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Best Orange County Beaches

Orange County beaches may almost be as much of an icon as Disneyland. With lots of beaches in Orange County County to choose from, you may have a hard time picking one or two to visit during you vacation. We've compiled a list of the best Orange County beaches by type and interest to help you choose.

Best Orange County Beaches by Type

  • Best Orange County Beaches: Amusements: Balboa: A nice pier with a restaurant on the end and the nearby Balboa Fun Zone give plenty to do here.
  • Best Orange County Beaches: Beach Volleyball: Huntington State: Lots of clean, soft sand and plenty of nets here.
  • Best Orange County Beaches: Birdwatching: Bolsa Chica: Located just across the street from a major stop on the Pacific Flyway, this place is really "for the birds."
  • Best Orange County Beaches: Bonfires: Huntington State: A night bonfire on the beach is one of the best things to do in Orange County, and they've got plenty of places here to build your blaze.
  • Best Orange County Beaches: For Kids: Balboa: With a great beach, a pier and the nearby Balboa Fun Zone, there's a lot here to keep the kids occupied.
  • Best Orange County Beaches: People-Watching: Main Beach, Laguna Beach: This small beach in the middle of downtown Laguna attracts a variety of people, and on the weekends, you'll find artists and musicians there, too.
  • Best Orange County Beaches: Romantic: Main Beach: This small beach just off downtown Laguna Beach is popular with lovers for evening strolls.
  • Best Orange County Beaches: Surfing: Huntington Pier: Huntington Beach is so proud of its surfing heritage that they've trademarked the name "Surf City, USA." Serious local surfers do their stuff near the pier. They don't tolerate interlopers well, and beginners are better off to head to Bolsa Chica Beach, where many local surf schools give lessons.
  • Orange County Beaches to Bare it All: There are no nude beaches in Orange County County. Your nearest option is San Diego County's San Onofre.

The Truth about Southern California Sunshine

The Beach Boys weren't quite telling the truth when they crooned about West Coast sunshine. If you've never been here before, you may find Southern California less sunny than you expected, especially at the beaches. When temperatures rise inland, so does the air, pulling cool, moist marine air onto the beaches like a foggy blanket. It's so predictable in early summer that local residents dub it "June gloom," but it extends into July and August, too. Some days, the fog and low clouds disappear early, but on other days, like a hungover beach bum, the sun may not put in an appearance until mid- to late-afternoon. Be sure to layer on the sunscreen even on these overcast days because the UV light goes right through the clouds.

Red Tides

Orange County beaches are prone to red tides, a summer phenomenon caused by a type of plankton. While not as dangerous as their East Coast cousins, these micro-organisms make the water murky and give it a fishy smell. They also give off flashes of light when disturbed at night. Because these plankton also make a tasty meal for other sea creatures, red tides are often accompanied by large numbers of jellyfish.
Orange County Travel Guide
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