San Clemente Travel Guide

Explore the beauty and culture of San Clemente in Southern California with our comprehensive travel guide. Discover the best attractions, activities, dining, and accommodations in the area.

Introduction to San Clemente

San Clemente is a beautiful coastal city located in Orange County, Southern California. Known for its stunning beaches, Mediterranean climate, and charming downtown area, San Clemente attracts visitors from all over the world. Whether you’re looking to soak up the sun, indulge in outdoor adventures, or explore the local culture and cuisine, San Clemente has something for everyone.

List of Places to Visit in San Clemente

San Clemente offers plenty of exciting attractions and activities for travelers of all ages. Below are some of the must-visit places in the city:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens: This stunning mansion-turned-cultural-center offers visitors a glimpse into the region’s history and culture. The center hosts concerts, art exhibitions, and educational programs throughout the year.

  • San Clemente Pier: Built in 1928, the San Clemente Pier is a historic landmark that serves as a hub for fishing, dining, and entertainment. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the pier while enjoying the scenic views of the ocean.

  • Surfing Heritage and Culture Center: Surfing is an integral part of San Clemente’s culture, and this museum celebrates the sport’s history and evolution.

Natural Attractions of San Clemente: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • San Clemente State Beach: Located just south of the pier, San Clemente State Beach offers a long stretch of sandy beach for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing. The beach has lifeguards on duty, picnic areas, and showers for public use.

  • San Onofre State Beach: This beach is a popular spot for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing. It has a campground, a visitor center, and several hiking trails.

  • Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center: Located just a few miles north of San Clemente, this interpretive center offers interactive exhibits and educational programs that highlight the region’s diverse marine ecosystem.

Hiking/Biking Routes of San Clemente

San Clemente has several well-maintained hiking and biking trails that offer visitors an opportunity to explore the city’s natural beauty up close. Some of the most popular routes include:

  • San Clemente Coastal Trail: This 2.3-mile trail runs along the coastline and offers stunning views of the ocean, hills, and cityscape.

  • Forster Ranch Ridgeline Trail: This 3.4-mile trail is a favorite among hikers and mountain bikers for its scenic views and challenging terrain.

  • Marblehead Inland Trail: This 4.2-mile trail offers visitors a chance to explore San Clemente’s inland hills and valleys, as well as its rich wildlife and plant diversity.

Best Things to Do in San Clemente: Activities and Tours

San Clemente has activities and tours that cater to all interests. Some of the best things to do in San Clemente include:

  • Whale Watching Tours: San Clemente is known for its diverse marine wildlife, including whales, dolphins, and sea lions. Several tour operators offer whale watching tours that take visitors on a close-up encounter with these majestic creatures.

  • Golfing: San Clemente has several world-class golf courses, including the San Clemente Municipal Golf Course and the Bella Collina Towne & Golf Club.

  • San Clemente Farmers Market: This weekly farmers market offers visitors a chance to sample and purchase fresh produce, artisanal goods, and local crafts.

Week-Long Itinerary for San Clemente

San Clemente offers visitors an endless array of exciting activities and sightseeing opportunities. Below is a week-long itinerary that showcases the best of what San Clemente has to offer:

Day Activity
Day 1 Visit San Clemente State Beach and go surfing or swimming.
Day 2 Take a hike on the San Clemente Coastal Trail and enjoy the stunning views.
Day 3 Go on a whale watching tour and see these magnificent creatures up close.
Day 4 Take a golf lesson or play a round of golf at one of San Clemente’s premier golf courses.
Day 5 Visit Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens and attend a concert or art exhibition.
Day 6 Spend a day at the San Diego Zoo or SeaWorld, both of which are just a short drive from San Clemente.
Day 7 Explore San Clemente’s downtown area, shop at local boutiques, and dine at one of the city’s many gourmet restaurants.

Food and Drink Scene of San Clemente

San Clemente has a vibrant food and drink scene that caters to all tastes and budgets. Some of the must-try dishes and local beverages in San Clemente include:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Fish Tacos: San Clemente is famous for its fresh seafood, and fish tacos are a local favorite. The tacos are typically made with battered and fried fish, served with cabbage, pico de gallo, and a variety of sauces.

  • Acai Bowls: Acai bowls are a healthy and delicious breakfast option that has become popular in San Clemente. The bowls are made with blended acai berries, topped with granola, fresh fruit, and honey.

  • California Burritos: California Burritos are a San Clemente staple, made with carne asada, french fries, cheese, and guacamole.

Local Beverages

  • San Clemente Brewery: This local brewery offers a variety of craft beers, including IPAs, stouts, and lagers.

  • Nick’s San Clemente: This upscale restaurant has an extensive wine list featuring local wines from the nearby Temecula Valley.

