I love my hometown. San Clemente is a surfer's paradise and artist's haven. It has great beaches, great food, and great weather. I know I've gushed about my little hometown before on this little blog, but I can't help but do it all again. This time, I'm taking an article I saw in Sunset Magazine and adding some of my own, true local, suggestions.
Why go now: The surf’s up, but the pace is slowed down in this charming small town, where fine wine and farmstands meet big waves and a chill surfer vibe. Plus - with summer winding down, the tourist's and inlanders aren't making the day trips down here anymore so the beaches are less and less crowded, but the weather is getting better and better.
Easy-peasy pull-over: It’s right off I-5, so you can’t beat it for beach convenience. Only about an hour from both LA and SD, it's the perfect spot to stop and explore.
Or go carless: Amtrak’s Pacific Surf liner chugs alongside San Clemente’s sandstone cliffs and stops in town (amtrak.com). It will let you off right at the pier and from there you walk to Del Mar, the main street in San Clemente with the shops and restaurants.
The look: White stucco adobes with red-tiled roofs line the curvy streets, making this town feel like a “Spanish village by the sea”—just what founder Ole Hanson envisioned back in 1925.
Walk on water: The fishing pier stretches 1,300 feet into the Pacific. The Fisherman restaurant is on the pier - dining on one side, bar on the other. You can sit on the railing and watch the surfers and the sunset as you enjoy some great food and drinks. Or, head to the end of the pier to the Snack Shack!
Weekend sweet spot: Show up on Sunday mornings at Sugar Blossom Bake Shop for buttermilk cinnamon rolls with macadamia nut glaze (204 Avenida Del Mar; 949/429-5555). In other breakfast news - Pipes Cafe ( is known for their huge breakfast burritos and delicious acai smoothies and bowls. Definitely a must if you are looking for something more filling and local.
Park it by the ocean: Between State Beach, Calafia, and Lobeiro park, you’re in for a coastal three-in-one at San Clemente State Beach. Which to pick? State is the largest, with calm surf perfect for swimming and bodyboarding. On Saturdays, pop into the visitor center, with a room dedicated to surf memorabilia. Calafia is just north, where steep sandstone cliffs make a dramatic backdrop for sunbathers. Or follow the path from Calafia to Lobeiro park for a picnic on the lawn with ocean views. parks.ca.gov If you want a true "local' spot - head down to Rivieria or Lausens (Lost Winds) - both nestled in neighborhoods and more difficult to access. The fewer number of people on the beach is well worth the extra work getting there.
Quirky shopping: Looking for a cast concrete birdbath in the shape of a rhubarb leaf, a vintage mirror, or Chuck Berry Greatest Hits on vinyl? Look no further than La Casa Verde de Granada, an artists’ co-op that feels more like a funky antique store, with fun finds from estate and garage sales. 130 Avenida Granada; 949/498-2560. If you want to go down the clothes path, Bunny's Secrets on Del Mar is the place to stop. Cute and original clothes at fair prices!
Burgers and brews: Locals line up at the Riders Club Cafe, a former gas station, for craft beer, build-your-own burgers, and carnitas topped with carrot slaw. The rock tunes and beer-themed decor add honky-tonk swagger. $; 1701 N. El Camino Real; 949/388-3758 Head to Pizza Port on N. El Camino Real for some local craft beer and delicious pizza. They brew in house and have beer for all different tastes. The atmosphere is fun and you can sit on the patio when the weather is nice. Biggie's Burgers on El Camino is also a great burger place - perfect for drive through when heading to the beach. Try their zucchini fries, they won't disappoint!
Wine break: At the Cellar wine and cheese bar, food and drink share equal billing. Pull up a stool and order a glass of Rhône-style red and a wedge of triple-cream Red Hawk. Headed back to the beach? Grab a baguette sandwich and a bar of fair-trade chocolate. $; 156 Avenida Del Mar; 949/492-3663.
Sandwich cravings: Tina and Vince's Italian Deli is a must stop on Del Mar. Their sandwiches are simple, Italian traditional and priced great. They have awesome antipasti salads and pizza. Plus, listening to the charismatic husband and wife team talk in Italian makes the whole experience. If you are looking for more variety, at the top of Del Mar is Billy's Butcher Shop. Their sandwiches are packed with goodness. You can build your own sandwich or choose from their original creations. Plus, they have many home-made and fresh sides - including potato salad, coleslaw and fresh fruit - to pair with your sandwich.
Odds and Ends: Craving some mexican food? Hit up Pedros Tacos on S. El Camino Real. Awesome, melt in your mouth fish tacos and huge burritos. They are a staple in San Clemente for quick and delicious mexican food. And don't forget about Rainbows Sandals! Stop into their factory and grab a pair or two of their awesome sandals!
And of course, if you are ever in San Clemente, be sure to let me know! I'd love to meet up and show you my favorite places!Cheers,
[ another great San Clemente article by Sunset here]