It doesn't get more Southern California than relentless sunshine, white-sand beaches and Spanish-inspired architecture. So, when you can find all three at the quietly charming town of San Clemente, a visit is essential.
How to get there
Hire a car and head north on Interstate 5 - it'll take you around 90 minutes. If you'd prefer not to drive, the Amtrak train takes you direct from San Diego's Santa Fe depot to San Clemente Pier in just about the same time.
When to go
In typical Californian fashion, the weather is pretty prime all year round, with the average temperature never sliding far from 25C. However, if you're in the mood for scorching 30C days, then August and September are the months to mark in the calendar.
What to do
Once you've well and truly tired yourself out at the city's main beaches, take a trip down memory lane at the brilliantly informative Surf Museum. Whether you carve with your bros on the daily or are simply intrigued by surf culture, the museum's art, history and folklore will give anyone an enjoyable insight into surf's age-old legacy.
Where to eat
If you're in the mood for some classic American comfort food, Nick's is the place. Offering a hip spin on beloved American dishes like meatloaf, mac and cheese and burgers, the hearty meals, showy cocktails and attentive service make it a brilliant spot to celebrate a long day of exploring.
Where to drink
California does many things well, and beer is certainly one of them. For a little hidden gem with a big selection of craft beers, weekly food trucks and knowledgeable staff that make you feel like old friends, head to the industrial-styled Artifex Brewing Company.
Where to walk
Make the most of the fresh ocean air by exploring the San Clemente Beach Trail. Around 4km in length, the trail is perfect for walking, jogging or biking, with stunning views of the city's pier and beaches.
What to try
Fancy getting up close and personal with some of the ocean's biggest and most beautiful creatures? Then make your way to Dana Point Harbor and hop on board a whale-watching tour. Tours depart daily during summer, providing two-hour trips in search of whales, sharks, dolphins and more.
Where to shop
Whether you're after gifts, clothes, homeware or just looking, the delightful Avenida Del Mar street is one to mark on the map. Lined with charming boutiques and locally owned stores like Cove, Ivy's Boutique and Angel Wings, the street also has the iconic Trader Joe's if all that shopping works up an appetite.
Where to stay
Nicknamed "the Spanish city by the sea", San Clemente is a tribute to Spain's gorgeous architecture. Many of the accommodation options showcase this beautifully - try San Clemente Cove Resort or the Sea Horse Resort for great beachfront locations.
Off the map
They say good things come in small packages and at beach "204" this is certainly the case. Rumoured to be named after the number of steps you have to clamber down to reach the hidden beach, 204 is the perfect spot to enjoy some peace, quiet and decent surf.
Hawaiian Airlines flies from Auckland to San Diego, via Honolulu. hawaiianairlines.com