From the metered parking lot on Ritz Carlton Drive, walk the path to the north of the Ritz down to a beautiful shore with changing rooms, outdoor showers, restrooms, snack bar, firepits, and a path along the seawall. Paths and trails lead north and east through a golf course and along Salt Creek, a scenic corridor featuring small parks and several miles of trails.
Free entry, but metered parking unless you have an OC Parks Beach Pass
I grew up in San Clemente and I have awesome memories of my childhood days spent at the beach. Back then we had lots of sand and wide open spaces. Well if you have been to San Clemente anytime recently you will know much of it has sand erosion and much of the sand is gone leaving many, many rocks.
This is NOT the case at Salt Creek Beach, which is about 10 miles north of San Clemente in Dana Point.
Salt Creek is an OC Parks Beach. North of the Ritz Carlton you DO need to pay to park. South of the Ritz at Strands Beach parking is free.
This review is of the beach North of the Ritz Carlton.
You park and hike a distance down hill to the beach (a LONG distance back up to your car). Keep this in mind if you have loads of stuff and small kids. Older kids? Make them help you carry everything and they can walk up with no problem. I think during the summer months you can pay a dollar or two to have a golf cart and chauffeur drive you to the top.
There is a seasonally open snack bar at this beach. There are bathrooms and showers and a drinking fountain.
This is a super beach for walking, there are tide pools when the tide is low and you can walk south down to Dana Strands beach and back. It is a fantastic place to surf or watch others surf. You can swim here and there is a ton of soft, white, sand.
Lifeguards do patrol this beach.
If you don't want to hang out on or at the beach there is an adjacent hilly, grassy, park perfect for picnics. The best time is dinner time and make sure to stay for the sunset.
There are also a few trees for climbing near the bottom and the kids NEVER get tired of running up and, specifically, running or rolling down the hills.
Most importantly is the scenery and views. Gorgeous!