Campground Review – Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay, Chula Vista, California

Posted March 25, 2022 – Narrated by Carmen
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bambi-5    See our 5-Bambi rating legend at the end of this review.

“What’s an RV resort?” is one of the most discussed topics on RV forums. Seems any park with hook-ups boasts the word “resort.” Opinions range widely but everyone can agree: “you know when you see one.” From what we’ve seen, Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay is the definition of a true RV resort.

We are thrilled to announce that Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay is the 5th campground to earn a “5 Bambi” rating (see the legend at the bottom of this post).

The southernmost shore of the San Diego Bay is our home base – a place to surrender into the arms of our hometown and repatriate in the idyllic comforts of the Baja California / San Diego lifestyle.

Ah home, sweet home.

The fair and dry, Mediterranean-style climate is naturally bug-resistant and boasts the best year-round temperatures in the USA.

For over 600 generations, the Kumeyaay Family have thrived and survived on this nurturing mountain coast, now the principal homeport of the Pacific Fleet.

Like the gray whales, we return annually to this enchanting corner of the earth – Chula Vista, our strategic base of operations – to recharge our Living in Beauty energy. 

San Diego County also hosts millions of annual visitors who enjoy the world famous public parks, vibrant theatre scene, casinos, world-class museums and world famous attractions.

One sunshiny day after another, the recreation opportunities, wildlife viewing, and casual Cali-cuisine offer a unique activity and a different brewery and a new taco joint for every day of the year.

We always stay in Beauty, our Airstream travel trailer.

There are several RV parks throughout San Diego County, but Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay is our newest sanctuary where we come to wrap-up a year’s worth of intense travel and dream up ideas for the next Living in Beauty adventure.

Like many metro areas, San Diego County has restricted choices for RV travelers. Few San Diegans complain about the deficit because the locals are mostly wild camping enthusiasts.

Sure, there’s beach camping with hook-ups, but the beach campgrounds are chaotic over-crowded parking lot-style facilities and the state beach park locks the gates in the early evening.

Other than a few small parks for active and retired military, (Fiddler’s Cove and Admiral Baker), the city is low on hospitable full-service campgrounds for seasonal RVers, service members families, medical tourists, mobile medical workers, and the ever increasing numbers of holiday campers who avoid flying.

Over the last 20 years, the county parks system has stepped up. But most of these beautiful campgrounds are a long drive from the city and major sites. So, the brand new Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay Resort is a real blessing to the greater San Diego community.

Even our own persnickety five-Bambi rating fails to capture the full range of guest services and amenities provided by the top-notch staff at Sun Outdoors.

This 19-acres state-of-the-art RV resort has it all.

But much credit is due to the excellent staff who work together as an ensemble to pull off the meticulous maintenance of the grounds and coordination of services with a casual aloha attitude.

Location, Location, Location

About fifteen minutes from downtown and Old Town San Diego, Sun Outdoors has easy-on-easy-off freeway access to all the neighborhoods, sunsets, attractions, arts, activities, and shopping.

As long-time San Diego residents, this is the campground we recommend for a first San Diego vacation.

That’s because Sun Outdoors is right off the 5 and only a five minute walk to the San Diego Trolley in the quiet and serene San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This designated open space, where we used to play when were kids, is an eco-sensitive preserve under local government oversight.

Sun Outdoors is next to The Living Coast Discovery Center, and only nine miles north of the U.S./Mexico border crossing, the gateway into Tijuana and Baja-Mexico.

Sun Outdoors RV Resort hits all marks.

From the inviting entrance right off the I-5 to …

the beautiful Welcome Center, where check-in is a breeze.

The RV Sites

All roads within the resort are paved with extra-wide turning radius for easy maneuvering.

The level, paved sites have full-hookups (30 and 50 amp). Sites are separated by gravel and indigenous plantings for a natural boundary and increased privacy. Even the closer, interior sites are notably wider than most private campgrounds in metro areas.

There are 29 pull-thru sites and 174 back-in sites. All sites are reservable – no first-come-first-serve.

Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay

Some of the back-in sites overlook the estuary …

while other back-in sites are up against the private keyed-entry road…

or adjoin to the sites behind.

The deluxe pull-throughs accommodate any size rig.

The 49 tiny-house cottages feature one and two bedroom units.

Dining

The onsite cafe, The Getaway Cafe & Bar, opens early with breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Getaway also features a full bar. We thoroughly enjoyed the Happy Hour specials.

