THE GREAT OUTDOORS OF ORANGE COUNTY

Here are some of the best ideas for outdoor activities in Orange County to help you plan your next adventure.

Being located in the heart of Southern California certainly has its perks. Orange County offers the best of land and sea as well as excellent weather, with year-round average temperatures of 75 degrees. With that said, it’s no surprise that The OC lifestyle revolves around outdoor activities. From surfing and boating to hiking and cycling, there is no shortage of outdoor fun.

Outdoor Activity Ideas in Orange County

Here are some of the best ideas for outdoor activities in Orange County to help you plan your next adventure.


Day One — Explore the Coastline in Dana Point

dana point outdoor activities

Start your adventure in South OC in scenic Dana Point, a charming coastal city known for its harbor and stunning seaside resorts.

Partake in an early-morning surf session (also known as dawn patrol) and then join the surfers for breakfast at Boneyard Beach Cafe, which is 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. Those who sit in the outdoor area can admire beach-goers and surfers enjoying the waves at the famous Doheny State Beach.

After breakfast, head to Dana Point Harbor near Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching to take in the sights of the Pacific Ocean from a new perspective. For an even more vibrant seaside experience, go to Dana Point Parasailing and set sail on the water and in the air for great views of Dana Point and the Orange County coastline.

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

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

To explore even more of Dana Point, take a nature walk at Harbor Point Park. This short, easy trail leads you on a short hiking path overlooking the city, ending with a great lookout of Dana Point Harbor. The Doris Walker Overlook offers another great view of the city, and it’s also a great spot to snap a sunset photo.

For dinner, grab a table at Two Left Forks for an upscale dining experience in a casual setting, and end the day resting in a suite on the sand at Surf & Sand Resort in Laguna Beach.

Day Two — Head North to Explore Beaches & Wilderness Parks in Laguna Beach

outdoor activities in laguna oc

As the only marine reserve in Southern California, Laguna Beach is renowned for its pristine waters, abundant sea life and of course, perfect beaches. No matter your mood, there’s a beach just for you within the 7 miles of coastline of Laguna Beach. Thankfully you don’t have to pick just one, make a day out of exploring the 30 unique beaches and coves (all with public access!) to find the one that best suits you. But the outdoor adventure doesn’t end in the water. Laguna Beach is home to more than 20,000 acres of pristine coastal wilderness, and surrounded by state parks and designated wilderness areas, all of which are connected by a network of hundreds of miles of hiking, biking, and running trails.

Start your adventure on the water at Main Beach, right in the heart of downtown Laguna Beach. Snap a photo with the iconic and historic Lifeguard tower, play a pick up a game of basketball or volleyball on one of the beach courts, or enjoy a gelato along the boardwalk.

Make your way to some of the other coves where you can explore tide pools at Treasure Island, Crescent Bay or Shaw’s Cove. All, teeming with sea life from anemones to crabs, sea stars to urchins and even octopus.

Confident surfers can paddle out at Rockpile (a surfing-only beach) to enjoy the perfect right-handed peel. Or head to Brook’s Street to experience a challenging left break over rocky reefs. For beginners, Sleepy Hollow Beach is ideal with its long, slow break. To see skim boarding, the action sport invented in Laguna Beach by lifeguards in the 1920s, head south to Aliso Beach Park or Victoria Beach. World famous skim boarders will be found at both skimming the famous shore break.

End your day with biking or hiking the varied network of trails in the surrounding wilderness parks. Brave the steep incline of BFI or Boat Canyon trails in Crystal Cove State Park to get 180-degree views of the Laguna Beach coastline. Head to the Willow staging area or Nix Nature Center, both gateways to trails that vary in their degree of intensity. Valido Trail, in South Laguna, is an intermediate 4-mile hike with panoramic ocean views at the summit. But the most popular vista trail is Top of the World in Alta Laguna Park. Aptly named for the 360-degree views of the Orange County basin and Saddleback Mountains, you’ll be able to see out over Laguna canyon with sweeping coastline all the way out to Catalina Island. Top of the World is the ultimate spot to catch a Laguna Beach sunset.

Spend your night back at the beach in one of Laguna’s beachfront resorts, the only city in Orange County with hotels on the ocean.

Day Three — Surf’s Up in Huntington Beach

huntington beach outdoor activities

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

Start the day at Sugar Shack Cafe, a family-owned eatery that is beloved by locals and where you’ll find classic American breakfast offerings, 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.

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.

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.

If you’re looking to enjoy the water without actually getting in it, opt for a private sailing cruise through Huntington Harbor on a classic wood boat with Prince Charters.

Spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing at Huntington Central Park, the largest city-owned park in Orange County. The park is home to the Kathy May’s Lakeview Cafe, a dog park, Shipley Nature Center, the Central Library and Cultural Center, Adventure Playground and more. It’s a large space featuring natural beauty, and it hosts many activities, special events, and concerts.

End the day with dinner at 25 Degrees, a contemporary burger spot serving chic American hamburgers with a signature twist, then head to Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa for an upscale oceanfront overnight stay.

Day Four — Inland Adventures in Irvine

valido trail Bommer Canyon in Irvine, California

Though we’re known for our gorgeous beaches, The OC isn’t all about the coast. Nature lovers and outdoor adventurers alike should spend a day exploring Irvine, a dynamic city with more miles of hiking, biking and walking trails than any other city in Orange County.

Get an early start with a full breakfast at Stacks Pancake House. From pancakes to eggs benedict, Stacks offers a diverse selection of early morning eats inspired by world cuisine.

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 and is a part of the Irvine Ranch National Landmarks. Designated as a California Natural Landmark on Earth Day 2008, the Irvine Ranch National Landmarks in Irvine, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach preserve and protect nature for the public to enjoy. There are often guided tours to inform visitors of the many features within these spaces.

San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary is comprised of more than 300 acres of restored coastal freshwater wetlands, one of Southern California’s largest coastal freshwater marshes. Twelve miles of trails serve as an oasis for walkers, joggers, and birdwatchers as well as a living laboratory for students, teachers, and the public. The sanctuary is home to 100 different species of birds.

For lunch, stop by Burnt Crumbs for hand-crafted gourmet sandwiches, like their heirloom tomato toast or signature spaghetti grilled cheese. Afterward, get in on the farm fresh experience and taste just-picked produce while touring Tanaka Farms.

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 the city.

For dinner, enjoy a unique dining experience at Andrei’s Conscious Cuisine & Cocktails,  and when you’re ready to call it a night, enjoy a hip and happening stay at Hotel Irvine.

Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve is another favorite for outdoor enthusiasts.

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