At the southern tip of coastal Orange County, San Clemente marks the midway point between San Diego and Los Angeles. A sleepy beachside community, with frequent Amtrak train service and a nicely undulating stretch of old US-101 (El Camino Real) running through its heart, San Clemente is probably best known as the site of La Casa Pacifica, the one-time “Western White House” of former president Richard Nixon, who lived here following his election in 1968 and during his impeachment in the mid-1970s. The white-walled mission-style house at the south end of Avenida del Presidente (the western frontage road to I-5) is more easily visible from the beach below, though the 25 acres of trees have grown up to obscure it in recent years.
Within a quick walk uphill from the handful of cafés and bars on and around the pier, Beachcomber Inn (949/492-5457, $170 and up) is a tidy old-fashioned motor-court motel facing the open ocean. San Clemente also has a couple of low-key coffee shops, like Rose’s Sugar Shack Café (2319 S. El Camino Real, 949/498-0684), and a great burger place, The Rider’s Club Cafe (1701 N. El Camino Real, 949/388-3758, Tues.-Sun.), in the mission-style downtown business district.