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The OC Spotlight
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A Look at the Great Outdoors of Orange County

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Being centrally located in Southern California has its perks, as Orange County offers the best of land and sea. With great year-round weather and average temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit, "The OC" lifestyle revolves around outdoor activities. Visitors can indulge in a wide range of outdoor fun, from surfing and boating to hiking and cycling, or simply lounging by the pool. Here are some ideas for three days of outdoor adventures in Orange County, California:

Day 1 - Exploring the Coastline in Dana Point
Start your adventure in scenic Dana Point, a charming coastal city known for its harbor and stunning seaside resorts. Join the surfers for breakfast, A.K.A. Dawn Patrol, at Boneyard Beach Cafe, named for one of the four surf breaks in Dana Point. This beachfront restaurant offers both a dine-in menu and an outdoor snack bar for food on-the-go.

Boneyard cafe
Ordering food on-the-go at Boneyard Cafe. PC: @boneyardbeachcafe

Sit in the outdoor area to admire beach-goers and surfers enjoying the waves at California's first official state beach, Doheny State Beach.

Doheny State Beach
People enjoying the waves at Doheny State Beach. PC: @increments

After breakfast, head to Dana Point Harbor near Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whalewatching to take in the sights of the Pacific Ocean from a new perspective. Established in 2015, Dana Point Parasailing offers visitors a vibrant seaside experience, as you set sail on the water and in the air for great views of Dana Point and Orange County.

 

Parasailing - Dana Point
Sailing over the Pacific Ocean with Dana Point Parasailing. PC: Dana Wharf

Take in the sights of the Dana Point Marina while enjoying lunch at The Harbor Grill. The oceanfront restaurant adds new flavor to classic seafood influenced by Latin American, Asian and Indian cuisine.

 

Harbor Grill
Mesquite Grilled Shrimp Cobb Salad at Harbor Grill. PC: @harborgrilldp

Explore more of Dana Point on a nature walk at Harbor Point Park. The short, easy trail leads you on a short hiking path overlooking the city, ending with a great lookout of Dana Point Harbor.

 

Harbor Point Park
Overview of Dana Harbor from Harbor Point Park. Courtesy of The City of Dana Point

The Doris Walker Overlook is another great viewpoint of the city. Paying homage to a keystone in Dana Point history, it's also a great spot to snap a sunset photo.

For dinner, grab a table at Two Left Forks for a upscale dining experience in a casual setting and end the day resting in an oceanside suite at Monarch Beach Resort.

 

Monarch Beach Resort
A beach sunset over Monarch Beach Resort. PC: Monarch Beach Resort

Check out more Dana Point accommodations here.


Day 2 - Diving into Huntington Beach

At the northernmost end of The OC coast, you'll find Huntington Beach, California a hip coastal city popularly known as "Surf City USA."

 

Pedestrian Bridge - Huntington Beach
A pedestrian bridge from Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort to the beach. PC: @copeland_a

Start your second day at a spot beloved amongst locals, the family-owned eatery Sugar Shack Cafe, where you'll find classic American breakfast offerings, plus delicious sandwiches and salads.

Afterward, spend a day like the locals and get to know the city with Crawford's Huntington Beach Surf City Tours. Led by a Huntington Beach local, the walking tour gives visitors an insider's look at both well-known hot-spots and hidden gems. If you're not up for walking, Surf City Segways offers a more leisurely way to explore Huntington Beach, highlighting the best parts of the city while cruising along coastal bike paths.

 

Surf City Segway Tours
Exploring Huntington Beach with Surf City Segway Tours. PC: @surfcitysegway

Make your way up the iconic Pacific Coast Highway for a casual lunch at Sancho's Tacos. Praised for its selections of signature tacos, Sancho's serves authentic Mexican cuisine using fresh ingredients to bring their menu to life.

 

Sancho;s Tacos
Tacos and nachos at Sancho's Tacos: PC: @ladieswholunchldn

If you're ready to get wet, try a surfing lesson with Banzai Surf School. Accredited by the National Surf Schools and Instructors Association, the school teaches the basics and gives students time to practice in a calm stretch of beach ideal for learning how to catch a wave.

