Orange County—that’s the one nestled between Los Angeles and San Diego counties—welcomes 42 million visitors each year. Many are drawn to Disneyland, while others seek to enjoy the breathtaking views offered by the county’s picturesque coastal cities. Here are six cities that will offer guests an eyeful in the best possible ways.
Laguna Beach’s main industry is tourism, and it’s easy to see why. The small seaside city has beautiful beaches, amazing views, and a robust art and surf culture. Laguna Beach is home to over 100 art galleries and art events, including the Laguna Plein Air Painting Invitational and the Pageant of the Masters (yes, it’s a real thing, not just an Arrested Development gag).
Newport Beach is popular with tourists for numerous reasons, the most obvious being its gorgeous beaches. Balboa Island offers shopping, a fun zone with games and rides, and its famous Balboa ice cream bars and frozen bananas. Meanwhile, the scenic Corona Del Mar boasts some of the best views along the coast. Photographers might also enjoy stopping by the beautiful Environmental Nature Center and the Sherman Library and Gardens.
Dana Point attracts visitors with its mild climate and stunning coastline. Key activities include surfing, whale watching, fishing, and boating. Dana Point is also home to numerous resorts and spas for additional unwinding.
While visitors can go whale watching year-round, the annual Festival of Whales occurs every March in celebration of the migration of the California Gray Whales. Guests may also learn more about marine life at the Ocean Institute.
San Juan Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano is known for its rich history and Spanish-style architecture. It takes its name from a Catholic mission established in 1776, which you can still tour today. Visitors may also stroll through the Los Rios Historic District, the oldest neighborhood in the entire state.
Huntington Beach has adopted the moniker Surf City. As the name implies, its beaches are popular with surfers, and it’s also home to the International Surfing Museum. Huntington Beach features the longest pier on the West Coast, coming in at 1,850 feet (564 meters). Visitors can also go horseback riding at the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center, or explore the Bolsa Chica Wetlands’ trails.
San Clemente sits at the southern edge of Orange County. Year-round, campers and surfers flock to San Clemente State Beach, an area known for sweeping views, a mild climate, and high winds. Tourists also enjoy Del Mar Street for its restaurants, bars, and shops, while the San Clemente Pier offers a scenic walk with a cool, ocean breeze. Hikers also love the area and seek out the Ridgeline, Las Ramblas, and San Clemente Beach trails.