Henri is from Orange County and works there, so we spend a lot of time in the OC. I grew up going to Newport Dunes as a kid so you can say we’re local experts.
Since I do spend a lot of time there I thought I would introduce you to a new section of the blog: Passport to Orange County! In this section I will share my favorite restaurants, places to shop, dog-friendly locations, and of course, my favorite beaches!
If you’re visiting Southern California for the first time, or maybe just doing a staycation from Los Angeles, I highly recommend staying in the OC. The OC has better beaches, good food, the best shopping, and is conveniently located to the most Instagrammed (and happiest) place on earth, Disneyland.
My top spots in The OC:
Corona Del Mar Beach
Located near Rose’s Cafe (see below) this large cove like beach, often referred to as Big Corona, behind the breakwater has clear waters, volleyball nets, parking, and beautiful scenery. We’ve used our kayak here too which is fun because the water can be so clear that you don’t feel lik you’re in SoCal. There is a parking lot, however I’ve never parked there. I always park on the “Flower Streets” above and walk down the path from Inspiration Point.
Rose’s Cafe and Bakery
Located off PCH near Corona Del Mar is Rose’s. A popular locals spot for brunch, baked goods, and drinks. I always get iced coffee, but the hot is good too. Their baked goods, especially the banana loaf and donuts, are delightful. Another go-to for me is to split the California Breakfast burrito with someone. And it comes with extra delicious, fresh salsa.
Shaw’s Cove, Laguna Beach
Honestly, I hesitated sharing this one because I love this beach so much for not being crowded. But TBH, I don’t think there’s too many of you reading out there YET! Shaw’s Cove is hidden within a residential area of Laguna and allows dogs from September until June. Again, this is another cove beach. Most of the time the waves are calm here and it’s easy for me to swim. It’s also just a stunning beach for relaxing and playing frisbee.
Balboa Peninsula Beach
The real reason I choose to go to the Peninsula is because I want to eat at Great Mex. But this long stretch of sand offers beachgoers plenty of space, but avoid it in the summer when the traffic feels worse than the 405.
Great Mex on Balboa Peninsula, Restaurant
A classic in both Henri and I’s households. As a kid, my parents would bring us here for fish and shrimp tacos. Once, in the beginning of mine and Henri’s relationship he was so excited to take me to this “hidden gem” but I instantly knew it as a frequent goer myself. Get the shrimp tacos, they’re my favorite and I pride myself in having introduced them to Henri’s entire family. There are multiple locations of this small restaurant and occasionally we go to the Costa Mesa one which is nice because they use real plates where as the Peninsula one uses paper, not sure why?
But order a shrimp taco, tag me in your insta post, and thank me later.
South Coast Plaza
You’ve never truly shopped if you haven’t visited South Coast Plaza. I’ve traveled around the world, and even Paris falls second (IMHO) to South Coast. The reason is there is a wide range of stores. From budget friendly H&M to high-end stores like Chanel, Harry Winston, Oscar De La Renta, and Christian Loubaton this mall has it all. It also has all the best department stores in one place: Bloomingdales, Saks, and Nordstrom. If you really love a bargain hunt, just across the street is a shopping center called Metro Point where you can find a Nordstrom Rack, Off Sakes 5th, and a new Bloomingdales outlet store. Which I already visited and bought two items from.
If you’ve got the shopping bug and it’s a nice day out Fashion Island is a great (DOG-FRIENDLY!) location to shop or grab a bite to eat and walk around. We like to have burgers at Hop Doddy Burgers and they always have fresh peanut butter dog treats for Havana. This Fashion Dreamland also offers great department stores, including the harder to find Nieman Marcus.
This hidden gem is a buzzing with locals. It’s patio feels like an old ship yard and is walking distance to the newly renovated Lido Village. Their iced coffee and salmon bagel are my favorites, especially because you can order a half order. They also make a solid eggs benedict.
Last, but not least, Disneyland. This last spot on my list is a little more of an investment, but I absolutely love the Disneyland Resort. I grew up a pass holder and even worked for The Walt Disney company. I’ve had a lot of memorable moments there too like my quinceañera and my second date with Henri, so it holds a special place in my heart. Click here for a guide into how I like to spend a Disney Day!