Beachgoers and vacationers can enjoy prime surfing, swimming, and sunbathing conditions at popular spots such as Corona Del Mar State Beach, Laguna Beach, and Newport Municipal Beach, which is home to the attractions of the picturesque Newport Harbor. Sites such as Bolsa Chica State Beach also provide ample opportunity for wildlife watching, including watching for dune shorebirds.
Aliso Beach, also known as Aliso Beach County Park, is a popular county-owned beach in South Laguna Beach, known as a prime family-friendly beachfront spot for its children's play area and long stretches of beachfront perfect for relaxing and playing on the shoreline. The beach attracts many surfers, skimboarders, and bodyboarders due to its rough water conditions, though swimmers should check current water conditions prior to entering the water, as waters from nearby Alisa Creek can become contaminated. Swimmers looking for gentler water conditions can enter the water at the beach's far northern end near Treasure Island Beach, which is protected from stronger waves by rocks along the shoreline. Fire pits are available for guest use, along with picnic tables, restrooms and showers, and a seasonal snack bar.
Coast Highway & Aliso Way, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
2.Bolsa Chica State Beach
Bolsa Chica State Beach is a charming three-mile beachfront state park area in Huntington Beach, extending between Seapoint Avenue and Warner Avenue. The beach, which is located between popular area spots Sunset Beach and Huntington Dog Beach, is a favorite spot for swimmers and surfers throughout the year, with ample beachfront space available for bonfires, picnics, and sunbathing. Basketball and volleyball courts are provided for visitor use, along with barbecue grills and amenities such as public restrooms and showers. Across the Pacific Coast Highway, visitors can hike, jog, or watch for a wide variety of bird species at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. The Bolsa Chica Bicycle Path also extends between the beachfront and the nearby Huntington Beach Bike Trail.
18331 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92649
3.Calafia Beach Park
Calafia Beach Park is a charming city-owned beachfront located adjacent to San Clemente State Beach in San Clemente, known as one of the region's most popular spots for summer recreation. The beach is a favorite among swimmers and surfers alike, with plenty of space to spread out along the sandy beachfront in either direction. A large open lawn sits atop a bluff along Avenida Lobeiro near the beach's parking lot, perfect for picnics, Frisbee throwing, and other grass activities. Bikers can also pick up the San Clemente Coastal Trail at the beach, which heads more than two miles north to nearby North Beach. Day-use amenities are available at San Clemente State Beach, along with a full-service campground for overnight stays.
300 Avenida Calafia, San Clemente, CA 92672
4.Capistrano Beach Park
Capistrano Beach Park is the primary visitor beach within Dana Point's Capistrano Beach community, owned and overseen by Orange County. The beach is a popular surfing spot throughout the summer months due to excellent high breaking wave conditions. A narrow stretch of sandy beachfront is available for lounging, sunbathing, and beach volleyball, though visitors should note that the beachfront is only public below the mean high tide line. Additional sand volleyball and basketball courts are offered north of the beach's parking lot, though visitors should note that no grassy areas are offered at the beach park. Nearby, visitors can also utilize the facilities of adjacent Doheny State Beach.
35005 Beach Road, Dana Point, CA 92624
5.Corona Del Mar State Beach
© Nick Fox/stock.adobe.com
Corona Del Mar State Beach is a jointly state-city operated public beach located along the eastern side of Newport Harbor within Newport Beach's Corona Del Mar neighborhood, also known as Corona Del Mar Main Beach. The southern-facing beach is a great swimming spot for families due to calm water conditions created by rock jetties providing protection from currents to the west. Large expanses of beachfront sands provide ample space for sunbathers and beach volleyball players, with picnic tables, fire pits, and barbecue grills available for visitor day use. Scuba diving, snorkeling, and surfing are also popular at the beach when whether conditions permit. Though the beach's main entrance charges a parking fee, free admission is available at the beach's eastern end at Inspiration point. Pets are permitted on the beach with leashes before 10:00am and after 4:30pm daily.
