San Clemente Surf Guide: 10 Best Surf Spots

San Clemente Surf Guide: 10 Best Surf Spots

Tucked away in Southern California, just a bit south of Laguna Beach, you’ll find San Clemente, a place that’s all about surfing. It’s a special place where surfing’s biggest names and game changers have come from. When you talk about the history of surfing, you have to talk about San Clemente. It’s where the heart of surfing beats strong, offering waves for everyone, but it’s especially great for surfers who’ve got a bit of experience and are eager to catch some serious California waves. There’s Trestles, a famous spot close to town, known for its smooth waves that surfers dream about, especially in the summer. Then there are chilled spots perfect for longboarding, like San Onofre, and beach spots like T-Street, where surfing legends once practiced. San Clemente has something for every surfer, no matter your skill level.

San Clemente is a place where surfing is in the air, on the streets, and in the hearts of everyone you meet. Let’s get ready to dive into the fun and excitement of the 10 best surf destinations in the San Clemente surf scenes.

10 Best Surf Spots in San Clemente

Let’s dive into the heart of what makes surfing in San Clemente a bucket-list experience. From the iconic Trestles to the serene vibes of San Onofre, each spot offers a unique slice of surf paradise.

1. Carlsbad

Positioned just a short drive north of San Clemente, Carlsbad presents an expansive beach that beckons surfers with its reliable breaks and picturesque scenery. With a reputation spread among locals and visitors alike, Carlsbad offers a blend of challenging waves for the seasoned surfer and more forgiving conditions for those just starting out.

San Clemente Surf Carlsbad

The diversity of peaks across Carlsbad’s sandy shores means you’re likely to find a spot that feels tailor-made for your skill level, making it an ideal destination for all who are drawn to the surf.

  • How long to get there from San Clemente: About 30 minutes by car
  • Type of water: Saltwater
  • Swell and wind: Best with south or southwest swell and light offshore wind
  • Water temp: From 55°F to 70°F depending on the season
  • Skill: Beginner to advanced

2. San Clemente Pier

The San Clemente Pier is a jewel among the surf spots in San Clemente, offering more than just great waves; it provides a picturesque setting that captures the beauty of Southern California’s coastline.

2. San Clemente Pier

Surfing here means riding waves with a backdrop of the iconic pier stretching into the Pacific, framed by stunning sunsets that paint the sky in vibrant hues.

  • How long to get there from San Clemente: About 5 minutes by car or 15 minutes by bike
  • Type of water: Saltwater
  • Swell and wind: Best with west or northwest swell and light offshore wind
  • Water temp: Varies from 55°F to 70°F depending on the season
  • Skill: Intermediate to advanced

3. San Onofre

San Onofre stands out among surf spots in San Clemente for its laid-back atmosphere and long, gentle waves that are perfect for longboarding and beginners. The view from San Onofre is unparalleled, with its expansive beach and rugged bluffs creating a serene backdrop for a day of surf in San Clemente.

San Clemente Surf San Onofre

The area’s rich surfing history and friendly community add to its charm, making it a beloved spot for surfers seeking a more relaxed wave-riding experience.

  • How long to get there from San Clemente: About 15 minutes by car
  • Type of water: Saltwater
  • Swell and wind: Best with south or southwest swell and light offshore wind
  • Water temp: From 55°F to 70°F depending on the season
  • Skill: Beginner to intermediate

4. Church

Among the revered San Clemente surf spots, Church offers a unique blend of natural beauty and surf excellence, making it a must-visit for enthusiasts looking to dive into the heart of surf in San Clemente. Situated near the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, it provides a stunning view of the ocean set against the backdrop of the base’s rugged landscape, offering a sense of seclusion and tranquility that’s hard to find elsewhere.

San Clemente Surf Church

The long, smooth right-hand point break at Church peels along a cobblestone reef, delivering consistent waves that challenge and delight intermediate to advanced surfers. Its unique location and wave quality make Church a standout spot for those seeking to experience the best of San Clemente surf.

