Base Survival Guide Series: MCB Camp Pendleton

Base Survival Guide Series: MCB Camp Pendleton

This Base Survival Guide on MCB Camp Pendleton is brought to you by my friends Lauren Strauss, Cheryl McHenry, Amanda Kendrick and Amy Quach. Amanda and her husband met in high school over twenty years ago. They have four children and have been living the Marine Corps life since 2008. Their current duty station is in Northern Virginia. Cheryl is a Marine Corps wife and her and her husband have a sweet little boy. They're currently stationed at Pendleton. Amy is a Marine Corps veteran wife and has a four year old little girl. 


What's the weather like at this base?

Perfection. The winter months consist of a lot of rain. Spring is cool, but the sun is shining. Summer starts with "June Gloom" and lasts the entire month. July is when the beach starts to get warm and more enjoyable. It stays perfect beach weather for several months. Around Halloween is when it starts to get cool again. 

Keep in mind most housing doesn't have AC unless you live in Deluz Housing which does. If you're not a winter person, you'll love it here!


What's your favorite time of year there?

All of it!
Fall/winter, it cools down enough for a light sweater.

What's your favorite thing about living at this duty station? 

Proximity to the beach, attractions, and the ASYMCA! It's a small community but large enough to where everyone minds their own business still.

Proximity to all the things. 45 minutes to downtown San Diego, 2 hours to Los Angeles, under an hour to Disneyland, the weather, the beaches, the food. The list really goes on! Also the church community of North County is amazing! They really all do work as THE body of Christ as a whole and supporting each other.


What's your least favorite thing about living at this duty station?

Nothing! We loved it!

The price of gas’s awful.

How expensive it is to live in California.


Is there anything you wish you knew about this duty station before your PCS there?

There's A LOT of resources like the learning center, auto shop, and lots of activities there held by USO Camp Pendleton.

The front gate and Main side are not the same. The Front Gate is downtown Oceanside area. Main side is right inside the San Luis Rey gate.

I'm from California so I was prepared for everything! However, if I wasn’t I would say the traffic! It gets insane around here! You need to leave anywhere by 2 pm to avoid the traffic rush.


What amenities are on base? And what are they like? For example: Is the commissary large or small? Well stocked? Pool on base? Parks? How many? Etc.

The USO, ASYMCA. The commissary in Pacific Views is large. It's easier for those living on Mainside to go to. If you're on Old Mainside, then there's an Albertsons right outside the gate. The MCX is across the street. There's a gas station and car wash. Shopping strip with Panera, Dominoes, Panda Express, the package store, and more. Across the street at the MCX they have Dunkin, Yogurtland, and Jersey Mike's subs. Inside the MCX there is an optometrist and alteration shop. In the back of the store there's a watch repair shop. The base also has its own beaches: Del Mar and San Onofre.


What tips or hacks would you give a  military spouse who just PCSed to that base?

If there's traffic on the 5, drive through the base to save yourself some time. And don't speed through the 15 mph and 25 mph zones. There's a lot of foot traffic in those zones. The Fallbrook gate (Naval Weapons Station) WILL NOT allow you to come on base with a visitor in your car. They'll direct you to another gate where you will enter directly onto Camp Pendleton.

ALWAYS call Rayne/Culligan to get a water softener, it will include drinking water. The water on base is such bad quality, you want to avoid it if you can! It'll also ruin your hair/skin. The "filters" they sell on Amazon aren't going to cut it, neither will a Brita filter. This is one area it's worth splurging on!

Definitely check out Temecula to rent or buy a house! The commute can be rough depending on where the service member works on base, however it's more affordable than anywhere near base.

Enjoy your time there, it's an amazing opportunity to explore California especially that weather!


Do you live on or off base? What is/was your experience like?

We lived on base in San Luis Rey. It was an amazing community. The families are always outside, kids are everywhere, and the 1795 Event Center has a pub that's open on Friday evenings. They offer appetizers and drinks, as well as a pool table and TVs for entertainment. San Luis Rey has a pool within the community for Liberty residents. There are many playgrounds, with a fitness park in the center of the neighborhood that has pull up bars, sit up benches, and more!

Both! We started and lived on base for 5 years in Del Mar 1 housing. We loved it, by far the best housing for officers (it is an officer only community). We live off base now since we purchased a home and we love it. It’s a great change of pace and still a lot of military families in our neighborhood.

On base, with Deluz housing. It was an amazing experience - always be nice to maintenance and they'll take care of you. Deluz is the only housing on base that has AC because they're more inland towards Old Mainside but most housing takes BAH, might as well go with the housing with AC.

