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Orange County’s Best Beaches

Orange County’s Best Beaches
Visit these four idyllic, sun-drenched stretches of sand in Southern California

With 42 miles of sandy coastline and a string of small, eclectic beach towns, Orange County delivers the quintessential Southern California experience. Sandwiched between San Diego to the south and Los Angeles to the north, “The OC” blends a casual, active lifestyle with laid-back sophistication. Catch a famous surf break, sunbathe, visit nearby family attractions, or shop near these top Orange County beaches, listed north to south.

Huntington City Beach, Huntington Beach

The flat, wide beaches and desirable breaks along Huntington Beach gave this town its “Surf City, USA” nickname in the 1950s when the Vans U.S. Open of Surfing first took place. Today, Huntington remains a wave-riding mecca and the most popular of the well-known beaches in the country—but surfing is not the only game in town.

Near the famous 1,850-foot Huntington Beach Pier, you’ll see volleyball players spiking on the sand (the AVP Huntington Beach Open is held here), and runners, cyclists, and skateboarders taking advantage of the flat, paved 10-mile Ocean Strand. Wander to Main Street to find the latest in beach apparel or if hipster-chic boutiques and a gourmet food court are more your style, head to oceanfront shopping hub Pacific City, which opened in 2016.

The area offers a variety of ocean-view rooms, from classic resorts like the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort and Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa to the colourful and modern Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel and Paséa Hotel & Spa.

Corona Del Mar State Beach, Newport Beach 

In addition to Newport Beach’s pristine sandy beaches, the Orange County gem is known for its restaurants, nightlife, and waterfront shopping, including recently opened luxury destination Lido Marina Village. Newport also offers multiple off-shore activities like Hornblower’s whale-watching and cocktail tours, as well as trips to the island town of Avalon via the Catalina Flyer.

One of the many appeals of Newport’s beaches is that you can wind down next to a bonfire right on the sand. Fire rings are available on a first-come, first-served basis at Corona Del Mar State Beach and Balboa Pier during the beach hours of 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

For a convenient home base—with views of yachts outside your window—stay at the elegant Balboa Bay Resort off Pacific Coast Highway. 

Victoria Beach, Laguna Beach

The allure of Victoria Beach lies in its natural beauty and isolated location. The Instagram-popular spot takes effort to find, but the payoff is significant: a nestled cove with a front-row seat to waves crashing against beautiful rock formations, a salt water pool, and a castle-like tower called “La Tour.”

Victoria Beach is not easily accessible due to the lack of parking near the entrance on Victoria Street. (Note: Street parking on Pacific Coast Highway and nearby side streets is available, but very limited.) Get to the beach by descending a long stairway off Victoria Street, or you can walk down the emergency vehicle access ramp off Dumond Drive. Once you reach the shore, walk a bit north to find the concrete pool and tower. Time your visit to be there near high tide when the pools are most likely to fill up. And be careful as you make your way there—you may have to navigate over slippery rocks depending on conditions.

Enjoy a peaceful overnight stay at The Ranch at Laguna Beach, a secluded, sustainable-minded property that made it on National Geographic's exclusive list of Unique Lodges of the World.

Salt Creek Beach, Dana Point

If you’re traveling with kids, Salt Creek Beach makes beach-going simple. There’s plenty of available (paid) parking, lifeguards on site, a concessions stand, and a grassy area with picnic tables and a basketball court. Salt Creek is a popular boogie boarding and surfing spot, with a variety of breaks for every level (rent a surfboard or stand-up paddleboard from nearby Infinity Surfboards).

Want the best view of the beach below? Head to the bluff-top Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, set 150 feet above the water. Watch the sunset from the balcony of 180BLU, the hotel’s cocktail bar, with a specialty drink—like the Tequila Sangria—in hand.

For a unique vantage point of Dana Point’s entire coastline, hop aboard the Spirit of Dana Point, a 118-foot replica of a 1770s private schooner that sails from the Ocean Institute, a marine science and maritime history center.

In addition to the Ritz-Carlton, you have your pick of gorgeous coastal properties throughout Dana Point. Monarch Beach Resort boasts a championship golf course and luxury spa, Laguna Cliffs Marriot Resort & Spa provides contemporary comforts and a family-friendly pool area, and the DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Doheny Beach offers separate living spaces in their modern-meets-beachy suites.

