Before planning our vacation, I couldn’t find any first hand information of peoples’ experiences, so here’s ours.
From the start, it was confusing gaining access to the actual cottage site.The GPS directed us to the San Onofre exit that is open to the public, but you cannot access the military grounds via this route, its completely closed off. You want the San Onofre GATE, not the San Onofre exit and if you hit Camp Pendleton MAIN GATE, you’ve gone too too far. There are two ID checks required and they are thorough, so dependents be prepared to surrender your cards.
They have one pet friendly unit which we booked 10 weeks in advance, but when we arrived they claimed we did not reserve the pet unit (which is such bullshit because we always travel with our dog ). Though it was their error, they were prepared to turn us away but my husband laid down the business and they put us up in a regular unit for the night. This unit was really nice, it was clean and in pristine condition. It had a beautiful view of the ocean with adorable lounge chairs and a picnic bench. I think the only negative I can say about this unit is that it was really close to other cottages (I could see clearly into their windows) with no fence to separate them. The one night we were there just happened to be a time when someone rented the unit right next to us and invited 50 of their friends (no exaggeration) and decided it was in their best interest to engage in some screaming diatribe with a pizza place that couldn’t even deliver on the base. “Oh you’ll be seeing my review on yelp!!!!!”
The next day we packed up all our belongings to move over to the dog unit. We were told it would take about an hour to clean up the cottage, but not to worry because they would make sure ours would get priority since that was the one we were originally supposed to be in. We traveled down to the main part of Camp Pendleton, which was about 20 minutes away on the freeway. We couldn’t do much because we had the girl in her kennel in the back and I would never leave her in the car alone in May even if the air conditioning was on. We did manage to kill 3 hours because Stephen decided to take the long way back (noooooooooooo Basilone road!), which was interesting because Camp Pendleton is just humongous. When we tried to check back in, they had not even started on our room so they called housekeeping and 20 mins later she was in there cleaning. She did a half ass job (not her fault) because we were waiting around the outside and the managers at the front desk don’t know how to manage, they’re just pro at eyerolls and excuses.
Straight away, the difference between the dog unit and the others is glaringly obvious. It was just a mess on the outside, absolutely no upkeep has been done on this unit and there were dead rats underneath the porch stairs (which they never came to clean up). It wasn’t so bad that it would cause me to run away screaming, but it is a bit rustic.
I wouldn’t have a problem with this normally, except for the fact they charge you $20 extra a night for this unit which they do not tell you on the price sheet or over the phone. This unit is not worth that extra money. There is no daily housekeeping and if there is any damage done to the unit by the dog, you have to pay for that damage. Which makes it unclear what the extra $20 is for, especially considering they charge people who are renting RV spots that extra money also.
Despite some minor hiccups, we had a great time. You’re about 3 minutes from the beach, and I mean, 3 minutes walking from the door to sand in your toes closeness. Growing up we would vacation in California and hit up a beach or two. This was the first Californian beach that I have ever seen that was actually clean with BLUE water (most have black water with f’n seaweed everywhere). Now, it’s not Caribbean blue…because that water is just insanely clear, but it was clear enough that I wasn’t scared to stand there for a long periods of time. The water was ice cold when we visited, but it didn’t stop us from “swimming” (really just standing waist deep and getting crushed by waves). Peaceful surroundings and a gorgeous scenery makes up for its shortcomings.
Highlight of this place? Seeing my fur baby go crazy in the ocean. The only signs that said dogs weren’t on the beach were about 3 miles away from where everybody congregated and when we asked up front if its okay for her to get in the water they just shrugged.
I haven’t had the opportunity to just chill with her outside (let alone the beach) since we left Okinawa. For some reason people really frown upon aggressive dogs running around the “dog park” (you people should be ashamed of the tiny fenced in areas you call dog parks around here). It was nice to have some company in the sand while the boys did …whatever the hell they do.
It’s not my intent to turn you off to this place. Honestly, you’ll never find anything in the civilian world that can compare to the price point San Onofre has to offer. I am grateful places like this exist for the military community. Just keep in mind it’s not perfect, but most of that could be corrected if they had more helpful staff members.
To close this out, couple points to keep in mind before booking this place:
- There is no air conditioning unit, only heat. Which isn’t so bad at night if you bring a fan, but during the day it gets a little uncomfortable.
- Mother-fudgin’ TRAINS. If you are not a fan, you will hate staying here. There are tracks that run right behind the cottages (about 10 feet away) and they are constantly running. I did not think it was possible for trains to be operating that frequently.
- There are extremely limited food places to eat at in the area. There’s a Schlotzsky’s, a small Commissary, a small MCX and a Sonic, but do NOT eat there – this particular Sonic was so so bad it turned me off to all Sonics’ around the world forever. You can travel to the other side of Camp Pendleton, but it’s a long drive on a treacherous highway and I wouldn’t recommend it every night. They sell a couple sundries at the main office, if you feel like getting your pop tart on. There are vending machines located down by the beach filled wish sodas, energy drinks and regular vending machine snackie fare. The kitchen is fully equipped with cooking supplies and a full size fridge so there is the option of cooking if you want.
- Every unit comes equipped with a fire pit, but the dog unit did not have chairs so you’ll have to bring your own. There’s a guy who drives around selling firewood, I would advise flagging him down.
- Inside the closets on either end are these big, unfinished empty spots (dirt floor with plywood interior) that are scary as hell, so check them every night so as to not get murdered.