San Onofre State Beach is part of a larger 3,000 acre coastal canyon park. It is bordered to the north by the town of San Clemente, and to the south and east by the sprawling Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Reserve. San Onofre Surf Beach offers a world renowned and historical surf break. The beach is strictly available for day-use with no camping. 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. The park includes three distinct areas: San Onofre Surf Beach (day use area), San Onofre Bluffs Campground, and San Mateo Campground.
San Onofre Bluffs and San Onofre Surf Beach are located south of San Clemente on I-5 (Exit Basilone Road). San Onofre - San Mateo Campground is located on the outer edge of San Clemente 1 mile inland from I-5 (Exit Cristianitos)
Ideally located just to the North of San Onofre, San Clemente is a unique beach town built on hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The city offers 20 acres of sand beach and a 1,200-foot long fishing pier with commanding views of coastal bluff and hills. There is a bait and tackle shop at the end of the pier and a full service restaurant and bar at the base. Umbrella, surfboard and body board rentals are available within easy walking distance and food concessions are open on a seasonal basis at popular North Beach, "T" Street Beach and Calafia Beach Park. One of the most popular events is the San Clemente Ocean Festival which is held at the base of the pier on the third weekend in July. It features two days of lifeguard competitions, a children's pavilion, fishing derby, rubber duck race, an art show, sand castle contest and a beach blanket barbecue.
San Onofre State Beach has several surf breaks on its 3½ miles (5½ km) of coast, ranging from the beginner's gentle breaking waves, long sandy beaches and little social stigma, to one of the premiere surf breaks (trestles) in the United States.
San Onofre State Beach exemplifies the surfing lifestyle in California because of its culture and pace. Summer days and many weekend surfers and non-surfers riddle the beach playing volleyball, road bocce ball, telling stories, barbecuing, bathing in the sun, resting under the iconistic grass huts, or simply surfing their long boards, short boards, or body boards in patient wait of the next slow lazy roller to arrive for the masses.
Trestles - Uppers, Middles, Lowers
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. It's not as diligently patrolled by lifeguards and offers fewer facilities than Old Man's down the coast, all of which accounts for its greater appeal among teens and locals.
Located off Camp Pendleton's beach resort, Church provides sunbathing and duck watching. The name refers to the long-gone chapel which was located at the site.
The Main Park - Old Man's
The main park has parking right up to the beach and has 'flush' pit toilets and cold showers, but no camping. It is divided by the locality into three breaks spots known as The Point, Old Man's, and Dogpatch (named from north to south). All perform best on a south swell, though the beach takes any surf and slows it down to a very slow pace.
Though short boarders are not often successful at the above breaks, there have been occasions of mild short board success.
"With a 15 minute paddle to the south of Point, you'll find yourself in the surfing world's equivalent to the movie Cocoon. Here at Old Man's, geezers rule and grommets learn. The wave rolls off a rock reef some 200 yards (200 m) offshore and is mushy. A longboard is the surfboard of choice.
San Onofre Beach waves are indecisive about breaking. If you understand this point, you'll be well ahead of the game. Waves here like to crest, back off, crest, back off, crest, back off and then finally break. Trying to find your "one last wave" of the day can be a good trial in anger management. But if you find yourself ready to spout, you've missed the point. San O' is there to remind us that in this crowded world, there's still a spot where we can all ride together with smiles on our faces."
Trails is the last of the surf spots at San Onofre State Beach and is the most southern. Trails are also the last point to camp at San Onofre Beach. Camping is on the bluffs with cold showers and 'flush' pit toilets near by. A new policy closes the sites during the winter, but during the summer, surf is only a small trail hike down a cliff away, leading you to open beaches and uncrowded line ups. Shark warnings were high during 2004 and dolphin sightings are not uncommon. The break is sometimes walled up, however often bigger than Old Man's.
San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station
Located between San Onofre SB and San Onofre Surf Beach is San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) provides nearly 20-percent of the power to more than 15-million people in Southern California.