Tips for visiting San Clemente:
- Take the train if you are coming from LA. You will skip all the traffic and I guarantee you it will be more peaceful this way! Uber works very well in San Clemente… but so do your feet! You can walk around everywhere.
- Check out Pizza Port for some delicious home-brewed beers. My friend and I loved the MadeWest, Queen of the west double IPA.
- Get your coffee fix at Bear Coast Coffee.
- Here are some restaurant/bar recommendations from my friend who lives there:
- The Cellar – Amazing wine and cheese bar with live music and food. Their cappuccino is delicious. I tried it and LOVED it.
- Vine – Restaurant with great food and cocktails ( I loved the Smoke Show & One and done drinks)
- Caterina’s Gelato- For some fantastic gelato.
JD’s – Perfect late night drinking and snack joint.
Red Fox – Local dive bar cash only. If you’re not in the mood for this, do yourself a favor and walk in just to check it out!
Nomads – local surfer restaurant poke bowl is pretty good & crazy tequila and beer selection.
- Casa Romantica and Gardens – Neat view of the pier and museum.
- Cafe Mimosa – Morning breakfast joint.
- Nick’s – Fancy restaurant, not too pricey.
- Active Culture – Tasty & Healthy açai bowls, smoothies, self-serve froyo, salads, salads, bowls, wraps and juices.
- Some places to explore, short drive:
- San Onofre State Park – Great place to watch long boarders surf, fire pits etc.
- Lower Trestles – Great place to watch pro surfers. Known as one of the best surf breaks in North America.
- Kawamata Seafood – Best Poke Bowl in town.
- Artifex Brewing & Left Coast Brewing – Local Breweries.
- Looking for surf, snowboard, skateboard equipment or casual beach attire? Head over to The Surfer’s Outlet by Jack’s Surfboards for some great deals (176 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672).
Impressions of San Clemente:
I needed a getaway from Los Angeles and my friend had recommended I drive down and stay at his place in San Clemente. I’d never been because I guess it doesn’t usually pop up in the list of cities to explore on the west coast of California… and because I always drive down to see my friends in Hermosa Beach and that always feels like a longish drive.
My friend and I drove down on Saturday afternoon and planned to stay there until Monday. We stopped in Laguna Beach on the way down, because I’ve always loved stopping there, and The Rooftop has an amazing… yes rooftop patio overlooking the ocean. The drinks are overpriced, the food is quite good and expensive but it’s worth it for the view.
We got to my friend’s apartment in San Clemente just before the sunset, so we rushed down to the beach trail to watch it. Within seconds of standing there, on the path, watching the waves crashing on the beach, the sunset slowly, I felt overcome with happiness, joy and mostly calmness.
We walked towards the pier and just soaked up the pink-orangy dusk light. We walked back home through the town, to get a sense of this secret little town. My friend’s apartment was just so calm, we sat down, had a glass of Pecorino wine I brought back from Italy for a special occasion, and listened to some music. We got hungry and ordered a (vegan, gluten-free) pizza from Zpizza and just talked, laughed and relaxed… so much that we didn’t want to leave the apartment.
The next morning we got up and walked down to the beach trail towards the pier. We had a goal in mind: start the day off right with a cappuccino from Bear Coast Coffee. It was so delicious! Something that also hit us as we were just waiting in line, observing the local life, is that everyone seemed very happy, friendly, laid-back, healthy and active. People talked to each other on the beach trail, they looked around, they enjoyed their surroundings… to the opposite of the LA lifestyle which usually entails looking down on your phone or taking selfies/pictures.
I couldn’t wait to get my running shoes on and explore the beach trail. I ran the whole length of it, two mornings in a row. It was such a treat to be outside, running along the beach. It’s a 2.6-mile trail one way, and at the southern tip, the path ends on the beach. If you like a challenge keep running in the thick sand. There was some construction along the train tracks which was a little bit loud and stinky, but overall I loved every second of it. On the second morning, I ended my run at the end of the pier. What a treat!
The rest of our Sunday was spent on the not very crowded beach. (It was the Super Bowl but my friend said the beaches are always less crowded in San Clemente.) We also went shopping for some clothes, food, and crystals, gems and precious stones on Avenida del Mar Street. Most places were closed for the Super Bowl but this street seemed like it could be a nice place to wander to find gifts and spend money!
As we were driving back up to the craziness of Los Angeles on Monday afternoon, my friend and I came to the same conclusion: San Clemente is THE place to go for a sleepy beach town experience. Both of us would go back… hopefully soon!
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