  • How long to get there from San Clemente: About 20 minutes by car
  • Type of water: Saltwater
  • Swell and wind: Best with south or southwest swell and light offshore wind
  • Water temp: Varies from 55°F to 70°F depending on the season
  • Skill: Intermediate to advanced

5. Trestles

Trestles is a cornerstone of the surfing San Clemente Island experience, a series of breaks that are as challenging as they are rewarding. It combines the essence of San Clemente surf spots with a variety of waves that cater to different levels of surfers. Let’s break down the three main breaks that make Trestles a legendary location for surfers.

San Clemente Surf Trestles

5.1 Uppers

Uppers stands out as a premier destination for those engaged in surfing San Clemente Island, with right-hand waves that demand respect and skill. Known for its long, enticing rides and ability to handle large swells, Uppers is a favorite among those who have honed their surfing skills and are ready to take on what many consider the best of San Clemente’s surf offerings.

  • How long to get there from San Clemente: About 25 minutes by car or 45 minutes by bike
  • Type of water: Saltwater
  • Swell and wind: Best with south or southwest swell and light offshore wind
  • Water temp: From 55°F to 70°F depending on the season
  • Skill: Intermediate to advanced

5.2 Middles

Middles carves its niche within the array of San Clemente surf spots with its unpredictable, peaky waves that break both left and right, offering a thrilling challenge to advanced surfers. The dynamic nature of surf in San Clementecomes along with intense, barrel-rich rides that test the prowess and adaptability of its visitors.

  • How long to get there from San Clemente: About 25 minutes by car or 45 minutes by bike
  • Type of water: Saltwater
  • Swell and wind: Best with south or southwest swell and light offshore wind
  • Water temp: From 55°F to 70°F depending on the season
  • Skill: Advanced

5.3 Lowers

Lowers, the crown jewel of Trestles, is celebrated for its symmetrical waves that offer left and right breaks, stands as a magnet for advanced surfers worldwide. As a focal point of surfing San Clemente Island, Lowers delivers fast, hollow rides on a consistent basis, solidifying its status as one of the most iconic surf spots in California.

  • How long to get there from San Clemente: About 25 minutes by car or 45 minutes by bike
  • Type of water: Saltwater
  • Swell and wind: Best with south or southwest swell and light offshore wind
  • Water temp: Varies from 55°F to 70°F depending on the season
  • Skill: Advanced

Trestles, with its breaks Uppers, Middles, and Lowers, stands as a symbol of the surf culture and spirit found in San Clemente.

6. Cottons

Cottons, a cherished spot among the San Clemente surf spots, stands as a serene retreat for those who seek both the thrill of the surf and the peace of the ocean. Positioned at the southern end of the Trestles area, Cottons offers a long, mellow right-hand point break that rolls over a sandy bottom, making it an inviting location for surfers looking to enjoy lengthy rides without the intensity found at nearby breaks.

San Clemente Surf Cottons

This spot captures the essence of surf in San Clemente, providing a laid-back atmosphere that’s perfect for beginner to intermediate surfers eager to improve their skills in a forgiving environment.

  • Travel time from San Clemente: Approximately 30 minutes by car or 50 minutes by bike
  • Water environment: Saltwater
  • Ideal swell and wind conditions: Best with south or southwest swell and light offshore wind
  • Seasonal water temperature: Ranges from 55°F to 70°F
  • Required skill level: beginner to intermediate

Cottons exemplifies the inclusive nature of surfing San Clemente Island, offering waves that cater to a wide range of surfers and embodying the welcoming spirit of the local surf community.

7. T-Street

T-Street stands as a vibrant heart within the surfing San Clemente Island landscape, pulsating with energy and activity. Located in the center of San Clemente, near the intersection of Avenida Del Mar and El Camino Real, T-Street offers a consistent and dynamic beach break that caters to intermediate and advanced surfers.

San Clemente Surf T-Street

The waves here are known for their punchy and peaky nature, providing thrilling rides that can turn hollow and powerful, especially with the right swell conditions.

  • Travel time from San Clemente: About 5 minutes by car or 15 minutes by bike
  • Water environment: Saltwater
  • Ideal swell and wind conditions: Best with west or northwest swell and light offshore wind
  • Seasonal water temperature: Ranges from 55°F to 70°F
  • Required skill level: Intermediate to advanced

8. Laguna

Surf enthusiasts flock to Laguna, located a scenic drive south of San Clemente, for its stunning blend of natural beauty and challenging surf. Surfers can test their skills against a variety of breaks – from the playful beach breaks to the demanding point and reef breaks. It’s a haven for those who crave a mix of adventure in the waves and cultural experiences ashore.

