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Beach, Atlantic & California: What's the Difference?

Loyd Rozzo

Owner of Siesta Campers

It is more than likely you’ve been weighing the pros and cons of our Siesta Beach, Siesta Atlantic and the VW California. We know you’re not alone in this and we're here to help.

Let’s start by saying that all of our Beach and Atlantic vans are a VW Transporter conversion built by us and all based on the same engine gearbox configuration: the VW Transporter T6 Blue Motion, with 114 BHP and a 5-speed manual gearbox. We chose this configuration because it gives ample power for a fully laden camper allowing It to drive and accelerate like a modern car. The driving position is comfortable with the gear shift coming out of the dashboard. We also got the VW factory to add some extras like the individual front seats, front and rear parking sensors displayed on the full-colour dash screen and an auxiliary battery.

The VW California on the other hand is a factory built campervan that's ready to go out of the box. However, we've been building vans for over 20 years and know that things don't always turn out as they should, even for Volkswagen. Our VW California models are tastefully modified to improve the camping experience. So, let's see how a VW California stacks up against our own VW Transporter conversion.

Siesta Beach

Main features:

  • Sleeps 2 adults, seats 4
  • Transmission: Manual
  • Shower: Exterior cold-water shower at the rear
  • Fridge: Cooler
  • Cooker: 2 burner gas hob & sink with water tap

VW transporter camper conversion.

The Siesta Beach: our VW Transporter conversion


Unlike all our other campers, the Siesta Beach does not have a bed in the upper tent area making it ideal for two people. Thanks to the bed delete, there is much move overhead space available for taller individuals!

This lower bed is the same size as the Atlantic. It doesn't slide on rails like the Atlantic toward the front of the cab allowing the rear passengers to be closer to the front like in a normal car, which is preferable if you want to keep the kids in check. One of the highlights of the Siesta Beach VW Transporter camper conversion is the passenger swivel seat. It can be turned around to face the cab allowing for much better use of interior space.

Even though the Siesta Beach is best suited for two adults, there is also a front hammock option available for 1 child. This should really only be considered for kids up to 9 years old and 1.5m height. The Atlantic also comes with the hammock option as the cab areas are identical in both campervans.

Both campers also come equipped with the same cooker and sink with a cold water tap, and an equal amount of water storage: 50-litre tank. The fridge in the Beach is a cooler and doesn’t have a compressor like the Atlantic and California. This means it will only keep things cooler than ambient temperature by 20°C. It will still keep the beers cool. Just not as ice cold as the Atlantic or California.

VW T6 Transporter campervan interior.

Siesta Beach campervan interior


The Siesta Beach has a smaller amount of storage space in the back cupboards, which makes it ideal for those travelling light. It does however come with more storage space under the bed where many people keep luggage or surfboards that can slide through under the bed. You can fit an 8’ board under this bed. This is an excellent way to keep your gear secure and makes the Siesta Beach the van of choice among the surfers.

Siesta Beach storage space.

Storage space under the bed is suitable for up to 8' surfboards


Both the Siesta Beach and the Atlantic feature an exterior cold-water shower at the rear which is ideal for rinsing off after the beach. Some of our California models come with an exterior shower also. For the ones that do not, an optional solar shower is available.

Unlike the Atlantic, the Siesta Beach does not come with a surf rack on the roof (since storage is available inside), and it does not come with a roll-out side awning.

Siesta Atlantic

Main features:

  • Sleeps: 4 adults, seats 5
  • Transmission: Manual
  • Shower: Exterior cold-water shower at the rear
  • Fridge: Compressor fridge
  • Cooker: 2 burner gas hob & sink with water tap

VW transporter camper.

The Siesta Atlantic VW transporter camper


The Siesta Atlantic makes excellent use of the space available with plenty of cleverly-designed storage. Backlit cupboards makes it easy to find things at night. The construction of the units are solid and feels like a proper well-constructed motorhome.

LED lighting under the worktop lights give a modern ambience to the space. Big bedding cupboards at the back provide ample space for bedding for a family of four. Please remember though these campers are not ideal for big hard suitcases. The living area is only 3m by 2.20m so be practical about what you bring.

 If you're arriving anywhere from June up until September and your staying in the south then  you will not be needing coats, just a sweatshirt for the cooler nights on the west coast.

