Orange County Beaches

So Many O.C. Beaches, So Little Time

We’re goin’ to Surf City, gonna have some fun!
Yeah, we’re goin’ to Surf City ‘cause it’s two to one…

Let’s go surfin’ now, everybody’s learnin’ how,
Come on let’s safari with me..

All over La Jolla, and down Doheny way,
Everybody’s gone surfin’, Surfin’ USA

Hopefully you have the melody from at least one of the above songs running around in your head as we talk about Orange County Beaches. Of course, the first song was sung by Jan and Dean (co-written by Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys); the next two by the Beach Boys themselves.

As we think about vacation action at Orange County beaches, we admit that both of these iconic bands were, in fact, based out of Los Angeles County. OK, while we’re at it you should also know that a significant portion of “The O.C.” television show was filmed in Los Angeles County because it was cheaper to film closer to Hollywood. So be sure to check out our Los Angeles County beaches page when it’s soon completed to our exacting specifications (San Diego too).

There’s a good chance you’re thinking about spending some time at one or more of the Orange County beaches when you visit So Cal. As noted above, Los Angeles and San Diego also have great beach action, but it’s hard to beat O.C.’s 40+ miles of oceanfront real estate.

There’s a reason why the Orange County beaches are so popular: taken together, the 30+ separate beaches provide an awesomely diverse opportunity for everything from surfing (board and body), boogie boarding, skimboarding, kayaking, fishing (shore, pier and deep-sea), snorkeling (and scuba diving), sand castle building, s’more torching, campfire singing, cliff diving (actually no cliff diving without facing non-trivial legal and health issues) and girl (and boy) watching.

Does all this talk of beach-oriented diversions remind you of another water-oriented state? Aloha! In fact, we love Hawaii, but check out this friendly face-off between Southern California vacations and Hawaii vacations.

The O.C. beaches vary from wide, spacious flat expanses up at Huntington to smaller, rocky locations towards the south. Those differences are consistent with the onshore terrain; you’ll find the northern O.C. beaches to be in flat terrain; that portion of the county is really floodplain extending from the San Gabriel Mountains to the sea. As the beachfront real estate becomes generally more hilly and rocky south of Balboa Bay, the size of the sandy beach shrinks (but is replaced by great tidepools and snorkeling opportunities as in Laguna Beach and further south).

Some beach communities have permitted residential development right onto the beach, where others require homes to be built on the inland side of the access roadways. Some beaches offer large pay parking lots, some offer parking meters on the streets and others provide little parking, paid or otherwise. The latter can be a challenge to gain access, but you’re likely to be rewarded with smaller crowds (for example, most of the would-be beachgoers drop in their tracks on the death-march down the pathway to Trestles, south of San Clemente).

We have a brief overview of the beach communities in Orange County, as you’d find them by driving south on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) from Long Beach in Los Angeles County. Knowing a bit about each town could influence where you spend your limited vacation hours. Here you’ll find a few comments on the personality of each O. C. beach cities.

Before making final decisions on where to stay or how to spend your vacation hours (and dollars) spend some time thinking about your objective; what do you want from your beach visit? Click here if you’d like some local perspective on strategizing your O. C. beach vacation objective.

You know, this vacation could be a good opportunity for you to do a little surfing—what do you think? If you’re an experienced surfer you can rent a board and away you go. You may know exactly which beach you prefer if you’ve been here before. On the other hand, maybe you’ve never surfed before; this is your chance to take a lesson and go home with a new nickname like Moondoggie.

For these extremes or anywhere in between, we can steer you in the right direction. As we mentioned above, there are many other ways to find relaxation—or excitement– among the Orange County beaches. From surfing to deep sea fishing to boat rentals to whale watching to bike riding to skin diving to kayaking, here are some ideas and links to setting up O.C. beach activities for your family. What about beach camping? There are some nice camping destinations at several Orange County beaches. You may be one of the thousands of families that love to camp, and it’s a good way to save money. Here’s some information to help you decide if an Orange County beach camping vacation makes sense.

I wouldn’t be a Guru if I didn’t have some helpful tips to enhance your beach vacation. The pages described above include various suggestions and insider information. However, some tips transcend categorization (i.e., we can’t decide where to present them), and find themselves on this helpful page; for O.C. beach tips and advice click here! The beach draws an amazing variety of folks; Orange County is actually fairly tame compared to some of the Los Angeles beach communities. Part of the reason is that many of the more colorful characters living in SoCal gravitate towards the energy of Hollywood, Downtown L.A. or Santa Monica. Also, L.A. County has roughly the same length of easily accessible shoreline as Orange County, but like thrice (that would be triple) the population.

So things are a little more intense in L.A., but if you go with the right attitude it can be a good thing. But Orange County is a bit more low-key overall. Still, you’ll find people-watching to be very interesting.

Many international tourists, folks from the Midwest, and locals who range from suburban Orange County conservatives to long-time beach people whose lives center around nothing more than living the present moment. Some families come loaded up with enough stuff to spend a week, other people show up with just a towel and some sunscreen. Enjoy the diversity; God loves each and every one of us.