San Juan Capistrano, CA

Travel Guide
Mission San Juan Capistrano featuring heritage architecture, a garden and landscape views
Explore an 18th-century Spanish mission, set foot inside one of California’s oldest buildings and learn about its extraordinary relationship with nature.

San Juan Capistrano is a charming city built around an 18th-century Spanish mission. The Mission San Juan Capistrano is home to one of the oldest buildings in California. It is famous for its Fiesta de las Golondrinas, Festival of the Swallows, which celebrates the historic annual return of the swallows to the church on the same day each year. The birds have not consistently visited the site in recent years, but the festival continues.

Take a free audio tour around the mission. A special children’s version is also available. If you have a large enough group, try a guided tour. Stroll through the mission’s 10 acres (4 hectares) of gardens, full of plants, flowers and a charming pond. Browse museums of ancient religious artifacts. Many temporary exhibits are held throughout the year showcasing art and history, often centered on a theme relating to the church.

Stand in the mission’s chapel. Built in 1782, it is one of California’s oldest buildings still in use. See the statue of the Right Reverend St. John O’Sullivan, who appreciated the historical significance of the mission and instigated restoration efforts. The remains of more than 2,000 of the mission’s former inhabitants, including several priests, are buried beneath the chapel floor.

Listen to ghost stories and legends surrounding the mission. Appreciate the miraculous story of migrating birds on the Swallows Walk & Talk Tour. Attend the annual Festival of the Swallows in March and join others hoping for the birds to find their way back to the church.

Visit the city of San Juan Capistrano in south central Orange County. It is an hour’s drive from Los Angeles and a 30-minute drive from Santa Ana and Anaheim. You can also get there by train or bus. Nearby attractions include Crystal Cove State Park, Lake Forest and Laguna Coast Wilderness Park.

Where to stay in San Juan Capistrano

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Del Obispo

4/5(7 area reviews)

While visiting Del Obispo, you might make a stop by sights like The Coach House and Capistrano Beach Park.

Del Obispo