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Newport Landing Whale Watching provides whale watching and dolphin cruises daily. You can view many varieties of whales as they seasonally migrate through the area, including Finback Whales, Grey Whales, Minke Whales, Humpback Whales, and even the giant Blue Whale which can grow to over 90 feet in length. Year round you might even spot dolphins and seals. The primary whale watching ship is 65 feet in length with a large upstairs sundeck, wrap around outside seating, snack bar with food and beverages, indoor seating with large windows. Captains and crew have a background in marine biology and are incredible knowledgeable providing details on marine creatures, environment, and eco-systems. With a 96% success rate of viewing whales and/or dolphin almost every trip has viewing opportunities for these mammals. Perfect as either a fun date or an educational day with the family.
For those who can make only one stop in Corona del Mar, make it the Corona del Mar State Beach. This area alone can make everyone fall in love with CdM, a laid-back multi-million-dollar neighborhood accented by the Pacific, with streets lined by palm trees and flower beds. On the bluff, three signs mark beach access: Lookout Point, Main Beach and Inspiration Point. Each point has a different view, but all share Catalina Island in the background, and Newport Bay and Balboa Island in the foreground. A few steps towards the south end of Ocean Boulevard is a secluded cove near the Robert E. Badham Marine Life Refuge, and some of the most extravagant mansions follow.
Located on the Balboa Peninsula, the Balboa Pavilion is a fun center for marine sports enthusiasts. Boat rentals are available for sport fishing and whale watching. Catalina Flyer, the catamaran, takes you across to the Avalon at Catalina Island where you can watch whales. Harborside Restaurant and Grand Ballroom is a waterfront dining and socializing venue. This pavilion has provided for action-packed marine expeditions since 1906 and is regarded as one of the finest marine recreation centers in the area.
Huntington State Beach is one of the best beaches in southern California. It is popular with both locals and tourists alike. It has barbecue pits that used year-round but especially in the summer as well as fire rings that can be used for bonfires. It's a great spot for families and children because the waves are not that big and there are several lifeguards on duty. There are all kinds of snack shops and places where you can rent bodyboards and other beach gear. Huntington State Beach is also known for its bird watching, keep a look out for California Brown Pelicans.
Crystal Cove State Park spans 3.2 miles (5.15 kilometers) of beach and over 2000 acres (809.37 hectares) of wilderness. Offering the best of nature, visitors to the park can relax on the beach and hike or horseback ride on the many trails that criss-cross the wilderness. Explore tide pools and hidden coves as well as canyon flora and fauna. Visitors can also take guided nature tours. The crystal clear waters have been designated as an underwater park and are great for scuba diving, skin diving, and underwater photography.
Stretching 1853 feet (564.80 meters) into the Pacific Ocean, the Huntington Beach Pier is one of the West Coast's longest piers. This attraction is visited by millions of people each year, creating an eccentric crowd. It is home to several important events, such as the U.S. Open of Surfing in July, Kite Party in February and Huck Finn Fishing Derby in August. You’ll also find excellent oceanfront dining at both ends of the pier.
Bordered by Aliso Creek to the north and rocky headlands to the south, Aliso Beach Park is not only picturesque, but also a unique Laguna Beach attraction. Many family-friendly features, particularly for families with toddlers, can be found here. A large parking lot is right by the sand, and the beach is on street level instead of down the bluff with steep steps. There is a designated children's playground with swings, a pirate ship, and other fun toys. But Aliso Beach Park is not just a family hangout place. Surfers frequent here to ride the waves, and friends often gather around the fire pits on the sand. There is no admission fee for the beach park itself, but there is a small parking fee.
Tucked away in a spot by the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, the 1000 Steps Beach takes some effort to get to. Once there, the beach rewards you with more than just stellar views. Its somewhat hidden location in busy southern California is a blessing, leaving the beach and its pristine stretch practically to yourself. Sandstone cliffs bookend the beach's golden sands, even as you watch the shore-break waves crash in resoundingly. The beach offers plenty of activities such as kayaking, paddleboarding and kayaking. Prepare yourself for a steep ascent on your way back.
The Ocean Institute is located in beautiful Dana Point Harbor and offers ocean science and maritime history programs perfect for kids and adults alike. See hundreds of marine animals in aquariums, watch animal feedings, experience ocean-themed exhibits, and have fun with hands-on activities. For an extra charge, take a tall ship or a whale watching cruise. The Dana Point Marine Protected Area is steps away from the Institute.