San Clemente, California - Surf Travel Guide

San Clemente is the most unique surf town in Orange County. It doesn't have all the crowds and hype of Newport or Huntington, and the waves are as good or better. With a beautiful city and coastline and great places to stay and eat, San Clemente is a perfect location for a surf trip.

San Clemente Surf Spots

From Trestles to T-Street and the beach breaks in between, San Clemente has some of the best waves in Southern California. There are fast and hollow beach breaks, slow and crumbly cobblestone reef breaks, and a variety of other types of waves in the area. With the right swell, San Clemente lights up with great surf over miles of coastline.

Map of San Clemente

Trestles

Surfing trestles is the ultimate California surfing experience. No lifeguards, beach crowds, blackballs, or spongers. Just perfect point break waves for miles. Lower trestles is home to the only ASP World Tour event in North America, and is a perfect peak sending surfers right and left. Churches is an amazing right, though a bit slower at times than Lowers. The rest of the breaks at trestles are very consistent, and make arguably the best collection of Southern California surf breaks in one location.

T-Street

T-Street is a great beach if you're going to surf alone, or if you want to take the whole family. It has bathrooms, showers, fire pits, and very easy access. The waves here also get very good. The main peak at T-street breaks over a reef pretty far out producing an awesome right and a sometimes equally amazing left. There are other peaks north and south of the main take-off spot that can get more hollow and bowled up than the main peak. In the summer time this beach is blackballed, meaning no surfers are allowed in the water between the hours of 9AM and 6PM.

Califia, Lost Winds, Riviera, The Pier, 204's

There are several beach breaks in the San Clemente area that can get pretty fun. To find them just look for the packs of surfers out in the water south of T -street, at the pier, and north of the pier. Depending on the season and the swell, some surf spots get better waves than others. The best way to know where to go is to simply go look and see what's working best each day. The beach breaks here are generally fast and hollow when there is swell in the water.

San Onofre and Trails

Right on the border of San Clemente and Camp Pendleton area, San Onofre and Trails are the best places to learn to surf in Southern California. Look for the big nuclear power plant on the coastline to find where to go. Here you will find long, outside right and left waves that break slowly and easily over cobblestone reef. There are three main surf spots in the area, and they all break in about the same way. It is not uncommon to see a ton of people on the same wave, and everyone is friendly and willing to share. Because it is a state park there is a fee to pay in order to get in.

Beaches North and South of San Clemente

Staying in San Clemente doesn't mean your only options for surf are in San Clemente. Oceanside, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach are all within a half hour's drive away. Check out the surf spots page and learn about all the other breaks in this region.

San Clemente Photos

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How to Get to San Clemente, California - Travel Tips & Driving Directions

The best way to get to San Clemente is to fly into John Wayne Airport in Orange County, get on the 405 Freeway heading south, then stay on it as it merges into the 5 Freeway and you'll be there in no more than 20 minutes. You can also fly into Long Beach Airport, the Los Angeles Airport, or the San Diego Airport, though your drive will be a bit longer. From Long Beach or LA, follow the same directions but plan on being on the 405 Freeway for much longer. From San Diego, get on the 5 Freeway heading north. After you pass the Camp Pendleton Marine Base you will be passing trestles and on your way into San Clemente.

San Clemente Car Rental

Since you are traveling within the United States, car rentals are pretty straightforward. Renting a car through one of the agencies at the airport you come in at is the best option. Make sure you reserve a vehicle well in advance to the time you arrive if you want to make sure you get a good deal on one. If they don't have many left you could be stuck with a car you don't want that costs a lot more.

San Clemente Surf Lessons:

San Clemente Surfboard Rentals

Here is a list of shops that will help you find surfboards to rent. Some of them only have rentals available some of the time, but if they don't have anything currently available they will be able to point you in the direction of a shop that does.

