Best Southern California Beaches
Southern California Beaches
San Clemente is just one great spots along the coastline, and no lies – it’s home to some of the best surf spots in the world. T-Street, San Clemente Pier, and San Onofre State Beach are on the list of the best beaches in the world. This beach town is just the first along the Pacific Coast highway in Orange County that has been a destination for people all over the world. Home to some of the best events in the state, the top Southern California beaches include Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, La Jolla, Newport Beach, Pacific Beach, Santa Monica, and Venice Beach. From Los Angeles to San Diego – you cannot go wrong visiting any of these west coast beaches.
Surf City USA
Surf City USA is home of plenty of restaurant and bars to make a great night out of any night of the week. Located in Northern Orange County, Huntington Beach is the farthest from San Clemente, but is certainly worth the drive up. Google maps would tell you to take the freeway, but then again a computer can’t understand beauty. That’s why you should take the coast highway unless you’re in a rush. The drive might be slower at times, but you will get to drive through all of the other major beach cities in Orange County. The drive is one you should make in both directions, day and night. The silhouette of palm trees hanging above, lights that look like candles tiering upwards into the towering hills of Laguna Beach, curvy coastline roadways, and amazing scenic vistas await your passage of Highway 1 – the Pacific Coast Highway.
Sailboats, Charter fishing, and Water sports
Huntington Beach is the last of the beach cities in Orange County that we recommend visiting, but the first along the trail north from San Clemente is Dana Point. Worth of a notable mention and similar to San Clemente in many ways, this quiet town is most know for Doheny Beach and Dana Point harbor. SUP boarding, sailing, boating, jet skiing, and camping are some of the most practiced activities in this town. Doheny Beach is popular although it struggles to compete with T-Street and the pier ?. Dana Point Harbor’s most well know attractions are charter whale watching tours, charter fishing, and the Dana Point Ocean Institute. Any of which are good for an afternoon or day trip from San Clemente. Our closest neighbor is just 1 minutes away from most places in San Clemente.
San Juan Capistrano
Mission San Juan Capistrano
SJC is the next beach city just beside Dana Point. This town is also just a few minutes ride down the PCH or 5 freeway from San Clemente. San Juan is a quiet spot with only one real attraction – the mission. Mission San Juan Capistrano is the oldest of all the missions in California and is the best one to visit in the LA/Orange County area. The Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1776, the same year the United States declared independence from England. Featuring over 10 acres of gardens, audio tours, and several exhibits that are fun for the whole family. Mission SJC is located on Ortega Highway CA-74 just west of the I-5 freeway. Plenty of free parking exists around the mission making it a fun, inexpensive, family friendly place to visit.
Restaurants, shops, & the prettiest beaches in Orange County
San Clemente has some serious competition with Laguna for the title of “nicest beaches”. Laguna Beach can also be characterized as quiet, scenic, amazingly beautiful, and artsy. Beaches in Laguna are not the best for surfing but are good for other water sport activities. This small town is know for a smattering of restaurants and art galleries mixed with some cute houses crawling up the hillside. The beaches here are more secluded in parts and much more rocky than other parts of the Orange County coastline. The view from north of main beach in Laguna is hands down one of the best anywhere. It’s a great starting point for a visit to Laguna Beach. Start at the top of the cliffside pathways just north of the beach where parking is more easily found. You can conveniently pay parking meters with credit card or coins. Pathways will meander the hillside down to the beachfront through gardens. Laguna Beach is dog friendly during parts of the year, has more restaurants than you could visit in a month, and possesses something that you really can’t say unless you’ve been there. There are many reasons why you should visit. A definite yes for first time visitors. It’s a spot that hasn’t lost one bit of its ability to inspire people since the first eyes were laid upon the unsettled laguna cove hundreds of years ago.
Surfing, Dining, & Shopping Epicenter
The town where you will see more Ferraris and McLarens than Fords. The roadway elevates upward from the ocean level to a plateau which provides plenty of elevated ocean vistas. Newport Beach is the epicenter for high-end shopping and dining in Orange County. Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza, the place where you will feel like Kobe Bryant from the Lakers. There isn’t a shortage of affordable restaurants and shops to visit, but Fashion Island and South Coast Plaza are the Rodeo Drive of Orange County. Newport Beach is home to plenty of famous beaches and surf spots including “The Wedge”, Corona Del Mar State Beach, and Crystal Cove State Park. Hiking, biking, camping, stargazing, sailing, and you name it. It’s neighbor, Costa Mesa, has other great spots to shop and dine including The Triangle which is home to Saddle Rack, Sutra, and several other fun nightlife hot spots.
