What are the 5 best beaches in Orange County, CA? It’s an excellent question, but not an easy one to answer given the OC’s incredible stretch of coastline. Thankfully, in spite of the difficulty, we have taken it upon ourselves to answer this question on behalf of the great people living south of LA and north of San Diego. (And all the other people out there who love the OC.) So, grab your floaties, put on your goggles and get yourself ready for the preeminent list of the 5 best beaches in Orange County. In no particular order, of course.
Incredible Beach #1: The Wedge
For our first beach we’ve selected is a strip of coastline at the end of the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach that is known simply as ‘the Wedge’. The Wedge is famous for having the biggest waves in the area and draws thrill seekers from all over SoCal. (And the country, really.) When the conditions are just right, the Wedge is said to have waves reaching 30 feet high. (We’ll stay on the shore when that happens but you’re welcome to go in.) So, if you enjoy surfing, or watching surfers, this is definitely the place for you. Not only that, you can also sit back and watch all manner of incredible boats coming in and out of Newport Harbor. When you’ve had enough, you can enjoy the quaintness of Balboa Island or, for the Arrested Development fans out there, take a short drive to the original Frozen Banana stand which is nearby. Final note, the Wedge is where John Wayne injured himself while swimming, which led to his losing his football scholarship which led to his dropping out of school which led to his getting a job at a movie studio which led to his movie career. So be careful for goodness sake. And if you get hurt get a job at a movie studio for sure.
Be sure to check out the video below for some incredible footage of surfers enjoying the Wedge.
Incredible Beach #2: Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park is a special stretch of Laguna Beach which is far less crowded than most of the coastline. Boasting 3.2 miles of shoreline and over 2,000 acres of open space, the park can satisfy both your itch for the sand and your need for the quiet wilderness. The coastline itself is beautiful, and frequented by scuba divers, surfers, and swimmers. There are tide pools you can investigate in the morning, hiking trails for an afternoon jaunt, and stunning sunsets on the water come evening. There is also the Crystal Cove Historic District comprised of 46 vintage cottages originally built in the 30’s and 40’s providing a glimpse of California in days gone by. Sidebar: for those looking for a truly exciting experience you can rent cottages for overnight stays. As if that wasn’t enough, the park also offers guided hikes both in the interior and along the tide pools, and there is food available at the Beachcomber Café. This is not a beach to miss so get there as soon as you can. Check out the video below to learn more.
Incredible Beach #3: Huntington Dog Beach
The Huntington Dog Beach is the only official dog beach in Orange County. There are a few other beaches that allow dogs during certain hours of the day during certain months of the year, but that doesn’t really count. Not only that, but the word on the street is that as long as everyone is well behaved, you can take your dog off of his or her leash. (You definitely can’t do that anywhere else.) I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of much of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than catching some rays with my good friend Rufus. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s Huntington so between the pier and all of the great restaurants and shops nearby there is never a shortage of things to do. Our advice is to grab your pooch and head down immediately. Don’t even finish the article, just go. Maybe bring the cat along too.
Incredible Beach #4: San Clemente Pier Beach
San Clemente Pier Beach is a lovely stretch of beach on the southern tip of Orange County. A bit off the beaten path, it is a bit quieter than some of the more northern beaches, but its popularity has really grown in recent years. It boasts a great pier with several restaurants where you can dine while looking out over the water, a cute commercial district walking distance from the waves, and a lovely stretch of shoreline great for long strolls and relaxation. It also boasts a stop on the Pacific Surfliner train line, making it particularly convenient if you don’t want to be bothered by Southern California’s well documented traffic. (There is also a large and very convenient parking lot just off of the beach, but expect a lot of competition for spots on weekend afternoons.) Overall, it’s a great place to relax and recharge, particularly if you are in South County. Oh yes, and be sure to grab some ice cream right across from the pier.
Want to learn more? Check out the video below.
Incredible Beach #5: Laguna Beach Main Beach
This is it ladies and gentlemen, our last beach. And for this we are heading back to Laguna, the only town with two beaches on our list, but it’s Laguna, what do you expect. The Main Beach is the beating heart of Laguna and has been an Orange County destination for as long as Orange County has been a destination. You’ve got everything from gelato, to coffee, to live music and fabulous art galleries at your fingertips, not to mention a vintage movie theatre and great stores for casual shopping. And of course, the beach itself is stunning, filled with beautiful rock formations, and awash with tide pooling opportunities. Oh yes, and Laguna has several restaurants with absolutely striking views – literally some of the best in the county. Perhaps a victim of its own success, Main Beach does get busy, particularly in the summer, so parking may take a minute. (Our favorite time to head down is in the off season, but to each his own.) If you’re looking for a great day (or weekend), you can’t go wrong with Laguna’s Main Beach – head down today! (And check out the video below for more.)
So, there you have it. Our list of the 5 best beaches in Orange County, CA. It wasn’t an easy task, but we did our best to do it justice. We’re sure we’ve enraged some of you with our choices, so feel free to let us know how you feel in the comments. Enjoy the beach everyone!
Want to learn some more great stuff about Orange County? Check out our post on the 5 biggest tourist destinations in Orange County or the 5 best hiking trails in Orange County. Or, if you are the entrepreneurial type and looking for something entirely different, be sure to check out our guide on starting a new business in the OC.
You might be wondering who we are. We’re My OC Bookkeeper – Orange County’s best bookkeeping and business advisory firm. We love everything about Orange County, from going to the beach to helping great Orange County businesses with their books. So if you’re looking for someone to help with your bookkeeping or accounting give us a call. And if you’re looking for more great articles on everything from life in Orange County to doing business here, check out our blog. Click on the surfers below to learn more!