After dodging the left-hand turners that stop a lane of traffic in Laguna Beach, the pedestrians crossing the busy street, and forgetting to stay in the right lane on Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point, thus ending up on the I-5 Freeway on a sunny drive to San Clemente, you may eventually make it to your destination — San Clemente Pier. The drive can be a little crazy or even daunting, but the pay-off is worth it.
Southern California is filled with over 100 miles of beaches you can visit, but not all beaches are the same, and San Clemente proves it. It is one of the exceptional places that allows you to chill out and relax, minus the hype. Just on the edge of Orange County far enough away from Surf City and San Diego's OB (Ocean Beach), San Clemente has a charm that appeals to families, old-timers, surfers, and those seeking places that have slightly escaped the hands of time.
San Clemente is one of the few cities that clings to its old-time ways and seems to revel in being slightly hidden. It can be frustrating for visitors who must drive in circles trying to find the pier when signage is scant and not easy to interpret. But that's the beauty of life in the slow lane. Other cities have their cookie-cutter surfboard shaped road signs, multi-million dollar marketing plans, and mandatory vallet that costs $30. If that lifestyle appeals to your sense of adventure, don't go to San Clemente.
Imagine this- a restaurant with outdoor seating (pick your own seats) overlooking the Pacific that still offers Happy Hour specials such as buffet with tacos, rice & beans, and well drinks, plus sunset views for under $10! It's a place where you can exit the pier and hop on an Amtrak train- it is only 25 steps away. You can use the old-fashioned tower clock to tell the time, and leave the cell phone technology at home. And you can have picnics, BBQs, and beach strolls, or push the kids on swings, all while watching the waves roll in.
New Yorkers laugh when they see Californians sitting on freeways going nowhere fast and complaining that life moves too quickly. There's humor in the thought that we are over-heating our cars & our minds while sitting still, but there are also some escapes and time warps such as San Clemente, a hidden gem where you can slow the pace and cool down.