Located about four miles inland from Dana Point in Orange County, the city of San Juan Capistrano is a beautiful place. Between the captivating Spanish architecture and the beautiful old homes, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another place and time. But the abundant dining options and enticing wineries will remind you that you’re still in sunny Southern California.
Things to do in San Juan Capistrano
The biggest attraction in San Juan Capistrano is its namesake, a Catholic mission (pictured above). Mission San Juan Capistrano was founded in 1776, when the region was populated by the Acjachemen band of Native Americans. The mission was named after a French saint, Giovanni da Capistrano. The city was created around the mission, which explains all the Spanish architecture. This mission is one of 21 California Missions that make up the 600 mile long El Camino Real.
Obviously the mission is a must-see when you’re in the city, and it’s actually a great way to kick off your trip since visiting hours begin at 9AM. And once you’ve explored the area and learned about its history, you’ll only be a three minute walk from the Old Barn Antiques Mall, which is a mecca for anyone who loves treasures from the past. You’ll find several other charming shops in the area, so come to the city prepared to browse.
Also within walking distance is the Los Rios Historic District, the oldest neighborhood in California, The 40 homes that remain here include three original adobe structures. Many of the other homes in the neighborhood were built in the late 1800s by European immigrants.
There is no shortage of amazing restaurants in San Juan Capistrano. Sun Dried Tomato and Public 74 are both great lunch spots, and Sol Agave serves amazing Mexican food. If you’re around for dinner, The Vintage Steakhouse provides a unique dining experience in a reclaimed train car. You’ll also see several tempting French bakeries including Pascal that are definitely worth the splurge.
The Rancho Capistrano Winery is the biggest winery in Orange County. Locals and tourists alike gather here to taste some of California’s finest vino and enjoy a meal at the onsite restaurant. They’re open from 11AM until 10PM, allowing you plenty of time to taste.
The Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano is another must-see building. The church, which was completed in 1986, was designed after the Great Stone Church, which was destroyed by the great earthquake of 1812. The ruins of the Great Stone Church are located on the grounds, which are open to tourists on a daily basis.
Staying here is easy as the Best Western Capistrano Inn is right in town. Nearby there are lots of hotel options in Dana Point.
Beaches near San Juan Capistrano
When you’re ready to head to the beach, you won’t be far. You will find many to choose from in Laguna Beach, San Clemente and of course Dana Beach including one of our favorites Doheny State Beach. See the complete list of beaches near San Juan Capistrano below.