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“Natural Beauty”
Review of Sunset State Beach

Sunset State Beach
Ranked #2 of 21 things to do in Watsonville
Certificate of Excellence
Attraction details
Morongo Valley
Level 3 Contributor
20 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Natural Beauty”
Reviewed 20 October 2013

Always a pleasure to see such beauty and to know it is being preserved for the future. There are many such places to enjoy in the area along the coast from Santa Cruz to Monterey.

Visited October 2013
1 Thank Maxine F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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67 reviews from our community

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English first
North Fork, California
Level 5 Contributor
92 reviews
21 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 110 helpful votes
“Unprepared for the challenges here”
Reviewed 27 September 2013

This is very long, but necessary.

Three of us stayed at the campground for three nights. We arrived in two vehicles, but got separated due to traffic. The first person to arrive at the gate was met with a very unfriendly employee, who did not appreciate that all three of us hadn't arrived at the exact same time. No matter what, she couldn't be bothered with a smile, a "have a nice stay" or a "you're welcome" when we said thank you. Just a constant scowl and the attitude that we were bothering her a great deal. Same routine with the second vehicle in our party. We also had to go four or five miles to find an ATM machine because the driver of the second vehicle had to pay an additional $30 parking fee and they do not accept credit or debit cards, and we had no cash. Then we found another campground with an ATM and had to try three times to make it work! Plus almost got hit by somebody driving too fast around a blind curve.

Our camp site, at $35 a night, had two parking spaces, but I think it's a rip-off to have to pay another $10 per night to be allowed to use that second space. Especially since the space was under a pine tree that dripped a lot of sap all over my son's new vehicle. We asked if we could park in a space across from us, if it was going to be empty anyway, but they said no, despite the fact that the parking we paid for was basically unusable. Why are we forced to spend more money to use the second space? It's not like anyone else is going to be using it in our camp site. All of the trees in the campground were seriously diseased and dripping sap. I saw some bore-holes in the trunks, and "sawdust" from the insects that made the holes (bark beetles?) and in many cases, the sap was hanging in long strands. Our picnic table was also completely unusable because it was covered in pine pitch. I would recommend getting a site that had a table and parking away from the trees. So basically, we paid $45 a night to get our vehicles covered in sap. Not cool. We also had to leave our shoes outside the camper due to stepping in sap.

Now let's talk about the skunks and raccoons that wander through the camp sites every night. There was a sign by the restrooms that said campers need to stop feeding the wildlife because the skunks and raccoons eat the once-plentiful snowy plover eggs and chicks. But as I see it, the problem lies not so much with the campers as with the cheap plastic lids on the trash bins where we are all supposed to deposit our garbage. The raccoons easily lift these lids and crawl inside the bins in order to rip open the trash bags and feast on the contents. They also visit every one of the old, beat-up wooden food lockers at each camp site, and if you don't have a padlock on them, the raccoons open the latches.

We saw several campers nearby who made the mistake of placing their food in the lockers and the raccoons made a huge mess of it, breaking bottles, rolling cans and eating whatever they could get into. We weren't about to put ANYTHING in the nasty locker at our camp site because it was invaded with ants, spiders, gnats, beetles and some other flying insect. Raccoons came twice and opened the door to check for treats. Not very many people are aware that almost all raccoon feces is infected with a horrible, often deadly-to-humans parasite that once inside your body, bores out through your eyes. It can also bore into your brain. Even if a dog just rolls in the feces and you pet the dog, the parasite eggs can get on your hands, and you might then rub your eye or mouth or otherwise unknowingly infect yourself. So the raccoons might be cute, but campgrounds are no place for them. They eat, they poop. And woe to the campers who have dogs, especially if the dogs are not kept strictly on the leash and inside at night. The skunks will come right into camp -- then what do you do on a camping trip when your dog gets sprayed? Even the ride home would be an impossible feat.

The parking spaces at our site (number 21) were not leveled before being paved, so be prepared to do a little work if you have a camper or RV, unless you don't mind it being a little tipsy-turvy. The photos on the web site make the spaces look more secluded than they really are, so you are likely to have some close neighbors. If you are lucky, they will not have a yappy dog that thinks you are an intruder every time you take a step. We weren't lucky in that respect.

As per usual, firewood gathering is not permitted and the state discourages any out-of-county firewood being brought in, as a pest prevention tactic. Bundles of firewood can be purchased from the camp host, who is very nice, or at the entrance station. You get five pieces of wood in a net bag and some fire starter for $10. The sale of firewood benefits the Friends of the Santa Cruz State Parks. On a positive note, at this time of year, it is one of the few campgrounds where you can have a fire pit. I would not camp anyplace where we couldn't have a fire! Ours was almost full of old ashes, though, and needed to be cleaned out. There is a partial grate you can use for cooking.