  • Killer Dana Surf Shop: (949) 492-2305, 128 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • BC Surf Shop & Blue & Coast Surf: (949) 498-9085, 222 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • Trestles Surf Outlet (Rip Curl): (949) 498-7474, 3011 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • Kaysen Surf Designs: 949) 492-4132, 216 Calle De Los Molinos, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • Terry Senate Surfboards: (949) 361-1740, 208 Calle De Los Molinos # B, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • T-Street Surf: (949) 361-3324, 800 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • Rick Rock Surfboards: (949) 369-1972, 1321 Calle Valle # E, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • T Patterson Surfboards: (949) 498-6217, 1409 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • Stewart Surfboards Store: (949) 369-8918, 2102 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • Jack's Surfboards: (949) 276-8080, 34320 Pacific Coast Hwy., Dana Point, CA 92629
  • Lost Surfboards: (949) 492-2566, 216 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672

San Clemente Hotels and Rentals

Best Hotels in San Clemente:

Vacation Rentals in San Clemente:

Luxury Hotels Nearby:

San Clemente Restaurants & Bars

San Clemente is a perfect travel destination for food lovers. There are countless good places to spend your dining hours while on a trip to San Clemente. Here's a list of some of the favorites.

Local Favorites:

  • Fatburger: Great burgers and shakes. 1017 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA (949) 492-9182
  • Pipes Cafe: Made famous by its San Diego cousin. 2017 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA (949) 498-5002
  • San Clemente Cafe: Great breakfast, excellent service. 1810 S El Camino Real # A, San Clemente, CA (949) 366-0626
  • Aloha Coffee Hut: There are Starbucks all over the place, so try something different. 153 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA (949) 492-5447
  • Ichibiri Japanese Restaurant: Really good Japanese food cooked right in front of you. 1814 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA (949) 361-0137
  • Dave's Mexican Restaurant: Small place with local feel, awesome enchiladas. 1701 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA (949) 492-7867
  • Pedro's Tacos: Surfers' favorite Mexican fast food in the region. 550 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA (949) 498-5908 and 2313 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA (949) 498-5904
  • Cassano's Pizza: Awesome pizza right in front of the pier. 626 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, CA (949) 361-0522
  • Sonny's Pizza & Pasta: Really good Italian food. 429 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA (949) 498-2540
  • Nobu Sushi: Best sushi place in the area. 415 E Avenida Pico # C, San Clemente, CA (949)498-5331
  • El Mariachi Restaurant: Lots of great-tasting Mexican food for the right price. 1925 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA (949) 369-5111

Regional Favorites:

  • Baja Fresh Mexican Grill: 979 Avenida Pico # A, San Clemente, CA (949) 361-4667
  • Rubio's Fresh Mexican Grill: 638 Camino De Los Mares # D1, San Clemente, CA (949) 661-6683
  • Z Pizza: 1021 Avenida Pico, San Clemente, CA (949) 498-3505
  • Wahoo's Fish Tacos: 641 Camino De Los Mares # A100, San Clemente, CA (949) 487-6995

Other Activities

San Clemente has several great golf courses to keep you busy when you're all surfed out. Check out these places if you are looking to golf on your vacation:

  • San Clemente Municipal Golf Course: One of the finest courses in the Southern California area. 150 E Avenida Magdalena (949) 361-8384
  • San Clemente Shorecliffs Golf Course: A tight course with lots of water throughout it. 501 Avenida Vaquero (949) 492-1177
  • Talega Golf Club: Great ocean and mountain views. 990 Avenida Talega (949) 369-6226

There are a lot of great hiking trails in San Clemente. If you need to find something fun for the whole family and you want to see some of the scenery and landscapes of the San Clemente region, check out some of the many hiking trails in the area. This site has a list of trails in the region with descriptions and directions: ESanClemente.com

Staying in San Clemente, you are just a short trip away from Catalina Island. Although there isn't any surf on the island, there are a lot of other activities to participate in. To get there, take one of the ferries or boat trips leaving from either Dana Point or Newport harbors. Here's a site to help you book the trip out: Catalina Tours.

Once there check out the many things there are to do at this site: Catalina Adventure Tours

And of course, if you are in San Clemente then you are right in between places like Disneyland, California Adventure, Universal Studios, Sea World, and Legoland. If you've got kids with you then it may be worth planning a trip to one of these places.

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