Glamping in South Carlsbad

JILL WEINLEIN

After graduating from UCLA, JIll traveled the world looking for unique destinations. She’s been writing about her travels for almost 30 years in various publications.

She writes a weekly restaurant review for the Beverly Press and Park LaBrea News. It’s inserted into the Los Angeles Times every Thursday and delivered to subscribers from Hancock Park to Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills to the Wilshire Corridor.

Glamping in South Carlsbad

BY JILL WEINLEIN

According to Kampgrounds of America, the proportion of first-time campers across the U.S. grew five-fold in 2020. One-third said they tried camping for the first time as a safer way to travel and avoid crowds, especially during the pandemic. For those adventurous value-oriented travelers, camping is an outdoor experience that heightens your senses.

Recently when a friend told me about Kuga Campervan, a little ‘capsule’ that provides minimal contact with the outside world, I was intrigued. I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t want to pitch a tent and sleep on the hard ground in a sleeping bag. I’m seeking a little more protection and comfort from the elements.

Driving to the Travellers Autobarn in Inglewood near LAX, there was a welcome sign for all the travelers who were renting their ‘house on wheels’. The informative staff introduced me to the fully-equipped features in the campervan. They are one of the only RV/campervan rental companies to offer free unlimited mileage with all vehicles. That eliminates a surprise cost at the end of the trip.

Climbing into the cab and driver’s seat, I noticed how easy it is to locate all of the controls and shift gears. There is room for three people to sit up front, or you can put the center seat down and have cup holders and a center arm cushion. Since it’s not as large as an standard recreation vehicle, vans are easier to maneuver to drive along highways and freeways to reach some of the most scenic places up and down the coast.

Taking a tour inside the Hitop combination living, dining and sleeping area, I noticed plenty of head room near the mini stovetop, sink, microwave and refrigerator. I flipped a switch to turn on the running water in the sink for hand washing and washing dishes. Underneath the sink is storage space for pots and pans, plates and utensil, a kettle and non-perishable food items.

The refrigerator runs off a solar panel, and is large enough to keep about two to three days of food, and the two burner cooktop runs off of a propane tank that is stored outside in a cabinet towards the back of the van. There is also a microwave that can be used when hooked up at a RV campground. There are two padded benches inside and a table for dining and playing cards. The table can be removed and stored at the end of the day to make a double size bed for sleeping. The van is equipped with a heater for chilly nights, as well as a hot water bottle, and extra sleeping bags at no charge.

For my first campervan experience, beachfront camping at South Carlsbad State Beach sounded ideal. This popular bluff-top campground is located 85 miles from Los Angeles and 50 miles north of San Diego. Inland campsites are $35 per night and ocean campsites are $50. If I wanted to use the microwave, an inland hookup is $60 and an ocean site is $75. Check in is at 2 p.m. and check out is at noon. There is a camp store for firewood, ice, and groceries.

Driving down to the campground, I noticed some sites are near a restroom, and all have a fire pit and picnic bench. Stairs lead to the beach for long walks, swimming, boogie boarding and surfing. This is one of the most popular surfing beaches, so I recommend setting up camp at a site with an unobstructed ocean view to sit and watch the surfers and dolphins skimming along the waves.

Throughout the day, I noticed people riding electric bicycles on the newly paved campground road. I walked into town along the beach and rented a Pedego electric bicycle in at the Pedego shop in nearby Carlsbad Village. These bikes are easy and fun to ride along the designated Coastal Rail Trail bike path and wide bike path running along the beach to neighboring Encinitas and Oceanside.

Across the street from the campground is the Cape Rey Carlsbad Beach, a Hilton Resort & Spa. Inside is Chandler’s Restaurant serving breakfast, lunch or dinner, and a full spa for an even more glamping experience.

Each night I feel asleep listening to the waves, and in the morning walked to Chandler’s for a healthy green smoothy beverage and hearty Eggs Benedict with potatoes. That’s my kind of camping.

For more information about Travellers Autobarn call 800-469-4790. Locations for pick up besides Los Angeles include San Francisco, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas. To reserve a California State Parks site, go to website at www.parks.ca.gov/southcarlsbad. To learn more about what to see and do in Carlsbad, go to https://visitcarlsbad.com.

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