Beaches and Things to do Outside of Orange County
Plenty to see and do in San Diego or Los Angeles
In Orange County that is the best of it for starters. Los Angeles and San Diego have the next bath of must see spots for your list. Both are home to many major attractions, great beaches, and other things to do in Southern California. San Clemente sits in the middle between these two destinations making it the perfect place to find accommodations that give you the ability to see both Los Angeles and San Diego.
Beaches in Los Angeles
Why not start with the best…it’s LA after all. The city of angels and a city of stars. Hollywood doesn’t have beaches per se, but just west along Wiltshire and Santa Monica Boulevard awaits one of the most well know icons of LA and Southern California. The Santa Monica Pier had been an icon of movies, TV, and the media for a long time. Lights flash at night as the tourists pass underneath the carnival rides aboard the pier. It’s one of the top piers to see in So Cal and sits along a stretch of beach which is also a must see attraction. Santa Monica beach is always active with people enjoying any and every outdoor activity you can think of. With no shortage of space for a blanket, the large beach surrounding the pier is a great place to spend the day. If you are looking for something more active, the trails from Santa Monica to Venice Beach are a great spot to jump on a bike and go for a ride. Large paved lanes allow walkers and bikers to enjoy this fun stretch of coastline.
Via walking, biking, or driving in, Venice Beach is a…well…let’s just say you will never see the strangest thing you are going to see there. Visiting during the day or dusk is best because you will catch the art vendors, peddlers, musicians, bums, tourists, and kooks all blending together to create this freak show of humanity. That’s a little over dramatic, but it is a strange place in many ways. Tattoo shops, tech startups (former home of SnapChat), tech giants, young people, skate parks, and art would be just a few treasures of this city. You can’t forget the guys in green. The guide will not ruin it. You have to see them yourself when you get there. “Relax man….it will all be OK…..they can help you feel better”. Go early if you are not a fan of crowds or people who can be most kindly described as “different”. The Venice Beach boardwalk will only get busier and busier during the day and top off at dusk when vendors are forced to close shop for the day. If you’re not sure you want to visit, walk south from Santa Monica. You can always turn back to the light of it gets too artsy or strange for you.
Not far from LA and San Clemente, but very different in many positive ways. San Diego gives you more of a city feel than Los Angeles. The scenery is more hilly at parts, and has some true gems along the coastline. San Diego has a different vibe. Maybe more relaxed, more vibrant, and some would say…classy. Nightlife in San Diego is some of the best anywhere in the Gaslamp Quarter which houses more bars and restaurants that tastebuds on your tongue. Beer. Breweries. I’m surprised it’s not part of the San Diego tagline. San Diego has a plethora of tasting rooms and micro-breweries that are great spots to visit. Many of which are a restaurant format and all-age friendly. San Diego has plenty of major attractions and rich cultural spots including Old Town Dan Diego. Old Town architecture and authentic Mexican restaurants are the best in California. Dining and nightlife is just one aspect of what makes San Diego great. If you had to choose a destination based on dining and nightlife factors. Skip LA. You will never be disappointed in America’s Finest City. San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park are a must see. SewWorld San Diego is another fun attraction where you can enjoy both shows featuring amazing creatures from our oceans, and thrilling rides.
San Diego Beaches
Clear waters and great waves
Yeah, they get their own section and it’s because they are worth it. La Jolla is the #1 must see beach spot in San Diego. Tall rocky shorelines, plenty of local lore (including the creator of the lorax), crystal clear waters, and plenty more. Kayaking is one of the best activities if you had to choose one. It’s great for people of all ages and is an easy enough activity for most. You can paddle out to the waters of La Jolla cove and see the treasures below. Snorkeling is great for those who wish to get in the water, and of course SUP boarding. The well-off residency in La Jolla may rival that of Newport Coast and Hollywood hills with no surprise. It might be the prettiest beach next to main beach in Laguna.