Credit: Huntington Dog Beach

A Local’s Guide to 11 of the Best Beaches in Orange County

From the Crystal-Clear Waters of Laguna to the Huntington Beach Pier, These Beaches Are Perfect for a Day of Sun and Sand

Us Southern Californians are nothing without our beaches. Coastal life makes up a large chunk of our identity, and asking someone “Which beach did you grow up going to?” is the quickest way to get to know someone around OC. It separates the cool kids from the kooks; the natives from the newbies. We have some spectacular sandy sanctuaries in SoCal, and we’re ready to let you in on our secrets. If you’re looking for some fun in the sun, here are 11 of the best beaches in Orange County!

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Baby Beach

Best for: Families

Credit: Chris Jepsen

Baby Beach in Dana Point is an entirely insulated family-friendly spot situated inside the harbor. Watch the boats cruise in and out while you and your kids wade in the wakes without the worry of big waves rolling through. Parking is easy, the beach is a grassy stroll from the lot and there are public restrooms and picnic areas located on-site. This section of water is completely sheltered from the elements—with lifeguards always on duty—making it a great starter beach for young kids. There are plenty of delicious restaurants nearby, and it will likely become a popular pit stop for beachgoers, given harbor renovations. Hot tip: Grab sandwiches to go from locally loved deli Tutor & Spunky’s for a snack while you sunbathe.

Location: Dana Point


Cress Street Beach

Best for: A Solo Beach Day

Best Orange County Beaches
Credit: Corey Thompson

Laguna is renowned for its unbelievably beautiful beaches. With shades of cerulean and crystal-clear waters, every beach in Laguna deserves its own screensaver. Cress Street Beach is an isolated island of sand that is ideal for people looking to get some rest and relaxation. If you work up an appetite, just walk up the road to El Ranchito for some tacos and tequila. The Rooftop Lounge is also nearby, which is one of our favorite happy hour locales in Laguna. There is metered parking along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), and the beach is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Location: Laguna Beach


Little Corona del Mar

Best for: Tide Pools and Snorkeling

Little Corona del Mar beach is a daytime destination for locals and families that’s known for its tide pools and protected waters. This little alcove is safe, inviting and great for sunbathing and snorkeling. Stop at Rose’s Bakery or Grounded Coffee House for a bite and a buzz to bring to the beach. Keep your eyes peeled for street parking, which is generally plentiful but can be hard to come by on summer days when everyone has the same idea. Your littles will love wading through the tide pools, looking for sea creatures, and it’ll give Mom and Dad a chance to enjoy the sun and catch up on some Kindle reading.

Location: Corona Del Mar



The Wedge

Best for: Experienced Surfers (and Spectators!)

The Wedge is iconic. It’s where boys become men and where men become humbled by the power of the ocean. This is a place that requires the utmost respect for the big wide blue. It’s a high-risk, high-reward shorebreak that seems to attract some of the most daring saltwater savants in Southern California. If you are not an ocean expert, please stay on the sand—there’s plenty to see! Sit back, relax and watch the pros do their thing. Beware of the summertime traffic, which can make navigating the peninsula particularly unpleasant on nice days.

Location: Newport Beach


Salt Creek Beach

Best for: Surfers and Picnickers

Salt Creek Beach
Credit: T M on Unsplash

Salt Creek is Dana Point’s premier beach destination with its long stretch of sand and winding boardwalk that takes you from the steps of the Strand all the way to the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach. This beach is an intermediate surfing spot that is loved by locals who are looking to keep it that way. There is also plenty of room to stretch out in the sand, so this nook is great for big groups. Bring a ball and some provisions—the popular grass area boasts basketball courts and grills. Be prepared for the big hill, however. Navigate it carefully and know that what goes down, must come back up. Salt Creek has its own designated parking lot that is only $1 per hour.

Location: Dana Point



Best for: Surfers and Adventurers

Credit: Reed Naliboff on Unsplash

San Clemente is another sleepy surfer town that enjoys life under the radar. One of its more famous beaches, Trestles, is a section of San Onofre that is lined by the train tracks of the Pacific Surfliner and requires some legwork to get to the sand. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly: Trestles is one of the best surf breaks in OC; it’s a solid hike to find and decently isolated when you do; unfortunately, there are no public restrooms. You’ll find a few different parking options that will only get you so close—be prepared to walk!

