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Lindsey's Guide

Lindsey

Lindsey's Guide

Hiking
These are my favorite places to incorporate into a jog, watch the sunset, or go for a relaxing stroll on the weekend. They display the beauty of the area and are close to home.
The Headlands connects to Salt Creek on the north end, and a visitor's center on the south Dana Point Harbor end. It is a very short trail but is beautiful for a leisurely stroll. Depending on time of year the area may be covered in lush green bushes and yellow wild flowers. These tall bluffs overlook Salt Creek and Monarch Beach to the North, and look out over Dana Point down toward San Diego on the South.
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Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area
34558 Scenic Drive
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The Headlands connects to Salt Creek on the north end, and a visitor's center on the south Dana Point Harbor end. It is a very short trail but is beautiful for a leisurely stroll. Depending on time of year the area may be covered in lush green bushes and yellow wild flowers. These tall bluffs overlook Salt Creek and Monarch Beach to the North, and look out over Dana Point down toward San Diego on the South.
I like to add this trail into my longer runs (as well as the Dana Point Bluffs Trail). This trial is accessible from Strands Beach if you want to walk a bit, or from the Dana Point Harbor side. It offers one of the best views of the entire South Orange County coastline since you hike up to a small peak with a 270 degree view of the coast. There is a little picnic table at the peak perfect for wine and cheese at sunset or a mid-day picnic. On a very clear day you can see all the way to San Diego.
Dana Point Hilltop Park
34392 Street of the Green Lantern
I like to add this trail into my longer runs (as well as the Dana Point Bluffs Trail). This trial is accessible from Strands Beach if you want to walk a bit, or from the Dana Point Harbor side. It offers one of the best views of the entire South Orange County coastline since you hike up to a small peak with a 270 degree view of the coast. There is a little picnic table at the peak perfect for wine and cheese at sunset or a mid-day picnic. On a very clear day you can see all the way to San Diego.
I actually love to ride my bike from home, through Doheney Beach State Park, along the newly completed pedestrian and bike trail along the Capo Beach strip of PCH, to this trail. The San Clemente Beach Trail is also a newly constructed trail. It has been landscaped with indigenous plants, and offers some beautiful vistas of the San Clemente coastline as you walk toward the San Clemente Pier. The trail actually continues to extend south past the pier if you are looking for a longer route.
San Clemente Pedestrian Beach Trail
I actually love to ride my bike from home, through Doheney Beach State Park, along the newly completed pedestrian and bike trail along the Capo Beach strip of PCH, to this trail. The San Clemente Beach Trail is also a newly constructed trail. It has been landscaped with indigenous plants, and offers some beautiful vistas of the San Clemente coastline as you walk toward the San Clemente Pier. The trail actually continues to extend south past the pier if you are looking for a longer route.
My Favorite Beaches
These are my few top beaches in the area chosen for their exceptional natural beauty and their place in my mind as being iconic of South Orange County beach culture.
Take the trail from Ritz Pointe through Monarch Beach Resort straight to Salt Creek. We are blessed to have one of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California right in our "backyard." I love walking down to Salt Creek and sitting at the grassy area near the south end (right as you round the curve toward the beach, take the first trail down to the beach on the right and you will see it) with a bottle of wine and watching the sunset. You can also have a killer beach front barbeque here - they have built in grills. If you head down to the beach and walk North you will get to one of my all-time favorite beaches: Shells Beach. You have to walk past Monarch Beach and across the rocks to get to this secluded hidden gem that's only visited by a select few locals.
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Salt Creek Beach
33333 Pacific Coast Highway
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Take the trail from Ritz Pointe through Monarch Beach Resort straight to Salt Creek. We are blessed to have one of the most beautiful beaches in Southern California right in our "backyard." I love walking down to Salt Creek and sitting at the grassy area near the south end (right as you round the curve toward the beach, take the first trail down to the beach on the right and you will see it) with a bottle of wine and watching the sunset. You can also have a killer beach front barbeque here - they have built in grills. If you head down to the beach and walk North you will get to one of my all-time favorite beaches: Shells Beach. You have to walk past Monarch Beach and across the rocks to get to this secluded hidden gem that's only visited by a select few locals.
This is one of my favorite little beach hideaways in South Laguna. I assert the beauty of Table Rock rivals that of any of the beaches in the Mediterranean. It is a small enclosed cove with the natural vegitation climbing down from the top of the rocks. The geological formations create beautiful arches extending out into the water. The water has a stunning deep turquoise blue in the cove, and the water is suitable for swimming though can have some big waves.
