Top Beaches in Orange County
Well known for its 365 days of near-perfect weather, Orange County also has one of the most coveted coastlines in the country. From Seal Beach to San Clemente, OC beaches consist of great surf, unique tide pools, unmatched cliffs, and all together seaside sublimity. We rounded up a list of our favorite beaches, including a few secret spots most locals don’t like sharing. Check them out!
- 10th st – also know as thousand steps, after visiting you will definitely understand where the name came from. The steep stairs you decline to get down to the beach don’t seem too bad at first, but make sure not to pack too much for this beach day as it will surely feel like 1000 steps on the way back up. This secluded south Laguna cove is a perfect blend of a not too crowded yet fun beach on a hot summer day. If you catch it at low tide, try checking out the natural pools on the south side of the beach.
- Strands – we may be partial to Strands since we grew up learning to walk in this sand, but it is such a classic south OC beach. Great surf to the left as the Point jets out, & and plenty of room for family fun as the sand goes pretty far back to the rocks. The city recently added a boardwalk as well which makes it a great spot for a sunset walk for those who struggle with the sand. There is a huge free parking lot for public use, so if you prefer not dealing with the crazy Laguna parking, definitely check out strands. There are 2 access points, both include some stairs & paved hills.
- Salt Creek – Creek is a go to surf spot for any OC local. Its also a go to spot for every teenager in south OC, so if you’re not sure where your kids are on a summer day, we’d suggest looking here first! This beach also has a large grassy hill which often hosts summer concerts and grills for BBQs. The snack shack is also a nice perk when you forgot to pack a lunch. The north side of Creek hosts the private Monarch Beach Club & a walking trail under PCH.
- Victoria — a solid laguna beach you just can’t go wrong with. If you want to watch some laguna locals throw down on the volleyball court, this is the spot. A mix of fun family & party vibes. Parking is tough, but this an easier beach to access physically. The pirate tower is a go to spot for many Instagram photoshoots, and there are some phenomenal tide pools at low tide. If you’re feeling extra exploratory, there are some secret underwater caves on the north side as well.
- San Clemente Pier – the heart of San Clemente. This beach is always active with runners, surfers, fishermen, restaurant goers and sunset catchers. A great place to spend the day outdoors either catching waves on the northside of the pillars or walking around Avenida del Mar for some food & shopping. One unique thing about this beach is the train drops you right out front, and there is also public parking lot making this beach easily accessible.
- Balboa Peninsula – the Newport peninsula jets out from PCH with 2 miles of near perfect beaches. Its pretty hard to pick one specific beach, but had to throw it on this list. Starting at the very tip of the peninsula is the Wedge, famous for the huge swells that come through. From there you can ride your bike up to Balboa Pier which is abundant with people during the summer and also has some nice beach pits for bonfires. Continue cruising north along the board walk to hit Newport Pier, and from there continue along until the board walk ends at 36th st. Although that’s the end of the boardwalk, there are still an innate amount of never packed beaches as you hit the higher numbered streets. Tons of great surf spots as well! Each area of the peninsula has its own vibe from action packed & touristy (near the piers) to mellow and more local. I’d advise just riding a beach cruiser along the boardwalk until a beach speaks to you!
- HB main beach – hello Surf City USA. If you’ve ever seen a movie incorporating the socal surf scene or if you are familiar with the US open of Surfing, then you’ve definitely seen Huntington Beach Pier. Known for its surfing, this strip of beach has a lively atmosphere and a ton of beach volleyball courts. If you are looking for an action packed beach where you can do lots of people watching, this is the beach for you. You can also walk around main street after a long day in the sun for some food & drinks.
- Table Rock – this is probably the least known beach on our list. Table rock is absolutely beautiful. A little hard to get to like many of the tucked away laguna beaches, Table Rock is truly a local spot. Beautiful water, beautiful beach goers, and a relaxed vibe are what this beach is all about. 10/10 for table rock.
- Little Corona — this is a cute little cove tucked away in a cute little neighborhood. Less populated than its sibling Big Corona, this is a great beach for kids. Very safe waters for those not comfortable swimming in the ocean, great snorkeling and tidepools as well. It may be our smallest beach on the list, but its quaint feel makes it a great place to spend the afternoon with the family.
- Crystal Cove — definitely the most beautiful looking beach from afar. As you head southbound on PCH leaving CDM heading into north Laguna, this beach is truly breath taking. There is a paid parking lot up above, after which you will need to take a decent walk along the path to the beach or wait for the shuttle. There is plenty of sand, so you also can’t go wrong with laying on a beach towel, listening to the calming ocean waves, and working on your tan. This state park also has the Beach Comber Café as nice little perk to grab some lunch.