Our site is best viewed in the latest version of your browser. Please upgrade for the best site experience.

San Onofre

3030 Avenida del Presidente
San Clemente, CA 92672

Region: North County Coastal

Jealously claimed by Orange County, San Onofre is actually situated south of the county line in San Diego. Bordered to the south and east by the sprawling Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Reserve, San Onofre offers an opportunity to appreciate what Southern California's entire coastline may have looked like 100 years ago. Here you will find barren, windswept bluffs, native vegetation and a tidal wetland frequented by migratory birds and wild deer. In stark contrast to its primitive, natural side, San Onofre is also home to a nuclear-powered generating facility and a state-of-the-art military base. Ironically, it is these same potentially destructive forces that protect this area from development and provide the 20 mile coastal greenbelt that has prevented San Diego, Orange County and Los Angeles from merging into one huge megalopolis. San Onofre offers three unique beach areas - Trestles, Old Man's and Trails - and two great ways to enjoy them - by day or overnight camping.

Where to go

  • Lower Trestles, on the south side of the San Mateo Creek river mouth, is a world famous surf break with a packed and talented lineup to prove it. It's not a particularly challenging wave, but it is long, steady and consistent, ideal for performance surfing. A lot of pro surfers have honed their craft at Lowers, and on any given day (but particularly in the summer/fall south swell season) you can witness a three-ring circus of modern power surfing and aerial maneuvers. If you're keen to paddle out and give it a go yourself, be warned that this same circus atmosphere makes for some chaotic situations and clownish behavior in the water. The breaks to the north (Uppers) and south (Middles and Church) of Lowers offer mellower crowds, but at a considerable sacrifice in wave quality. The beach at Trestles is a bit sparse and difficult to access (see directions below) with cobblestones and submerged rocks by the waterline.
  • Old Man's lies just north of the Nuclear Plant. Some locals swear the ocean is warmer at Old Man's, where water used to cool the reactors is pumped back out to sea, but at least, by all accounts, it is not radioactive. In fact, Old Man's is an easy spot to access, with good facilities and a safe, clean, sandy beach. Like its neighbor Trestles to the North, Old Man's - also known as San Onofre State Surfing Beach - is a world-renowned surf spot. Unlike Trestles, however, Old Man's won its fame in the early history of the sport, when heavy wooden longboards demanded softer, slower waves. Fun, gentle waves still roll through Old Man's making it a popular surf spot for beginners and veterans alike, while beachgoers will appreciate the neighborly, tailgate party scene in and around the parking lot.
  • Trails is the collective name for the three miles of beach fronting the San Onofre Bluffs State Campground to the south of the Nuclear Plant. The campground is set up in a linear fashion with campsites and bathroom facilities spaced at intervals all along the seaward side of the old Coast Highway. Campsites are open to tent and RV camping, but no hookups are provided. The prime sites are near the trailheads for footpaths leading down the bluffs to the beach. These access trails are numbered one through six, the beaches they lead to being their namesakes. TRAIL SIX is the most southerly and the most popular among day visitors, particularly the clothing optional set (even though nudism is not legal at San Onofre or any other beach in San Diego). The beach here is generally the same whichever trail you choose, predominantly sand with areas of rock reefs and tidepools at low tide. Surf here is fair, a bit punchier than Old Man's but not anything like Lowers. Campers enjoy surf-fishing and clam-digging.
  • San Onofre State Beach Campground is great for camping, with 380 sites for RV's or tent camping. There are bathrooms, picnic tables and fire rings but no utility hookups.

Lifeguards

  • Parts of Trails beach are patrolled by lifeguards and park rangers, but consider yourself at your own risk in all water safety judgments.
  • Trestles and Old Man’s are patrolled by lifeguards, but not as frequently. So enjoy these areas at your own risk.

Bathrooms & Showers

  • Old Man’s offers plenty of bathrooms and showers.
  • San Onofre State Surfing Beach offers bathrooms and showers

Popular Activities

  • Surfing, surf fishing, clam digging and tidepooling
  • San Onofre Bluffs State Campground

Directions to San Onofre beaches

  • To find Old Man's and Trails, exit 5 FWY at Basilone Road and head south. The entrance to the San Onofre State Surfing Beach (Old Man's) is a turnout on the right before reaching the Power Plant. Continue south past the Power Plant to reach the San Onofre State Beach campground entrance (Trails). The rangers at either of these gates can direct you to a parking area and provide information about availability, regulations, fees and current conditions. To get to Trestles, first-timers are advised to park at Old Man's and walk north up the beach.
  • A more direct but rather adventurous route to Trestles begins at the parking area near the Carl's Jr. restaurant on the east side of the freeway at the Christianitos exit. From here, walk, skate or bike down the paved path leading west to the beach on the north side of the San Mateo river mouth (Uppers), or follow the abandoned frontage road to an unmarked but well-used dirt path leading to the south side of the river mouth (Lowers).

What to Love

  • Roasting marshmallows in a firepit at San Onofre State Beach.
  • Mountain biking on marked trails near Trestles beach.
  • Bird watching and enjoying spring flowers at San Mateo Creek Nature Preserve.
  • Watching the surfers from the shoreline at Trestles.