Table Rock Beach
31681 Sea Bluff Ln
This is one of my favorite little beach hideaways in South Laguna. I assert the beauty of Table Rock rivals that of any of the beaches in the Mediterranean. It is a small enclosed cove with the natural vegitation climbing down from the top of the rocks. The geological formations create beautiful arches extending out into the water. The water has a stunning deep turquoise blue in the cove, and the water is suitable for swimming though can have some big waves.
This is one of the bigger beaches in South Laguna which is getting increasingly crowded. That said, it is close and it is a fairly expansive beach perfect for some exploration. It is surrounded by cliffs, and the North end butts up to Table Rock Beach, though is separated by a cliff that protrudes into the ocean. Due to the larger coastline, there are various locations great for swimming at 1000 Steps.
1000 Steps Beach
This is one of the bigger beaches in South Laguna which is getting increasingly crowded. That said, it is close and it is a fairly expansive beach perfect for some exploration. It is surrounded by cliffs, and the North end butts up to Table Rock Beach, though is separated by a cliff that protrudes into the ocean. Due to the larger coastline, there are various locations great for swimming at 1000 Steps.
Victoria was my favorite hangout as a teenager. The beach is another Laguna beauty. The homes actually come right down to the beach here, though it too is flanked by cliffs. Come here to get the local popular beach-goer vibe. The coastline here is quite pretty, and you can walk North to some tide pools. If you're good at making friends you may be able to join in a locals game of beach volleyball.
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Victoria Beach
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Victoria was my favorite hangout as a teenager. The beach is another Laguna beauty. The homes actually come right down to the beach here, though it too is flanked by cliffs. Come here to get the local popular beach-goer vibe. The coastline here is quite pretty, and you can walk North to some tide pools. If you're good at making friends you may be able to join in a locals game of beach volleyball.
Woods cove is another beautiful little hideaway. It is an iconic Laguna Beach cove. I enjoy coming down to watch the sunset after grabbing a wine at the Wine Gallery.
Woods Cove-Beach
1991 Ocean Way
Woods cove is another beautiful little hideaway. It is an iconic Laguna Beach cove. I enjoy coming down to watch the sunset after grabbing a wine at the Wine Gallery.
Dinner and Sunday Brunch
My all-time favorite restaurants in the area that also offer a notable brunch.
Craft House is very close (a 5 minute drive, or a ~45 min walk), so is my neighborhood go-to. It is New American, California cuisine focused on local fresh produce and products. The food is phenomenal, and the seasonal menu is always changing. You can get reservations through their website (they use Resy), they can be crowded especially on the weekend. They allow dogs on their enclosed patio, and they offer a bottomless mimosa Sunday brunch with some out-of-this-world brunch food. My favorite dinner menu items tend to be their pasta of the day (always hand made), and they tend to have really unique and tasty vegetarian special (I am not vegetarian but it's usually too good to pass up).
Craft House
34094 Pacific Coast Hwy
Craft House is very close (a 5 minute drive, or a ~45 min walk), so is my neighborhood go-to. It is New American, California cuisine focused on local fresh produce and products. The food is phenomenal, and the seasonal menu is always changing. You can get reservations through their website (they use Resy), they can be crowded especially on the weekend. They allow dogs on their enclosed patio, and they offer a bottomless mimosa Sunday brunch with some out-of-this-world brunch food. My favorite dinner menu items tend to be their pasta of the day (always hand made), and they tend to have really unique and tasty vegetarian special (I am not vegetarian but it's usually too good to pass up).
This is a very local, down-to-earth family run Colombian restaurant. Their food is unique compared to the rest of the local cuisine. The vibe is chill San Clemente beach town but with lively South American music playing and a warm and welcoming staff. The food is all pretty yummy, but the reason it makes my list is due to the uniqueness of the cuisine. Also they have a killer Sunday brunch with bottomless mimosas - they are the only local restaurant with a more unique brunch offering (of course, of Colombian food). If you are feeling adventurous, take a bike ride to brunch one Sunday!
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La Colombiana
1640 N El Camino Real
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This is a very local, down-to-earth family run Colombian restaurant. Their food is unique compared to the rest of the local cuisine. The vibe is chill San Clemente beach town but with lively South American music playing and a warm and welcoming staff. The food is all pretty yummy, but the reason it makes my list is due to the uniqueness of the cuisine. Also they have a killer Sunday brunch with bottomless mimosas - they are the only local restaurant with a more unique brunch offering (of course, of Colombian food). If you are feeling adventurous, take a bike ride to brunch one Sunday!