We lived on base for 6 months before moving off base to Temecula. We love it here!

For on base housing:

Deluz (enlisted, has AC) is on mainside Camp Pendleton.

O'Niell Heights (enlisted, has AC) is on mainside Camp Pendleton.

Serra Mesa (enlisted) is also on mainside but they are apartment style and have zero air conditioning.

San Luis Rey (officer, has AC) is on mainside Camp Pendleton.

Del Mar (enlisted + officer) is down on the water. They have no air conditioning, but access to Downtown Oceanside and the beach are very easy. There's a gate with limited hours and you can easily walk in and out of it to to to the restaurants outside the gate. The waitlist is usually a year long.

For off base housing:




What are your favorite hang out spots on base? Why?

Lake O'Neil park. It's a fenced in playground with coverage.

Not a lot of stuff to do on base but TAKE ADVANTAGE of the salon on base. They're incredibly cheap (for California) but the girls there do an amazing job. Search up Onyx Salon Camp Pendleton.

Del Mar Beach & San Onofre Beach. Beautiful and never very crowded. Safe to let the kids roam.


Did you do a DITY move or military move?

We moved from Japan so we had to do a military move.


Are there any base specific traditions that take place? What is the culture like?

Every year the beach holds fire works for Fourth of July! I wasn’t on base long enough to enjoy more of what they have to offer. It's a laid back culture since it's on the beach. Other than that just the Marine Corps Birthday Ball each year.


Are there any base FB pages, bloggers, or accounts/websites people should follow for the base or area?

Camp Pendleton Spouses (Probably the largest group)

DEFINITELY The Rotary of Camp Pendleton, they give away FREE everything. Literally anything you can think of when it comes to furnishing your house.




What is your favorite coffee shop there? Why? What is your favorite order?

Starbucks on base.
My favorite coffee shop is in Temecula called The Press. I have three favorite drinks that I alternate between: tiramisu, brown sugar caramel and coffee cake iced coffee!
Ignite Coffee, Captains Groups, and Dutch Bros. I get a dirty chai with almond milk everywhere!


What are your favorite spots for date night?

Ax throwing in downtown Oceanside.

Buona Forchetta in San Marcos.

Old town Temecula offers so many different options for date nights.

Rooftop Bar, The Switchboard, and 264 Fresco.


What are your favorite restaurants? What is your go to order?

Ramoes on Del Mar beach, on base. The carne asada burrito or fries, and the California burrito. The fish tacos and street tacos! The cinnamon sugar chips are amazing! We always got them to go, and ate them at home because the food was so filling. Buona Forchetta and Pho House. Senior Grubby's in downtown Oceanside. All the asian restaurants on Convoy Street. There's also a huge H-Mart that has everything you'll need! Local Tap House and I get the charred Brussels sprouts and the 50/50 burger!


Are there any fun things to do in the area or close to base like amusements parks etc?

Legoland is 20-30 minutes from the south end of base. Disneyland is 30 minutes from the north end of base, and an hour from the south end. Knott's Berry Farm, Medieval Times, and the Discovery Cube are an hour from the South end of base. Carlsbad Strawberry Field. There's also the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in San Diego.


What are some of the things you would put on a bucket list for other military spouses coming to that base?

Laguna Beach, La Jolla Cove, Temecula wineries, Bates Nut Farm. Carlsbad Strawberry Field, you can pick your own strawberries and during the fall, they have a pumpkin patch and huge bounce houses for the kids. Super family friendly! You also have to see the Top Gun house in downtown Oceanside!


Are there any cities you recommend for weekend getaways? Why? What did you do there?

San Diego, which is right down the street! There's so much to do and explore down there.

Laguna Beach! So fun and beautiful, relaxing and only 45 minutes north.

Big bear lake is about a 2 hour drive! If you want that mountain experience it's worth the visit! They also hold a big firework show in July and you can go snowboarding in the winter! Julian is good for a day trip, their homemade pies are to die for. Vegas is about a 4 hour drive. There are so many beaches around to explore. Joshua tree is about 2 hours away. There you can visit the Joshua Tree National Park and hike or climb rocks. Palm Springs is less than 2 hours away. They have so many fun options to explore as well. Hollywood is about 1.5 hours away.


Best places or activities for kids? Why?

Del Mar Beach kids Cove. It has calm beach water for the little ones to play and build sand castles. It's on base next to the Del Mar base beach.

