Welcome to San Clemente
A serene coastal town and Orange County's hidden gem
On the southern tip of Orange Country, San Clemente offers stunning beaches, scenic hilltops, coastal views, and charming old-world architecture. In 1925, former Seattle mayor Ole Hanson bought 2,000 acres of land and initially designed homes and public buildings with red roofs in the Spanish Colonial style. The nickname "Spanish Village by the Sea" carries on to this day.
Because it's a small town tucked away by the water, San Clemente almost feels like a world apart from the rest of Orange County. It's quiet and serene — a hidden gem — and doesn't get crowded with tourists like its neighboring beach cities. In addition to being voted one of the top cities to live in California, San Clemente ranks in the top five "Best Surf Towns" in the U.S.
What to Love
- Scenic coastline and serene beachside setting
- Classic Spanish-style architecture and quiet neighborhoods
- Warm, sunny weather and consistent surf year-round
- Plenty of water and outdoor activities
- Walkable downtown with trendy eateries and unique boutiques
San Clemente is Orange County's best-kept secret. It's more secluded and doesn't get crowded with tourists like other California beach towns. Residents are friendly but also value their quiet and privacy. There's a very strong sense of community. Longtime residents know each other and are on a first-name basis with many of the local small businesses in the area. It's the much coveted scenic coastal living mixed in with small-town appeal.
Dining, Entertainment & Shopping
San Clemente's thriving food scene showcases diverse cuisine. Brussels Bistro specializes in Belgian and French cuisine. Hearty dishes include mussels mariniere, boeuf bourguignon, and cheese croquettes, and are made using classic cooking techniques.
For American fare, Nick's San Clemente serves traditional and modern favorites in a festive, airy setting. Menu highlights such as buttermilk fried chicken or baby back pork ribs can be paired with any one of their handcrafted cocktails.
The city's most iconic restaurant, Fisherman's Restaurant and Bar San Clemente, has been a local mainstay since 1981. They serve Pacific Northwest cuisine, fresh seafood, and barbeque favorites on the pier.
For a fun night out, H.H. Cotton's is a popular bar and grill. They serve elevated pub fare plus a variety of craft beers on tap. It's great for late evening dinner and drinks. They host line dancing and live music on certain nights of the week. The space is also perfect for special celebrations or private parties.
Things to Do
True to its surfing culture, San Clemente's Surfing Heritage and Culture Center showcases the history and evolution of surfing. Permanent exhibits include differently shaped surfboards throughout the years, which is titled "Timeline of Surfing." Changing exhibits focus on different facets of surfing and its impact.
Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens were once the home of San Clemente's founder, Ole Hanson. Today, it's the heart and soul of arts and culture in Orange County. The non-profit institution provides programs in numerous fields, including art, literature, history, music, and even horticulture. It hosts over 60 events, including classes and concerts, throughout the year. It's also part of the American Horticultural Society. There are programs for all ages.
Arguably the most picturesque spot in the city, San Clemente Pier juts out over the beach with towering palm trees in the background. It leads to the San Clemente Beach Trail, a pedestrian trail that runs along the entire length of the seaside neighborhood.
Popular with residents and visitors, Avenida del Mar is a charming street with unique boutiques, trendy cafes, and great restaurants. It's pedestrian-friendly, and the streets sometimes close for fairs and special events.