15 Best Things To Do In San Clemente, California

things to do in san clemente california

Sitting 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. Besides beaches and parks, the city is also home to some of the top campsites in Orange County. 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 San Clemente, California.

1. Take a picture of a historic landmark: La Cristianita Monument

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Originally found along San Mateo Drive, La Cristianita Monument was relocated to where it is now, within the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens - another important historic landmark - in 2013. The monument commemorates the first Christian baptism that took place in Alta California in 1769. The ritual was performed by Padre Francisco Gomez, who was a member of a military and missionary expedition sent by King Charles III of Spain and led by officer Gaspar De Portola. This episode marked the start of the spread of Christianity in California.

La Cristianita Historic Site

Address: San Clemente, CA 92672, United States

Website: La Cristianita Historic Site

Opening hours: 10am - 2pm (daily)

2. Have a BBQ at Rancho San Clemente Park

A pleasant, green-grass area that follows a gentle bend along Calle Aguila, Rancho San Clemente Park is situated on the northeastern side of San Clemente, just behind Lobo Elementary school. Kids will undoubtedly love the play area here, whilst adults can make use of the basketball and volleyball courts. Should you wish to spend a day out at this location, know that there are restrooms, a drinking fountain, and BBQ stations available.

Rancho San Clemente Park

Address: 150 Calle Aguila, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States

Website: Rancho San Clemente Park

Opening hours: 6am - 10pm (daily)

Price: Free

3. Enjoy the views from Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline Trail

This is an easy to moderate, mostly paved, 3.5-mile (5.6-kilometer) trail suitable for pedestrians and bikes. Dogs are welcomed but have to be kept on a leash. There are six entrances, three of which have parking lots nearby. From the Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline Trail, you’ll benefit from sweeping vistas of the dry, hilly, quintessentially Californian landscape. Bring a camera and visit at sunset for beautiful photo ops.

Rancho San Clemente Ridgeline Trail

Address: Utility Access Rd, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States

Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)

Price: Free

4. Surfing at T-Street Beach

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Patrick Pelster used under CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the best beaches in San Clemente, T-Street Beach was constructed keeping in mind 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.

T-Street Beach

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

5. A fun day out at one of San Clemente's parks

Vista Hermosa Sports Park
Source: Photo by Flickr user Brian Champlin used under CC BY 2.0

If you’re wondering what to do in San Clemente, make your way down to one of the dozens of parks in the city. Of these, the best one is said to be 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

6. Downtown shopping in San Clemente

Hotel San Clemente
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mike Cotter used under CC BY-SA 3.0

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

7. For the hobbyists: Sidestreet Gallery & George's Music Space

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Posted by Von Lortz Sidestreet Gallery on Monday, June 25, 2012

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.

Sidestreet Gallery

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

8. Food and sunset views at Fisherman's Restaurant and Bar

San Clemente Pier Fisherman's Restaurant & Bar
Source: Photo by Flickr user Pamla J. Eisenberg used under CC BY-SA 2.0

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

9. Walk the Sea Summit Trail

Sea Summit Trail
Source: Photo by Flickr user kcxd used under CC BY 2.0

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. This is one of the fun things to do in San Clemente with kids as the paths are easy to navigate and have safety railings too.

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

10. 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

11. Admire the views from San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier
Source: Pixabay

Located at San Clemente Pier City Beach, which is the main beach of the city, San Clemente Pier is an iconic landmark of the city. The pier is a great place to enjoy the fresh ocean breeze, do some fishing or simply watch the waves come and go. The adjoining beach offers ample opportunities to swim, surf, sunbathe, and more. The pier offers many photo opportunities to capture stunning sunsets.

San Clemente Pier

Address: San Clemente, California 92672, USA

12. Swim, surf or camp at San Clemente State Beach

San Clemente State Beach 1 2018-07-02
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user used under CC BY-SA 4.0

San Clemente State Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Orange County. It is a beautiful sandy beach that is set against the backdrop of a huge bluff hugging the California coastline. The beach offers a range of activities like swimming, surfing, sunbathing, camping and plenty of walking trails too. There are plenty of picnic spots, outdoor showers, and other facilities at this beach.

San Clemente State Beach

Address: 225 Avenida Califia, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States

Website: San Clemente State Beach

Opening hours: 6am - 10pm (daily)

13. Explore Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens

201229 079 San Clemente Casa Romantica - Butterfly Garden, holdiay archway
Source: Photo by Flickr user cultivar413 used under CC BY 2.0

For a dose of culture during your trip to San Clemente, head over to Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens. Housed in a beautiful Spanish-style structure, this museum, cultural center and garden offers art exhibits, cultural programs, workshops, lectures, and more on its premises. Visitors can embark on guided tours of the historic Ole Hanson Home, stroll past the gorgeous coastal gardens, browse through the art exhibits or attend one of its famed cultural programs.

Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens

Address: 415 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States

Website: Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens

Opening hours: Tue - Thu: 1pm - 5pm; Fri: 10am - 2pm; Sat - Sun: 10am - 4pm (closed on Mon)

14. See the surfboards at Surfing Heritage and Culture Center

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

San Clemente’s beaches are a popular surfing spot in Orange County. And paying homage to its surfing history is Surfing Heritage and Culture Center. This attraction is said to house the world’s largest collection of surfing archives and has an interesting collection of surfing-related memorabilia. Visitors will be delighted to see their eclectic surfboards collection, photographs, documents, and a variety of themed exhibits. This is one attraction that all surfing enthusiasts should definitely visit.

Surfing Heritage and Culture Center

Address: 110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States

Website: Surfing Heritage and Culture Center

Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 11am - 5pm (closed on Mon)

15. Buy fresh produce at San Clemente Farmers Market

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

What’s a visit to an Orange County city without checking out a local farmers market? San Clemente Farmers Market is a great place to spend your Sunday mornings, picking out fresh fruits and vegetables that you can take home to whip up a delicious Sunday lunch or weekday dinner for everyone. Besides fresh produce, you can also buy flowers, artisanal cheeses, jams, spreads and baked goods at this market. The local farmers and salesmen are a friendly bunch and will surely offer you great service with a smile.

San Clemente Farmers Market

Address: 249-229 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672, United States

Opening hours: Sun: 9am - 1pm (closed on Mon - Sat)

Final thoughts

San Clemente Beach Pier, CA 9-2017
Source: Photo by Flickr user Don Graham used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If San Clemente doesn’t yet sound enticing, you are officially being urged to discover it for yourself! There are plenty of San Clemente attractions that will enthral visitors of all types - solo travelers, families, couples, and more. A place where nobody gets bored: the California coast is waiting for you with its own little slice of heaven.

Frequently asked questions about the best things to do in San Clemente, California

1. Which are the top attractions to see in San Clemente?

San Clemente State Beach, Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, San Clemente Pier and T-Street Beach are among the many famous and top attractions to see in San Clemente, California.

2. What are the popular outdoor activities in San Clemente?

The coastal location of San Clemente makes it the ideal destination for a range of amazing outdoor activities in Orange County, California. Some of the most popular outdoor activities here are surfing, swimming, sunbathing, hiking, biking, and jogging.

3. What are the best things to do in San Clemente with kids?

San Clemente is a family-friendly vacation destination. Some of the best things to do in San Clemente with kids are walking the Sea Summit Trail, checking out the play areas at Linda Lane Park at the beach or splashing around in the aquatics centre at Vista Hermosa Sports Park.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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