 

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ORANGE COUNTY’S BEST BEACHES
Orange County’s beaches are famous for their laid-back elegance but each beach along the 42-mile coastline has its own charm.
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Huntington Beach by Scott Mansfield

Southern California

Discover Orange County

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March
Average (°C)
Mar - May
26°
High
5°
Low
June - Aug
35°
High
11°
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Sept - Nov
31°
High
5°
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Mar - May
26°
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5°
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From board shorts to mouse ears to designer clothes, what you wear in this sun-splashed corner of the state says everything about how you like to play. Whether it’s surf-perfect beaches or celebrated theme parks, all framed by oceanfront towns dotted with luxury yachts, “The O.C.” stands out as one of California’s—make that the country’s—most iconic destinations.

“Surfing is like golf. . . it keeps knocking you down. But when you stay with it and catch that wave. . . magic.”  --actor Dennis Quaid

Shop at spectacular South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, or get the surfer look in Huntington Beach, aka Surf City, USA. 

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Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1776, was the first winery in California.
The magic of Disneyland, walking through the tunnel underneath the train station to Main Street, it just transports you to other places and other times.
John Lasseter
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Trip 4-5 days 10 stops

Pacific Coast Highway - South

Beach Towns, Iconic Theme Parks
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Start your coastal cruise in this elegant city hugging the coastal mountains, where classic Spanish architecture gives the region a sun washed European look straight out of the Riviera. Santa Barbara, nicknamed 'the American Riviera,' has a burnished antique look like much of the Mediterranean,...

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End your trip with at this sunny, waterfront city. Downtown, shop at Horton Plaza, or catch a baseball game at Petco Park. See the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo. Next, explore one of the city’s diverse neighbourhoods, Little Italy, North Park, South Park, East Village, pedestrian friendly...

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Lucas Himovitz
Orange County is the cultural center of the surf world and Huntington Beach is like the heartbeat.
Corky Carroll (Orange County surf legend)
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O.C. Shopping

Discover boutique brands and bargains

Shopping in The O.C. is almost as legendary as surfing. Start at expansive South Coast Plaza, California’s largest luxury shopping complex, with...

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Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you are in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you will find it here. Want to sample fresh fruits and...

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July/August

With a nickname like ‘Surf City, USA’, Huntington Beach is the obvious place for this 9-day, sun-and-wave extravaganza, the world’s largest surf event. Top pros including Kelly Slater and Rob...

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Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Orange County's Luxury Resorts

Live like a star at posh getaways

The good life might have been invented in ‘The O.C.’—especially when it comes to resort destinations. With spas, elegant dining, five-star...

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Get into the coastal vibe

Maybe it’s the sun-streaked hair, the frequent smiles, the eyes always gazing west, looking to the horizon to see when the next set might roll in. It’s the unmistakable look and vibe of a...

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Trip 5-7 days 10 stops

Highway One Classic

Take the trip that captures the heart and soul of the Golden State
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Crystal Cove State Park

Stroll a perfect beach with an intriguing past

In 1912, an early Laguna Beach artist described finding a rugged coastline “with cove after cove and headland after headland, golden cliffs and...

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If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
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Golf in Orange County

Tee up at top courses, with some ocean views

With ideal Southern California weather and some of the country’s most celebrated courses, Orange County justly earns the nickname ‘California Golf...

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Check these amazing experiences off your bucket list

Kiss a beluga, see cool movie props, and learn about Walt’s secret hideaway on exclusive and behind the scenes tours at California’s theme parks and attractions. Here’s a roundup of actvities...

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Photo by Michael Saechang/Flickr
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Courtesy of Orange County Great Park

Orange County Great Park

Explore an impressive urban park

Turning former military land into a roughly 1,300-acre green space, this Irvine park is as ambitious as it is beautiful. Though it...

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Every year, the Orange County Great Park Balloon dons a smiling jack-o-lantern mask, marking the unofficial start of fall in Orange County.
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Irvine

This centrally located Orange County city is the perfect home base for shopping, dining, and kid-friendly exploring

Irvine’s central location—45 miles from Los Angeles, 85 from San Diego, and 15 minutes from ...