Guide to San Clemente Beaches

I grew up on the beaches of San Clemente…which used to be a sleepy little surf town.  Now, twenty years later, the town has practically doubled in size, with its beaches providing a huge year-round draw for both residents & tourists alike.  In this “Guide to San Clemente Beaches,” I’ll give you a local’s perspective of the town’s most popular spots, & some insight into which beaches are best for families, surfers, & those seeking more peace & quiet for sunbathing & swimming.  Also note that the popular San Clemente Beach Trail runs right along the sand & train tracks from North Beach all the way down to Calafia…

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

T-Street, in my opinion, is the heart of San Clemente ~ almost more than the pier & Del Mar. People often gather above the beach to watch the sunset…

Map of San Clemente Beaches

T-Street (Great for Families & Surfers)

Linda Lane (Great for Families)

North Beach (By the SC Train Station)

Calafia

Trestles (Great for Advanced Surfers)

Old Man's Beach (Great for Beginner Surfers)

Overview of San Clemente Beaches

  • Poche Beach, The “No Services” Beach: On the border of Capo Beach, Poche is the beach we went to least ~ there are no facilities here, & metered street parking. Shorecliff Beach Club is here, but it’s private & not open to the public. Bring your own food & drink if visiting Poche.
  • North Beach, “Where the Train Stops” Beach: This is where Amtrak’s Surfliner train stop is ~ the only stop in San Clemente. There’s a nice big parking lot here right by the beach; you pay for parking. Lots of amenities at North Beach: you’ve got volleyball courts, a snack bar (& cute cafes right up the street), a lifeguard, restrooms, fire pits, playground, & grass area. This is also where the Beach Trail starts ~ perfect for runners, walkers, & bikers.
  • Linda Lane, The Great Family Beach: Everyone I know who has kids loves Linda Lane ~ there’s a dedicated parking lot at Linda Lane Park, a short walk downhill & thru a tunnel under the train tracks to reach the beach. Linda Lane is just north of the pier, so you’re close to lots of restaurants, bathrooms, & services: but what makes it especially great for families are the large playground, lots of grass & picnic tables to spread out at.
  • The Pier, The “Heart of San Clemente”: Large parking lots uphill from the pier provide more parking than any other SC beach, & coffee shops & restaurants in the “Pier Bowl” provide lots of dining options. You can also continue walking uphill to reach San Clemente’s darling downtown on Del Mar Street, where there’s even more dining & shopping options. The pier’s beach was never my favorite, as there tends to be lots of tourists: but it’s a good initial SC stop.
  • T-Street, SC’s “Most Popular” Beach: We went to T-Street more than any other beach by a longshot: it’s the quintessential San Clemente meeting spot. The beach here is fairly wide (but wider down at Riviera & Calafia), & you’ll find families, surfers, teens, & just about everyone here ~ plus there’s a cute little snack bar thats been there for years. This is the spot to “see & be seen.”

Overview of San Clemente's Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

This overpass provides a safe way to cross the train tracks at popular T-Street beach.

  • The Hole, Local’s “Secret” Spot: Other than T-Street, this is the beach we frequented most: it’s next-door to T-Street, just to the south ~ but because there’s no actual parking here, it’s typically much quieter. And you’re right next to the bathrooms (The Hole starts just past the bathrooms). This is a great spot for sunbathers & swimmers, or those who don’t mind a short walk…away from the crowds.
  • Lost Winds (Lasuens), The “Volleyball Courts” Beach: A short walk south of The Hole & T-Street is the beach with multiple volleyball courts, pronounced “Los-wens.” If you’re parking here, you’ll be parking on residential streets, then walking down STEEP stairs (photo below), so take note. This is not my top pick for families, due to its difficulty to reach; better for those traveling light.
  • Riviera Beach, Local’s Favorite Surf Spot: Families who love to surf tend to gravitate towards Riviera. Parking here is on residential streets, but this is an easier (NOT steep) walk to reach the beach ~ & the sand is nice & wide here. Locals call it “Rivi,” & though there aren’t any services here, Calafia is just a short walk away….or bring your own food & drinks. Fire pits here call for great nighttime bonfires…
  • Calafia State Beach, Popular with Out-of-Towners: Due to the fact that it’s a State Beach with a large parking area & restaurant, Calafia is popular with tourists. In my day, Calafia wasn’t a favorite local’s spot ~ & the grass area here is pretty small, so it’s not my favorite spot for families either. But the beach itself is great, wide like Riviera, so if you’re in town for sunbathing & swimming: this is a great option. Just get here early, as the lot can fill up.
  • San Onofre State Beach, The Ultimate Surfer’s Beach: San Onofre is so far south that I don’t always consider it a true San Clemente beach ~ it’s kind of its own thing. But it’s also one of the area’s biggest draws & an iconic surf spot. Trestles draws more advanced surfers, while mellow Old Man’s is an amazing place to learn how to longboard. When you come here, expect lines to get in: most people coming here are coming for the whole day, & parking can fill up early…

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

Parking at San Onofre, or “San-O,” is virtually right on the sand ~ one reason why it’s so popular with surfers…aside from the great breaks.

Photos of San Clemente Beaches

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World, Poche Beach

Poche is the furthest beach NORTH on this list, straddling tiny Capo Beach & San Clemente. And it’s next to private Shorecliffs Beach Club (no public facilities here).

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

What distinguishes North Beach are 1) The Surfliner train stops here, & 2) There’s a nice big parking lot right next to the beach….making for easy parking, if you can find a spot!

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

Linda Lane is my TOP choice for a family beach day in San Clemente. And for walkers, the beach trail here is nice & wide…& takes you all the way up to North Beach, or south to Calafia.

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

Another shot of Linda Lane: the parking lot here is ABOVE the train tracks, requiring a short walk up & downhill. The SC Pier is just south of Linda Lane.

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

The San Clemente Pier is a popular area with several dining options: including Fisherman’s Wharf (on the pier), & uber-popular Bear Coast Coffee & Caterina’s Gelato Bar.

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

South of the pier lies San Clemente’s most popular beach: T-Street. This is the best all-around beach in town, with lots of parking both metered & on the street at the top of the stairs/overpass.

More Photos of San Clemente Beaches…

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

The best “Secret Beach” in SC (& my favorite) is The Hole. It’s located just south of T-Street, past the bathrooms ~ there’s no actual parking here, which keeps the crowds away…but you’re still close to the action at T-Street.

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

What distinguishes Lost Winds (Lasuens) is 1) The steep stairs leading down to the beach, & 2) The sand volleyball courts. This used to be where the “cool kids” hung out…

Guide to San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

The stairs at Lost Winds.

Overview of San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

Parking at Riviera is on the street in a nice, residential neighborhood. “Rivi,” as its called by locals, is a popular spot with surfers & has a nice, wide beach…

Overview of San Clemente Beaches, Girl Who Travels the World

Calafia State Beach is the furthest south beach until you reach “The Point,” past which is Trestles & San Onofre.

Guide to San Clemente Beaches

That’s a wrap on the beaches of San Clemente.  I just visited in May, & though much of SC has changed: the beaches really haven’t, which was a nice throwback.  For a charming local stay, check out the Oceanfront Hacienda ~ which is just a short walk to Del Mar.  Or for a more luxurious getaway: try the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach.

xoxo Noelia

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