Casa Tropicana Inn & Spa. Stylish, recently renovated B&B with eight beach-inspired rooms directly across from the pier. From $245. 610 Avenida Victoria; www.casatropicana.com or 800/492-1245.
Villa Del Mar Inn. Astounding views of the glistening Pacific from the balcony of every room. Eight suites with full kitchens from $295. 612 Avenida Victoria; www.villasanclemente.com or 949/498-5080.
Even with a newly vibrant downtown, San Clemente's big summer draws are the surf and sand. Follow Avenida Del Mar down toward the water to the metered public parking at Parque Del Mar. From here, it's an easy walk to the San Clemente Pier, where you can hang over the railing and watch the surfers shoot the pilings below you. There are almost always surfers on the north side of the pier; the south side typically sees more swimmers and bodyboarders.
About 1⁄4 mile south of the pier is T-Street, one of the most popular surf beaches in San Clemente. During the summer, surfing here is allowed only during the morning and evening hours. A little farther south is the family-oriented Calafia Beach, at San Clemente State Park; there's metered parking in a beachfront lot.
For more information, contact the City of San Clemente Beaches, Parks & Recreation Department (949/361-8264).