A girl sitting on a rock in front of the ocean with her back turned to the viewer. The sky is gray and there is a wave breaking in the distance in California.

Lower Trestles: A Surfing Paradise in California

Surfers travel from far and wide to ride the legendary waves of Trestles Beach.
La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks: An Exciting Adventure in San Diego Reading Lower Trestles: A Surfing Paradise in California 7 minutes Next Greatest Surfers of All Time

Surfers travel from far and wide to ride the legendary waves of Trestles Beach. Trestles is one of the best surfing spots in California, located in San Clemente. You may not have heard of Trestles Beach unless you're a surfer. Indeed, California is home to some of the world's finest beaches, either for relaxing or surfing.

Trestles is wonderful since it has so much to offer even if you don't want to go surfing. Since it's a more compact part of San Onofre State Beach, it's an ideal pit stop on a tour around Southern California.

Join us as we delve into the specifics of Trestles Beach, including its location, accessibility, must-see attractions, and surrounding options for more surf and sand once you've gotten your fill here.

Girl sitting on a rock at the beach with her back turned to the viewer. She is looking out at the ocean, at a wave breaking in the distance. The sky is gray and she is in California.


It's no secret that Lower Trestles is the go-to surf break. The "Crown Jewel" of Southern California surfing, as it is often called. The Lowers are located between the Middles and the Uppers, to the north and the south, respectively.

You may find some really fantastic waves on any open swell. On the other hand, the limited launch zone means that there will be more surfers vying for the best conditions.

Finding Lowers

Go on the Interstate 5 southbound from San Clemente and get off at the Cristianitos exit. Cross the freeway, then turn left at the first stop sign you come to. From the parking lot on the right, you can access the beach path leading to Lowers.

Here’s some more info:

  • Usually excellent conditions no matter the tide
  • South to South-West swells are optimal.
  • Open to everyone

When You Should Go

Summer and autumn are the best times to go, though the springtime southwest winds are great, too.

It's a safe bet to assume that summer weekends and evenings will be extremely crowded.

There is a lot of rivalry and territorialism among local surfers when the waves are good, so make sure to be courteous any if you are a new surfer, try to go on days when it is less crowded to practice. 


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 an interesting mixture of surfers.

There are plenty of surfers with 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.

Cottons Info

  • Mid-tide is the optimal time to go out.
  • The ideal swell direction is south to south-west
  • Expertise is highly recommended
  • In terms of surfboards, you can bring either a longboard or a pistol.
  • The best seasons to go are spring, summer, and fall.
  • There usually aren't many people there unless the surf is good.
  • The locals are friendly unless there's a spectacular break, in which case things can heat up as surfers compete for waves.

Photo from inside of a wave as it breaks in the ocean.


Being a short distance from Cottons Point, Upper Trestles is known for its reliable waves.

In the perfect conditions, surfers are capable of a long and enjoyable journey. There are several launch sites available.

Uppers Info

Take the Cristianitos exit off of the I5 and head left if you're coming from the south or right if you're coming from the north. You can leave your car in the first parking lot or park on the street. If you want to reach the northernmost part of Upper Trestles, you can start by walking down the route.

  • Mid to high-tide is optimal.
  • Advanced to expert surfers will have the best luck
  • Bring a shortboard
  • Spring, winter, and fall are ideal seasons
  • More crowded compared to Cottons, but less crowded than Lowers.

Dark shadow silhouette of a surfer walking along the beach at sunset.

Can Beginners Surf Trestles?

Absolutely, beginners can surf Trestles!

Trestles is a popular spot for surfing. It's located on the coast of San Clemente, California and there are many different types of surfers that come to Trestles, including beginner surfers.

There are two important steps for beginners to get started surfing: learn how to stand up on a surfboard and/or learn how to paddle out into deeper water. Both skills are crucial for beginning surfers, as they'll need to know how to stand up in order to catch a wave and paddle out into deeper water so they can avoid getting caught inside.

When learning how to stand up on a board, there are three things you should focus on: balance, movement, and timing. Balance means keeping your body centered over the board; movement means learning how to correctly shift your weight; timing refers to knowing when it's time to push off or jump your feet onto the top of the board (depending on where you are in relation).

How Do I Access Lower Trestles?

Lower Trestles is a surf spot located in San Clemente, California. The spot itself is located on Trestles Beach and is known for its consistent waves and long rides, making it a popular place for surfing competitions.

The best way to get there is by car. You can drive down the highway from the north or south and turn onto Lower Trestles Road when the highway ends.

The beach itself is open to everyone, but there are many different surf spots along the beach that are reserved for use by local surfers only. If you're just planning on enjoying the water and sand, you should be able to find a spot without any trouble.

You'll want to access this spot by car or bike, and there are two main ways to get there: either from the north or south.

Trestles Beach is located in San Clemente, California, just off of Cristianitos Road and Interstate 5. The Cristianitos Road exit off the freeway is the ideal place to park, as it is slightly inland from the water and a short walk from the parking lot to the beach.

Make a left turn onto El Camino Real as you get off the expressway, and then look for a spot in the parking lot on the right.

Using this lot's parking facilities will cost you money. Don't try to get around it because that'll just get you a ticket. It is possible to park on Cristianitos if the lot is full.

To reach the water, you'll need to make a short trek down the trail from where you parked. You'll enjoy stunning views of San Mateo Creek and the surf break as you make your way through the native vegetation on this trek.

The entrance to San Onofre State Park is located a little distance up a hill after you pass under the I-5 highway.

This 3.5-mile stretch of beach is home to five different surf breakers, any one of which you may access from here.

Sufer in the ocean on a sunny day surfing through the center of a large wave.

Final Thoughts

Trestles Beach is a famous surf spot that has attracted crowds for decades. The waves break along a rocky outcropping, and the beach is popular for both surfing and sunbathing. Anyone  can enjoy Trestles Beach year-round.

At Everyday California, we are an ocean adventure and lifestyle brand. We offer eco-friendly kayak tours, snorkel tours, surf lessons and stand-up paddle board lessons on one of the best coastlines in the world. We’re committed to making fun happen, and protecting the ocean.

For all your surfing needs and more, contact us for any inquiries and questions!

Continue reading

Surfer in the ocean riding a wave. There is nobody else in the water, and the sun is setting in the distance.

Greatest Surfers of All Time

Three people sitting on kayaks in the ocean, passing a piece of kelp between each other.

La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks: An Exciting Adventure in San Diego