Dinner
My favorite dinner locations in the area all chosen for their exceptional cuisine coupled with great ambience and location.
This is another one of my all-time favorite restaurants. It is on Del Mar Street in downtown San Clemente. I've never found a restaurant with such unique distinct Mediterranean-inspired cuisine as this. The place is very small and can be extremely crowded some nights - you have to call the restaurant directly for reservations. There is a cool vibe that transports you to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant somewhere in the Mediterranean. The photos inside are all from Italy, but the food much more Moroccan. The food is all extremely flavorful. They specialize in bringing exotic game and making slow-cooked dishes and tajines exploding with flavors of exotic spices. They also have a fairly regularly updating menu, but my favorite dish is the slow cooked beef cheeks on special with a side of sweet potatoe gnocchi, and their mix plate appetizer with hummus, babaganoush, chermoula, and a garbanzo bean-tomato-cucumber salad.
Village Mediterranean Rim
123 Avenida Del Mar
This is another one of my all-time favorite restaurants. It is on Del Mar Street in downtown San Clemente. I've never found a restaurant with such unique distinct Mediterranean-inspired cuisine as this. The place is very small and can be extremely crowded some nights - you have to call the restaurant directly for reservations. There is a cool vibe that transports you to a hole-in-the-wall restaurant somewhere in the Mediterranean. The photos inside are all from Italy, but the food much more Moroccan. The food is all extremely flavorful. They specialize in bringing exotic game and making slow-cooked dishes and tajines exploding with flavors of exotic spices. They also have a fairly regularly updating menu, but my favorite dish is the slow cooked beef cheeks on special with a side of sweet potatoe gnocchi, and their mix plate appetizer with hummus, babaganoush, chermoula, and a garbanzo bean-tomato-cucumber salad.
First- there are two South of Nick's locations now. The one in San Clemente is my favorite for dinner, food, and general vibe. But the one in Laguna in on the 2nd level on the inland side of PCH, so it does have a beautiful ocean view and is great for sunset drinks. South of Nick's is one of my two favorite Mexican restaurants in the area. It is a more upscale Mexican cuisine with phenomenal, flavorful food, a great drink selection, and some tempting dessert options. This place also is extremely busy, so definitely get reservations on the weekend. I also enjoy eating at their bar. My favorite bites include the crispy spicy ground beef tacos with refried beans and street corn, butter cake, and their horchata cocktail for dessert.
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South of Nick's San Clemente | Mexican Kitchen + Bar
110 North El Camino Real
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First- there are two South of Nick's locations now. The one in San Clemente is my favorite for dinner, food, and general vibe. But the one in Laguna in on the 2nd level on the inland side of PCH, so it does have a beautiful ocean view and is great for sunset drinks. South of Nick's is one of my two favorite Mexican restaurants in the area. It is a more upscale Mexican cuisine with phenomenal, flavorful food, a great drink selection, and some tempting dessert options. This place also is extremely busy, so definitely get reservations on the weekend. I also enjoy eating at their bar. My favorite bites include the crispy spicy ground beef tacos with refried beans and street corn, butter cake, and their horchata cocktail for dessert.
This has hands-down become by favorite steak restaurant, and it is practically in your backyard! It is a ~10 minute walk, down the trail through the golf course to Monarch Beach Resort. It is a Michael Mina restaurant with a lot of truffle making its way into the menu. My favorite dishes are their complimentary duck fat parmesan fries with truffle aioli, beef carpaccio, hay smoked eye of the ribeye, and crisp fried Brussels sprouts with salt and garlic (special order). This is a great place for a special date night, and has a "fancier" feel.
Bourbon Steak Orange County
1 Monarch Beach Resort North
This has hands-down become by favorite steak restaurant, and it is practically in your backyard! It is a ~10 minute walk, down the trail through the golf course to Monarch Beach Resort. It is a Michael Mina restaurant with a lot of truffle making its way into the menu. My favorite dishes are their complimentary duck fat parmesan fries with truffle aioli, beef carpaccio, hay smoked eye of the ribeye, and crisp fried Brussels sprouts with salt and garlic (special order). This is a great place for a special date night, and has a "fancier" feel.
This is a very romantic little restaurant in South Laguna, directly off PCH. It is a house that was converted to a restaurant. They actually have a small ocean view deck seating area where you are literally on the roof overlooking the Pacific. I love this place because they offer a wide selection of hand made pastas, every night they have an extensive list of chef's specials, and they have a good wine list of Italian wines.
