San Juan Capistrano, California

Best Places to Retire in California


San Juan Capistrano (population 34,500) is located just south of the Los Angeles suburban communities, near the coast in southern Orange County. It is 29 miles from Anaheim, less than five miles from Dana Point, and seven miles from San Clemente. Although it has grown from a small community in the mid-1970s into a small city, the city’s government has been effective in acquiring lands to preserve its character. Today nearly 40 percent of the city is controlled open space or parklands. 

The city’s Los Rio Historic District includes 31 structures, including three adobe homes dating to the late 1700s and a number of board and batten homes built from the 1880s to 1910. A walking tour of this area is a must for anyone interested in learning more about the early life of California and the birth of this community.

San Juan Capistrano has a wide variety of restaurants (more than 60 of them) that will satisfy almost any taste – from casual, inexpensive meals to many choices for fine dining. There are a many specialty shops throughout the downtown area as well as in the city’s famed Antique Row. There are good cultural opportunities as well, including live theater and the Capistrano Valley Symphony.

The area is known as an equestrian destination with a large number of stables, boarding facilities for hundreds of horses, training facilities, indoor arenas and many miles of riding trails. San Juan also has a great many hiking, walking and cycling trails. It is only minutes to ocean beaches, and Dana Point has extensive marina facilities for pleasure boaters of all kinds and off-shore fishing. Nearby Crystal Cove State Park offers 3.5 miles of beaches and 2,000 acres of open lands with hiking and riding trails. There are also a number of good golf courses nearby.

In addition to all the amenities of San Juan, it is within easy driving distance to an almost limitless supply of choices in southern Orange County, northern San Diego County, or even the cities of San Diego or Los Angeles. Metrolink regional rail transportation system, for example, links it to virtually all of the Los Angeles metro area.

Arts & Culture

Mission San Juan Capistrano, which was founded in 1775, has a fascinating and storied history. The Great Stone Church was constructed from 1796 to 1806, only to be destroyed by an earthquake in 1812. Today it is a monument to California’s history, embracing Native American, Spanish, Mexican and European heritage, where one can learn its history, hear the century old bells, and walk its time-worn paths. 

A free, self-guided walking tour of this historic community reveals a great deal about life in the infancy of this community and the early history of California.

San Juan Capistrano Historical Society –

Camino Real Playhouse, South Orange County Community Theatre – 

Nautical Heritage Society and Museum at Dana Point is dedicated to the nautical history of sailing ships and features models, artifacts from shipwrecks, and displays of sailing life from the 18th and 19th centuries. (949) 661-1001

O’Neill Museum is one of the town’s first wooden homes. It is located in the Historic District. (949) 493-8444)

Ocean Institute is a research and nature center at Dana Point. It features a huge replica of a California gray whale skeleton and various displays of sailing gear. The Institute conducts research workshops and programs for youth. (949) 496-2274

The Swallows Festival is a two-month celebration of the return of the swallows on March 19th of each year. The festival begins in late February. San Juan Capistrano Fiesta Association is organized to support and perpetuate the annual “Swallows Day Parade,” which is a part of the Festival of the Swallows.

San Juan Capistrano Regional Library – 

Cabrillo Playhouse in San Clemente is a charming 66-seat facility that is home to San Clemente Community Theatre. 

Capistrano Valley Symphony primarily serves an audience that includes Newport Beach, Tustin, San Clemente, and San Juan Capistrano.


Nearby golf courses include San Juan Country Club (949) 493-1167, and Marbella Golf and Country Club (949) 661-8971 There are numerous other courses within easy driving distance.

The city has an extensive system of paved trails (for biking) and unpaved trails (for equestrians). Trail maps are available either at the Community Center or City Hall for a small fee.

Crystal Cove State Park (14 miles) has 3.5 miles of ocean beach and 2,000 acres of undeveloped woodland. It is popular for swimming, surfing, scuba, hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Nearby beaches, which are minutes away, include Salt Creek Beach Park, Doheny State Beach, San Clemente and San Onofre State Beaches, and a number of city and county beaches.

Dana Point Harbor is a large man-made harbor that houses a number of marinas, boat ramps, and marine facilities. It is home to many sailboats, off-shore fishing boats and all sorts of pleasure craft, large and small. 

San Juan Capistrano is well known by equestrians due to its large number of stables, trainers, boarding facilities, miles of riding trails, and support services. Sycamore Trails Stables, for example, has a covered area and boarding for more than 500 horses.


Saddleback College, Mission Viejo (about 8 miles) is a two-year institution with a full-time enrollment of about 10,000 students.

Irvine Valley College, Irvine (about 14 miles) is a two-year institution with a full-time enrollment of about 5,000 students. 

Orange Coast College, Costa Mesa (about 23 miles) is a two-year institution with a full-time enrollment of about 13,500 students.

California State University-Fullerton, Fullerton (about 33 miles) is four-year institution with about 22,500 full-time students. 

University of California-Irvine (about 13 miles) is a four-year institution with a full-time enrollment of about 20,000 students. 

Senior Programs

The city ‘s Community Services Department offers monthly workshops and classes, such as fitness, Spanish, art, cooking, and more. There is also a daily luncheon nutrition program. (949) 493-5911.


Saddleback Memorial Medical Center, Laguna Hills (9 miles) is a 252-bed acute care hospital with more than 600 physicians practicing, and more than 2,000 employees. 

San Clemente Hospital and Medical Center (about 4 miles) is an acute care facility with 24-hour emergency services.

Airport John Wayne Airport, Santa Ana, (23 miles) is served by virtually all major domestic air carriers and some commuter airlines. 


San Juan Capistrano enjoys temperate weather year-round. Average temperatures January are a high of 67 degrees and low of 45 degrees. The averages for July are a high of 77 degrees and a low of 61 degrees. January has six days with measurable precipitation and there is typically is no measurable rain in July. 


Capistrano Valley News – 

Orange County Register – 

Capistrano Dispatch – 

Property Taxes

Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector – 

State Taxes 

Chamber of Commerce 

State Aging Agency


Capistrano Beach – 3.8 miles
Dana Point – 4.7 miles
San Clemente – 7 miles
Mission Viejo – 7.5 miles
Laguna Beach – 13 miles
Newport Beach – 22 miles
Costa Mesa – 23 miles
Santa Ana – 23 miles
Garden Grove – 29.5 miles
Anaheim – 29.5 miles
Fullerton – 33 miles
Los Angeles (city center) – 58 miles
San Diego – 65 miles

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