San Clemente Surf Laguna

Laguna’s lively art scene and energetic nightlife add another layer to the surfing journey, making it a must-visit for anyone exploring San Clemente surf spots.

  • Travel Time from San Clemente: Roughly 40 minutes by car
  • Water Type: Saltwater
  • Ideal Swell and Wind Conditions: South or southwest swells, best with light offshore winds
  • Water Temperature: Varies seasonally between 55°F and 70°F
  • Skill Level: Best suited for surfers at an intermediate to advanced level

9. Calafia State Park

Right in the heart of San Clemente, Calafia State Park is a surfer’s retreat. The park’s right-hand point break rolls gently, making it a perfect playground for beginners or those looking for a laid-back surf session. It’s more than just surfing at Calafia; the park invites you to connect with nature, delve into the area’s history, and unwind at its charming café.

9. Calafia State Park

Calafia’s welcoming waves and scenic environment make it a perfect spot for surfers looking to enjoy a more relaxed session or those just starting their journey on the waves.

  • Travel time from San Clemente: approximately 10 minutes by car
  • Water type: Saltwater
  • Swell and wind conditions: Looks for south or southwest swells with light offshore winds
  • Water temperature: Stays within the 55°F to 70°F range throughout the year
  • Skill level focus: Beginner to intermediate

10. Poche

In the vibrant surf landscape of San Clemente, Poche emerges as a bustling epicenter for those who have graduated beyond beginner waves. The break in this mesmerizing place challenges and excites with its alternating left and right waves, calling intermediate and advanced surfers.

San Clemente Surf Poche

At Poche, the energy is palpable, with the local surfing community often congregating to exchange tales and advice. It’s a place that epitomizes the essence of surfing in San Clemente – a perfect blend of athletic challenge and social interaction.

  • Travel time from San Clemente: A brief 10-minute drive by car.
  • Water Type: Pure saltwater waves.
  • Swell and Wind: Poche comes to life with west or northwest swells, complemented by light offshore winds.
  • Water Temperature: The ocean here maintains a range from 55°F to 70°F across different seasons.
  • Skill Level: Best suited for surfers with intermediate to advanced skills.

San Clemente Surfboard Rental

For surfers visiting San Clemente, whether novices or seasoned wave riders, the city offers a variety of surfboard rental options to cater to every need and skill level. Here are a few recommended surfboard rental shops:

San Clemente Surfboard Rental
  • Stewart Surfboards: A legendary name in the surfboard industry, Stewart Surfboards has been catering to surf enthusiasts since 1978. With a vast selection of surfboards, including shortboards, longboards, fish, hybrids, and more, they accommodate all surfing styles. They also offer surf lessons, repairs, and custom orders.
    • Location: 2102 S El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
    • Rental Prices: $25 for 2 hours, $35 for 4 hours, or $45 for a full day
    • Suitable For: Surfers of all levels, from beginners to advanced
  • San Clemente Surf Co: This family-owned shop has been a part of the surf community since 1987. Offering a wide and varied selection of surfboards, including shortboards, longboards, funboards, softboards, and more, they cater to every surfer’s need.
    • Location: 167 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672
    • Rental Prices: $20 for 2 hours, $30 for 4 hours, or $40 for a full day
    • Suitable For: Surfers across all skill levels
  • Killer Dana Surf Shop: Known for its great and affordable selection of surfboards, Killer Dana Surf Shop is a local favorite since 1991. They offer various types of surfboards including shortboards, longboards, funboards, and softboards.
    • Location: 24621 Del Prado Ave, Dana Point, CA 92629
    • Rental Prices: $15 for 2 hours, $25 for 4 hours, or $35 for a full day
    • Suitable For: Budget-conscious surfers, beginners to intermediate levels

Where to Stay When Surfing in San Clemente?

San Clemente offers a range of accommodation options to suit different preferences and budgets, ensuring a comfortable stay for surfers after a day in the waves:

Where to Stay When Surfing in San Clemente?