Ocean Blvd and Jasmine Ave, Newport Beach, CA 92625
6.Los Trancos Beach
Los Trancos Beach is a charming beach within Crystal Cove State Park's Historic District, a 12.3-acre coastal area preserving 46 beautiful rustic cottages from the early 20th century. The beach is located at the point where Los Trancos Creek joins with the Pacific Ocean, which divides the beach into northern and southern sections. Swimming and scuba diving are popular water activities throughout the warmer months, with a paved bike trail offered along the beachfront for beach walking and bicycle riding. Visitors can stay overnight at many of the Historic District's beautiful rental cottages, which are available at affordable prices to encourage Californians to admire and preserve the region's history. Relaxed waterfront dining is also available at the Beachcomber Cafe, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily.
15 Crystal Cove, Newport Beach, CA 92657
7.Dana Strand Beach
Dana Strand Beach, also known as Salt Creek Beach Park, is a delightful county-operated beach within Dana Point, located near the gated housing community known as The Strand. The beachfront is flanked by gorgeous beachfront and hillside homes near the Dana Point Headlands, accessible via Selva Road and the Pacific Coast Highway. Surfing and tidepooling are popular water activities throughout the year, with ample space offered for stretching out on the beach's sands and sunbathing. A boardwalk is offered for easy access between the beach's northern and southern areas, with tram service available for those with mobility concerns. Restrooms and showers are available for visitor use, with lifeguards staffed on duty throughout the summer months.
34199 Selva Rd, Dana Point, CA 92629
8.Dana Point Headlands Beach
Dana Point Headlands Beach is a secluded sandy beach located below the cliffs of the Dana Point Headlands, accessible via Dana Point Harbor near the Ocean Institute and the Dana Point Pier. The beachfront area, which is also known as Dana Point Headlands Conservation Park, is littered with boulders and rocks and is known as a prime area for tidepooling and beachcombing at low tide conditions. Visitors looking to explore the area's unique terrain can also venture away from the beach's sandy waterfront areas at low tide and peruse sea caves, rocks, and ledges at nearby Dana Point. Atop the headlands, the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center serves as a trailhead for the Bluff Trail and also offers picnic tables for day use.
24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629
9.Dana Point Harbor Beach
© Newport Coast Media/stock.adobe.com
Dana Point Harbor Beach, commonly referred to as Baby Beach, is a popular family-friendly beachfront on the waters of lovely Dana Point Harbor, accessible via Dana Harbor Point Drive. A roped-off protected swimming area makes the beach a prime choice for families with young children and novice swimmers in tow, with lifeguards staffed on duty at the beach throughout the summer months. Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding are also popular activities for visitors of all ages, with a small fishing pier offered at the beach's edge near the historic ship replica Pilgrim. Boating is popular at the Dana Point Marina, which is surrounded by a number of visitor-access walking paths. Behind the beachfront, a grassy park offers panoramic bluff views and ample space for picnicking, with barbecue grills and group picnic areas available.
24300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629
10.Doheny State Beach
Doheny State Beach is a charming day-use beachfront near San Juan Bay, accessible via the intersection of Park Lantern and Dana Point Harbor Drive. The beach, which is owned and operated by the State of California, offers two separate North and South Beach areas, separated by the mouth of San Juan Creek. Swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, and beginner surfing are popular water activities due to low rolling waves from San Juan Bay, with tide pools exposed at low tides for families to explore. A visitor center offers interpretive exhibits on the area's geology and marine life, with an aquarium, indoor tide pools, and a bookstore available for families to explore. Along the beach's southern end, a large campground provides opportunities for overnight stay. Visitors should note that the beach's water quality fluctuates and should check on water quality before swimming.
