Southern California has been home for decades and we lived in San Clemente for years. So what could be better than to see San Clemente through the eyes of a local?
Village of San Clemente
The town of San Clemente is located at the very southern end of Orange County. It has a very small town feel compared to the other cities in Orange Co. Much of the Orange County coast is very wealthy and we are not those people. San Clemente is not that either. What I love most about it is the little village of San Clemente. Small town local feel and we love spending time in the village almost every week.
Lots of of little boutique shops that aren’t overly expensive. There is a candy store, ice cream store, a camera store, shoe store with comfy walking shoes that are cute. People know each other.
Where To Eat in San Clemente
Part of seeing San Clemente through the eyes of a local always includes everyone wanting to know where to eat. There are some fantastic restaurants that we are regulars of. Our personal all time favorite is South of Nick’s. Mexican food done differently, like in fresher ingredients. If you ask me, they have the best salsa in San Clemente. On the menu my personal favorite is the Grilled Romain Salad with grilled steak done just the way you like it and the Blue Cheese dressing is to die for if you are a blue cheese lover. The Shrimp Taquitos are amazing, they make a light meal and you have to top your meal off with the Butter Cake. Down side, South of Nick’s is a little pricey.
Another favorite is associated with South of Nick’s is just Nicks just around the corner and down the street on Del Mar. We often go on Sunday afternoon before the rush. Have an early dinner and then walk down the hill from there to the San Clemente Pier.
Another place we love is Muse for sushi. It’s a really tiny hole in the wall looking place, but don’t let that fool you. It’s a favorite of the locals so go early, because it fills up fast. Another place we have an early dinner and then walk to the pier.
Best pizza is Pizza Port on El Camino Real. Delicious thick crust pizza and brew done the So Cal way with all sorts of delicious toppings and combinations. It’s a great place for the kids too.
There are numerous other great restaurants, but these are our favorite eats in and around the village of San Clemente.
The San Clemente Pier
I LOVE going to the San Clemente Pier and we go all the time. At least once or twice a week. As I mentioned above we often have dinner in the village and then walk down to the pier from there. There is also a restaurant on the pier. I wouldn’t say the food is great, but you can’t beat the sunset view while sipping your favorite beverage and an appetizer on the pier.
The San Clemente pier is also one of my favorite subjects to capture in my photography. I have shot it under the pier, on top of the pier, next to the pier, surfers by the pier and even the San Clemente train by the pier. In every season, including winter and even tried shooting a Super Blue Blood Moon from the pier. Epic fail. Who knew that the pier moves as much as it does. But makes sense, it is entirely made of wood.
Probably most of us have memories of playing under the pier when we were kids. Kind of felt like a fort. The roar of the pounding waves drowns out the world around us and it’s just so peaceful. It’s a great place for capturing some gorgeous images.
I don’t know what it is, but the sunsets at the San Clemente Pier are consistently gorgeous. Different times of the year brings a whole array of colors.
One afternoon I went down to shoot under the San Clemente Pier and found a couple of aerial silk dancers practicing. It was different and I took advantage.
San Clemente Surfers
If you have grown up in San Clemente chances are you are a surfer. Surfing is a very big part of the beach culture here. Surfers are in the water from the first rays of light in the morning until the very last bit of light in the evening. The Pacific Ocean while beautiful, for us Californians the water isn’t really warm. You will often know the locals by who has on a wetsuit in the middle of summer. Even when most beach goers are packing up for the day, the local surfers are just heading out into the sunset. Sometimes surfers just sit there to enjoy the quiet and the totally unobstructed view.
San Clemente Small Town Events
- Farmers Market on Del Mar on Sunday morning starting at 9 AM
- San Clemente Village Art Fair on the first Saturday of every month 9 AM to 3 PM. Lots of local artists and plenty of goodies to eat too.
What Else Is Around San Clemente?
So you are probably wonder is there anything exciting to do in San Clemente? Pretty much no. It’s a quiet little local community. But if quiet is what you are looking for with plenty of sand and surf, then San Clemente may just be what you are looking for.
Another quiet little down is just right up the road literally, Dana Point. You can see Dana Point from the San Clemente Pier. Dana Point is another place we love to spend time, having dinner and then walk around the Dana Point Harbor.
San Juan Capistrano is right there too and San Juan has the cutest old town with some great spots to eat. Trevor’s By the Tracks is a favorite and Ramos House for brunch is fantastic. Ramos House has the best Bloody Mary you will ever have.
So take it from a San Clemente local……if it is a relaxing or romantic getaway you are looking for, make your way down to the the south end of Orange County and enjoy the quiet sun filled beach life.
4 thoughts on “San Clemente Through the Eyes of a Local”
I’ll have to visit your food venues when I go down there next time. San Clemente is a beautiful little getaway. Reminds me… I need to get serious about a reservation on one of those lazy cottage motels on the beach.
Try and go in the off season. Those little beach cottages will be a little less expensive. Sept and Oct are the best time of year if you ask me. Early November is still pretty nice. Indian Summer is just beautiful and the crowds have thinned some.
While I live on the opposite coast, I can relate very easily to your story. Our smallish town, Atlantic Beach NC, also has a pier that I visit and photograph frequently. Really enjoyed your story. Thanks for sharing.
Great article. I haven’t been to San Clemente, although I do see (in my Lightroom catalog), that I got as far south as Dana Point on a trip to California (so I was pretty close!) and I have been to San Diego a couple of times. But next time I am in the area, this is going to be on my list! I love the waves under the pier – always partial to those sorts of images!