We dug into The Getaway’s authentic street tacos, a Baja California specialty. It’s always a good time for a cup of Peet’s and to toast the sunset with a glass of Temecula Valley wine, or a custom cocktail at the outdoors bar …

and dine poolside.

Cozy deep-seating around the fire pit overlooks the pool and bay with a bridge view.

Swimming Pool

The pool deck is the best we’ve ever seen in an RV park. It features a resort-sized pool and two giant hot tubs.

Four poolside cabanas can be reserved for all-day rental. The four-person cabanas are $199 and the deluxe six-person cabanas are $253.

Staying Fit and Active

San Diego is a fitness mecca. Surfing culture and military-style training flowed into the mainstream and life-time fitness is the local norm. Sun Outdoors gets it. Every opportunity is here to keep up your game and your physical therapy. You don’t even have to leave the resort.

The pool has a lap lane. Adults Only pool hours are 8AM to 10AM every day.

The on-staff fitness coach offers daily yoga and water aerobics classes for no extra charge. The enthusiastic and encouraging Raquel, a certified water aerobics instructor, is at your service. It’s remarkable how she customizes every class according to fitness levels and individualizes the instruction.

There is a fully equipped open-air fitness center.

two Pickle Ball courts…

a basketball court …

horse shoes and bocce ball (equipment provided)…

and a putting green so golfers can stay frosty between games on San Diego’s golf courses.

You Can Always Relax Later

With plenty of room to kick back, we immersed in the chill San Diego vibe. The comfortable seating around the pool area and Sky Deck with city views – and many other cozy nooks around the campus – inspire one to relax and read, listen to podcasts, play cards, or watch a game on the giant outdoor big-screen. It’s like being on a cruise ship.

Family Friendly

On school holidays and weekends, the resort sponsors wholesome coordinated activities for children with parents and grandparents.

Something’s Always Going On

Crafts, wine and bourbon tasting events, music around the pool area…

It is said that San Diego is “The biggest small town in America.” We had a small-San Diego experience when we saw our friend, Steven Brundege, playing Rockabilly with the awesome Bobby Sanchez Combo.

That’s how it is. In San Diego, you don’t have to go far to find your people and fun things to do. And, at Sun Outdoors the party comes directly to your site.

When the resort is near capacity, George drops by with his guitar to play a few tunes and …

Lisa follows in her nifty tipsy truck with Margaritas, Mimosas and Bloody Marys. It’s like the ice-cream truck for grown-ups.

Fire Pits

Propane fire pits are provided. Each site is also furnished with four Adirondack chairs and a picnic table. You can use your own propane tank or rent one from the office. Their tank is $24.99 for 5-gallons plus a $50 refundable tank deposit. Wood fires (as one would expect, in a protected area of the southwest) are prohibited.

Provisions & Supplies

The Welcome Center store is stocked with beer, wine, soft drinks, party ware, personal care items, resort clothing, an ATM machine and camping necessities.

WiFi

Our spaces (#182 & #200) had “okay” Verizon cell service. Connectivity ranged from screaming to zero. The free WiFi worked about 80% of the time, but almost never during high-use hours (evenings and weekends). Faster WiFi is available for an extra fee.

Dog-Friendly

This is a dog-friendly resort, but aggressive breeds are not allowed, so Pico had to lay low … (Just kidding. That’s chihuahua-people humor.)

There is no extra pet fee unless you rent a cottage. There are two lovely and well-equipped dog parks with self-serve waste stations. San Diego is exceptional for being dog-friendly.

Laundry

The gleaming laundry room beside the pool uses the phone App PayRange for the washers and dryers – $2.50 for the washers and $1.75 for the dryers. It sounds strange, but there are only 5 washers and 10 dryers …? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Just saying.

Bathrooms and Showers

Climate controlled and scented with botanic fragrance, the personal care facilities are not your parent’s RV park bathrooms. The showers located throughout the resort are keyed solo units.

Inside and out, Sun Outdoors meets military standards for clean.

This is the Four Seasons of campgrounds. Once the easy-squeezy hook up is done you are free to …

Relax and explore.

Shall we cycle, walk, or kayak? From our campsite, we have unlimited choices.

Miles of public access paths surround the resort.

The park has the advantage of being on the 24-mile Bayshore Bikeway connecting cyclists to South Bay Beach communities.

Sun Outdoors San Diego Bay

We rode our Dolphin eBikes north to San Diego and south to Imperial Beach and up the Silver Strand to Coronado where we caught the ferry and cycled around the harbor.

