What To Do In San Clemente, California

As a Southern California family, we've been to a lot of beach towns. There are a few though that hold a special place in our hearts. We've recently been spending a lot of time in San Clemente, California. We love it there! It's definitely a place for relaxing and slowing the pace of life. But, there's also plenty of things to do in San Clemente too. From the beaches to the food, we think you'll fall in love with this charming beach town as much our family has.

Where is San Clemente, California located?

San Clemente, California is located in the southern most coastal tip of Orange County, California. It is the last stop on the 5 freeway (Yes, we really do put "the" in front of our freeways when we talk) before crossing Camp Pendleton and into San Diego County. From San Diego, it's just after Camp Pendleton. You can literally just get on the 5 freeway and exit El Camino Real and you are there!

Things To Do In San Clemente

San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Beaches

The beaches in San Clemente are beautiful! Plenty of sprawling Southern California coastline to enjoy. There's North Beach, The Pier, T Street, Riviera, Lasuens, and San Clemente State Beach. Many of the beaches have public access and parking. T Street access is either via the pier or by the walkway that is at the end of Esplande.  If you want a beach that is close to everything, including bathrooms and food, you'll want to stick to the beach near the pier or North Beach.

San Clemente Pier Sunset
Low tide sunset view of the San Clemente, CA pier.

Luke's uncle gave him a few surfing lessons while we were there!

Surfing and Stand Up Paddle Boarding

If you are an experienced surfer, you'll want to head to T Street. T Street is south of the San Clemente Pier about .25 of a mile. Access to T street beach is by way of walking along the beach or the large covered walkway from T Street. Otherwise, the beaches at the pier are great for surfing. If you are visiting and don't have a board, surfboard rentals can be found at Surfboard Rentals San Clemente of T Street Surfboard Rentals.

San Clemente Trolley

Getting Around Town

The San Clemente Trolley (runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day) is a great way to get around town, but be prepared to have a wait on holiday and festival weekends. We love that it stops at the pier and the San Clemente Outlets!

If you are traveling by Amtrak train to San Clemente or staying at the San Clemente State Park Campground, you will be happy to know that there is plenty to do within walking distance.

Coastal Activities

You won't want to miss the San Clemente Beach Trail that spans a good portion of the coastline. You can access the walking/running/biking trail by way of a few points including North Beach, West Escalones, Linda Lane, Corto Lane, Esplanade,  and Calafia Cafe. We did this often, sometimes both morning and evening, and it is a beautiful backdrop to your stroll.

What to do San Clemente
View of the San Clemente Beach Trail from the north. Doesn't this walk look so peaceful?

You can also shop along Avenida Del Mar or the Outlets at San Clemente, go camping at San Clemente State Beach campground and visit Casa Romantica the historical landmark home of one of the founders of San Clemente. Casa Romantica is free to the public the 1st Sunday of every month. On Sundays, the San Clemente Farmer's Market takes place and the sidewalks along Avenida Del Mar are lined with small businesses and farmers selling their goods. The San Clemente Art Gallery is open to the public. Local artists showcase their work.

A front view of the doors to Casa Romantica.

Street view of Avenida Del Mar
Food and Dining

If you are planning a trip to San Clemente, come hungry! We have tried a variety of yummy food. There is no shortage of great restaurants in San Clemente. If you are staying near the pier, treat yourself to a crepe or french toast for breakfast at La Galette Creperie. There's also Cafe Mimosa along Del Mar, or for something north, closer to the freeway, try The Bagel Shack. A meal at H.H. Cotton's, Pedro's Tacos, Pizza Port Brewing, Sonny's on El Camino Real, or Poke + Roll 808 are solid choices for lunch or dinner. For an afternoon treat or dessert, visit Southswell on Avenida Del Mar where they serve up Hand-dipped ice-cream bars and floats. Or try the newly opened Caterina's where they serve up decadent gelato across from the San Clemente pier. Looking for a quick cup of coffee? Bear Coast Brewing across from the pier is a good choice.

French Toast at La Galette

Delicious poke bowl from Poke + Roll. If you are looking for a well-priced, delicious meal, go here! But know they are closed on Mondays!

Southswell ice cream bars don't last long in our family.

A south swell ice-cream bar dipped in am ice cold root beer is the treat you've been waiting for.

Yes, the ocean really does look like this in San Clemente. Don't be surprised if you spot a whale or a school of dolphins swimming by. 

A stroll on the beach with the family at low tide.

Know Before You Go 

There are 2 Amtrak train stops in San Clemente, but only the north beach location runs midweek. The pier train stop is the perfect location to stop off for a quick day trip.

There are several hotels close to the water, but you'll want to book in advance to get the best price and room location. 

Locals wear hats and sunglasses, especially while walking the beach trail. Pack a good hat and sunnies to protect your eyes. 

Always look at the tides before you head to the beach. Some parts of the coastline are closed off due to high tides.

The weather is pretty temperate year round, but pack a cozy sweater and a pair of long pants for when the ocean breeze picks up.

San Clemente beach
If you can believe it, this photo was taken Thanksgiving weekend in San Clemente.

 Have you been to San Clemente? We would love to know your favorite spots!


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