  • Bear Coast Coffee: This cozy coffee shop serves organic, fair-trade coffee and tea, as well as homemade pastries and sandwiches.

Where to Stay in San Clemente: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

San Clemente has a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets and tastes. Some of the best hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in San Clemente include:

  • San Clemente Cove Resort: This oceanfront resort offers spacious suites with fully equipped kitchens and private balconies.

  • Nomads Hotel: This upscale hostel offers shared and private rooms, as well as a communal kitchen, lounge, and outdoor terrace.

  • Always Inn San Clemente Bed & Breakfast: This charming bed and breakfast offers cozy rooms, a homemade breakfast, and a peaceful garden.

What to Buy in San Clemente: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Visitors to San Clemente can find a variety of unique and locally made souvenirs and products to bring home. Some of the best places to shop in San Clemente include:

  • San Clemente Farmers Market: This weekly farmers market offers a wide selection of artisanal goods, including fresh produce, baked goods, and handmade crafts.

  • The Shop at Casa Romantica: This gift shop located inside the Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens sells a variety of unique and handcrafted items made by local artisans.

  • Soul Project: This boutique sells a variety of locally made clothing, accessories, and home decor items, as well as hosting a variety of events highlighting the local community.

Local Culture and Customs of San Clemente

San Clemente is a laid-back and friendly city with a vibrant surf culture. Visitors should be mindful of the following customs and etiquette when visiting San Clemente:

  • Respect the beach and ocean: San Clemente locals place a high value on preserving the natural beauty of their beaches. Visitors should be mindful of their trash, avoid taking shells or sand, and never disturb the wildlife.

  • Embrace the local culture: San Clemente is proud of its surfing heritage and encourages visitors to try out the sport. Visitors should also try the local cuisine, attend cultural events, and embrace the relaxed beach lifestyle.

Best Time to Visit San Clemente

San Clemente enjoys a Mediterranean climate with mild temperatures and lots of sunshine throughout the year. However, the best time to visit San Clemente is between May and September when the weather is warm, and the ocean temperature is ideal for swimming and surfing.

Do’s and Don’ts of San Clemente


  • Do visit the local farmers market for fresh produce and artisanal goods.

  • Do try out surfing, even if you’re a beginner.

  • Do take a hike along the San Clemente Coastal Trail.


  • Don’t litter on the beach or ocean.

  • Don’t disturb the local wildlife.

  • Don’t forget to try the local cuisine and beverages.

Safety and Health

Safety in San Clemente

San Clemente is a safe city with low instances of crime and violence. However, visitors should exercise caution when exploring the city at night and should take standard safety precautions.

Health in San Clemente

San Clemente has excellent medical facilities and healthcare professionals. Visitors should ensure they have adequate travel insurance that covers any medical emergencies that may arise.

Getting to San Clemente: Transportation Options and Logistics

San Clemente is easily accessible by air, rail, and road. Below are some transportation options for getting to San Clemente:

Airports Near San Clemente

  • John Wayne Airport (SNA): This airport is located approximately 25 miles northwest of San Clemente and offers domestic and international flights.

  • Los Angeles International Airport (LAX): This airport is located approximately 80 miles northwest of San Clemente and offers domestic and international flights.

Bus Stations Near San Clemente

  • San Clemente Metrolink Station: This rail station is located in downtown San Clemente and offers connections to several bus lines.

Other Options

  • Car Rentals: San Clemente has several car rental agencies that offer affordable rates and flexible rental options.

  • Private Transfers: Several private transfer companies offer shuttle and private car services to and from San Clemente.

How to Get Around in San Clemente

San Clemente is a pedestrian and bike-friendly city, and many attractions and restaurants are within walking distance of each other. Visitors can also rent bikes or take local buses to explore the city more in-depth. Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are also available.

Where to Go Next from San Clemente: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

San Clemente is located in a prime location for day trips and excursions to nearby cities and attractions. Some of the best nearby destinations include:

  • Laguna Beach: Located just north of San Clemente, Laguna Beach is a scenic coastal town known for its art galleries, beautiful beaches, and buzzing nightlife.

  • Disneyland: Just a short drive from San Clemente, Disneyland is a world-renowned theme park that offers fun for all ages.

  • San Diego: Located approximately 60 miles south of San Clemente, San Diego is a vibrant city with a variety of attractions, including the San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park, and the USS Midway Museum.


San Clemente is a beautiful and welcoming city with plenty to offer for visitors of all ages and interests. From its pristine beaches to its fascinating cultural attractions, San Clemente is a must-visit destination for anyone exploring Southern California. Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, San Clemente has everything you need for an unforgettable vacation.