Unless you're an avid surfer, you may have never heard of Trestles Beach.
The beauty of Trestles is that even if you're not planning on paddling out in the surf, there is still plenty to enjoy. As a smaller section of San Onofre State Beach, it's the perfect stop on a Southern California road trip.
Come dive in with us as we give you the lowdown on Trestles Beach, how to get there, the best spots to check out, and nearby beaches if you haven't had enough sun and surf after your visit.
You can find Trestles Beach off of Interstate 5 in San Clemente at Christianitos Road. We find that it is best to exit the freeway at Christianitos Road and drive slightly away from the water before walking towards the beach.
Once you've exited the freeway, turn left at El Camino Real and try and find parking in the designated parking lot to your right.
You will have to pay for parking here. Don't try and avoid it either, as you will get a ticket. If there isn't any parking left in the lot, you can find parking on Christianitos.
After parking, you will have to hike down the trail to get to the water. Throughout the hike, which takes you through native foliage, you'll get great views of the San Mateo Creek and the surf break.
You will eventually walk underneath the I-5 freeway before going up a short hill to the entrance of San Onofre State Park.
From here, you can choose to explore five separate surf breaks along this 3.5-mile beach, including:
You will find Cottons at the northernmost point of San Onofre Beach, meaning you will have to walk pretty far to get there.
Note that you won't get the best waves at Cottons most of the time. However, when the surf breaks at Cottons, you will find a strange mixture of surfers.
There are plenty of guys with gun surfboards and longboards, as the wave has a nice roll off the top and breaks into deep water.
To get there, walk up the trail from the parking lot and head north.
Upper Trestles is just south of Cottons Point, though it has some of the most consistent conditions.
It can work a good, long ride under the right conditions. The lineup spreads along with various takeoff spots.
The prominent right peak is where most takeoff, which runs on the outside before slowing down.
The lefts, on the other hand, move against the grain. The mid-zone is excellent, though it runs directly into the cove.
To get there, exit Christianitos from the I5, turning left if you are heading south and right if you are heading north. You can park in the first parking lot or along the street. Then, walk down the trail to get to the north end of Upper Trestles.
Lower Trestles is the most famous surf spot in Trestles Beach. Many people refer to it as the "Crown Jewel" of Southern California Surfing. You'll find Lowers north of Middles and south of Uppers. It has a well-defined reef.
On just about any exposed swell, you'll find pretty incredible waves. However, because of the small takeoff area, you can expect to see more competition for waves.
Starting from San Clemente, take the I5 and exit Cristianitos. Head over the freeway and take a left at the first stop sign. There you'll find a parking lot on the right side, which you can park at and walk down the beach trail to Lowers.
While Middles is certainly not the most popular surf spot in Trestles Beach, it provides plenty of excellent waves for beginners.
We always recommend it to those who are just getting into surfing.
The type of swell hitting Middles can have a significant impact on the shape of the waves.
It takes a good swell combo and a favorable swell window to get Middles going.
Churches is the southernmost spot in Trestles Beach and is great for experienced surfers.
Here you'll find fun, fast, and powerful waves. On a good day, expect long rides anywhere from 150m to 300m.
To get there, exit I5 at Christianitos to park. Once parked, walk down the patch towards the ocean, almost as if you were going to Lowers or Middles.
Keep walking until you see the Rivermouth and railroad Trestle.
Other Nearby Beaches
If you've explored the above surfing spots and you need a bit more to feed your surfing needs, here are some excellent nearby spots that we recommend exploring.
T-Street is only a half-mile south of the San Clemente Pier. You can get there by turning on El Camino Real and heading down to Barcelona. Continue driving down the hill until you can see the concrete bridge that goes over the train tracks.
Parking here is unmetered if you're willing to walk up the hill a bit.
On a small day, T-Street has consistent breaks all over the place. While locals love how consistent it is, don't always expect to find perfect right or left-handers. More often than not, it's best at low tide.
Getting to The Pier is easy! Exit Ave Presidio if you're going northbound and Ave Palizada if you're heading southbound. Continue onto Del Mar St and follow the signs to get down to the pier. There's plenty of public parking (both metered and unmetered), and the beach is within walking distance of tons of great restaurants and shops.
Note that the parking area fills up on busy weekends throughout the summer. As for surfing, don't expect to find the best high-performance waves. We recommend going to the north side of the pier for the best surf.
If you're incorporating camping into your surf trip, San Onofre State Beach camping is just around the corner from Trestles.