Location: San Clemente


Huntington Dog Beach

Best for: Dog Lovers

We once saw a sign that read, “All dogs don’t go to heaven; they go to Huntington Dog Beach,” and ain’t that the truth. This place is heaven on earth for your hound friends, offering long stretches of sand for them to let loose and unleash. They can splash in the surf and frolic with other furry friends. While dogs are supposed to remain on a leash, this rule is relaxed, provided dogs behave themselves and owners keep a watchful eye. If you are a first timer, take it slow—there’s a lot of action! You will want to see how your dog reacts to the sensory overload. Make sure your pooch is comfortable with other dogs, knows how to swim and obeys when off-leash. This furry fun-for-all is located between Seapoint Street and 21st Street.

Location: Huntington Beach


Thousand Steps Beach

Best for: Day Dates and Solo Safaris

Thousand Steps Beach
Credit: ChrisGoldNY Flickr

Feel like working for your beach day? One thousand steps will put the burn in “sunburn”—your buns will thank you for it. Peering down what seems like endless rows of steep steps is daunting but totally worth the workout—trust us! There are approximately 218 stairs (okay, not quite 1,000) between you and an epic beach day. This idyllic alcove is perfect for a day date, a getaway with a gal pal or a solo safari to the sand. Plus, some of our favorite Laguna stops are along the way, such as Papa’s Tacos, Coyote Grill and Ahba. As with most beaches in this part of town, there is metered parking along PCH. Just be careful coming and going, since this stretch of highway is usually very busy.

Location: Laguna Beach


T Street Beach

Best for: Boogieboarders

T Street Beach
Credit: ActionVance on Unsplash

Another San Clemente staple is T Street Beach. Accessible via a pedestrian overpass that allows beachgoers and surfers to safely navigate the train tracks, this beach has a picture-perfect view of the pier, palapas and picnic benches. Watch the seasoned surfers ride long waves, then take the 10-minute walk to town for a Bear Coast coffee or La Galette crepe. Beware that the train will likely propel past you at some point—it’s loud, but kids love it! There aren’t a ton of shade options, so BYO-umbrella, and take note of the metered parking available along the bluff.

Location: San Clemente


Victoria Beach

Best for: Influencers and Skimboarders

Victoria Beach
Credit: Zetong Li on Unsplash

Victoria Beach is one of the most famed beaches in all of Orange County, thanks to the picture-perfect Pirate Tower (which is not to be climbed on!). This accessory to the sandy shores, as well as the popular man-made pool, could make any content creator whip out their camera. Even though it’s well-known on the internet, you’ll have to work to get there—and that seclusion is why locals love it. Parking is a pain, and you’ll likely have an “Are we going the right way?” moment, but just follow Victoria Drive all the way down to the beach steps. You can even park up by the Montage and take the free Laguna Beach trolley down for a full local experience. Skimboarding was pretty much invented on this stretch of sand, so it’s a great place to try it out!

Location: Laguna Beach


Huntington State Beach

Best for: People-Watching

Huntington State Beach
Credit: Huntington State Beach

Home to the US Open of Surfing, Huntington State Beach is known for the 2-mile stretch of coastline that led to its nickname of Surf City USA. Cruise the boardwalk and check out all this sandy sanctuary has to offer. There are beach volleyball courts, fire pits and fun food and beverage pit stops along PCH like Sandy’s Beach Shack and Huntington Beach House. The pier serves as a central home base for beach visits, and we’d be remiss if we failed to mention the mai tais at Duke’s. This beach is incredibly walkable, and there are plenty of parking options. You’re a hop, skip and a crosswalk from Pacific City and Main Street, so this is a place where you can really waste a day away.

Location: Huntington Beach

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Jane Adler is a marketing and branding consultant by trade, but a writer by preference. She shares a name with Meryl Streep's iconic character from It's Complicated and is presently trying to manifest that life (particularly that Santa Barbara house) for herself. Jane is an avid consumer of content and carbs and often used the latter to write on the former.




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