canyon and State Beach are about 20 minutes North of Santa Barbara. While Ocean Mesa campground offers tent and RV campsites, the next-door Canyon resort offers a glamping experience in cedar cabins and yurts.
El Capitan Canyon is situated on 300 acres of tranquil wilderness. It’s an easy place to unwind in nature in a rustic environment without really roughing it. Let’s take a look at everything El Cap has to offer! This resort is on our list of Top Things to do in Santa Barbara with Kids.
El Capitan Santa Barbara Camping Options
There is a camping (or glamping) option for every budget in this area of Santa Barbara. Inexperienced campers may prefer the amenities of the cedar cabins, while those with tents and sleeping bags or an RV may prefer the Ocean Mesa campground.
El Capitan State Beach Camping
If you want to try Santa Barbara beach camping in a tent or RV, El Capitan State Beach is a great option. The campground at Ocean Mesa has a store, pool & hot tub, playground, wifi, and laundry facilities.
Tent sites are currently $64 and each site accommodates a total of 6 people. Each site includes a picnic table and firepit with a grill. There are also RV sites that are currently $100.
If you’re planning to camp in a tent be sure to check the weather forecast beforehand. Our friends had a very unpleasant experience camping due to extreme wind and most families packed up their tents and went home in the middle of the night.
Reserve your El Capitan Beach Camping site online.
El Capitan Canyon Cabins and Yurts
Located within a 10-minute walk inland of El Capitan State Beach and campground sits the El Capitan cabins and yurts. This glamping option is a great alternative if you don’t want the hassle of setting up a tent.
What exactly is glamping? Well, you can think of it as glamorous camping. Cedar cabins and yurts range in price from around $200 to $879 per night. This is clearly much more expensive than a typical camping site. However, it comes with electricity, en-suite bathrooms (cabins only), ready-to-cook meals, firewood delivery, and comfortable beds. As you can see, this is more of a resort than a do-it-yourself camping experience.
Where is El Capitan Canyon?
The address for the canyon resort is 11560 Calle Real, Santa Barbara, CA 93117. This is about 16 miles from midtown Santa Barbara, which will take you around 20 minutes by car. El Capitan Canyon and State Beach are just off the 101 Freeway. The downside to this is that there is some highway noise at the sites closest to the highway.
El Capitan Canyon Glamping Review
If you want to go camping but prefer to have a private bathroom, kitchen, and electricity, glamping is a great option. The resort offers plenty of free adult-sized beach cruiser bicycles for getting around the property and over to the beach.
Cabins at El Capitan Canyon
There are several types of cabins and canvas tents available to reserve at El Capitan Canyon for your Santa Barbara glamping experience. The staff was friendly and very helpful. They will deliver firewood right to your cabin and maintenance was quick to help fix minor issues such as a low battery in the smoke detector.
I booked the Corral Loft cabin at El Capitan Canyon for three pre-teen girls and myself. This cabin features a private bedroom, one bathroom, a small living/kitchen area, and an upstairs loft with three twin mattresses with bedding.
If traveling with a group of families with young children, look into reserving the Canyon Bunks cabins next to each other.
Our Corral Loft Cabin was clean, cute, and very comfortable. The loft was shorter than we imagined but fine for kids.
Each cabin comes with its own picnic table and firepit with a grill. Though there are many cabins, they feel quite private, as they are all situated facing the creek or away from each other.
The charming Canyon Market has nearly everything you might need to make your Santa Barbara glamping experience easy and enjoyable.
There is a large selection of local wines as well as other beverages, coffee in the morning, snacks, firewood, and more.
Canyon Market also offers a la carte menu items and grilling kits. We picked up a pizza and salads the first night and a veggie burger grilling kit the next. The veggie burgers were delicious and came with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles. We also loved the kale and beet salad and garden salad.
The market is a central place to hang out and enjoy coffee in the morning. In the summer, you can enjoy concerts and wine tastings on the lawn.
LLamas & Goats
Adorable llamas, goats, and sheep live on an El Capitan Canyon hillside overlooking the ocean. Currently, the pastures are open on Saturdays from 10 am-12 pm. Guests can pet and feed the animals.
To reach the llama farm, you’ll need to hike about a mile up the hill from the resort. Start at the trailhead market “llama hike” near Canyon Market. Don’t forget a bottle of water, closed-toe shoes, and a camera.
We spotted a snake and a raccoon during our weekend stay. Deer are also commonly seen and mountain lions live in the hills of Santa Barbara.
There are many grassy areas for kids to kick balls around and trails to wander. There is also a warm swimming pool and playground.
The resort features many of the same amenities as a hotel, even in the wilderness.
- Fire pits
- Warm pool
Things to Do at El Cap and Beyond
Check with the concierge to arrange things like kayaking, spa treatments, and wine tours – they are very helpful!
- Summer concerts at the Canyon Market
- Seasonal Wine tasting
- Weekend yoga classes
- Horseback riding at Circle Bar B dude ranch
- Drive 20 minutes to downtown Santa Barbara
- Drive 30 minutes North to Solvang
What to Bring to El Capitan Canyon
You’ll need much fewer supplies than when camping in a tent, and Canyon Market has nearly everything you would need. However, there are some things I was happy we brought and other things I wished we had.
My daughter packed her Dash mini waffle maker and used it to make cinnamon rolls, toast, and quesadillas! For a larger group, you might want to invest in a portable Blackstone Griddle.
The firepit did not provide enough light after dark and I wished I had brought our pop-up lanterns.
- Food (Canyon Market isn’t a full grocery store, so you’ll want to bring some of your own too)
- Cookware, especially grilling equipment such as tongs and a metal spatula, and a cast-iron skillet.
- Plates, silverware, wine bottle opener, napkins
- Marshmallow roasting skewers
- Folding chairs
- Bike helmets and kids’ bikes
- Beach towels
El Capitan State Beach
Walk, bike, or drive down to El Capitan Beach. To the left of the point you’ll find surfers and to the right beachgoers relaxing and playing in the water. You’ll also see people fishing and grilling their fresh catch.
We brought a picnic lunch to enjoy on the sand. There are attentive lifeguards in the towers who let us know when there were dangerous conditions.
Ocean Mesa campground is dog friendly, but dogs are not allowed on El Capitan State Beach. There is a camp store and restrooms nearby.
El Capitan State Beach is also a popular wedding venue. The wedding party and guests often stay at El Capitan Canyon and have a ceremony on the beach. One of the top-rated wedding officiants happens to be my mother, Barbara Mousours of I Do Santa Barbara.
Final Thoughts on Santa Barbara Glamping at El Capitan
El Capitan Canyon resort camping and glamping in Santa Barbara is a family-friendly getaway. If you’re looking for peace and quiet away from kids, check out the adults-only hotels in Big Sur such as Post Ranch Inn.
It would be a wonderful location for a family reunion or multi-family getaway. Rent a tent or RV site at Ocean Mesa campground for a true camping experience. Or reserve one of the cedar cabins or yurts in El Capitan Canyon to go glamping in Santa Barbara and enjoy the best of both worlds – nature and modern amenities.