Widely known as “the OC,” Orange County, CA is home to perfect weather, beautiful beaches, world-class dining, shopping, full-service luxury spas, and famous attractions. But while Orange County has a reputation for being an upscale haven where the mega-rich go to relax, the vibe here is actually surprisingly chill and casual. Whether you’re after the ultimate in pampering or some epic surfing, the articles on this page highlight exactly why Orange County is one of the best places in California to rest and recharge.
Tip: One of the best ways to get to the OC from San Diego is on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner train. The traffic between my home base and Orange County can be brutal, so if you can avoid driving, definitely do.
Traveling Tips for Orange County Beaches
Plan to spend some time on the area’s 42 miles of coastline during your Orange County getaway. The beaches here really are among the best in the world — especially Huntington Beach with its wide stretches of sand and its reputation for amazing waves. Surf lessons and surf camps can be found up and down the coast, and the small beach towns you’ll encounter along the PCH are the perfect place to unwind with a drink on a lazy afternoon. Here are some of my favorite Orange County beaches:
Known as Surf City, US, Huntington Beach is a surfer’s paradise thanks to its wide sandy beaches and gnarly breaks. The frequent surfing events at this beach have turned it into one of the most well-known beaches in the entire United States.
Corona Del Mar Beach in Newport Beach
This Orange County seaside hotspot is pristine and draws swimmers, surfers, divers, and sunbathers. It’s also near great restaurants, waterfront shopping, and a busy nightlife scene.
Victoria Beach in Laguna Beach
Gorgeous and pleasantly isolated, Victoria Beach can be hard to find for new visitors but it’s worth the trouble. The sheltered cove has fascinating rock formations, instagrammable saltwater pools, and the castle-like structure known locally as the Pirate Tower or La Tour.
Orange County Hotel Tips
As you might imagine, the OC is home to some of the best luxury hotels in the world. These hotels have ocean views that are literally breathtaking, spa services that rival those of any city in the world, and impeccable service. Over the years I’ve landed on a few of my absolute favorites, so if you’re planning a trip to Orange County, consider staying in one of the hotels we’ve enjoyed visiting over the years.
The Balboa Bay Club
Although this is technically a private club, non-members can book rooms on the resort side of the Balboa Bay Club. One thing we particularly enjoy about this Orange County hotel is the absolutely spectacular view of the yachts in the harbor below.
Monarch Beach Resort
Another OC hotel with amazing views, the Monarch Beach Resort became a family favorite after we discovered how child-friendly the resort is. We’ve enjoyed butler service during our stays, surprise gifts for my daughter, the great pools, and the spa.
Even though it has been updated, the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel still has the same generous living spaces, classic furnishings, wonderful restaurants, and luxurious amenities I’ve come to expect. It sits high atop a bluff, and the suites and Club Level rooms all feature amazing ocean views.
Montage Laguna Beach
This luxury hotel in Orange County sits overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which means you’ll enjoy gorgeous panoramic views during your stay. The rooms at the Montage Laguna Beach are equally beautiful, and I love how there are paintings by notable local artists in every one.
The Ranch at Laguna Beach
This iconic OC hotel feels rustic and beachy, but the Ranch at Laguna Beach has a mix of rooms that range from the elegant to casual. One highlight is the two-bedroom private “Treehouse,” which is perched atop a canyon and is a perfect home away from home.
When you’re ready to book your Orange County hotel, keep in mind that I have access to exclusive VIP amenities as an Independent Affiliate of Cadence® Travel. If you book through me, you’ll enjoy extras like complimentary breakfasts, room upgrades, spa credits, and more.
Tips for Orange County Travel with Kids
A lot of families visit the OC with two destinations in mind: Disneyland® and Knott’s Berry Farm®. We have enjoyed both multiple times over the years, but there’s a lot more to visiting Orange County with kids than hitting the theme parks. The gorgeous beaches (along with the OC’s famous tide pools) are a big draw, of course, but there are also canyon trails for every level of hiker. If hiking isn’t your thing, you and your kids can enjoy many of the same natural sights on scenic guided trail rides on horseback.
Activity Tips While Traveling in Orange County
Natural beauty and shopping are two of the OC’s main attractions, but there’s plenty of culture here, too. Laguna Beach has hundreds of art galleries and artists’ studios that are open to visitors. Every first Thursday of the month, there is a free art walk from 6 to 9 p.m. Orange County is also home to two major sports teams — the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Angels — so catching a game is another option. Then there are the Instagram-worthy walking and hiking trails, the coastal parks, and the camping.
Dining Tips for Eating in Orange County
In the past few years, Orange County, CA has become a foodie destination in its own right. New restaurants have eclipsed the California burger joints and smoothie bowl shacks. While ethnic dishes like Korean barbecue, pho, Hunan-style fermented veggies, and authentic tacos have always been on the menu, chefs are bringing some of the most interesting fusion cuisine of the moment to the OC. That said, make sure you make time to visit Orange County’s famous shake shacks. They’re the perfect pitstop on beachy days.