Ti Amo Ristorante by Il Barone
31727 Coast Hwy
This is a very romantic little restaurant in South Laguna, directly off PCH. It is a house that was converted to a restaurant. They actually have a small ocean view deck seating area where you are literally on the roof overlooking the Pacific. I love this place because they offer a wide selection of hand made pastas, every night they have an extensive list of chef's specials, and they have a good wine list of Italian wines.
This is another one of my favorite restaurants in the area. It is an out-of-this-world restaurant with proper New American cuisine. The chef, Craig Strong, used to be the Chef at The Studio (the fine dining restaurant at The Montage), but left to start his own restaurant. This place tics all the boxes because the food is decadent and the vibe is perfect. The restaurant decore is California coastal. They have a great feel in the interior seating area as well as in their enclosed patio. Try this place out, you won't regret it.
Ocean at Main
222 Ocean Ave
This is another one of my favorite restaurants in the area. It is an out-of-this-world restaurant with proper New American cuisine. The chef, Craig Strong, used to be the Chef at The Studio (the fine dining restaurant at The Montage), but left to start his own restaurant. This place tics all the boxes because the food is decadent and the vibe is perfect. The restaurant decore is California coastal. They have a great feel in the interior seating area as well as in their enclosed patio. Try this place out, you won't regret it.
Ocean View Dining
For me dining is as much about the vibe as it is about the awesome food. Some nights I really want to be ocean front, have a view of the sunset on the Pacific, and revel in the iconic beauty of Southern California as I am dining or drinking. These are the local restaurants that fulfill these requirements in my book.
180 Blu is the outdoor bar (with phenomenal food) overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the bluff at Salt Creek at the flagship Ritz Carlton. I mainly go here for the vibe and grab a drink. Don't get me wrong - the food and drinks are all very good - but this is hands-down the best location to watch the sunset with a drink in South Orange County. You also can walk here in about 40 minutes if you take the beach trail from Ritz Pointe.
180blũ
1 Ritz Carlton Dr
180 Blu is the outdoor bar (with phenomenal food) overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the bluff at Salt Creek at the flagship Ritz Carlton. I mainly go here for the vibe and grab a drink. Don't get me wrong - the food and drinks are all very good - but this is hands-down the best location to watch the sunset with a drink in South Orange County. You also can walk here in about 40 minutes if you take the beach trail from Ritz Pointe.
This place actually checks off three boxes: Ocean view, brunch, and dinner. That said, it is not the highest on my list for the very best cuisine, but their food is very tasty. They have a New American type cusine, my favorite is their shrimp tacos. But the biggest draw of oak is the location. They are in mid Laguna in the inland side of PCH. The whole restaurant opens out to their fairly well sized deck with some beautiful views of the Pacific. They recently added a mimosa brunch to their offerings as well.
oak laguna beach
1100 S Coast Hwy
This place actually checks off three boxes: Ocean view, brunch, and dinner. That said, it is not the highest on my list for the very best cuisine, but their food is very tasty. They have a New American type cusine, my favorite is their shrimp tacos. But the biggest draw of oak is the location. They are in mid Laguna in the inland side of PCH. The whole restaurant opens out to their fairly well sized deck with some beautiful views of the Pacific. They recently added a mimosa brunch to their offerings as well.
You can't get closer to the beach unless you were on the sand. The Deck is another place I primarily come for the location, though the food is pretty good too. But if you are really craving a beach front sunset drink in the hustle and bustle of Downtown Laguna, this is the place.
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Deck on Laguna Beach
627 Sleepy Hollow Lane
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You can't get closer to the beach unless you were on the sand. The Deck is another place I primarily come for the location, though the food is pretty good too. But if you are really craving a beach front sunset drink in the hustle and bustle of Downtown Laguna, this is the place.
I come here for one reason: outdoor Sunday Brunch with an ocean view. Again don't get me wrong - the food is very good - but the ambience can't be beat. Aveo is in the Monarch Beach Resort, so you can walk here. It has a beautiful, large outdoor dining area overlooking the resort and golf course out to the ocean. During the summer they were offering bottomless mimosas with brunch - now they do not.
AVEO Table + Bar
1 Monarch Beach Resort N
I come here for one reason: outdoor Sunday Brunch with an ocean view. Again don't get me wrong - the food is very good - but the ambience can't be beat. Aveo is in the Monarch Beach Resort, so you can walk here. It has a beautiful, large outdoor dining area overlooking the resort and golf course out to the ocean. During the summer they were offering bottomless mimosas with brunch - now they do not.