The Best Beaches in Orange County

Orange County is famous for many reasons, but the biggest attraction is the beautiful people… Totally kidding, it’s the beautiful beaches! I’ve had the pleasure of visiting every single beach and cove in the OC. Whether your visiting in a hotel, an RV, or you live in the area; here’s a guide to the Best Beaches in Orange County, CA. 

We recently stayed at the Newport Dunes RV Resort which is situated right in the heart of Orange County. I put these in no particular order because much like most things in life, we have different strokes for different folks. What I feel is the top beach may not be your favorite for a variety of reasons, but all of these on the list are incredible for their own reasons.

Huntington BeachHolidays (18)

If you’re looking for a bustling, iconic and commercialized Beach, this is the place! It’s labeled “Surf City USA” for good reason. The surfing culture is strong here. In  fact, each summer they host the US Open for Surfing on the south side of pier. You don’t need to be  a surfer to enjoy this beach, it’s a great beach full of entertainment and things to do. They often have street performers near the pier.

ProsHolidays (25)

  • Great surfing
  • Commercialized so it has great shopping and restaurants
  • It’s usually busy with excellent people watching

Cons

  • The local surfers are VERY territorial on the north side of the pier
  • This is not a secluded or serene beach experience
  • Can be PACKED on a busy weekend

Beach LIving Album (25)

Newport BeachBeach LIving Album (14)

This is one of my favorite beaches in the USA. It has a reputation of being mostly models and surfers but if that isn’t your thing, it has a huge variety of things to do depending. The harbor is on one side of the peninsula, and the beautiful Newport Beaches are on the other. Boats, fishing and dolphin/whale tours are easily accessible. The most popular thing to do is to walk/bike to the Balboa Pier. which is just 2 miles down the path. It’s a gorgeous route with great people watching. Stay to the right!

The surfing is incredible pretty much anywhere off the peninsula. Of course the waves have to be right, but it’s for the most part it’s a surfers paradise. Some of the top surfers have come from here and a lot of the top surfing brands like Volcom, Hurley, Billabong, RVCA, Rip Curl, and more are from the area.

Newport Beach CA (116)

Beach LIving Album (1)

Pros

  • Excellent surfing and although certain areas you’ll find territorial locals, it’s mostly a very friendly place to go surfing/bodyboarding
  • Top notch boardwalk path
  • Great night life
  • The beaches are wide and great for playing games like catch in the sand
  • Great place to rent a 38th Newport (33)boat, take a fishing charter, or go whale watching from the harbor

Cons

  • Parking on the peninsula can be extremely difficult to find on summer weekends
  • Near the pier on a busy summer weekend can get packed
  • You won’t want to leave

The Wedge

Wedge (16)

This is probably the best beach in the country for Bodyboarding. It’s world famous for the 30+ ft waves that come with big swells each year. When the big swells come in, so do the pros. It’s awesome to watch the skim boarders, bodyboarders and surfers get launched into the air.

Pros

  • World class waves
  • Watch some of the best bodyboarders in the world
  • It’s a very secluded beach

Cons

  • Can be very dangerous
  • No nearby bathrooms

Laguna Beach

G0163840_tonemapped

Beautiful, secluded and serene is a good way to describe Laguna Beach. Keep in mind that it’s 12 miles of beaches and coves so you can find a lot of variety within “Laguna Beach”.

Pros IMG_0597

  • Absolutely gorgeous and secluded beaches
  • Good surfing, snorkeling and diving
  • Hidden coves like “Woods Cove”
  • Often on Sundays at 9am at “Crescent Beach” a local animal rescue organization release California Sea Lions back into the wild
  • Some restaurants have million dollar views of the ocean
  • Great night life

Cons

  • Parking can be difficult on busy weekends
  • Traffic in and out of the area can be slow

San Clemente

38th Newport (11)

San Clemente is a unique place in that it’s in the heavily populated Southern California but has the feel of a little beach community. It’s the southern most city in Orange County so it makes for a great day trip up to LA or to San Diego. But staying here is the place to be low key and away from the masses.

The place to hang out is near or on the pier. It offers great restaurants with a fantastic view of surfers and others enjoying the beach! It’s most known for the World Famous surf spot “The Trestles” which offers some of the best and most consistent waves on the west coast. Some of the big surf competitions are held here each year.
Newport Beach CA (1)

Pros

  • Great small town feel
  • World famous surf spot “The Trestles”
  • Laid back area

Cons

  • You may have to hike in to some beaches
  • Not as many options as the busier cities for shopping and restaurants

Dana Point

Dana Point (57)

Dana Point is a fantastic location to head out to the open sea from the harbor. Whether you’re taking a charter, going whale watching or just renting a boat; it’s a bustling boat city. Don’t let the popularity of the harbor over-shadow Doheny State Beach. This is a great place to relax with friends and family and even catch some waves.

Pros Dolphin Watching (15)

  • Beautiful water color
  • Great place to rent a boat, take a fishing charter, or go whale watching from the harbor
  • Neat Ocean Institute in the harbor

Cons

  •  Not as many options as the busier cities for shopping and restaurants
  • Beaches can get packed on nice days

Corona Del Mar

Corona Del Mar (79)

Corona Del Mar (5)

Corona Del Mar seems to stay under the radar for most beach goers. The town is very high end in every way. The PCH cuts right through it yet people seem to rarely venture a few blocks over to the beautiful Corona Del Mar Beaches. This is at the inlet of the Newport Harbor. You have a nice view of the other side which is The Wedge. On the far north end you’ll find good rock climbing right on the beach. I’m told this is where they filmed Gilligans Island. The state beach has amenities and even a limited restaurant on the beach. Little Corona Del Mar is a true gem. Gorgeous in every way however sunset is often incredible here.

Pros

  • Good rock climbing on the beach
  • Beautiful
  • Good tide pooling and sunsets at Little Corona Del Mar Beach

Cons

  • The street parking may fill up on busy weekends
  • It’s a little bit of a walk down to the beach

Bolsa Chica

Holidays (13)

Across the famous PCH from the beach is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. It’s got a great view of the snow-capped peaks towering over LA and the Inland Empire. What draws most people here is the birds. It’s right on the migration path for many different types of birds so it’s common to see professional photographers with lenses the size of my arms shooting here.

Holidays (10)

ProHolidays (11)

  • Incredible bird watching
  • Offers a different type of view and experience than a traditional west coast hot spot
  • Nice hiking trail that goes around the reserve to walk, run or bike

Cons

  • Lots of garbage after a storm
  • Looks elsewhere for places to eat

Channel Islands

A lesser known area is the Channel Islands National Park. With 19 million people in Southern California it’s fascinating to me how few people know about this incredible place. It’s actually not in Orange County (Los Angeles County) but because it’s just a few miles straight out from Newport and Huntington I’m counting it on this incredible list.

You need to take a boat to get out to the islands. Only one of them has people living on it which is the well known Catalina Island. To visit the other islands you need to pack in and pack out all your supplies, food and water. They have some of the largest sea caves in the world, incredible snorkeling and kayaking. It’s very rare to see another person while you’re hiking around these islands.

Channel Islands (67)

ProsChannel Islands (71)

  • It’s a WILD experience. You get dropped by an outfitter and picked up days later
  • World class snorkeling and diving
  • Lots of marine life
  • Huge sea caves to explore via kayak

Cons

  • The only way to get here is by boat
  • You have to pack in and pack out all your gear, food and supplies (even water)

Channel Islands (84)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of incredible beaches we’ve been blessed to visit. All pictures were taken by us on our adventures. If you have another place or things to add about one of these great beaches please comment below!

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