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San Onofre State Beach – Surfing Beach/Old Man’s Beach

San Onofre State Beach is locally known as “San O” or “Old Man’s Beach.” It’s also called the San Onofre State Surfing Beach and is a surfing haven for most surfers and beach lovers. People consider this beach as their favorite surfing location because of its great waves, lovely bluffs, and wetlands.

The beach and state park has a total area of 3,000 acres (1,214 ha). It’s considered one of California’s most popular beaches and hosts different annual events for surfing, swimming, camping, and other water sports activities. The state park also attracts nature lovers, campers, and cyclists.

Brief History

San Onofre State Beach is named after a fourth-century Roman Catholic saint, Onuphrius. In 1971, Governor Ronald Reagan established the area and turned it into a State Park. Since the establishment of the Camp Pendleton Military Base, the United States Marine Corps exclusively leases the State Park to California State.

The entire north and south area of San Onofre (Trails, Lowers, Uppers, Cotton’s, Church) was once off-limits to the public. But after its development into a State Park, people have allowed access to these areas, thanks to President Richard Nixon. San Onofre, since then is known as San Onofre Surfing Beach (official state park name).

So, where can you find the San Onofre State Beach?

San Onofre State Beach in San Diego City, California is about 7 miles south of San Clemente on Old Pacific Highway 101 and Interstate-5 N.

If driving from Interstate 5 at Basilone Road, the beach is just about 3 miles south of the city of San Clemente.

Also, the San Onofre State Park sits next to the Camp Pendleton Military Base in North San Diego County.

Driving Directions:

To reach San Onofre State Beach (Old Man’s):

  1. Exit Interstate-5 Freeway at Basilone Road, and head SOUTH.
  2. Turn RIGHT before you reach SONGS (Power Plant). This direction leads to the entrance to Old Man’s.
  3. Continue SOUTH past SONGS (Power Plant) to reach the entrance to the San Onofre State Beach Campground (Trails).

From the entrance, rangers assigned at the gates can direct you to the parking lot. They can also provide you detailed information about the State Park (availability, fees, rules and regulations, and current beach conditions).

If it’s your first time to visit San Onofre and wish to go to the Trestles, you can park at Old Man’s parking area, and walk NORTH up the beach.

San Onofre State Beach Map

Beach Landmarks

Aside from Surf Beach, people can enjoy outdoor activities in the area. The San Onofre Bluffs and the San Mateo Campground are places known for camping activities. You can also find the well-preserved sacred Native American site of Panhe in the state park.

San Onofre State Beach is located on the north side of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS), which was shut down in 2013. You can also find it right on the border of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base and its Beach Club. However, these two landmarks are off-limits to the public.

San Onofre State Beach Activities

Yay, you finally reached San Onofre! So, what are the best things to do in San Onofre in 2019? Whether you want to enjoy day camping or surfing at the beach, here are awesome things to do and places to visit in 2019:

Surfing and Other Water Activities

Old Man’s. Also known as the San Onofre State Surfing Beach. This is the main surfing area of the beach and is the best surf spot.

Old Man’s is easy to access and has safe and clean facilities. Waves here are like its nearby beach, Trestles to the North. Beginners and professional surfers enjoy surfing on great waves here.

Looking for the best surf breaks at San Onofre?

Head off to Lower Trestles. It’s a famous surf break located on the south of the San Mateo Creek river mouth.

This is the favorite spot of most professional surfers. With great waves, pro surfers learn advance surfing skills here. Around summertime, you can enjoy watching pro surfers demonstrate a three-ring-circus of modern power surfing and aerial maneuvers.

Camping by the beach?

The San Onofre State Beach Campground is the place to go. This area can be found along Old Highway 101, which is next to the sandstone bluffs. The campground has about 380 sites where you can park your RVs or enjoy tent camping.

You have easy access to bathrooms, picnic tables, fire rings, and dump stations. However, there are no hookups for utilities in this campground.

The beach below the bluffs is a popular spot for beach lovers and surfers.

Want to go camping with pets?

The San Onofre State  Beach CaMpground is pet-friendly, and there are no pet fees, too! You can camp out and bring your dog as long as your pet is leashed of no longer than 6 feet.

Your dog can be your hiking buddy around the campsite. Also, there are two hiking trails where your pet is allowed. However, your dog is not allowed on the beach. To know more information about pet rules and regulations, please contact (949) 361-2531.

So, if you wish to camp out at San Onofre, it’s best to book your reservations early as it quickly gets fully-booked here.

Hiking, Trail Running, and also Camping

Along the San Onofre Bluffs State Campground to South of SONGS (Power Plant), you can find Trails. It’s the southern part of surf spots and includes about three miles of rock reefs and sandy breaks. At low tides, you can see tide pools in this area.

It’s also the last point to camp at San Onofre State Beach. Campsites also have amenities such as bathrooms and fire pits.

San Onofre Beach Safety 

Beach safety is one of the reasons why most beach enthusiasts come to San Onofre. Lifeguards and park rangers patrol around the trails and the beaches. You can also ask the park rangers for the weather and water conditions for your safety.

However, since this beach is usually packed, monitoring everyone can be difficult. It’s best to be cautious always in San Onofre. Whether you’re in the campsite or water, always stay safe.

So, are you looking for the best surfing spot in Orange County, California in 2019? The rugged and relatively unspoiled San Onofre State Beach not only can give you the best ocean views. It can also be your best surfing destination in California.

To know more information about San Onofre State Beach, you can visit their Facebook account. You can also view photos of the beach and get updates about activities here.


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