25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629
11.El Portal Beach
El Portal Beach, also known as Buena Vista Beach, is a lovely San Clemente city beach best known for its famed 204 surf spot, named in the 1950s for a number sign along nearby railroad tracks. The surf spot is accessible between the beach's access point at El Portal Street and Dije Court and remains one of the region's most popular surfing areas today. Visitors can access the beachfront via a long, steep stair trail crossing near the railroad tracks, with parking provided near the El Portal access point. Much of the beachfront area is wet at high tide, discouraging sunbathers or those looking for beach sport opportunities. Bikers can access the San Clemente Coastal Trail from the beachfront, which connects to nearby North Beach and San Clemente Pier. No public amenities are offered at the beach, including restrooms or showers.
1100 Buena Vista, San Clemente, CA 92672
12.Huntington City Beach
© Tono Balaguer/stock.adobe.com
Huntington City Beach and its surrounding beachfront areas are one of Southern California's most popular surfing spots, nicknamed as "Surf City USA" for their excellent surf conditions. The city-owned portion of the beachfront begins at Seapoint Street and stretches to the beginning of Huntington State Beach at Beach Boulevard, located adjacent to Huntington Dog Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach on its northern end. Visitors can enjoy excellent conditions for surfing, swimming, and sunbathing, with ample space for fishing offered at the Huntington Beach Pier. Volleyball courts are located near the pier's southern end, with opportunities for walking, running, and cycling along the Huntington Beach Bike Trail. A wide variety of delicious restaurants are located along the waterfront and the pier, with ample parking offered on both sides of the pier.
E Pacific Coast Hwy and Main St, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
13.Huntington Dog Beach
Huntington Dog Beach is a dog-friendly zone near the northern end of Huntington City Beach, stretching between 21st Street and Seapoint Street. Though the beach is officially considered to be an on-leash beach requiring all pets to be kept on leashes under six feet long, many locals consider the beach to be an off-leash beach and off-leash pets are rarely cited. Visitors should note that the adjacent Bolsa Chica State Beach, which begins north of Seapoint Street, is a pet-free zone and should not bring their dogs past this point. Several spacious parking lots for the beach are provided along the Pacific Coast Highway, with leashed running and walking access provided via the Huntington Beach Bike Trail. Pet-friendly dining is offered nearby at the Park Bench Cafe.
E Pacific Coast Hwy and Goldenwest St, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
14.Huntington State Beach
Huntington State Beach is a lovely day-use state beach that spans two miles between Beach Boulevard and the Santa Ana River Channel, located directly to the south of the city-operated Huntington City Beach. The beach, which offers a large continuous parking lot along the Pacific Coast Highway with four beach entrances, is open to the public every day between 6:00am and 10:00pm, with campground accommodations offered nearby at Huntington City Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach. Swimming, surfing, and bodyboarding are popular water activities during warmer months, with ample beachfront space provided for sunbathing, shoreline fishing, and beach strolling. Basketball and volleyball courts are provided for pick-up games, with picnic tables, fire pits, and barbecue also available for day use.
E Pacific Coast Hwy and Magnolia St, Huntington Beach, CA 92646
15.Main Beach Park
Main Beach Park is Laguna Beach's centrally-located public beachfront, accessible via the intersection of Broadway Street and the South Coast Highway in the city's downtown area. The beach is a great spot for swimming, surfing, and bodysurfing throughout the year, with lifeguards staffed on duty at peak times. Visitors should note that surfing is not permitted during the summer months due to strong rip currents that can develop quickly. At the beach's public grassy park area, visitors can enjoy pick-up games of basketball and sand volleyball, with a public boardwalk and children's playground area also available for day use. Pets are permitted along the beachfront most times throughout the year, with the exception of times between 9:00am and 6:00pm during peak times between June and September.
