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San Juan Capistrano, California
City of San Juan Capistrano
2019 Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano 2.jpg
San Juan Capistrano station California - panoramio (cropped).jpg
Jewel of the Missions (cropped).jpg
2019 Provincial Building, San Juan Capistrano (cropped).jpg
Historic Old Town San Juan Capistrano, California (25394541403).jpg
Top: San Juan Mission Basilica (left), San Juan Capistrano station (right); middle: Mission San Juan Capistrano; bottom: Downtown San Juan Capistrano
Flag of San Juan Capistrano, California
Official seal of San Juan Capistrano, California
"Preserving The Past To Enhance The Future"
Location of San Juan Capistrano within Orange County, California.
Location of San Juan Capistrano within Orange County, California.
San Juan Capistrano, California is located in the United States
San Juan Capistrano, California
San Juan Capistrano, California
Location in the United States
Country United States
State California
County Orange
Incorporated April 19, 1961
Named for St. John of Capistrano
 • Type Council-Manager
 • Total 14.43 sq mi (37.37 km2)
 • Land 14.43 sq mi (37.37 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
121 ft (37 m)
 • Total 34,593
 • Estimate 
 • Density 2,488.63/sq mi (960.84/km2)
Time zone UTC-8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code 949
FIPS code 06-68028
GNIS feature IDs 1661383, 2411793

San Juan Capistrano (Spanish for "St. John of Capistrano") is a city in Orange County, California, located along the Orange Coast. The population was 34,593 at the 2010 census.

San Juan Capistrano was founded by the Spanish in 1776, when St. Junípero Serra established Mission San Juan Capistrano. Extensive damage caused by the 1812 Capistrano earthquake caused the community to decline. Following the Mexican secularization act of 1833, the mission village officially became a town and was briefly renamed as San Juan de Argüello. Following the American Conquest of California, San Juan remained a small, rural town until the 20th century; the restoration of the mission in the 1910-20's transformed the town into a tourist destination and a backdrop for Hollywood films.


San Juan Capistrano is the site of a Catholic mission for which it is named, Mission San Juan Capistrano. When the Mission was founded in 1776, the religion was populated by the Acjachemen band of Native Americans, called Juaneños by the Spanish. The mission was named after Giovanni da Capistrano (1386-1456), the Franciscan saint from Capestrano, in the Italian region of Abruzzo.

Giovanni da Capistrano, although raised to the sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church is documented by historical research by the Oxford University historian Norman Davies to have burnt to death more than 50 Jews in May 1453 in the Polish city of Wroclaw.

The city is the site of California's oldest residential neighborhood, Los Rios. It is also the home of the oldest in use building in California, the Serra Chapel in the Mission. The area was the site of both the first vineyard and first winery in California .

In the 1830s Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of the classic Two Years Before the Mast visited the area as a sailor engaged in the hide trade on board the ship Pilgrim. Describing the locale, which then included what is now the neighboring city of Dana Point, he gushed, "San Juan is the only romantic spot in California." The area was also the locale of Johnston McCulley's first Zorro novella, The Curse of Capistrano, published in 1919 (later renamed The Mark of Zorro after the success of the film of the same name).

The city is featured in a map entitled "Inferno" in Valve's Counter-Strike series.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 376
1960 1,120
1970 3,781 237.6%
1980 18,959 401.4%
1990 26,183 38.1%
2000 33,826 29.2%
2010 34,593 2.3%
2019 (est.) 35,911 3.8%
U.S. Decennial Census


El Casa de Garcias (25376088153)
The historic Casa Manuel García.
Don Juan Avila Adobe (25376592103)
The historic Juan Ávila Adobe.

At the 2010 census San Juan Capistrano had a population of 34,593. The population density was 2,419.9 people per square mile (934.3/km2). The racial makeup of San Juan Capistrano was 26,664 (77.1%) White (55.8% Non-Hispanic White), 193 (0.6%) African American, 286 (0.8%) Native American, 975 (2.8%) Asian, 33 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 5,234 (15.1%) from other races, and 1,208 (3.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13,388 persons (38.7%).

The census reported that 34,506 people (99.7% of the population) lived in households, and 87 (0.3%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters.

There were 11,394 households, 4,030 (35.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 6,706 (58.9%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,089 (9.6%) had a female householder with no husband present, 526 (4.6%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 456 (4.0%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 87 (0.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,381 households (20.9%) were one person and 1,407 (12.3%) had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 3.03. There were 8,321 families (73.0% of households); the average family size was 3.44.

