A trip to Orange County isn’t complete without a visit to Laguna Beach. Laguna is a refined upscale beach city, regularly listed as one of the most desirable places to live in the United States. It’s the Hollywood star residents and their ocean-view mansions that have earned this area’s nickname, “The Gold Coast.” It offers natural and artistic beauty and the combination of creative glamour and surfer chill makes Laguna Beach a great representation of Orange County in the media and in real life.
Laguna Beach is always an adventure. There is so much to explore here, from hiking to the Top of the World and seeing Orange County from above, to walking seemingly endless beaches to discover the century-old Pirate Tower. Crystal Cove State Park is Laguna’s must-visit site. This park combines miles of gorgeous beach with a mountain section that includes some of the most scenic and easily-accessible hiking in Southern California. And if you’re here on the weekend, be sure to take a ride on the free trolley through Laguna Beach.
The beaches here aren’t just another soft patch of sand for lounging in the sun. Tide pools and a network of sea caves to explore make Laguna Beach the most adventurous beach town in Southern California. Visiting Heisler Park will help you find the best tide pools Laguna Beach has to explore. 1,000 Steps Beach is indeed a steep descent, but the turquoise tide pools are worth the walk. The colorful beach cave here is often cited as the most beautiful in the entire state.
Discover the Arts
Above all else, Laguna Beach is known for the arts. The openness of the community and the inspiring nature of the area has attracted artists from all over the United States. There are hundreds of galleries to explore and regular art and music festivals. If you visit in the summer, you can’t miss the Pageant of the Masters, one of the grandest arts festivals in the world. Orange County’s oldest museum is the Laguna Art Museum, which was founded in 1918 to display the amazing work that was coming out of the Laguna Beach scene. Laguna Beach to Anaheim is only 25 miles, which makes it an easy side trip if only to hit a few art galleries and have lunch at one of the many excellent restaurants here.
Dana Point remains an overlooked treasure in Southern California. While the state is known for its fast-paced cities and thrilling attractions, Dana Point is where you go for a more relaxed pace of travel. You can walk along the beaches that surround the quaint village that has sprung up around them.
Just on the other side of Anaheim’s Harbor Boulevard lies Garden Grove. Garden Grove is a vibrant Southern California city in the middle of all the action.
There are many great surf towns on the Orange County coast, but few are as famous as Huntington Beach. In fact, Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA, hosts the annual Vans US Open of Surfing.
From strolling around Balboa Island grabbing a frozen banana to basking in the seaside charm, Newport Beach is Orange County’s most family-friendly beach city.
Just across the Santa Ana River is the City of Orange, a unique piece of city planning. The center of the city is situated around a roundabout and is shaped like, you guessed it, an orange! The circle surrounds Plaza Park, which is the heart of Orange and the site of the annual Orange International Street Fair.
While Orange County is one of the most urbanized parts of California, San Clemente is where the development takes a little break. Here, the Pacific Coast Highway enters a long stretch of emptiness and the traffic of I-5 becomes a bit more relaxed. The beaches here are less crowded, have great surfing, are relatively quiet and many feature seaside campsites.
Seal Beach is the first taste of Orange County that travelers get when they are driving down the coast. Just off the Pacific Coast Highway, visitors can catch a glance at the iconic wooden Seal Beach Pier and head straight to Main Street, which features dozens of shops and eateries along a picturesque strip that’s just a few blocks long.