Rediscover San Clemente
The Spanish Village by the Sea has grown from the days of The Beach Boys’ Surfin' USA and Nixon’s Western White House.
Today, San Clemente’s Avenida Del Mar and its surrounding area has so much to offer from its quaint boutiques, outstanding restaurants (too many to choose from), and beach walks that make this town’s gem a summer must visit!
Del Mar has grown over the years. This sleepy beach town’s main street has turned into a beachfront destination. San Clemente has prided itself in supporting mom and pop businesses with a small mixture of local chain restaurants. The combination of both old and new has kept this street timeless while thriving with foot traffic, keeping these brick and mortar stores full of happy beach customers. I remember shopping these stores for my summer swimsuits in high school and it’s just as much fun shopping on Del Mar today!
From its surf shops to its variety of restaurants, Del Mar can keep you occupied for a full summer day. Here are some ideas for a day full of surf, sand, and a whole lot of beach fun as you eat and shop your way through Del Mar.
Morning: Park at North Beach and head over to Ellie’s Table for a quick breakfast burrito and grab a few macaroons to go for a snack later in the day. Head over to the San Clemente Beach Trail and walk it down to the pier. It’s about a 2.3-mile walk on packed sand (round trip) that hugs the shoreline and the train rail. It’s picturesque, and the landscape is sprinkled with native plants. Don’t forget to take pictures! The trail flows to a bridge that will take you to the San Clemente Pier.
Cross the street to Avenida Victoria by the pier and enjoy a cup of art-worthy coffee at Bear Coast. Their storefront is open air, and it has a wonderful array of camper mugs and fun coffee merchandise that will make you look cool when sipping coffee back at home.
After you’ve been warmed up with caffeine, head toward the pier to enjoy some coastal views and salty air. To the south, you can see Cotton’s Point, and to the north, you can see the Headlands of Dana Point. Come back to the pier at sunset for a drink at Fisherman’s and an awesome bubble show that can be found taking place on the grass by the pier at dusk.
Once back at North Beach, head south on El Camino Real to Avenida Del Mar. Park and get ready to SHOP! This street is an easy walk, and it is also accessible to the tasty restaurants and great shopping on El Camino Real.
Start off with shopping:
Tuvalu Home: Many readers will have fond memories of Tuvalu in Ladera Ranch. This unique coastal cool home store can be found on El Camino Real and is full of amazing furniture and décor.
Cove: This boho chic shop is full of great brand names from Free People to Sanctuary Clothing. Cove’s new arrivals will make you swoon. You can catch their updates on Instagram, and they also sell their stylish finds online!
Tootsies: Fashionable shoes? Yes please! You just can’t have enough shoes, and the secret is they have a great selection of booties, sandals, and even cowboy boots!
Missy’s on Del Mar: This shop is a bright mixture of party supplies, fun floats, the best surf brush to remove all that beach sand, and fun treats that make for perfect gifts. They sell some fantastic chocolate-covered cinnamon gummy bears.
Em and Tess: This California style store is a mixture of beachy and boho chic. Their fun summer hats, flowy dresses, and pretty jewelry make for a must stop.
Hobie: It’s a South Orange County establishment. They have two stores on Del Mar, one that is mostly filled with great girls’ and women’s bathing suits plus cover ups, and one for the whole family. You can find the perfect backpack beach chair, surfboards, fins, and anything you might need for a great beach day.
Murf Electric Bikes: Sounds crazy, but they are bookmarked for Santa to remember that the good adults really deserve some fun. Custom electric bike — well, now, that’s a souvenir to go home with!
Break for Lunch
The Cellar: They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. All three meals are great, but lunch and breakfast can be snagged out on their sunny patio. Check back in for some nightlife. They have great local bands that perform on the weekends. Beer and crisp wines pair well with their charcuterie plates. Did we mention they have a wine and cheese shop?
After lunch, you might want to work off your meal by checking out the antique and consignment stores that can be found on Del Mar and on Avenida Granada. Go on a treasure hunt in San Clemente Antiques, Stanford Court Antiques, La Casa Verde de Granada, Bon Bon Home and Garden, and The Abode (whew, so many fun ones we may have missed one!), and you will find interior inspiration as well as a succulent or two.
There is also an awesome bench where you can leave your husband or kids (wink) to rest outside of San Clemente Antiques should they choose to not keep up with your whirlwind of shopping. Pick them up for an early dinner so that you can grab a sweet treat before you head down to the beach for the sunset.
Dinner picks, or maybe an easy happy hour?! Well, there are just too many to count. That is what draws tourist and locals to downtown San Clemente. Honestly, a favorite can’t be chosen; it just depends on what you are in the mood for. Here are a few, but you can bet there are a whole bunch more! (The Vine, Café Mimosa, Pizza Port, Selma’s, Sunny’s, Nomad’s, La Siesta … I can say there are too many to count.)
H.H. Cotton’s: Named after the first landowner of La Casa Pacifica (Nixon’s Western White House), this restaurant serves a great happy hour, and they have an awesome bar. Check out a baseball game on one of their big-screen TVs.
Brick: This cozy dining spot offering local and sustainable ingredients can be found on El Camino Real. Their specialty brick-oven pizzas make for great family-style eating.
South of Nick’s: Found on the corner of El Camino Real and Avenida Del Mar. Margaritas are their jam! Not to mention some incredible food. What are drinks without homemade guacamole and chips and salsa? Their sister restaurant is Nick’s, which serves a mean ribeye melt and a tasty classic cheeseburger. End your meal with their famous butter cake or hold off for a sweet treat from South Swell.
South Swell on Del Mar serves custom hand-dipped ice cream: vanilla or chocolate ice cream dipped with or without chocolate, topped with sprinkles, toffee, or a cookie — the list goes on. The root beer float is perfect on a hot summer day. Either way you go, we think the salted caramel sauce works on all of the above!
Now that you are completely full, grab your towels or preferably a round towel that you may have picked up from Hobie or Missy’s, and head down to the pier for the sunset. Set up a spot on the grass or on the sand and enjoy the view. You might be lucky enough to catch the bubble guy. He will keep you entertained, but maybe so will the AWESOME sunset, and you will wonder WHY you didn’t make a day of this sooner