VW Transporter camper interior.

Siesta Atlantic upper bed

The Atlantic has a roof bed in the pop top area, an ideal space that the kids will love. The top bed is also suitable for adults. Being able to sleep 4 adults comfortably is one of the main differences between the Siesta Atlantic and the Siesta Beach campervans. 

The top bed area pushes up out of the way during the day so you can have a spacious area perfect for cooking and relaxing.  Younger children or babies may be better suited to the lower bed or the hammock that utilises the front seats. The passenger seat swivels also for improved use of interior space.

The fridge in the Atlantic is a Dometic 50L compressor fridge. It is very efficient and doesn’t consume lots of power from the auxiliary battery. The 120w solar panel that's fitted on the roof assures that while the sun is shining the fridge is getting plenty of power! Many people put the fridge up to maximum whilst connected to mains power on the campsite and then turn it down when disconnected. This keeps things fresher a lot longer when you're out for the day.

Siesta Atlantic exterior.

Siesta Atlantic exterior


The side awning is another upgrade specific to the Atlantics and the VW California (Siesta Beach excluded). This is easily retracted with a handle that fits into the awning and then cranked out. It reaches out to around 2.5m giving you lots of shade. It really is an ideal place to put your tables and chairs and chill during a hot summer day.

In addition to the roof-mounted solar panel, we've also fitted this VW transporter camper with a roof rack to secure surfboards and an exterior cold water shower at the rear of vehicle.

VW California

Main features:

  • Sleeps: 4 adults, seats 4
  • Transmission: Automatic
  • Shower: Exterior cold water shower or optional solar shower
  • Fridge: 12v compressor fridge
  • Cooker: 2 burner gas hob & sink with water tap

VW California camper.

The VW California camper

The VW California has become an icon of the open road since 1988 and reached cult-like status with a massive following in Europe. When you pull onto a campsite or car park you will receive admiring glances from other fellow VW aficionados. It’s an expensive piece of machinery with entry prices at €60,000.

VW California Interior

The VW California is made entirely by VW, from the curtains to the chairs it’s all put together in their factory in Hanover. It’s Volkswagen through and through. You can imagine the research and development that’s gone into this van. There’s not a scrap of wasted space and It really is a Swiss army knife!

The table neatly stores inside the door panel and the deck chairs are stowed in a tidy pocket in the rear tailgate. There’s an LCD control panel in the cab area that tells you how cold the fridge is, how much charge is left in the battery, and how full the waste and the freshwater water tanks are. The interior fabrics are finished in a very light fabric and you sense you are sitting in something very modern and spacious. The Interior blinds are concealed behind the trim and can be pulled into position very quickly, making the van cosy at night without fumbling around for the black out shades.

Both the driver and passenger seats swivel and can be turned to face the cab for better use of interior space. The other vans come with a passenger swivel seat only.

VW California interior.

VW California interior

Build quality

We have coined our expression for the VW California in the workshop and have declared it ”engineered light”. This essentially means that we find the fixtures and fittings a bit weak. Things break quite easily and the plastics cost a lot of money to replace. If you think your kids may be a bit wild for it, then we would recommend the Siesta Atlantic. It’s much more resilient and can take a good hard living. The VW California comes with a 40L fridge and it keeps it chugging away via 2 auxiliary batteries, this is one more battery than our Atlantics. 

VW California dashboard.

VW California dashboard and navigation

The drive

We also order each VW California with a 150BHP engine and a DSG automatic transmission, to give you the best VW California hire experience. The VW DSG is unlike any other auto box in the way it has already predicted your next gear and is already selected, this makes acceleration silky smooth. Couple this with cruise control and you can really see why the VW California camper is the ultimate van.

We order our VW Californias from the factory with front & rear parking sensors hooked up to the big dash screen. It also has the neat “CAR PLAY” system allowing you to connect apps such as Google maps and Spotify to the full-colour stereo screen for better visibility.


We hope this guide answered all your questions regarding whether to choose a VW California vs conversion. If you'd like to hire a campervan in Portugal or see our VW campervans for sale, we're here to help! Let us know if you have any questions.

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Entreposto Comercial e Industrial Sambrasense – Sítio dos Barrabés
Cx Postal 908-Z, 8150-016, São Brás de Alportel

00351 308 808 058



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