Known as the “Spanish village by the sea,” San Clemente is a favorite spot for surfers, beach goers, and San Diegans looking for a quick getaway. Just a quick jaunt up the coastline, the quiet coastal town offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of San Diego. Start pulling out your calendars, this is your next weekend getaway destination:
How to get there
Grab your bike (or not) and hop on the Pacific Surfliner for a stress-free trip up the road. From Santa Fe Depot downtown, pass through other San Diego County stops including Old Town, Sorrento Valley, Solana Beach, Carlsbad and Oceanside before arriving in San Clemente. After landing smack in the “Pier Bowl” (615 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente) hop off the train and head straight to the beach or stroll along the nearby shops, restaurants and amenities.
What to do
Surf, surf and more surf: Famous for its top-notch spots, San Clemente is a wave rider’s heaven, with renowned locales including Trestles, Lasuens (Lost Winds), Calafia, Riviera, the Hole, Linda Lane, T-Street, 204, North Beach and Poche Beach. Check the local surf cam to monitor the waves, and to stay up-to-date on weather or warning conditions. After a day in the water, head to the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center (110 Calle Iglesia, San Clemente, 949.388.0313, surfingheritage.org) for one of the world’s largest surf archives, and a calendar full of exhibits and events, like Women Making Waves and old fashioned drive-in movies.
Hike and bike: The city offers five major networks of trails, with more than 10 options to choose from, including beach, canyon and ridgeline routes. Ranging in distance from under one mile to over four miles and in difficulty from easy to strenuous, the trails offer something to everyone, and are also open to bikes and leashed dogs. For more information, go to san-clemente.org/recreation-community/parks-trails/trails.
Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens: Located on a bluff overlooking San Clemente Pier (415 Avenida Granada, San Clemente, casaromantica.org), this Spanish Colonial home was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1991. Casa Romantica hosts a variety of cultural, educational and social events (think music, art and sunset yoga) for all ages, while its more than two acres of coastal gardens showcase native California plants.
Outlets at San Clemente: Enjoy ocean views while shopping to your heart’s content with a choice of over 50 stores and restaurants (101 W. Avenida Vista Hermosa, San Clemente, 949.535.2323, outletsatsanclemente.com). Get beach ready at Sun Diego Boardshop, Hurley, Flip Flop Shop or Sunglass Hut, bike worthy at Pearl Izumi, or ready to run the roads at New Balance, Nike or Asics.
Where to stay
If posting up near the beach is a must, stay at Casa Tropicana, a boutique hotel with ocean vistas and the popular Pierside Kitchen & Bar, with live music, local produce, and fresh seafood. The ten casitas are inspired by Spanish architecture and reflect sand and beach tones in the decor. Each room comes with air-conditioning, a fireplace, a small refrigerator, a flat panel HDTV with cable, and a common deck.
610 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, 949.492.1234, casatropicana.com/rooms-rates
Another popular beachside option is the Seahorse Resort, which offers oceanfront studio, queen, and king suites, along with full kitchens, beach chairs, towels and umbrellas to their guests.
602 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, 949.492.1720, seahorseresort.com/en-us/rooms
What to eat and drink
Grab local craft beer at two San Clemente favorites. Left Coast Brewing Company — a family-owned and operated independent brewery since 2004 — has racked up a number of awards and become popular around the world with expansion into more than 25 states and seven countries. Artifex Brewing Company, open since 2014, has taken home two San Diego International Beer Festival medals and is a must-try while in town.
Left Coast Brewing Company: 1245 Puerta Del Sol, San Clemente, 949.276.2699, leftcoastbrewing.com
Artifex Brewing Company: 919 Calle Amanecer A, San Clemente, 949.429.7805, artifexbrewing.com
For live music and New Orleans inspired dishes, head to Iva Lee’s Southern and Creole Cuisine. With recipes passed down through the family since 1640, this hotspot serves up classic Southern dishes, like fried green tomatoes, chicken, andouille and shrimp gumbo, hushpuppies, Jambalaya, and bread pudding for dessert.
555 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, 949.361.2855, ivalees.com
If you are in need of serious carbs after a day in the ocean, grab a table at the popular Italian locale, Rocco’s Restaurant. Choose from a range of risottos, pastas (such as the pumpkin ravioli or Spaghetti Pescatore with seafood), and a variety of both land and sea entrees, including veal, filet, sea bass and lobster.
203 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, 949.388.7766, roccos-restaurant.com
Pulling produce from its own garden and serving up fresh, rotating specials, Vine Restaurant and Bar is a local favorite. Seasonable menus are in rotation and feature some of the finest ingredients offered each season and can include such dishes as pastas, salads and a variety of main dishes starring chicken, fish and beef. With some 25 wines by the glass, 10 craft beers on tap, and a variety of craft cocktails, this could be your one stop for the entire evening.
211 N. El Camino Real, San Clemente, 949.361.2079, vinesanclemente.com