Orange County has a surf culture all its own, with top California beaches that are known the world over for their wild waves and warm sunny weather. From San Clemente to Huntington Beach, you'll find excellent dining, beautiful views and big sandy beaches, and you'll see that Orange County is definitely a very happening part of California.
Above: No trip to Orange County is complete without a visit to beautiful Laguna Beach, known for its charm, cuisine and focus on the arts -- as well as year-round basketball and volleyball activities on Main Beach in the center of town. Image courtesy of Laguna Beach Visitors Center.
Top Orange County Beaches
Our list of top California beaches in Orange County, from south to north, includes:
San Onofre State Beach - Remote, with camping on the bluffs
San Clemente - Great pier and surfing, playground and dining
Salt Creek - Surfing hot spot
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Above, the wild waves at the Wedge, near Newport Beach, are for advanced surfers and bodyboarders only!
More Top Orange County Beaches
Aliso Creek County Beach - Good parking, fire pits, tricky surf
Doheny State Beach -- Popular family beach with shade trees and plenty of parking, nice for kayaking and surfing, camping and a full range of lodging and dining nearby
Laguna Beach/Main Beach - Charming town, well known for its art, beautiful coves abound and the Main Beach is fun-filled with basketball and other activities
Thousand Steps Beach - A bit of a hidden gem in South Laguna Beach that locals enjoy, situated at bottom of steep stairway, diving, restroom
Crystal Cove State Park - Miles of trails for nature lovers, also dog friendly
Corona Del Mar - Classic Orange County beach beauty, clean and sandy, nice for swimming
The Wedge/Newport Beach Area - Wild surf that is best left to the locals
Balboa Island Beaches - Nice tourist spot, plenty of dining and people watching, can get crowded in summer and warm weekends
Huntington Beach - Surf capital, big sandy beach, snack bars, restrooms
Above: beautiful oceanfront trails amidst the rugged coast makes Crystal Cove a great place for nature lovers. Image courtesy Crystal Cove State Park.
At left: If there's any one place that captures the old surf culture of Orange County, it's Ruby's Shake Shack (formerly called the Crystal Cove Shake Shack), located just south of Newport Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway. Delicious diner style food and one of the best views around make it an Orange County tradition that every visitor should experience.
Above: if you want to get away from it all, San Onofre State Beach in the southernmost part of Orange County will allow you to do just that. A 3,000-acre coastal beach park, it offers legendary surfing -- especially in the Trestles Beach area -- plus campsites on the bluffs overlooking the water. A number of trails lead down from the bluffs to the coast below. The only catch: the San Onofre Nuclear Power station, currently inactive, is nearby.
At left: Salt Creek Beach, adjacent to the stunning Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel Hotel in south Orange County.