While Orange County is one of the most urbanized parts of California, San Clemente is where the development takes a little break. Here, the Pacific Coast Highway enters a long stretch of emptiness and the traffic of I-5 becomes a bit more relaxed. The beaches here are less crowded, have great surfing, are relatively quiet and many feature seaside campsites.
San Clemente draws visitors in with its beautiful beaches, but its excellent shopping destinations are a can’t-miss. The Outlets at San Clemente see visitors from every corner of Southern California and are worth a stop for any avid shopper visiting Orange County. This Spanish-style shopping village offers views out into the Pacific while you're moving between stores. It’s a great place to take a walk, even if you’re not in the mood to try on clothes, but if you are, over sixty outlets await.
For a more local experience, visit San Clemente’s downtown district. Here, you can find a number of specialty shops with plenty to peruse including San Clemente-exclusive gifts, surf equipment, wine, clothes, and more. Downtown San Clemente also features a diverse dining scene. From fine dining and ethnic foods to wine bars and breweries, visitors can find the perfect place to relax after a full day of shopping.
For Ocean Lovers
The center of town is the “Pier Bowl” area, which is a dip in the terrain around the San Clemente Pier. The San Clemente Beach Trail takes you along the main beach north and south from here. The trail starts at the Metrolink Station in the north and goes down to San Clemente Beach in the south. In-between, just south of the pier, the palm-lined T-Street Beach is perfect for lounging in the sun, ocean sports, or taking the perfect photo of the iconic wooden pier. For those traveling by train, the San Clemente Pier Train Station is located right by the beach and offers some beautiful views.
For History Buffs
Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens is the former home of Ole Hanson, the founder of San Clemente. Hanson envisioned the town as a Spanish village by the sea, and his historic home reflects that architectural style. This beautiful property is a member of the American Horticultural Society and boasts 2.5 acres of gardens and a cultural center with a rotating program of art and educational exhibitions that are open to the public and ready to explore. Events here include concerts, workshops, lectures, and festivals.
Dana Point remains an overlooked treasure in Southern California. While the state is known for its fast-paced cities and thrilling attractions, Dana Point is where you go for a more relaxed pace of travel. You can walk along the beaches that surround the quaint village that has sprung up around them.
Just on the other side of Anaheim’s Harbor Boulevard lies Garden Grove. Garden Grove is a vibrant Southern California city in the middle of all the action.
There are many great surf towns on the Orange County coast, but few are as famous as Huntington Beach. In fact, Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA, hosts the annual Vans US Open of Surfing.
A trip to Orange County isn’t complete without a visit to Laguna Beach. Laguna is a refined upscale beach city, regularly listed as one of the most desirable places to live in the United States. It’s the Hollywood star residents and their ocean-view mansions that have earned this area’s nickname, “The Gold Coast.”
From strolling around Balboa Island grabbing a frozen banana to basking in the seaside charm, Newport Beach is Orange County’s most family-friendly beach city.
City of Orange
Just across the Santa Ana River is the City of Orange, a unique piece of city planning. The center of the city is situated around a roundabout and is shaped like, you guessed it, an orange! The circle surrounds Plaza Park, which is the heart of Orange and the site of the annual Orange International Street Fair.
Seal Beach is the first taste of Orange County that travelers get when they are driving down the coast. Just off the Pacific Coast Highway, visitors can catch a glance at the iconic wooden Seal Beach Pier and head straight to Main Street, which features dozens of shops and eateries along a picturesque strip that’s just a few blocks long.