The age distribution was 8,518 people (24.6%) under the age of 18, 3,066 people (8.9%) aged 18 to 24, 7,804 people (22.6%) aged 25 to 44, 9,792 people (28.3%) aged 45 to 64, and 5,413 people (15.6%) who were 65 or older. The median age was 40.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.7 males.

There were 11,940 housing units at an average density of 835.2 per square mile, of the occupied units 8,462 (74.3%) were owner-occupied and 2,932 (25.7%) were rented. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.3%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.7%. 24,052 people (69.5% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 10,454 people (30.2%) lived in rental housing units.

According to the 2010 United States Census, San Juan Capistrano had a median household income of $75,356, with 12.7% of the population living below the federal poverty line.


San Juan Capistrano, CA, USA - panoramio (4) (cropped)
The 85-foot (26 m) tall Mission Basilica is the tallest building in San Juan. Pope John Paul II conferred it the rank of Basilica in 2000.
Frank A. Forster House (cropped)
The historic Frank A. Forster House, a Mission Revival estate built by the grandson of Don Juan Forster.

As of the census of 2000, there were 33,826 people in 10,930 households, including 8,196 families, in the city. The population density was 2,381.2 inhabitants per square mile (919.1/km2). There were 11,320 housing units at an average density of 307.6 persons/km2 (796.9 persons/mi2). The racial makeup of the city was 78.47% White, 0.78% African American, 1.07% Native American, 1.92% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 14.21% from other races, and 3.43% from two or more races. 33.13% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Of the 10,930 households, 39.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.7% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.0% were non-families. 19.7% of households were one person and 10.3% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 3.06 and the average family size was 3.45.

The age distribution was 28.1% under the age of 18, 7.8% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 23.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% 65 or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.0 males.

The median household income was $62,392 and the median family income was $69,481. Males had a median income of $47,574 versus $34,821 for females. The per capita income for the city was $29,926. About 10.7% of the population and 6.6% of families were below the poverty line, including 14.8% of those under age 18 and 4.2% of those age 65 or over.


San Juan Capistrano is located in south Orange County and is bisected by Interstate 5. 33°29′58″N 117°39′42″W / 33.49944°N 117.66167°W / 33.49944; -117.66167 (33.499493, -117.661614).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.3 square miles (37 km2). 14.1 square miles (37 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (1.26%) is water.

The swallows of Capistrano

Basilica San Juan Capistrano
The 85-foot (26 m) high main rotunda and 104-foot (32 m) bell tower make Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano the tallest building in town. Designed "in the spirit and likeness" of the "Great Stone Church," which is in ruins in the Mission. Pope John Paul II conferred the rank of Minor Basilica to this facility on February 14, 2000.

San Juan Capistrano is also known for its cliff swallows. The protected birds return during migration, which originates in the town of Goya, Argentina, around St. Joseph's Day (March 19) each year. The day is celebrated by the city's annual Swallows' Day Parade and other festive events. The swallows leave around October 23, the former feast day of St. John of Capistrano. The 1940 hit song "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano", written by Leon René, is a love song inspired by this annual event.

Since 2009, the famous swallows have failed to return to San Juan Capistrano. They have instead begun migrating to and nesting in the Chino Hills of Southern California, north of San Juan Capistrano. They have built their mud nests in the eaves of the Vellano Country Club, situated around a golf course in the Chino Hills just north of the Chino Hills State Park. Mission San Juan Capistrano officials state it is because the mission is no longer the tallest building in the area due to urban sprawl and has thus stopped attracting the swallows for nesting.

Points of interest

Egan House plaque, San Juan Capistrano
Plaques that are used to identify historic sites of the city.

Sister cities

  • Capestrano, Italy
  • Goya, Argentina


Quaint Town, relaxing time (25684786730)
Shops in downtown San Juan.
31665 Los Rios
Los Rios Historic District is a National Register Historic District.

San Juan Capistrano is home to over 1,700 businesses. The city's unemployment rate was at 3.7% as of December 2017.