 

sunset surfing
Sunset surf and waves in Huntington Beach.

Or, to enjoy the water without getting in it, opt for a private sailing cruise through Huntington Harbor on a classic wood boat with Prince Charters. End the day with dinner at 25 Degrees, a contemporary burger spot serving chic American hamburgers with a signature twist.

End the day with an oceanfront stay at the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa.

 

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort 1
Ocean view from the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa. Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa.

Learn more about other Huntington Beach beachfront hotels here.


Day 3 - Traverse Inland Into Irvine
Even though the beach is gorgeous, The OC isn't all about the coast. Nature lovers and outdoor adventurers alike should spend a day exploring Irvine, California, a dynamic city just 15 minutes from Orange County Airport with more miles of hiking, biking and walking trails than any other city in The OC.

Get an early start with a full breakfast at Stacks Pancake House. From pancakes to eggs benedict, Stacks is inspired by world cuisine offering a diverse selection of early morning eats. If you enjoy a sweet breakfast, their signature Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes with homemade coconut syrup.

 

Stacks Pancakes
An array of breakfast at Stacks Pancake House. PC: @stackspancake

After breakfast, consider a hike through Bommer Canyon. A beacon for walkers, hikers and nature enthusiasts, Bommer Canyon is an open space with wild flowers, sycamore trees and multiple nature trails.

 

Bommer Canyon
Trails through Bommer Canyon. PC: @jeff_h_liu

Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve is another favorite for outdoor enthusiasts. Often compared to be the "mini Grand Canyon" for its iconic geological formation known as "the Sinks", the open space is a natural spectacle filled with California oak trees, sycamores, stream beds and natural habitats.

Make a pit stop to Burnt Crumbs for hand-crafted gourmet sandwiches, like their new heirloom tomato toast or signature spaghetti grilled cheese made with pressed spaghetti, fresh mozzarella and meat sauce on sourdough bread.

 

Burnt Crumbs - Irvine
Heirloom Tomato Toast (heirloom tomato, basil aioli, fried shallots & fresh mozzarella and basil) at Burnt Crumbs. PC: @burntcrumbs

Afterward, get in on the farm fresh experience and taste just-picked produce while touring Tanaka Farms.

 

Tanaka Farms
Seasonal fruit tours at Tanaka Farms. PC: @di_huang

To take in more of Irvine, sign up for an electric bike tour with Pedego Irvine Electric Bikes. On foot, you can take a short walk on the Turtle Rock Trail for great views of Irvine.

 

Turtle Rock Trail - Irvine
Sunset from Turtle Rocck Trail. PC: @tesoni

Plan to enjoy an Italian dining experience at Il Fornaio and retreat for the night at the Irvine Marriott.

Find more Irvine hotels here.


Day 4 - Bonus suggestions
Stay an extra day to check out at least one of these outdoor spots in Orange County:

Dana Point

  • Capistrano Beach - A popular spot for surfing, the Dana Point beach is a great spot for enjoying a day of sports like volleyball, basketball, cycling, and other beach activities. It also has a concession stand during the summer months that sells summer activity essentials such as fishing gear, food and beverages, and beach supplies.

 

Capistrano Beach
Sunset at Capistrano Beach. PC: @loaren143

Huntington Beach

  • Huntington Central Park - As the largest city owned park in Orange County, it is home to the Kathy May's Lakeview Cafe, Dog Park, Shipley Nature Center, the Central Library and Cultural Center, Adventure Playground and more. It's a large space featuring natural beauty and hosts many activities, special events, and concerts in Huntington Beach.

 

Huntington Central Park
View of the Huntington Beach Library in Huntington Central Park. PC: @westsiderreider

Irvine

  • Irvine Ranch National Landmarks - The landmarks are a natural wonder in Orange County. Fun Fact: The landmarks were designed as a California Natural Landmark on Earth Day 2008 by the California State Parks director. With more than 20 parks and open spaces, the national landmarks preserve and protect nature for the public to enjoy. There are often guided tours of these parks and nearby areas to inform visitors of the many features living within these spaces.

 

Irvine Ranch National Landmarks
A guided hike through the Irvine Ranch National Landmarks. PC: @photobroek