The first time LTJG Husband took this born-and-bred desert girl to his hometown of San Clemente, it took about 2.5 seconds before I was irrevocably in love with the “Spanish city by the sea.” For those of you stationed in San Diego or at Camp Pendleton, I plan on doing a full San Clemente post sometime this summer; but in the meantime, here is one easy, romantic date night idea to try out if you haven’t had a chance to explore this charming little beach town just yet.
Part One: Dinner & Drinks
Head to Del Mar, the main street in downtown San Clemente (not to be confused with the city of Del Mar in San Diego county) for some dinner and drinks. Off the top of my head recommendations are: the flat iron steak at Village Mediterranean Rim, the pork belly pasta at Brick, the flatbreads at The Cellar, or the seasonal mussels and clams in a lemon wine sauce at Nick’s. Leave a little time afterwards to window shop the cute storefronts along Del Mar as you head down towards the ocean.
Part Two: Wander Down to the Pier
Follow Del Mar all the way down to the pier. You will pass the library and community center on your right, and will come to a four-way stop sign. Continue straight and follow the main road when it curves slightly to the left. The road will begin to decline at a steeper angle, and soon you will arrive at the view pictured at the top of this post. At that point you can follow the path all the way down to the pier, or cut through the parking lot on the right to visit the Marine monument there before wandering down to the ocean.
The pier is beautiful in the day, but I love it most at night. I will admit I am a little biased since LTJG Husband and I spent our first year of marriage living less than a mile from the pier and would walk it almost every night, catching each other up on our day and dreaming about where the Navy might take us. Now every time we walk the pier at night, it feels like we are 22 again, and for that short time it is easy to forget all the pressing responsibilities that have come into our lives since then.
My favorite part of walking the pier is when we get to the end and turn around. When Ole Hanson envisioned San Clemente’s design, he wanted to use the natural landscape in such a way that everyone would have an ocean view. While that may not have come to absolute fruition, you can definitely see the result of his vision when you look at the San Clemente hills gorgeously lit up with all the lights of its ocean-view homes.
Part Three: Live Music & S’mores
Once you’ve had your fill of wandering the pier, make your way back up Del Mar and stop off at Beachfire for dessert. They often have live music on the weekends, and if you can grab a spot at their outdoor counter it’s great for people watching. Beachfire’s s’mores dessert is my favorite dessert is Southern California; if you are in San Clemente, it is not to be missed! The graham cracker is more like a graham cracker pie crust, topped with a giant marshmallow that is made in-house and roasted to campfire perfection. The whole thing is topped with ooey-gooey dark chocolate and served with a side of vanilla ice-cream. It is definitely enough to share, although LTJG Husband is always threatening to order his own because he loves it so much.
There you have it: our go-to San Clemente date night. Cheers to charming beach towns, piers at night, and amazing desserts!