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Secret Summer Getaway: Our Favorite Nearby Beachtown

Just because LA is sunny and 75 year-round doesn't mean that you aren't fully justified in your desperate longing to skip town.  And while a week spent island-hopping off the coast of Greece might not be in the cards right now, there are plenty of fun, nearby getaways that will give you the recharge you so sorely need. Our current favorite?  San Clemente, an adorable beach town perfect for a last-minute girls trip or romantic getaway (ahem, boyfriends & lovers), and you won’t have to hock your engagement ring or endure a full body-cavity search at the airport to make it happen.

Travel Time: About an hour.  We recommend you take I-5 rather than CA-73 so as to avoid excessive tolls.

Where to Eat: Most locals will tell you to go by Vine (211 N. El Camino Real), and if you can’t trust a local, who can you trust? Vine has a cozy Napa Valley-vibe, but it also has Napa Valley-esque $30 entrees. Not to worry, as Vine’s smaller, less-expensive tapas are big enough to satisfy, especially given the giant bowl of complimentary flatbread and addictive-like-crack dip they serve you as soon as you walk in the door. They also offer a drinks-only happy hour from 4-6:30 p.m. in which both wine and draught beer are $5.

For a quick and dirty bite to bring to the beach, try Pedro’s Tacos (550 N. Camino Real), a San Clemente institution.

Where to Drink: This is a classy town, which means you’ll need to leave tequila shots behind in favor of some wine tasting.  For this purpose we direct you to The Cellar (156 Avenida Del Mar), which is - for lack of a better word - charming. Wine flights are $15-$30, and on Sunday night all bottles over $50 are 50% off.  They’ve also got live music six nights a week and 60 different cheeses at any given time.  Another option is the San Clemente Wine Company (212-1/2 Avenida Del Mar), where you can taste seven different wines for just $15 Thursday through Sunday.

Where to Stay:  Okay, cue the eye-rolling, but we recommend you camp in San Clemente. Seriously! There are several campgrounds located on the bluffs overlooking the ocean, but San Mateo (3030 Avenida Del Presidente) is the best as it’s the most secluded.  It costs $35 to pitch a tent for the night, which is about a fourth of the cost of most hotels in town. The campground has flush toilets and hot showers, so you won't exactly be roughing it.  Call (949) 492-4872 if you like breathtaking beauty and mind-blowing fun.

If you really can’t take the tent situation, try the Inn at Calafia Beach (2341 S. El Camino Real). It’s got a retro, surfer vibe and is only $69 a night. Or, just stay the day and head back to LaLa Land when you've had your fill.

How to Play: From the San Mateo campgrounds, you can easily swim, bike, fish, and hike.  The campgrounds also have a trail which leads to Trestles Beach, a famous surf spot.

Where to Spend All the Money You Saved Camping: This isn’t really a shopping kind of trip, but if your credit cards do get restless, we recommend a stroll down Avenida Del Mar.  Pop into Project Habit (141 Avenida Del Mar) for some cute clothes under $50, and we dare you to resist the truffles at Jumpin’ Jacks (153 Avenida Del Mar). 

What to Leave Behind: Your attitude! Everyone in San Clemente is small-town friendly. At first, their unsolicited niceties may freak you out, but eventually you’ll come to appreciate these simple acts of communication.  When the small talk at last wears thin, you can always return home newly appreciative of LA’s smugness, smog, and hour-long waits for brunch at The Griddle.

Photo by Heather Tanji.

Jun 10, 2011 - 07:11 AM

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