With more than 300 sunny days and moderate to warm temperatures year round, it’s possible to get outside and be active pretty much any time of the year that you choose to visit Orange County. With the ocean to the west and the hills to the east, you can participate in a variety of activities ranging from swimming and surfing to hiking and camping. Besides things to do in Orange County, it’s also just a short (2 hours or less) drive to the big mountains for skiing, making it entirely possible to surf in the morning and ski in the afternoon during the winter!
Huntington Beach, known as Surf City, is the is the place to learn how to surf or brush up on your skills, whether you are a beginning or more advanced. Pay homage to the greats at the International Surfing Museum, then catch a lesson from one of the many surf schools, such as Surfriders Academy, which offers both private and group sessions. Many classes are held near Bolsa Chica beach where the waves are smaller and the locals aren’t going to fight you for the good waves.
If you already know how to surf, you can rent a board at many of the shops along the pier or near Main Street.
Local tip: You may or may not want to time your visit with the annual Surf Open.
2. Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Paddle boarding is becoming more and more popular, and the best place in Orange County for it is the Newport Bay.
Paddle Power is a shop located in Newport Beach that offers stand up paddle boarding lessons for those interested in learning and rentals if you want to continue after the lessons. You can also just rent a board from them if that’s all you need. The Newport Harbor is a great place to learn how to paddle board because of the calm water.
Local Tip: The Newport Harbor is great for paddling during the day and then catching a meal at one of the great restaurants nearby afterwards!
Not just for paddle boarding, the Newport Harbor is a great place for kayaking, too. Grab a friend and a paddle and go!
You can rent a kayak from Paddle Power or from Adventures Boat Rentals, and Paddle Power offers lessons in kayaking as well. The Newport Aquatic Center offers an Introduction to Kayaking class every Saturday.
Local tip: The Newport Back Bay is great for birdwatching while you paddle!
4. Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
The best place for snorkeling in Orange County is in in Laguna Beach down in South County, and one of the most popular places to snorkel or dive in Laguna is Shaw’s Cove. Follow the steps down to the beach from Cliff Drive and Fairview Street to find the cove, which is protected from larger swells, making it a safe haven for marine life. Laguna Sea Sports is a great resource for checking weather conditions, and can also rent diving gear from them. If you are looking for snorkel equipment, check out La Vida Laguna.
Local tip: Laguna Beach is also home to many cool tidepools!
Because of the hills that border Orange County on the east, there are many opportunities for hiking. Most of the hiking is in South County, and some of my favorites are Aliso & Wood Canyon and El Moro State Park. There are some good trails in North to Central County at Chino Hills and Peter’s Canyon. Most of these areas have both out and back or loop options, and many of the trails are dog friendly (though dogs must be on leash) and most are easy to moderate. They are mostly dirt packed fire roads with some single track options. The Orange County trail running group, SoCal TrailHeadz, is a great resource.
Local Tip: Make sure you bring plenty of water on your hike – the air in Southern California might be drier than you are used to at home.
While there aren’t many bike paths within towns, there are some options for mountain biking or road biking. Mountain bikers are allowed to ride on most of the hiking trails mentioned above, and there is also a very popular biking area in Fullerton, known as the Fullerton Loop. For road biking, the best place is the Santa Ana River Trail. It starts at Green River, just at the Orange County/Riverside County line off the 91 freeway, and goes all the way to Huntington Beach. There are many entry points along the trail, which offers both a paved road and a packed dirt path.
Local Tip: The Newport Back Bay also has a great, scenic bike path.
The great weather and ample outdoor opportunities make walking or running the easiest and most accessible activity in Orange County. Whether you are a road runner, a trail runner, or a beach runner there is something for everyone! You can run on the trails mentioned above as hiking trails, or check out some of the local trails in pretty much any South County town, especially those in Fullerton if you are in North County. A great choice is the Santa Ana River Trail, which has both a paved road and a dirt path and plenty of room for bikers, runners, and walkers. Another great choice is to walk around the Newport Back Bay or the Bolsa Chica wetlands near Huntington Beach.
Local Tip: If you decide to run on the Fullerton Loop, you may want to run without headphones so you can hear any mountain bikers that might come up behind you.
There is a blend of yogis in Orange County – those who practice yoga for a workout, those who make it part of their daily routine, and those who practice to calm their minds from the craziness of their day job. With more yoga studios coming in all the time and a variety of styles, you can try yoga for the first time or maintain your practice while on vacation!
If you are looking for a workout, check out CorePower Yoga in Huntington Beach. There are bikram classes in Fullerton (http://purpleyogastudio.com/rebrand.php), Costa Mesa (http://bikramyoganewportmesa.com/), and Laguna Beach (http://www.bikramyogalaguna.com/).
There are yoga studios of all types in Irvine, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, and Laguna Beach.
Local Tip: YogaWorks offers many classes of all levels and styles and are have three studios in Orange County – Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, and Newport Beach.
9. Rock Climbing
There aren’t any options to rock climb outdoors in Orange County, but if you are looking to learn or want to try a new gym, Orange County has some great options. The gym that I like the best, with some solid routes and boulder problems is Rockreation in Costa Mesa, which has over 12,000 sq. ft. of wall and a small fitness center in the back with a few cardio machines and some weights. There is a gym in Anaheim Hills called Rock City, which recently added a whole new cave section. The third gym in Orange County is in Huntington Beach, called ClimbX, which has a variety of routes for rope climbers. All of these gyms offer day passes and lessons.
Local Tip: Some of the gyms offer climbing trips to places like Joshua Tree National Park if you’d like to test your skills outside!
Orange County is home to some of the nicest golf courses in the country, giving it the name “California’s Golf Coast.”
There are golf courses in cities throughout Orange County, so depending on where you are, there is probably a great course to play on near you. According to the Best of Orange County, annual awards that are presented by the Orange County Register local newspaper, the best golf courses in Orange County are Tustin Ranch Golf Club in Tustin, Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo, and Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Beach.
Now that you have 10 great ideas for being active, what are you waiting for? Pick one and get going!