What to Know

  • Please do not use the trails through the wetlands to access the beach. This is protected habitat and environmentally sensitive.
  • San Mateo Campground books up fast - make reservations well in advance.
  • Alcohol is banned from all beaches within the state park.

Browse the articles and listings below to explore more about San Onofre's windswept bluffs and tidal wetlands and plan your next visit to San Diego!

Related Articles and Features

Free Visitor Planning Guide

Order a free visitor planning guide to help plan your San Diego vacation.

Request Guide

Offers

Whale Watching
Expires: 04/27/14
$5 off Whale & Dolphin Watching with Hornblower Cruises. Hornblower offers large comfortable Whale Watching boats with live narration from San Diego Natural History Museum's trained naturalists and education about famous landmarks and history.
San Diego Marriott Del Mar
Expires: 09/01/14
Now you have a reason to stay longer with our 20 percent off rates when you stay four consecutive nights weekend or weekday at the Del Mar Marriott.

San Diego Blogs

Robert
San Diego’s East County is Music to Our Ears! April 23, 2014 Written by Robert
Showing 15 of 66 Members

Members Search

Sort By:
Member
Freeman
5040 West Roosevelt Rd
Chicago, IL 60644-1436
858.658.7555
Region: North County Coastal

Our Services - Strategic, Logistics, Creative Freeman is the world's leading provider of integrated services for face-to-face marketing events....

Map It!
Member
Del Mar Country Club
PO Box 9866
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
858.759.5500
Region: North County Coastal

The Del Mar Country Club is one of the premier private country clubs in Southern California and an unforgettable location to hold your next special...

Map It!
Member
San Diego Master Chorale
6540 Lusk Blvd
San Diego, CA 92121
858.581.2203
Region: North County Coastal

The San Diego Master Chorale (SDMC), "The Voice of San Diego" by mayoral proclamation, includes 100 of San Diego's finest singers who perform more...

Map It!
Member
Behind The Scenes Inc
9888 Waples St
San Diego, CA 92121
858.638.1400

Behind the Scenes Catering & Events Behind The Scenes (BTS), headquartered in San Diego, is a premier catering and events company, pleasing...

Map It!
Member
AmeriCharter Inc.
2210 Palomar Airport Rd
Carlsbad, CA 92011
888.625.2487
Region: North County Coastal

AmeriCharter is a leading transportation agency that offers passenger Ground and Air Transportation Solutions here in San Diego County and...

Map It!
Member
Herr Photography Inc
220 Rosebay Drive
Encinitas, CA 92024
760.436.6469
Region: North County Coastal

Corporate Event Photography Herr Photography covers corporate events from small group settings to full conventions with thousands of attendees....

Map It!
Member
Classic Party Rentals
7069 Consolidated Way
San Diego, CA 92121
858.496.9700
Region: North County Coastal

Welcome to Classic San Diego With 70 miles of beaches and a perfect climate, every day is a good day to celebrate in San Diego. And at Classic...

Map It!
Member
The Crossings at Carlsbad
5800 The Crossings Dr
Carlsbad, CA 92008
760.444.1800
Region: North County Coastal

The Crossings at Carlsbad is located about a mile from the Pacific Ocean and just 30 minutes from downtown San Diego. The golf course, Canyons...

Map It!
Member
San Diego Brewers Guild
7700 El Camino Real
Carlsbad, CA 92009
858.450.9277
Region: North County Coastal

The mission of the San Diego Brewer's Guild is to promote awareness and increase the visibility of fresh, locally brewed beer through education and...

Map It!
Member
Oceanside Cultural Arts Foundation

760.433.3632
Region: North County Coastal

The Oceanside Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF) is proud to support arts in Oceanside and the surrounding communities. From the Oceanside Days of Art...

Member
Paradise by the Sea RV Resort
1537 S Coast Hwy
Oceanside, CA 92054
760.439.1376
Region: North County Coastal

Paradise by the Sea RV Resort has been family-owned and operated for over 35 years! We invite you to make Paradise your "Vacation Destination." Come...

Map It!
Member
Carlsbad Premium Outlets
5620 Paseo del Norte
Carlsbad, CA 92008
760.804.9000
Region: North County Coastal

Carlsbad Premium Outlets features 90 outlet stores offering every day savings of 25% to 65% in an attractive outdoor village setting. The center...

Map It!
Beach
Oceanside Beaches
Region: North County Coastal

With easy access to the beaches, fewer parking hassles, boardwalks and a pier, Oceanside offers the quintessential Southern California beach experience.

Map It!
Beach
Solana Beach
Region: North County Coastal

With high cliffs lined right to the water’s edge, the beaches of Solana Beach may be difficult to access, however the reward is an almost secluded beach you can claim as your own.

Map It!
Member
Culinary Concepts
8575 Commerce Ave
San Diego, CA 92121
888.547.1886

Creative. Fresh. Delicious. Above all, the key to a truly memorable event is the successful collaboration of creative minds. Here at Culinary...

Map It!
close