The bathrooms were pretty old, and it looked like cleaning was maybe limited to washing the floors with bleach. I guess they do clean the toilet bowls, but maybe only the seats and the inside of the bowls. The lower part of the toilets (there are three toilets in the women's side, all shared with the rest of the campers at South Camp) were pretty stained and streaked -- looked like something I wouldn't want my legs to touch. But that is pretty difficult, as the doors open inward and are about two inches away from the seats, so you have to stand alongside the toilet, against the wall, to get out. Toilet paper is provided and it was of good quality, but there are no paper towels or electric hand dryers provided for when you wash your hands at the two sinks. And no soap, either. There is hot and cold water.

There are two shower stalls and it costs 25 cents for 2 minutes of shower time. If you are lucky, you can nab a shower right after somebody else uses it, as it took at least a minute for the hot water to kick in. Allow plenty of time if you need to use a sink in the morning, as sometimes women take a long time blow-drying their hair and putting on makeup. The two metal mirrors are stationed right above the sinks. Kind of a long walk from the far side of South Camp (sites 19 -25). At night WATCH OUT for those skunks! And if you are scared of raccoons, watch out at the dumpsters at night. They are like jack-in-the-boxes with those "dumpsters"!

There are some feral cats that hang around, poor things. They weren't any trouble, however. I hope they stay safe from the raccoons, which are known to kill and eat cats, at least their stomachs, anyway.

We found that walking down to the beach on the long staircase was not for us (worse yet is the walk back up), so we drove down there. That area has covered places where you can gather at picnic tables and use BBQ grills. There are flush toilet bathroom facilities and an outdoor shower head for washing the sand off your feet. To get to the water, there is a small hill to walk over. Please beware of the rip tide (undertow) at this beach. Never take your eyes off your kids. Dogs are not allowed AT ALL on Sunset Beach, leashed or not, but they are at Manresa Beach, not far away. (I still saw dog turds rolling in and out with the breakers, however, as well as people who had loose dogs there! So not cool!)

Some of the sites at this campground are situated right on the edge of farm fields, and we found that the tractors often begin as early as 5 a.m. There were also some field workers who had a radio on super loud and all could hear a lot of yelling and laughing as well as the radio. The tractors were sometimes loud enough to block out the sound of the ocean waves breaking on the shore.

Oh, and the wind can get really bad. We were afraid that on one night, it was going to be much too windy to have a camp fire. The spaces that are closest to the ocean, especially one with a clear ocean view, got the worst of the wind, I believe. The "view site" got so windy the campers there had to leave for the night. Not sure where they went, perhaps a motel? I was sure their tent was going to rip apart and blow away. But that stands to reason -- with a clear ocean view, there are no dunes or trees to block that wind! It looked much too windy to camp there. Looks appealing on the chart/map, though!

Thanks for reading this long entry. I had lots to say in order to help others to be fully prepared and know what to expect. I hope you have a great camping experience and that I have helped, even if just a little.

Visited September 2013
22 Thank CatdaBrat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Francisco, California
Level 5 Contributor
41 reviews
31 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 42 helpful votes
Reviewed 7 September 2013 via mobile

Been camping here for more than a decade. I just love it here because of proximity to the beach. Large campsites, showers available, well maintained. As the years passed by, the charge
per night also inreased which i think is pricey for $35/ night. Some campsites still charge $20/night.. The bathrooms never got renovated. Some of the reasons why we keep coming here because it is only a 90 mins drive from home, the breath taking views of the pacific coast and the ambiance. It is very family oriented. 5 minutes walk and you will be at the beach. The only draw back is, it is also open to public for day use and the beach could be very crowded. In a hot and clear day, swimming and dipping in waters is very ideal. Will continue to camp here every year. Reservations for summer starts as early as January. Always mark your calendar to get a spot.

Visited July 2013
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
San Diego, California
Level 4 Contributor
26 reviews
13 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 25 helpful votes
“Beautiful beach & nice campsite.”
Reviewed 22 August 2013 via mobile

Wish we had more than one night here. The beach is accessible via a staircase or you can drive down to the parking lot. You have to walk over a dune to reach beach. Beach is gorgeous, foggy during our visit, almost deserted, lots of sand dollars. We bought fire wood onsite and wished we had lighter fluid because it didn't light easy even with kindling and a starter. Wood cost ten bucks. Quiet time not enforced but they weren't too obnoxious so who am I to interfere. I could hear the ocean at night. Very nice.

Visited August 2013
6 Thank plmok
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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