S Coast Highway and Broadway St, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
16.Monarch Bay Beach
Monarch Bay Beach a popular public beachfront in Dana Point, located below the private beach club area of the Monarch Beach gated community. The beach is a great spot for sunbathing, beachcombing, and scuba diving, with significantly more secluded areas offered along the beach's northern end away from the beach club. A variety of shorebird species are visible from the beachfront throughout the year, and a number of caves and boulders are available for exploration along the beach's northern end. Visitors should note that parking at the Monarch Bay Beach Club is reserved for residents, members, and their guests, though paid public parking is available nearby at the adjacent Salt Creek Beach Park near the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.
500 Monarch Bay Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629
17.Newport Municipal Beach
Newport Municipal Beach is an expansive public beach stretching between Balboa Pier Beach and West Newport Park, with areas available for public day use on each side of the Newport Beach Pier. The city-operated beach, which is also known as Newport Pier Beach, is a great spot for surfing due to its break conditions, with ample beachfront space available for sunbathing, beach volleyball, and other shoreline activities. The picturesque fishing pier is open to the public each day between 5:00am and midnight, with many shops and restaurants located nearby, including the historic Dory Fleet Fish Market, originally opened in 1891. Cyclists, joggers, and inline skaters can use the paved Newport-Balboa Bike Trail, which extends for miles behind the beach's shoreline.
W Balboa Blvd & 21st Pl, Newport Beach, CA 92663
North Beach is a wide, sandy city-operated beachfront in San Clemente, located at the intersection of Avenida Estacion and El Camino Real directly in front of the Ole Hanson Beach Club. The picturesque beach is a great spot for surfing and sunbathing, with lifeguards staffed on duty throughout peak months. Beach volleyball courts are available for visitor use along the shoreline, along with day-use picnic tables, fire pits, and a children's play area. The beachfront serves as the northern starting point for the San Clemente Coastal Trail, which lets joggers and cyclists explore the area's beautiful coastal stretches extending to nearby Calafia Beach. Nearby, several stores and coffee shops are offered at the city's Amtrak station.
N El Camino Real and Avenida Estacion, San Clemente, CA 92672
Poche Beach is a secluded public beachfront located at the border of the city of San Clemente and the private community of Capistrano Beach, accessible via a pedestrian railroad underpass at the intersection of Camino Capistrano and El Camino Real. The beachfront, which is located in front of the private Shorecliffs Beach Club, is lacking in visitor amenities but makes up for its shortcomings in spectacular views of both the waterfront and the nearby beachfront homes of Capo Beach. Great sunbathing conditions are offered along the public beach area, which is frequently partially covered in water during high tide conditions. Metered street parking is available for beach guests nearby. No pets are allowed on the beach at any time.
2771 N El Camino Real, San Clemente, CA 92672
20.Salt Creek Beach
Salt Creek Beach is a delightful Orange County public beach park in Dana Point, located directly below the splendid Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel beach resort and the Monarch Beach Golf Links course. The beach, which is accessible via the Pacific Coast Highway and Ritz-Carlton Drive, is traversed by its namesake Salt Creek at its northern end and is flanked by the Monarch Bay Beach Club on its southern end. Great surfing, swimming, and bodyboarding conditions are offered throughout the year, with ample area for sunbathing and picnicking available on land. Tide pools are also exposed at low tide, making for great family-friendly splash areas and beachcombing spots. Within Salt Creek Beach Park, visitors can utilize day-use picnic areas or enjoy a number of walking trails. Visitors should note that the access point to the beach is along a long bluff trail, though shuttle rides are available back up the hill for a nominal fee.
11 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629
21.San Clemente State Beach
San Clemente State Beach is a spacious state-operated beach park located along a large sect of San Clemente lands, originally constructed between 1934 and 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the city's early 20th century expansion. The beach, which is located in front of railroad tracks and a section of sand dunes, offers great opportunities for surfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling, with lifeguards staffed on duty throughout peak months. Several short hiking trails are offered within the beach park, along with tent and RV campsites for overnight stay. Picnic tables, fire pits, and restrooms and showers are also available for day use.