If you arrived un-equipped for the bike trails, Sun Outdoors has a fleet of bike surreys for rent.

A boat and kayak launch is a half-mile north at Pier 32 Marina and a sandy beach for kayak launching is at Bayside Park, a half-mile south.

When the tide is high and the wind is calm, we love to paddle across the bay (30 minutes each way) to the Silver Strand State Beach, or have breakfast at Loew’s Resort.

Some days are perfect to paddle the hour or so to Coronado Bay where we can park our kayaks on the little beach beside the golf course and have lunch at The Feast & Fareway, before paddling back home.

Breweries

Living in Beauty followers know that we enjoy visiting craft breweries. Three fine breweries are within a mile of the resort.

What Else?

Groups and RV caravans are welcome. The Event Room hosts group rallies and meet-ups with seating for up to 100 guests. More meeting rooms are up on the Sky Deck.

Propane is available on the premises, $4 per gallon. The administration is exploring solutions for trash pick-up from the sites, but we don’t mind carrying or driving our trash and recycling to the designated area for deposits.

Most campgrounds function this way in order to protect wildlife and the environment. I’d rather carry my trash (or better yet, have Jim carry my trash) than deal with the nuisance of noise, litter and skunks.

Rates and check-in

Sun Outdoors uses Dynamic Pricing. As the resort fills up, the price increases. So the earlier you book, the cheaper the rate. We booked several months in advance and paid around $60 per night at the monthly rate. Monthly rates are typically 20%-30% lower than nightly rates. Electricity is an additional cost for monthly stays.

You can stay for 90 days with a 3-day margin between reservations. The maximum stay is 180 days per year.

Check-in is 2PM for RV sites and 3PM for cottages. Check-out is 11AM. A $25 late check-out fee permits a 3PM departure. A post 3PM departure is a full days charge. There is no refund for early departures.

All holiday weekends require a 3-night minimum stay. All other reservations require a 2-night minimum.

No Saturday arrivals or departures are allowed – an unusual policy, but it makes sense in this busy metro area.

There is a $10 per guest fee – another unusual policy which we reason is to avoid overcrowding on peak season and holidays.

Here is a full list of the resorts polices, rules and regulations.

Amazon and Package Delivery

Packages from Amazon are delivered to the Amazon Hub Center. No mail or deliveries other than Amazon are accepted. This policy can be quite inconvenient for long-term guests.

Security

These whiz-bang security bracelets were our up-town resort swag. All bathrooms and gates require this secured keyed-entry system.

We’ve lived in San Diego all our lives and never once felt unsafe. However, car and bike theft is prevalent here. Our philosophy for bike theft has always been out-of-sight out-of-mind and, until recently, it’s worked.

Unfortunately, one morning before dawn, an intruder vaulted over the resort fence, unzipped our Clam shelter, and absconded with one of our Dolphin eBikes. This was the first theft of any item whatsoever since Living in Beauty. After all of our travels these last six years, how ironic for this to occur five miles from our old home.

But, Stephen Szielinski, Sun Outdoors’ Assistant General Manager, responded immediately to our loss by contacting the authorities. He also installed upgrades to their security: new motion detecting perimeter cameras with a security monitoring station to surveil the grounds at all times. They also added two rangers on duty until midnight, and uniformed security guards overnight.

Meanwhile, we have upped our bike-theft game with these serious locks and bike alarms. Lesson learned.

It Makes All The Difference

Like most RVers, Jim and I are self-reliant travelers. To see the world on our own terms requires grit. We can happily manage to explore the world with much, much less than a world-class RV resort.

But, on occasion, we deserve better.

Sun Outdoors doesn’t take our go-with-the-flow, can-do nature for granted, charge a premium price and just throw us a bone. This is real value in the finest city in America.

So from now on, we’ll keep coming back home to Sun.

We were not paid nor reimbursed in any way by Sun Outdoors or anyone for this review.

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.


Our “BAMBI” rating system explained:

bambi-1 – One Bambi: Should’a boondocked.

bambi-2Two Bambi’s: Better than a Cracker Barrel or Walmart.

bambi-3Three Bambi’s: Adequate for a short stay.

bambi-4Four Bambi’s: Great place! Met our expectations for an extended stay. Needs minor improvements or is not ideally situated for all our preferred recreation (hiking, cycling, swimming, kayaking) without driving.

Five Bambi’s: Destination Camping at it’s best! Critical as we are, there’s nothing we’d improve, and you can bet your sweet Bambi we’re going back!

Click here to see our other campground reviews.