One perfect day in San Clemente, CA

Spend the day in an Orange County surf town with plenty to offer

Calafia State Beach in Orange County

At Calafia, picturesque sandstone cliffs serve as the backdrop for your day in the sun. Tired of Calafia? Hop over to nearby State Beach or Lobeiro park for a change of scenery.

Gina Sabatella

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La Casa Verde de Granada
Riders Club Cafe
Cellar wine and cheese bar

Why go now: The surf’s up, but the pace is slowed down in this charming small town, where fine wine and farmstands meet big waves and a chill surfer vibe.

Easy-peasy pull-over: It’s right off I-5, so you can’t beat it for beach convenience.

Or go carless: Amtrak’s Pacific Surf­liner chugs alongside San Clemente’s sandstone cliffs and stops in town (

Main drag: On downtown’s laid-back Avenida Del Mar, it’s easy to forget the freeway just north.

The look: White stucco adobes with red-tiled roofs line the curvy streets, making this town feel like a “Spanish village by the sea”—just what founder Ole Hanson envisioned back in 1925.

Walk on water: The fishing pier stretches 1,300 feet into the Pacific.

Weekend sweet spot: Show up on Sunday mornings at Sugar Blossom Bake Shop for buttermilk cinnamon rolls with macadamia nut glaze (204 Avenida Del Mar; 949/429-5555).

Gardens with a view: Wander Casa Romantica, a Spanish colonial revival estate turned cultural center with killer views (415 Avenida Granada;

Park it by the ocean: Between State Beach, Calafia, and Lobeiro park, you’re in for a coastal three-in-one at San Clemente State Beach. Which to pick? State is the largest, with calm surf perfect for swimming and bodyboarding. On Saturdays, pop into the visitor center, with a room dedicated to surf memorabilia. Calafia (pictured) is just north, where steep sandstone cliffs make a dramatic backdrop for sunbathers. Or follow the path from Calafia to Lobeiro park for a picnic on the lawn with ocean views.

Quirky shopping: Looking for a cast concrete birdbath in the shape of a rhubarb leaf, a vintage mirror, or Chuck Berry Greatest Hits on vinyl? Look no further than La Casa Verde de Granada, an artists’ co-op that feels more like a funky antique store, with fun finds from estate and garage sales. 130 Avenida Granada; 949/498-2560.


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