225 Avenida Calafia, San Clemente, CA 92672
22.San Onofre Surfing Beach
San Onofre Surfing Beach, colloquially known as "San O" or Old Man's Beach, is one of Southern California's best surfing sites for beginners, renowned for its excellent surf breaks. The beach, which is located along the northern end of the decommissioned SONGS power plant, can be accessed via the Old Pacific Highway near San Clemente and entered near North San Diego County's Camp Pendleton. Beach volleyball is also popular with beachgoers, with fire pits available for day use. A tent and RV campground area is offered nearby at Bluffs Beach, which is also home to a number of hiking trails.
Old Pacific Highway and Beach Club Road, San Clemente, CA 92672
Sunset Beach, which is frequently referred to as Sunset County Beach to avoid confusion with the town of the same name, is a spacious sandy beachfront in Huntington Beach, located approximately two blocks west of the Pacific Coast Highway at the intersection of Warner Avenue and Anderson Street. The beach is an excellent spot for surfing and kiteboarding during windy weather conditions, with ample space for sunbathers to stretch out and relax during sunny summer months. Beach volleyball is also popular at the beach, which is home to a children's play areas and other amenities at its grassy beach park. Visitors should note that the adjacent Surfside Beach, located along the beach's northern end, is a private beachfront for residents of the city of Seal Beach. Free parking is available for visitors along Pacific Avenue.
19th St and South Pacific Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92649
24.Thousand Steps Beach
Thousand Steps Beach is one of South Laguna Beach's most spacious public beaches, accessible adjacent 9th Avenue along the Pacific Coast Highway. The beach takes its name from the very long beach access stairway located along the nearby bluffs, though the stairway's stairs only number 223 in total. Snorkeling, skimboarding, and surfing are popular water activities in the region, with ample sandy space for sunbathing and beach volleyball. At low tide, visitors can explore a large cave tunnel along the beach's southern end, which connects to the secluded Totuava Beach. Many tide pools are also exposed at low tide, making the beach a great spot for families to wade and play.
Coast Highway and 9th Ave, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
25 Best Orange County Beaches
- Aliso Beach, Photo: lemanieh/stock.adobe.com
- Bolsa Chica State Beach, Photo: angeldibilio/stock.adobe.com
- Calafia Beach Park, Photo: izuboky/stock.adobe.com
- Capistrano Beach Park, Photo: jokerpro/stock.adobe.com
- Corona Del Mar State Beach, Photo: Nick Fox/stock.adobe.com
- Los Trancos Beach, Photo: NadyZima_klgd/stock.adobe.com
- Dana Strand Beach, Photo: heyengel/stock.adobe.com
- Dana Point Headlands Beach, Photo: pawopa3336/stock.adobe.com
- Dana Point Harbor Beach, Photo: Newport Coast Media/stock.adobe.com
- Doheny State Beach, Photo: Saichol/stock.adobe.com
- El Portal Beach, Photo: Pina/stock.adobe.com
- Huntington City Beach, Photo: Tono Balaguer/stock.adobe.com
- Huntington Dog Beach, Photo: khubicek/stock.adobe.com
- Huntington State Beach, Photo: gabe9000c/stock.adobe.com
- Main Beach Park, Photo: steffstarr/stock.adobe.com
- Monarch Bay Beach, Photo: kieferpix/stock.adobe.com
- Newport Municipal Beach, Photo: Atomazul/stock.adobe.com
- North Beach, Photo: steuccio79/stock.adobe.com
- Poche Beach, Photo: tputman151/stock.adobe.com
- Salt Creek Beach, Photo: steheap/stock.adobe.com
- San Clemente State Beach, Photo: steffstarr/stock.adobe.com
- San Onofre Surfing Beach, Photo: NadyZima_klgd/stock.adobe.com
- Sunset Beach, Photo: Anna/stock.adobe.com
- Thousand Steps Beach, Photo: jonbilous/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/stock.adobe.com