Every year nearly two and a half million visitors from near and far travel to visit this very popular, very special Southern California beach. Once you visit this sun loving destination with its mile long, pristine white, sandy beach, its towering rocky bluffs, numerous sweet swells for surfers, and it’s easy going and laid-back campgrounds to take in the cool, summer nights – it really is easy to understand how it gained such popularity. But wait. What beach exactly am I referring to you ask? I am talking about the one, the only, the infamous San Onofre State Beach.
Here is your complete guide of activities to enjoy, places to extend your stay and just about everything you need to know before visiting San Onofre State Beach.
San Onofre State Beach Details
Address: 5200 S. Pacific Coast Highway, San Clemente, CA 92672
Parking: Day use fees required
Dogs: Not allowed on beach
What To Do At San Onofre State Beach
There are a wide range of activities that San Onofre State Beach has to offer. Visitors to the beach can test their skills with windsurfing or traditional surfing on the great waves. You can opt to stretch your legs on a hike on one of the lovely trails that run both along the beach and up into the bluffs. Visitors can attempt to catch dinner and fish the ocean waters, or even geocache throughout the park. There are numerous beach volleyball courts, picnic areas, and bike trails to enjoy. But let us not forget how you can simply relax and sunbathe on the gorgeous sandy shore while your family and friends swim, build sandcastles, and enjoy the Southern California vibes.
- Bluffs Beach Trail: At just 3 miles in length and rated easy for family and furry friends, the Bluffs Beach Trail takes you right along the Crisitianitos Fault line. While you hug the bluffs you are promised beautiful views of the ocean as well as the Monterey Formation which holds most of the oil and gas deposits in the entire LA basin.
- Trestles Beach: This short, moderately trafficked trail brings you down about 50 feet in elevation to connect with the California Coastal Trail. Hugging the Trestles Wetland Preserve you will get a lovely glimpse at the native plants and wildlife before reaching the beach.
Folks have been flocking here since the 1930s to hang out and surf the waves. Summer time is the best time to catch the best waves at San Onofre State Beach. This is when you will find the south swells that break along a few hundred yards on the north end of San Onofre State Beach. Known as Old Man’s, they are gentle and great for both new surfers and seasoned pros.
The Point and Church swell is located just to the north of Old Man’s and promises higher and more difficult surfing. Lastly, Lower Trestles is known as the Mecca for high-performing surfing. It is a stark difference from the more mellow Old Man’s and The Point and Church.
Want to stay a while? San Onofre State Beach has two established campgrounds to choose from. Each campground can host both tent setups as well as trailers, campers and motorhomes up to 25 feet in length.
- San Mateo Campground: Just inland from San Onofre State Beach is this campground. Here you are right next to Trestles Beach which contains the San Mateo Creek. This creek provides important riparian and wetland habitats which are home to some rare and endangered species. Each of the campsites have a fire pit and picnic table. There are RV hookups available with water and electricity. Hot showers, flush toilets, and a dump station are some of the other amenities available at the campground.
- San Onofre Bluffs Campground: Located along the Old Highway 101 is this beachside campground. Views include stunning sandstone bluffs as well as crystal blue waters of the beach below. From here you can access both the beach to surf as well as six dirt trails up into the adjacent bluffs. The campground has cold showers for usage as well as pit toilets. There are no RV hookups in the campground but there is a dump station.
Places To Eat
Now that you have worked up an appetite, where can you go to refuel?
- Café Del Sol: Opened in 2007, this family owned business is popular among the locals for its authentic and delicious Mexican food. Options include breakfast items like the Huevos Ranchos and the Machaca Breakfast to mouthwatering Chile Rellenos and classic bean and cheese burritos. Café Del Sol also specializes in Açaí Bowls such as the Surfers Delight with blended pineapple, mango and more. Address: 3817 South El Camino Real, San Clemente
- Molly Bloom’s Irish Bar and Restaurant: This self described neighborhood institution pub promises great Irish fare as well as a great Irish time. Their menu contains fun and unique fusions such as the Reuben Egg Rolls that are corned beef and sauerkraut stuffed in a traditional egg roll wrapper. They also serve classic Irish favorites such as Bangers and Mash, Cottage Pie and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf. Address: 2391 South El Camino Real, San Clemente
- Sonic Drive-In: Craving something cheap, fast, and greasy? If you have base access, you cannot go wrong with the classic food chain, and Sonic Drive-In more than delivers. What is better than a sweet milk shake after a day catching waves at the beach? Address: 51095 Basilone Rd., Camp Pendleton, CA
Before You Go
- Furry friends are not allowed on any of the trails or beach areas. You can however have them at the campgrounds on leash and attended at all times.
- In the summer you can request beach wheelchairs at the lifeguard tower (949) 366-8592.
- Day use parking has a $15 fee.
- Park day hours are 6am to 10pm. During standard time Surf Beach closes at 8pm and the Bluffs close at sunset.
As always make sure to practice Leave No Trace principles and leave this beautiful place better than you found it. That is all you need to know before your visit to San Onofre State Beach.
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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus