A short walk from the bustling downtown Laguna Beach, this park is an amazing hidden oasis. The grassy bluff and the sandy beach with giant rocks and hidden caves makes this park a favorite spot for photographers, sunset watchers, picnickers, and even sea birds. There are also a variety of art stands selling local artwork.
Crystal Cove State Park spans 3.2 miles (5.15 kilometers) of beach and over 2000 acres (809.37 hectares) of wilderness. Visitors to the park can relax on the beach, hike or go horseback riding on the many trails that criss-cross the verdant landscape. Explore tide pools and hidden coves as well as canyon flora and fauna. Finally, the crystal clear waters have been designated as an underwater park and are great for scuba diving, skin diving, and underwater photography, thus covering all aspects of outdoor exploration.
Historic Mission San Juan Capistrano is a California icon. Perhaps most famous for visits from its annual guests of honor, the swallows, the Mission means many things to many people. For Californians, it is a powerful symbol of the state's complicated colonial history. For Catholics, it is a profound religious site, indicative of the Church's own complex heritage. History buffs spend hours reveling in the facility's many exhibits and displays, connecting viscerally with the sights, sounds and feelings of generations long past. For visitors of any background, it is an undeniably gorgeous place to spend an afternoon-replete with striking architectural elements and lovingly cared-for gardens.
The area is 900 acres (364 hectares) of estuary, marsh, and coastal sage scrub habit, and it is home to several endangered bird species. Seventy species of fish use the bay and during winter migration thousands of shorebirds and ducks either visit or spend the winter here. Kayak, canoe, walking and electric boat tours are offered and a state of the art Interpretive Center is located at 2301 University Dr., Newport Beach.
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.
The Environmental Nature Center is a must-visit for every nature lovers touring Newport Beach. It’s a beautiful attraction lined with native plants and trees where several bird species dwell. A getaway for birding enthusiasts as well as those who love hiking, the center is a perfect break from city noises. It is dedicated to teaching children as well as adults about sustainable development and waste management, in addition to other subjects that aid in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.
Main Beach is probably the most photographed, and definitely the most visited beach in the city. Right in downtown, the location could not be more convenient. Most of the local attractions and popular eateries are within walking distance. While admiring the azure waters and sunbathing is the most popular activity, the beach park itself has a bunch of facilities such as volleyball and basketball areas, picnic tables, a children's play area, and protected tide pools where you can enjoy some of the cleanest water on the Pacific coast.
Laguna Beach has long been a center for art. Creative types flocked here in droves to work their magic along Laguna's pristine shores. The Laguna Art Museum continues this proud heritage with an impressive list of year-round exhibitions and programming. Within these hallowed halls, you'll find classic and contemporary works by artists both fledgling and world renowned. An emphasis is placed on artists hailing from California, but the museum's scope is global nonetheless.
The panoramic view of the wilderness and the Pacific from Hortense Miller Garden is second to none. Yet, the view is not quite what makes it a treasure of Laguna Beach. It is the character of the garden and the house that reflects Hortense Miller's love of nature. The garden spreads across 2.5 acres on the upper slope of Boat Canyon, and has over 1500 plant species that grow with limited usage of fertilizers and chemical controls. In the middle of the garden, a simple but elegant house that is wrapped with floor-to-ceiling glass, quietly enjoys the company of its best decorator: nature. Reservations for the tour should be made at least two weeks in advance. Donations are appreciated.
Cress Street Beach is a popular beach destination for both locals and tourists. The beach is great for surfing and body-boarding when the waves are strong. However, during gentle waves, experienced swimmers can also go snorkeling or scuba diving as there is an exposed coral reef close to the shoreline. There are also some interesting rock formations on the beach that children love to climb. The best time to visit is during sunset when the crowds thin down and you can enjoy the marvelous views in solitude.