Just south of San Clemente lies a stretch of sand formally known as San Onofre State Beach —but folks around here (especially surfers) just call it “Trestles,” a nickname it gets from the railroad trestle framing the backside of the beach. While there’s plenty of sand for basking on this especially pretty beach, and acres of wild lands to explore in adjacent San Onofre State Park, it’s the waves that get top-billing here. With its consistent and high-quality break, Trestles rightfully draws top surfers. Talented locals and pros all have their favorite breaks—Uppers, Lowers, Middles, Cottons—and on a good summer swell Trestles is a scene, with waves crowded with surfers, and the beach jammed with spectators. (Tip: to spy world-ranked surfers like Jordy Smith, who tend to surf Lowers, look for the cameras.)
Surfing is even more fun than it looks, but Trestles is not a place for beginners. Several surf schools offer lessons, and they wisely congregate to the south of Trestles in the emptier, more beginner-friendly waves down the cliffs from the campground on the bluff. On the beach there are no food stands or fresh water, so pack a picnic before you spend the day ogling or, better yet, surfing.