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Best Beaches In Orange County

The beach—a place that takes on a variety of roles. For many, it's a place of beauty and tranquility, a relaxing spot to recline on the sand and read a book or to catch a romantic sunset filled with color. For some, it's an adventurous haven, where locals and visitors alike can surf, swim, sail, kayak, paddleboard, snorkel and more. Still others view the beach as a place to spot playful dolphins or starfish lurking in tide pools, or even to collect frosted sea glass. No matter why you choose to hit the beaches in Orange County, these are some of the best.
Corona del Mar-Ashley Ryan
(Credit: Ashley Ryan)

(Credit: Ashley Ryan)
Corona del Mar State Beach
3001 Ocean Boulevard
Corona del Mar, CA 92625
(949) 644-3151

Easily one of the most exciting beaches in Orange County is Corona del Mar. Aside from being one of only a couple that still have fire pits (what's a nighttime trip to the beach without a bonfire with s'mores?) there are plenty of places to play here. Spend the afternoon rock climbing, exploring caves and admiring the beauty of Little Corona, a small cove that can only be reached from wandering up and above the cliffs. Corona del Mar is also a great spot for little tykes to watch the boats go in and out of Newport Harbor. Plus, the water here is gentle, thanks to the jetty, making it easier to swim without any major waves.

Aliso Beach - Verified ashley
(Credit: OC Parks)

(Credit: OC Parks)
Aliso Beach
31131 Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92652
(949) 923-2280

Laguna Beach is one of the prettiest coastal cities in Orange County, but, as such, Main Beach is always crowded. Head further south to Aliso Beach to escape some of the downtown tourists while also exploring a beautiful part of town. The cliffs here wind in and out of the sea, giving you ample place to seek sea creatures below the water—but don't touch, as Laguna Beach is deemed a Marine Protected Area. The waters near Aliso Beach are ideal for swimming and surfing as well as things like paddleboarding, skimboarding and diving. With a concession stand and bathrooms, this spot has everything you'll need for a day in the sun.

Crystal Cove - Verified ashley
(Credit: J. Christopher Launi)

(Credit: J. Christopher Launi)
Crystal Cove State Park
35 Crystal Cove
Newport Beach, CA 92657
(949) 494-3539

Another spot often called one of the prettiest in Orange County is Crystal Cove. And, it's not hard to see why. The secluded cove isn't terribly easy to access, nearly impossible without paying a full-day parking fee, and has one of the most stunning displays of coastline in the region. Sunsets are more colorful here, and somehow even overcast days offer beautiful scenes of rolling clouds and mist. The backcountry on the cliffs across the highway offer miles of hiking trails with panoramic ocean views atop rolling hills, and the beach below is home to renovated cottages that are rented out or used for special events like seaglass wrapping classes or movies on the beach.

Doheny State Beach-Tom Haight - Verified ashley
(Credit: Tom Haight)

(Credit: Tom Haight)
Doheny State Beach
25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 496-6171

Home to the Doheny Surf Festival and, recently, some seaside music festivals, this beach is known for its rather flat space amongst Dana Point's towering bluffs. A less populated part of Orange County, it offers a nice escape from the crowds of Laguna, Newport and Huntington. An area of the beach is ideal for surfing while paddleboarders and kayakers may also partake in water activities as long as they're south of The Hammer. There are a variety of out-of-the-water activities that guests can partake in too. There are more than 120 campsites here so make a trip out of it. Various campfire programs also take place during the summertime, from talks about sharks and birds of prey to more information on the underwater world.

(Credit: Huntington City Beach)

(Credit: Huntington City Beach)
Huntington City Beach and Pier
103 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(714) 536-5281

Surf City U.S.A. is an obvious beach destination - especially for tourists flocking to the West Coast and its endless summer weather. Here, you'll find an obvious display of surfing to watch as you relax on the sand or some generally mild waves to swim in. The pier itself is a beautiful sight, especially at night, but it is also surrounded by more than three miles of relatively clean coastline. Just across the street from the pier, you'll find an array of restaurants with upstairs patios overlooking the sea and great happy hour deals as well as some fun surf and skate shops.

San Clemente-Ashley Ryan
(Credit: Ashley Ryan)

(Credit: Ashley Ryan)
San Clemente
615 Avenida Victoria
San Clemente, CA 92672

At the very southern edge of Orange County, San Clemente is often overlooked, but don't miss out on this epic beach. A train station stops right on the beach, making it easy to reach and a great way to have a rail adventure too. The vibrant water sits beside an expanse of sand that is perfect for building castles with the kids while grilling on one of the barbecues under the wooden cabanas. Enjoy your meal at a table then head over to the nearby swing set for some more fun in the sun. The pier is just next door as well, and often plays hosts to various events and festivals throughout the year. The restaurants on the pier offer a great selection of local seafood while a trip across the street will land you at some pretty fantastic ice cream and gelato shops.

thousand steps beach laguna beach
(credit: LagunaticPhoto/shutterstock)

(credit: LagunaticPhoto/shutterstock)
Thousand Steps Beach
31972 Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 497-3311

Even further south than Aliso Beach lies Thousand Steps Beach, another favorite in the artist colony of Laguna Beach. This area is named for the seemingly endless set of stairs that lead from Pacific Coast Highway to the sand, making for a fitness-inspired jaunt down and especially back up. With cliffs to the right and left of the beach, there is only a few blocks worth of sand to sprawl out on, but the beautiful views and fewer tourists make it a spot to enjoy all year long. During low tide, this is a great place to explore local marine life as tide pools can be found just offshore, and there is a sea cave in one of the cliffs that is also waiting to be explored at that time.

Salt Creek:Bluff Park- - Verified ashley
(Credit: OC Parks)

(Credit: OC Parks)
Salt Creek Beach
33333 Pacific Coast Highway
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 923-2280

Salt Creek Beach is a popular spot for families and surfers. With an offshore reef that provides some exciting swells, experienced surfers enjoy this spot, but it's also a good place for swimming and body surfing when the waves are gentle. There are plenty of ways to have fun on land as well, with a basketball court, beach volleyball courts and hiking trails that traverse the area from the beach to the bluffs. During the summertime, they offer a summer concert series that features acts like Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness and Tijuana Dogs.

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