1. The Volare: 

A stylish boutique hotel in the heart of San Clemente, offering modern amenities, ocean views, and balconies in their 73 rooms and suites. Facilities include a heated pool, hot tub, fitness center, and complimentary breakfast.

  • Location: 111 S Avenida De La Estrella, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • Price Range: Starting from $129 per night
  • Suitable For: Those looking for a blend of luxury and convenience

2. San Clemente Inn: 

A family-friendly hotel that provides a comfortable stay with 97 rooms and suites equipped with kitchenettes, cable TV, and free Wi-Fi. The hotel also features a heated pool, spa, sauna, game room, playground, barbecue area, and a restaurant.

  • Location: 2600 Avenida Del Presidente, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • Price Range: Starting from $99 per night
  • Suitable For: Families and surfers seeking a home-like comfort

3. San Clemente State Beach Campground: 

For those looking for a more adventurous and rustic experience, the campground at San Clemente State Beach offers 160 campsites for tents, trailers, and RVs, along with amenities like restrooms, showers, fire pits, picnic tables, and a dump station.

  • Location: 225 Avenida Calafia, San Clemente, CA 92672
  • Price Range: Starting from $35 per night
  • Suitable For: Surfers who love camping and nature

When to Go Surfing in San Clemente?

For surf enthusiasts planning a trip to San Clemente, the ideal time to catch the waves at Lower Trestles is during the summer months. Spring brings moderate air and water temperatures with light winds and medium-sized swells. It’s a great time for surfers of all levels to enjoy the beach breaks and point breaks. The surf in San Clemente during this season is playful and fun, ideal for both learning and refining skills. Winter is also ideal for experienced surfers looking for a challenge. Conditions can be tough, with cold air and water temperatures, strong winds, and big swells. The reef and beach breaks during this time offer powerful and heavy waves, testing the skills of even the most seasoned surfers.

Where to Eat and Drink in San Clemente?

San Clemente’s dining scene is as varied and exciting as its surf spots. Here are a few standout places to refuel and relax after a day of surfing in San Clemente:

Where to Eat and Drink in San Clemente?
  • Nomads Canteen: Embracing a fusion of Hawaiian, Mexican, and Californian flavors, this casual and cozy spot is perfect for surfers looking to unwind. The menu includes poke bowls, tacos, burritos, and burgers.
    • Location: 102 Avenida Cabrillo, San Clemente, CA 92672
    • Price Range: $10 to $20 per meal
    • Unique Feature: A laid-back atmosphere with a full bar, happy hour, and live music.
  • The Cellar: For those seeking a fine dining experience, The Cellar offers a chic and elegant setting. The menu features seasonal dishes with local and organic ingredients like cheese, charcuterie, pasta, and seafood.
    • Location: 156 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672
    • Price Range: $20 to $40 per meal
    • Unique Feature: A sophisticated wine bar and cocktail lounge, perfect for evening relaxation.
  • Pizza Port: A family-friendly and lively restaurant that’s great for groups. They serve a variety of pizzas alongside their own brewery selections.
    • Location: 301 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
    • Price Range: $10 to $20 per meal
    • Unique Feature: In-house brewery and beer garden, ideal for a casual hangout.

Each of these eateries offers a unique dining experience, catering to the diverse tastes of those who come to surf in San Clemente. Whether you’re looking for a quick bite, a fine dining experience, or a place to chill with friends, San Clemente’s culinary scene has something for everyone.

San Clemente Surf with Boost Fin

Are you finding the paddle out to your lineup more tiring than thrilling? Looking to catch more waves without wearing yourself out? In the world of San Clemente surf, where every moment in the water counts, the Boost Fin changes the way how surfers engage with the ocean since it can hook up to any surfboard in just 5 minutes.

San Clemente Surf with Boost Fin

But there’s more to the Boost Fin than just speed. It’s also about endurance. With a battery life lasting anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, you can extend your time riding the waves, perfect for making the most out of San Clemente’s surf. For the authentic Boost Fin, head to Boost Surfing’s official website or trusted distributors.

Take your surfing experience to new levels and redefine what’s possible with Boost Fin.

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