JUST NORTH OF THE SAN DIEGO COUNTY LINE, there’s a red tile-roofed Spanish village that’s sure to put you in the holiday mood. Designed as a dreamy, seaside residential community in the 1920s, San Clemente is known for its beautiful beaches, easy-access cultural attractions, and boutique-to-outlet shopping opportunities. Getting there is easy and it’s a fun town to explore on foot. 

Plan to start your day in the midmorning at the San Clemente Pier. Originally built in 1928, the iconic 1,296-foot structure was rebuilt in 1985. Fishing and people watching are favorite pastimes here, so grab a cup of coffee, sit on a bench, and inhale the sea air. Hungry for more? The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar has a fabulous breakfast menu featuring a variety of omelets, eggs Benedict, and more. While you’re there, check out the great old photographs of the area.

Casa Romantica’s Ocean Terrace | Casa Romantica
Casa Romantica’s Ocean Terrace | Casa Romantica
Fisherman’s Restaurant on San Clemente Pier
Fisherman’s Restaurant on San Clemente Pier
Inside Casa Romantica’s Native Bowl Garden
Inside Casa Romantica’s Native Bowl Garden

The San Clemente Pier marks the midpoint of the San Clemente Beach Trail which runs 2.3 miles north from Calafia Beach to North Beach. It’s popular with walkers, joggers, cyclists, and dog owners. When you’re ready to move, follow it in either direction. The trail offers easy access to San Clemente’s beaches and T-Street, one of Orange County’s best surfing spots.

The area surrounding the pier, commonly known as the Pier Bowl, features several historic buildings. At the top of the Pier Bowl sits the crown jewel, Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens, the home of San Clemente’s founder Ole Hanson. Casa Romantica was built in 1927 by the famed architect Carl Lindbom, who designed Casa Pacifica. It then served as the Western White House during President Nixon’s administration. After many trying years and the threat of demolition, Casa Romantica was rescued by a group of local activists and underwent extensive restoration. Today, the seven-bedroom, seven-bath masterpiece and its grounds are a sight to behold.

Christmas Tree Lighting at Outlets at San Clemente | Courtesy of Outlets at San Clemente
Christmas Tree Lighting at Outlets at San Clemente | Courtesy of Outlets at San Clemente

Next, for a good dose of holiday spirit, head for the Outlets at San Clemente. From early November until New Year’s Day, this vibrant, Spanish-style shopping village will help put you in the mood with its amazing holiday decor, animatronic reindeer, colorful lights, live music, Santa meet-and-greets, and tons of family-friendly entertainment. Their outdoor courtyards and promenades with views of the Pacific Ocean provide great places to breathe in the sea air as you hunt for bargains. 

Wrap up your day in San Clemente’s downtown district, centered around the intersection of Avenida Del Mar and the El Camino Real. You’ll find an array of small shops featuring San Clemente-exclusive gifts, surf equipment, wine, clothing, and more. With a little luck, you may spot a hand-painted rock, created by a member of San Clemente ROCKS, a social grassroot effort to spread artistic love throughout the community. If you find one, keep it, share it, or hide it in a new spot and share the love!

By now, you have noticed that San Clemente features a diverse dining scene from fine restaurants to casual eateries. You’re sure to find the ideal place to relax and refuel after a full day of walking, exploring, and shopping in this charming Spanish village by the sea.


Follow I-5 North or take the train. The Pacific Surfliner offers daily round trips to the San Clemente Pier station. Refer to Amtrak’s online booking tool for the schedule and pricing. Check online for the current operating hours of these attractions.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner

Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens
Open Tue–Sun
415 Avenida Granada

Outlets at San Clemente
Open Daily
101 W Avenida Vista Hermosa

Great Eats
Antoine’s Café
218 S El Camino Real

Billy’s Meat, Seafood & Deli
111 Avenida Del Mar

Fishermen’s Restaurant & Bar
611 Avenida Victoria

Nick’s San Clemente
213 Avenida Del Mar

Sugar Blossom Bake Shop
204 Avenida Del Mar

Casa Romantica’s Zen Garden | Casa Romantica
Casa Romantica’s Zen Garden | Casa Romantica