San Clemente State Beach and City Beaches | Southern California Family Beach Vacation

San Clemente California beach vacation might best be described as the OC getaway. Why? It is a popular destination for local residents and tourists visiting the region and has been so for decades, all the way back to the days of Richard Nixon. Just far enough south from The OC - Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach with its MTV, San Clemente is old-fashioned and easy-going. Who would know that Mavericks Big Wave Surf previous winner, Greg Long, originates from the San Clemente shores where he surfs regularly? The surfing waves are ranked as the best in Orange County, but near the pier, you can take lessons as a beginner, and experience the rush that Long once felt when he surfed the very first time.

Ideally located between Los Angeles and San Diego, San Clemente is a unique beach town built on hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It is conveniently located for airport travel with flights at Orange County Airport in Santa Ana.  Over 2 million vacationers and visitors annually come to San Clemente, and there are two special segments who find it ideal--surfers and families with kids.

There's a reason it once served as the Western White House for President Richard Nixon.  The Casa Pacifica oceanfront home built on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean was sits at the southern-most point of San Clemente. Built for Hamilton “Ham” Cotton, it sold in 1969 for President Richard Nixon. Mrs. Cotton, a democratic, was reportedly furious that the conservative republican would own this prime piece of property and host the likes of Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, Mexican President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, Japanese Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, Henry Kissinger, and Bebe Rebozo. Following his resignation, Nixon retired to San Clemente to write his memoirs. Privately owned to this day, the public can't visit or tour the property, but can look up from the beach near San Clemente State Park to gaze at the home.


The city offers 20 acres of sand beach and a 1,200-foot long fishing pier with commanding views of coastal bluff and hills. There is a bait and tackle shop at the end of the pier and a full service restaurant and bar at the base. Umbrella, surfboard and bodyboard rentals are available within easy walking distance and food concessions are open on a seasonal basis at  popular North Beach, "T" Street Beach and Calafia Beach Park.  One of the most popular events is the San Clemente Ocean Festival which is held at the base of the pier on the third weekend in July. It features two days of lifeguard competitions, a children’s pavilion, fishing derby, rubber duck race, an art show,  sand castle contest and a beach blanket barbecue and concert.


San Clemente has a small town feel but offers many restaurants, hotels and shops and public parks and beaches. It is an enjoyable getaway for those seeking to spend a few relaxing days in the sun and sand. San Clemente State Beach  is popular with surfers, skin divers and hikers. Blufftop picnic areas overlook winding trails that lead down to the beach can be found at this sunny seaside favorite located three miles south of San Clemente on I-5 Basilone Road. Exit the 5 Freeway at Avenida Calafia near the south end of San Clemente. 


San Onofre State Beach is  3.5 miles of sand beaches featuring six access trails cut into the bluff where the campground is located. Swimmers, sun bathers and surfers who love Trestles Beach sometimes get a treat when whales and dolphins swim by.  The beach is south of San Clemente on I-5 Basilone Road. 


San Onofre naturist beach is located at the southern-most 500 feet of San Onofre State Beach. Situated onn  property leased from the marine base, this clothing-optional beach is off  Interstate 5 at Basilone Road exit, as well. Drive past the nuclear power plant to the park's entrance.  Drive south another three miles to the far end of the park and walk on Trail #6, to the beach.  600 yards south is the clothing- optional area. Enjoy your sun but remember that you can burn quickly. And, don't be annoyed by the Marine helicopters flying overhead. While you may think they are taking a peak, they routinely perform drills and exercises here.


San Clemente is growing like so much of Orange County that edges toward complete build out of available lands. When visiting you can tell that San Clemente residents love their fantastic beaches, small town feel and weather. Ideally situated between Los Angeles and San Diego, it's clear that growth will continue, traffic congestion along Interstate 5 will increase and people will want to build more houses and move to this Southern California paradise. But for now, a visit to San Clemente provides an old-fashioned experience, offering tucked away beaches, great shops and some of the finest surfing on the West Coast at San Clemente State Beach, Trestles and San Onofre State Beach.


San Clemente, California 
County: Orange 
Elevation:  208' 


Oceanside  >San Clemente > Dana Point

san clement california
san clemente state beach

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