Sat comfortably on Orange County’s coast, San Clemente’s sun-kissed residents seem to have adopted a breezy, “take things as they come” ideology. The city prides itself on catering to every possible visitor, both newcomers and familiar faces alike. Offering a sense of belonging, the strong sense of community is the reason the city has grown so much since the 1920s: from one man’s dream of a Spanish Village to the thriving cultural hub it is today. Whether you are a thrill-seeking surfer, a family in search of wholesome fun, or a sophisticated couple in need of a romantic dinner with a view, San Clemente is welcoming you with open arms and a smile. Read on to learn more about the best things to do in the area!
1. Surfing at T-Street Beach
This beach was constructed with consideration for both novices and experts, as its concrete base affects the waves produced onshore. During the daytime, this beach is occupied by people from all walks of life - their unifying factor being enjoyment of T-Street’s fire pits, picnic areas, boat rental, sunbathing, and pleasant waters. With plenty of free parking available nearby, the reasons to visit this beach just keep adding to themselves.
Admittedly, one downfall of T-Street is the large set of stairs that must be scaled to reach the beach. Though many would argue it’s worth the effort, the less able may want to visit some of the other beaches along the stretch. San Clemente’s coast is renowned for being among the most classically gorgeous, fun-filled and relaxed in the whole of California. Many would recommend jogging or cycling the beach trail in order to fully appreciate the scenery.
Address: T-Street Beach, 339 W Paseo De Cristobal, San Clemente, CA 92672
Access: 10 minute stroll from San Clemente Pier
Surf times: 6pm to 11am
Food: Grills, picnic areas, or a short walk to restaurants (recommended: Fisherman’s Restaurant & Bar)
Website: T-Street Beach
2. A fun day out at one of San Clemente's parks
Of the dozens of parks in San Clemente, few can top the mighty Vista Hermosa. Offering a smorgasbord of fun activities, the park is the perfect family day out. The aquatics centre allows children to splash around and cool down in the glorious Southern California weather. A quieter pastime can be found at Courtney’s Sandcastle, a sensory garden within the park which was lovingly designed to help people mindfully engage their senses and form powerful memories that cameras can’t capture. The green, open spaces of Vista Hermosa make it a prime picnicking spot, as well as a bookable venue for birthday parties, sports competitions, and even weddings.
Vista Hermosa Sports Park
Address: 987 Avenida Vista Hermosa, San Clemente, CA 92673
Website: Vista Hermosa Sports Park
3. Downtown shopping in San Clemente
Downtown San Clemente is where you will find a plethora of ways to spend your day. As Downtown is split into 8 sectors, Avenida Del Mar and El Camino Real are best recommended for taking a carefree wander. The weekly farmers’ market takes place on Sundays along Avenida Del Mar 200 block. A leisurely stroll will reveal stall after stall lined up, all of which will be bursting with fresh produce. Meats, bread, vegetables, fruit, and flowers all appear in abundance.
Staying true to San Clemente custom, the vendors are friendly and warm. Often they can be spotted chatting and laughing with both one another, and their happy customers. Downtown will remind you that people do live and work in San Clemente, and this is a prime example of how self sufficient their community is. Depending on one another to uphold the town’s reputation, the services provided in San Clemente put you, their guest, first.
Downtown San Clemente
Website: The Downtown Directory
4. For the hobbyists: Sidestreet Gallery & George's Music Space
This sunny seaside town is home to many passionate artists ranging from painters and sketch artists to musicians, who are willing to share their love for the work they do. Therefore creative types can indulge their artistic side at places like Von Lortz Sidestreet Gallery, where art classes are taught daily to both seasoned artistes and newcomers, and everyone in between. You can schedule classes to suit you, so you can either simply test the waters with one lesson, or carry on and become an expert. Sidestreet is not just a gallery, it is a proud showcase of the work of residents and tourists.
Whilst the gallery does offer beginner guitar lessons, musicians may prefer to take a visit to George’s Music Space, where experts are willing to pass on their knowledge of a range of instruments for fair prices. If you don’t wish to learn to play, at least visiting this place at Avenida Palizada is well worth the five minute drive from the Pier in order to marvel at their wide variety of carefully crafted instruments.
Address: Von Lortz Sidestreet Gallery, 205 Avenida Cabrillo, San Clemente, CA 92672
Tel: +1 9494927244
Website: Sidestreet Gallery
George's Music Space
Address: George’s Music Space, 111 W. Avenida Palizada, San Clemente, CA 92672
Tel: +1 9493611410
Website: George’s Music Space
5. Food and sunset views at Fisherman's Restaurant and Bar
The aforementioned Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar is a restaurant along the San Clemente Pier with an outstanding reputation. Quality, fresh food that has been prepared with that special Californian kind of care is the reason this place has been given incredible reviews across the board. Not only is the food good, as well as decently priced, but you can also enjoy it with a view of the surf. Easily accessible from any of the beaches on the stretch, this is the perfect place to stop for lunch with the family or have a romantic sunset dinner in the evening.
Fisherman's Restaurant and Bar
Address: 611 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, CA 92672
Website: Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar
6. Walk the Sea Summit Trail
San Clemente views are lovely from this trail which is ideal for jogging or walking and on clear days you can see Catalina Island. Entry is free, and across the road from the entrance, you’ll find parking. Along the trail, you will find benches and information about the area. Take along the kids, as the paths are easy to navigate and have safety railings.
There are actually two trails and one is accessible from the North Beach station. The lower trail might be easier for children to navigate. It’s worth taking along a camera to capture the vista.
Sea Summit Trail
Address: West Avenida Vista Hermosa, San Clemente, CA 92672
7. Take the kids to a park at the beach
Linda Lane Park is an ideal beach if you have small children. It’s not over-crowded as you’re some distance from the pier, plus there’s ample metered parking. There’s a very nice play area for the children and a place to kick around a soccer ball. The green lawns are surrounded by the bluffs and it’s an attractive setting for a picnic.
If you get hot and thirsty, there’s a convenient drinking fountain. The beach itself is divided into areas for surfers and boogie boarders, so the little kids can paddle around in safety. Dogs on leashes are allowed as well.
Linda Lane Park
Address: 400 Linda Lane, San Clemente, CA 92672
Website: Linda Lane Park
If San Clemente doesn’t yet sound enticing, you are officially being urged to discover it for yourself! A place where nobody gets bored: the California coast is waiting for you with its own little slice of heaven.
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