• Oceanside Gymnastics

• Right outside the Fallbrook gate (Old Mainside) there's an indoor playground called Busy Bee, I believe it was only $8 for the whole entire day!

• San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

• Legoland

• William A. Wagner Aquatic Center

• Children's Museum

• United Studios of Self Defense for Karate (this one's for adults and kids!)

Keep in mind that a lot (if not all) of these places offer military discount or annual passes!


Any local festivals/traditions held for the holidays in that area?

Del Mar Beach bash on base. It's hosted on the fourth of July. 
• USO Camp Pendleton does a lot for different units and movie nights for the family by the beach!

Local Recommendations:


The Healthy Foot Spa

The Detox Cottage in Vista


Nail Tech

Royal Nails & Spa, they have a kid's pedicure chair there!

Joy Nails and Spa



Cali at Onyx Salon (On base) 

Brooke Roche



Luv Thread (There are a lot of locations around base)



Any at the Naval Hospital are great!

Dr. Langley with Scripps Health



Dr. Silverberg at Scripps

Children’s Primary Care. We personally love Dr Rodgers.

Dr. Daniels and Rachel Mattis at Rady's Children's Primary Care on Vista Way - Oceanside.

Tarabeth Hill, N.P. at Naval Camp Pendleton.

Dr. Collins - allergist Dr. Gerg - allergy chief (Rady's)


Primary Care Doctor


The Briggs Institute of Epigenetic Medicine. I really like Luke Fisk!

Dr. Jennifer Chronis with Scripps Health



Peak Pediatric Dentistry in Carlsbad

The Super Dentist (any of the Doctors are great)

Oceanside Family Dental care

Proper 32



ER: Camp Pendleton Naval Hospital, Scripps Encinitas

Urgent Care: Rady's Urgent care in Carlsbad (pediatrics), 8-2-8 Urgent Care in Oceanside (they see adults and pediatrics).



Surfside Animal Hospital


Dog Parks

Every neighborhood has their own dog park!



Every neighborhood has their own gym as well!

There are quite a bit of gyms on base. My husband prefers Pagefield house.

Pure Barre North Carlsbad


Kids Tutor/Babysitter

Join Camp Pendleton Babysitter and Camp Pendleton Babysitter Beware, there's a lot of child neglect babysitters on base so just stay vigilant.



ASYMCA Operation Little Learners. It is a parent and me program that means for an hour twice a week. There are three locations available to sign up under. Stuart Mesa has Ms. Tassy and she is phenomenal.

Deluz CDC was AMAZING if you're able to get in!



Mary Fay Pendleton Elementary and Jr High fall under the Fallbrook Unified School District, but they are located on base, and it's the assigned school for families who live in San Luis Rey, O'Neil Heights, and De Luz housing. Heart Academy. Coastal Academy is a Charter School that is lottery based. They are a homeschool academy that works as a partnership with the student and parent. They offer A, B, and C track. At this school A and B track attend school twice a week on different days. C track is home based learning with the schools curriculum, or you can switch it up and use your own. C track does have the opportunity to go on campus for c'electives. It's a wonderful school that I cannot recommend enough, if you're looking for homeschool with a side of in person learning.



Doug West, he mainly does Arrowood which is right outside the San Luis gate (Must have a high budget). 



• Kat Williams Photography

You can find her Facebook page here and her website here!

• Amy Morato Photography

You can find her Facebook page here and her website here!

• Cassidy Coot Photo

You can find her Instagram here and her website here!

•  Kelsie Hancock 

You can find her Instagram here and her website here!



Sweet Treats by Katie, she lives on base and is amazing!


Grocery Stores

The commissary, Stater Bros, Bargain Market, 88 Ranch (the only asian grocery store in the area), Aldi, Walmart, Vons, Frazier Farms, and Sprouts Farmers Market (the best produce).


Party Rental Company

Inflate San Diego


Ball Dress Shop

Make sure to check out the Spouses page, they hold events and give away gowns every year.

Promanade Mall in Temecula.



Vegas Tailor in Temecula


Shops + Boutiques

Under the Willow is located in Old Town Temecula. They are a bit pricey in my opinion but they have really cute clothing!

Promenade Mall in Temecula with so many options!



Overall I would rate this base at a... (1-10, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best)

Amanda: 10/10

Amy: 10/10

Cheryl: 9/10 

Lauren: 10/10


Slideshow Pendleton


If you'd like to learn more, have any questions or just want to follow Amy's journey you can find her over at her Facebook here! You can find Cheryl here on Instagram! And Lauren here on Instagram!


You can also get a PDF version of this guide here!

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