The Best Beaches in Orange County, California

The Best Beaches in Orange County, California

Orange County is a stunning destination, full of trendy restaurants, luxury shopping, endless activities and—of course—gorgeous beaches. Coupled with the endless summer and warm weather, there are few coastal regions better for travelers in the United States.

When it comes to Southern California’s beaches, consider these four stunning escapes. Whether you’re solo or traveling California on a romantic getaway, you can’t go wrong with any of these.

Once you know where you’re staying, this guide will help you plan your beach visits around Orange County.

Laguna Beach

One area that is straight out of a fairytale is Laguna Beach. The city has been an artist colony for nearly 100 years, expanding from a small arts group to a city full of eclectic and talented people. Art galleries litter the streets, filled with art from around the world—all types too. In addition to the galleries, the city’s summer festivals are a great draw as well. With three major festivals—the Festival of Arts, the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival and Art-A-Fair—and the Festival of Arts’ one-of-a-kind Pageant of the Master’s, there is a lot to look forward to when you visit.

There are plenty of outdoor adventures to be had as well. With a variety of coves and marine protected areas just offshore, snorkeling is one of the most exciting activities around. Slip into a wetsuit (or don’t—the water isn’t intolerable during the warmer months), grab some fins and a mask and get ready to explore the underwater world. In addition to colorful fish, you’ll likely spot creatures you haven’t seen before. The coves also make for great stand-up paddleboarding with their gentle waters.

When the day is over, be sure to stick around for the colorful sunsets and maybe dinner at one of the charming local seaside restaurants.

Newport Beach

The setting of the hit television show “The O.C.”, Newport Beach has become familiar with travelers around the world. This upscale city is full of class, with the rich Newport Coast drawing in celebrities who want to avoid the Hollywood hills.

The city lies close to South Coast Plaza, a shopping destination that offers a mixture of upscale brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes and Dior and more casual retail spots like H&M and Forever 21 as well as department stores like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Closer to the beach in Newport, shoppers can enjoy smaller boutiques filled with the trendiest outfits and couture pieces. It’s basically the center of the Orange County fashion scene. The new Lido Marina Village also has plenty of new shops—everything from jewelry to home décor.

When it comes to fun, there is more than just beach trips to satisfy you. With the Newport Beach Pier, the Balboa Pier, Balboa Island and the Balboa Fun Zone, you can go on amusement rides, take a ferry or get ice cream.

As far as cuisine goes, Newport Beach is part of O.C.’s premiere dining scene. Local restaurants vary, but many travel to town to sit oceanside during the sunset. Seafood is fresh and delicious as well. Aside from waterfront dining, try one of the many innovative restaurants in the area.

Corona del Mar

Though technically part of Newport Beach, the chic beach neighborhood of Corona del Mar is unlike anywhere else in Southern California. While the charming beach cottages and narrow streets have their own appeal, the beach is what is truly amazing here.

Corona del Mar State Beach has so much to offer visitors of any age. The main beach lies next to the jetty that grants boats access from the Newport Harbor to the open ocean so you can sit atop the rocks or walk along them to watch the boats. Down near the water, the waves are gentle so they’re perfect for swimming. You won’t get knocked over by the waves—but you also can’t surf here. The fire pits are rare as well; they’re only available in Corona del Mar and Huntington Beach so take advantage. Bonfires are wonderful no matter what season it is, and if you catch it on a night where there is an algae bloom, your footprints will glow in the sand.

Near the main beach, a large group of rocks make for the perfect rock-climbing spot. What’s even better is that, once on the other side, you’ll be able to explore small caves and wade in the water of Little Corona.

Huntington Beach

Nicknamed Surf City U.S.A., it’s no wonder that Huntington Beach perfectly embodies the O.C. surf culture. Laidback and fun, it’s the perfect spot for day drinking in seaside bars after spending the morning floating in salt water.

As is implied by the name, surfing is outstanding in the area. It’s home to the Huntington Beach Open of surfing, gathering pros from around the world to the O.C. shoreline. You can also take lessons, but that isn’t the only way to exercise and unwind in Huntington.

A lengthy path and nearby bike rental shops allow visitors to take in the sights from the seat of a bicycle. A slight uphill ride, you’ll get a great workout while you pedal. Some local shops also offer yoga on the beach in the morning, an often misty experience that helps you connect with nature and clear your mind before you set out to explore town.

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