Top employers

According to the city's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report from June 30, 2020, the largest employers in the city are:

# Employer # of employees
1 Capistrano Unified School District 3,841
2 St. Margaret's Episcopal School 429
3 Costco 337
4 Ensign Services 228
5 Brookdale San Juan Capistrano 169
6 JSerra Catholic High School 145
7 Fluidmaster Inc. HQ 130
8 Marbella Country Club 106
9 Target 100
10 Capistrano Connections Academy 100


San Juan Hills High School in San Juan Capistrano, CA (cropped)
San Juan Hills High School

San Juan Capistrano is served by Capistrano Unified School District. In the 2007–08 academic year, San Juan Hills High School opened with about 600 freshman students. It is the city's only public high school, although a sizeable portion of San Juan Capistrano's residents attend high schools in neighboring cities since the schools in most of its neighboring cities are also under Capistrano Unified School District which is the second largest school district in Orange County.

San Juan has four public elementary schools (grades K–5): Del Obispo Elementary School, Harold Ambuehl Elementary School, Kinoshita Elementary School, and San Juan Elementary School. The local public middle school (grades 6–8) is Marco Forster Middle School. Capistrano Valley High School (grades 9–12) lies just outside of the city's borders, but serves many of the city's students. A public continuation high school, Junipero Serra High School, also serves the area.

Mission San Juan Capistrano - North Corridor (cropped)
View of the north wing of the mission from the central patio.

San Juan also has six private, non-secular schools. Capistrano Valley Christian Schools (grades pre-K – 12), Saddleback Valley Christian School (grades pre-K – 12), St. Margaret's Episcopal School (grades pre-K – 12), and JSerra Catholic High School (grades 9–12). Mission Basilica School (grades K–8) is located on the historic Mission grounds, utilizes some of the historic buildings as classrooms, and is part of Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano. The other is Rancho Capistrano Christian School (grades K–8), located off Interstate 5 on Saddleback Church's south campus.

San Juan also has a private, secular school, Fairmont School (grade K - 12), located close to San Juan Capistrano Mission.


Railway Station San Juan Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano station is served by Amtrak and Metrolink.

The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) operates bus routes within the city, connecting it to other parts of Orange County.


The San Juan Capistrano station is served by Amtrak and Metrolink. The station is located one block away from the historic San Juan Capistrano Mission next to Los Rios Street in downtown San Juan Capistrano. Its proximity to the city's tourist attractions makes it a popular stop during the summer months.


Old Town San Juan Capistrano, California (26026195495)
Shops in downtown San Juan.
Casa de Esperanza (cropped)
The Casa de Esperanza is on the National Register of Historic Places.

I-5 (CA).svg Interstate 5 has three interchanges completely located in the city (at Camino Capistrano, SR 74/Ortega Highway, and Junipero Serra Road), two interchanges partially located within the city (at SR 1/Camino las Ramblas (which is partially within Dana Point) as well as SR 73 (which is partially within Mission Viejo)), and an additional northbound entrance ramp from Stonehill Drive and Camino Capistrano.

California 1.svg Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most notable state routes in California. It is often incorrectly referenced that SR 1 terminates in nearby Dana Point because the city borders the Pacific Ocean (unlike San Juan Capistrano). In reality, SR 1 terminates shortly after it junctions with Interstate 5, crossing within San Juan Capistrano city limits (although this is a few hundred feet away from the city limits of Dana Point). There is an official SR 1 terminus sign on a traffic light pole along the southbound lanes on SR 1 shortly after crossing under Interstate 5 which is within San Juan Capistrano city limits.

California 73.svg California State Route 73 southbound terminates at I-5 in San Juan Capistrano, while the northbound direction begins at I-5. There are no exits along SR 73 in San Juan Capistrano other than its junction with Interstate 5.

California 74.svg California State Route 74 has its official western terminus at Interstate 5 in San Juan Capistrano. The city-maintained road that continues west as Ortega Highway originally terminated at Camino Capistrano in front of Mission San Juan Capistrano; however, interchange reconstruction that was completed in 2015 brought Ortega Highway to continue onto Del Obispo Street towards Dana Point, with a right turn required to stay on the older portion of Ortega Highway.

California State Route 241, which originally terminated at Oso Parkway between Las Flores and Coto de Caza, was extended roughly 4 miles to Cow Camp Road in the community of Rancho Mission Viejo, which is located just east of the city limits.

US 101 (CA historic).svg The original route of U.S. 101 ran through downtown San Juan Capistrano on what is now Camino Capistrano. It was decommissioned when Interstate 5 was completed in the 1950s.

Notable people

  • Austin Hedges, MLB Catcher
  • Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs
  • Anthony Cumia, radio host and podcaster
  • Norm Sherry (1931–2021), catcher, manager, and coach in Major League Baseball

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