San Clemente: Hidden Gem of California’s Beach Towns

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One of Southern California’s most charming beach towns, San Clemente, the “Spanish Village by the Seaside,” is a destination that easily goes unnoticed as a coastal destination, but it shouldn’t be. . From its iconic wooden pier, easily walkable waterfront, and endearing downtown, San Clemente is a laid-back slice of Southern California paradise. The sunsets are incredible, the beaches are beautiful, the locals are friendly and this is a popular area for surfers.

Located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, this southernmost city in Orange County is known for its stunning ocean and mountain views, wonderfully pleasant year-round climate, and charming white-washed architecture. Spanish colonial style. The picturesque town is so picturesque that former President Nixon chose it as the location for his “Western White House”.

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The residents here exude an easy, airy mindset, to be taken as it comes with a strong sense of community pride. Whether visitors come for a day or for a longer stay, one thing is for sure: San Clemente’s relaxing ambience along with its stunningly beautiful natural surroundings provide the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of hectic everyday life.

To get a clear idea of ​​what makes San Clemente so special, here are a few must-see suggestions.

San Clemente Pier

Southern California is known for its scenic waterfront, and its famous pier is the iconic landmark of its idyllic seaside town.

The impressive San Clemente Pier was built in 1928 and is now a wooden pier almost 1,300 feet long. Severe storms in 1939, and again in 1983, severely damaged the pier, necessitating reconstruction of the structure. A popular spot for surfing, sunsets, fishing and relaxing on the beach, the pier is a magnet for locals and tourists alike. For one of the most spectacular glimpses, a walk among the stilts under the pier is quite an experience, providing a unique perspective of the massive structure looming above the waves of the Pacific.

San Clemente Beach Trail

The San Clemente Beach Coastal Trail is a 2.3 mile long path that provides access to the unbroken portion of Orange County’s sandy coastline. This wide dirt road is popular with cyclists, walkers and runners. The winding, flat path runs parallel to the coastal railroad tracks offering magnificent views of the shoreline cliffs and the vast turquoise waters of the Pacific.

Romantic Casa

One of San Clemente’s enchanted gems is the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens. Once the home of Ole Hanson, the city’s founder, the award-winning national monument built in 1927 sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean. Beautifully restored, the property is now a premier non-profit cultural hub with 2.5 acres of lush coastal gardens.

PHOTO: Casa Romantica Park. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

Educational programs include local history, horticulture, literature, art and architecture. Live symphonies are performed on site and each September the center presents Casa Lumina, a magnificent, magical night walk through the illuminated garden, enhanced with unique lighting effects.

San Clemente Beaches

From famous surf spots to “endless summer” hangouts, San Clemente has some of Southern California’s best beaches. Sun worshipers, surfers and surfers have plenty to choose from due to the miles and miles of white sand stretching along the coast.

Surfers at T-Street Beach
PHOTO: Surfers at T-Street Beach. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

The beaches of T-Street and Trestles are famous surf spots. Bonfire enthusiasts like us looking for a perfect gathering spot love the beaches of T-Street and San Clemente. San Onofre State Beach is one of the most popular in California for sunbathers, swimmers, campers, kayakers, bird watchers, fishermen, and cyclists. It is also a great place to watch whales, dolphins and sea lions offshore.

Surfing Heritage and Culture Center

You can’t visit San Clemente without entering the world’s largest surf museum. Described by ESPN as the “Smithsonian of the Surfing World,” the Surfing Heritage & Culture Center contains an impressive collection of treasures, boards and images from surf culture. The center archives California’s rich surfing history in a way that brings their compelling stories to life.

Surfboard collection at the Surfing Heritage & Cultural Center
PHOTO: Surfboard collection at the Surfing Heritage & Cultural Center. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

We loved the awesome surf shack display as well as the surfboards that have stood the test of time. The museum includes items ranging from the massive redwood boards of famous surfer Duke Kahanamoku to the smaller and lighter modern high performance boards used by surfers today, and everything in between. Surprisingly, admission to the museum is free thanks to fundraising galas held throughout the year featuring a “who’s who” of surfing legends and other committed partners dedicated to heritage preservation. surf.

Surf Shack at the Surf Heritage & Cultural Center
PHOTO: Surf Shack at the Surfing Heritage & Cultural Center. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

Dinner by the sea

San Clemente is home to an impressive array of restaurants serving just about everything from freshly caught seafood and American fare to many internationally inspired restaurants. As seafood lovers we have found the perfect place to dine.

The Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar controls the entrance to the San Clemente Pier. Not only does the seafood-themed restaurant have panoramic views of the pier, ocean, and surfers, the food is excellent. The extensive menu features many seafood dishes from Alaska, Pacific Northwest, California, and the Baja Coast in a variety of styles.

With so many entrees to choose from and a spectacular vantage point, this is a great spot for breakfast, lunch, brunch, happy hour, or a romantic sunset dinner.

Charming shops in San Clemente
PHOTO: Charming shops in San Clemente. (Photo by Noreen Kompanik)

Local breweries

In a way, craft beer and beach towns go hand in hand. And it’s always exciting to see new breweries popping up. The Lost Winds Brewery, named after a local beach and surf spot, is San Clemente’s newest. It’s a fun hangout with a great selection of beers. However, food is not served in the brasserie, so food trucks serving pizzas and tacos are on hand to provide the perfect sides.

Left Coast Brewing Company started their business in 2004, with over 23 awards for their amazing beers. 15 beers are on tap and the brewery offers full time selections, seasonal beers and hard seltts. You do not know what to choose ? Left Coast offers six 5-ounce tasters for sampling.

San Clemente Farmers Market

A local farmer’s market has been held every Sunday morning along Avenida Del Mar in the heart of San Clemente since 1994. Here you’ll find carefully selected local vendors selling colorful ranges of organic fruits and vegetables, fresh flowers from the farm , honey, bread and prepared foods. But it’s not about the quality of the products sold here, it’s about meeting the friendly locals – those who shop and those who will gladly offer samples of their products.

It is well known that Southern California is home to a multitude of fascinating seaside towns which are wonderful to visit. San Clemente is where the voice of the sea truly seeks out the soul.


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