Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach all lie on California’s coast, between Los Angeles to their North, and San Diego to their South. Being the official Surf City USA, an easy commonality across all three locations is the shared love of surfing, however there is so much more to each town than just catching waves. With beautiful long stretches of coastline, they each make for stunning, yet unique, beach vacation experiences, filled with all things oceanic, as well as various inland attractions too.
But which is best for you?
We know and love all three destinations, so to help you decide, we’ll be comparing all three and then highlighting the best features of each. We’ll look at their beaches, activities, nightlife and vibe, so that you can get the most out of your vacation whichever you choose!
Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, or Huntington Beach: A Quick Overview
Laguna Beach is somewhat of an undiscovered gem, with plenty of natural and artistic beauty for you to enjoy while on vacation. Situated halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach is an artist colony in Orange County. Unique to this stretch of the Californian coastline is the staggering 7 miles of coastline, as well as the most abundant selection of beachfront lodging you will find in all of California. Doesn’t that just sound like the perfect beach holiday – with close up views of the sea spanning miles around you?
Perhaps even more impressive, Newport Beach tops this with 8 miles of Californian coastline for you to enjoy, with all ocean front beaches open to the public from 6am to 10pm. You’ll be able to observe an interesting mix of modern-day glamour contrasted with historic beauties such as old cottages and dive bars, meaning Newport Beach tends to have something for everyone.
Last but not least, Huntington Beach too has expanses of idyllic coastlines, with sandy beaches, and plenty of water sport options. While it is a favourite surf sport for many, there are a plethora of other activities to try out. Or, you can opt to just relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings, with the waves lapping at your feet as you soak in the serenity.
Now that you have a bit of an introduction to each destination, keep reading to find out more about exactly what each town has to offer!
Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, or Huntington Beach: Beaches and Activities
From picturesque, unobstructed coastlines to historic charm, and surf hot-spots, between these three beach destinations there is undoubtedly something for everyone. Each has a slightly different forté, so be sure to understand the nuanced differences to make the most of your trip.
From coves for you to discover, to beaches and the tide pools at Main Beach, Laguna Beach is an ideal location for pretty much everyone.
With 30 beaches that you can visit either by foot or kayak, there is plenty of new terrain to explore, meaning you won’t get bored of the same scenery if you don’t want to. The weather year round is beautiful, meaning outdoor activities should be on your to-do list no matter when you visit.
Hiking, cycling, golf and tennis are all examples of inland sports to enjoy here, but if you fancy getting your hair wet, Aliso Beach Park is our personal recommendation for catching the swell on a surfboard. Alternatively, you can try your hand at the likes of sailing and scuba diving, and we recommend also visiting the underwater park just off of Crystal Cove State Park.
To keep you occupied in your downtime, Laguna Beach houses an impressive artistic community, with almost 100 art galleries across the town showcasing local and international pieces. Following on from the artisanal feel to this community, there are many opportunities to shop for handcrafted, boutique items such as jewellery and antiques, which are thoroughly unique to Laguna Beach.
This particular coastal town’s ownership has changed hands several times, meaning it has seen a lot of historic change over the years. Today, the heart of its action is still rooted around its harbor, made up of two bodies of water. The Upper Newport Bay is an ecological loop, perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want to follow the trail by foot, or bike, or even horseback. The Lower Newport Bay, by comparison, is more suited to those looking for retail shops and restaurant selections, with some of our favourite leisure spots being at Cannery Village, and Balboa Peninsula.
For those looking for a look into the town’s past, head to Dory Fleet Market, a bustling fish market first established in 1891, which is also conveniently surrounded by some exquisite seafood eating options such as Fly ’N’ Fish Oyster Bar, popular with local fishers.
While surfing is also an option at Newport Beach, this town is perhaps better known for its historic elements dotted around the place, and so those looking to appreciate the old culture and traditions will find themselves in the right place here.
Huntington Beach of course has the classics – wide sandy beaches, postcard worthy settings, and oceanfront dining all year round. Their staple piece has to be the Huntington Beach Pier, which spans an impressive 1,850 feet in length, right in the middle of Huntington’s 10 mile coastline.
Visitors can take in the views walking across the pier, or take to the sea to kayak or paddleboard. Staying true to the Californian lifestyle, Huntington City Beach is another prime surf location, but if surf isn’t your thing don’t panic! As always, there are so many other things to do. If you’re looking for a more untainted, quieter beach gem to close your eyes and sunbathe, we wholeheartedly love Sunset Beach, which tends to be much less crowded than other locations.
Over the year Huntington Beach hosts various beach town festivals such as the annual Coastal Country Jam. They also have a dedicated dog beach – Huntington Dog Beach – where your canine friends can roam free on this pet-friendly beach.
Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, or Huntington Beach: Which Has Better Nightlife?
It’s California. Party is in their blood. From sipping on cocktails as the sun goes down, to finding yourself in a hip club dancing like there’s no tomorrow, you’ll find a mix of chill beach vibes and more lively, trendy nightlife options. None of these locations is significantly better or worse than any other on this front.
Owing to its gorgeous setting, Laguna Beach has for a longtime been considered perhaps Orange County’s best nightlife scene. Restaurants are open until late, and there are many live music and club options, from nightly entertainment at Main Street Cabaret, to electronic dance music at the lively Brussels Bistro. In short, you can find pretty much any vibe here on a night out.
Once again, Newport Beach offers it all. You can enjoy the waterfront views with a beer in hand, or find your way to the live entertainment, music and clubs which are known for their youthful, high-energy atmospheres. At Bayside, and Mastro’s Ocean Club, you can enjoy live music or sing along with the piano yourself, while Balboa Saloon and Class of 47 will deliver a more beach-based night.
You won’t have to go out of your way to find a good night out here; there are bars and lounges in pretty much every direction you look at Huntington Beach, as well as distilleries, breweries, and good ol’ DJ parties. The bars range from sports bars and grills, to wine bars for a classy night with the girls, so once again – there’s something for everyone!
Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, or Huntington Beach: Which is the Better Choice?
With all 3 towns lying in close proximity across California’s coastline, each boasting long clear ocean fronts, as well as being sought after locations for surf and water sports, the beaches themselves don’t distinguish the towns all that much on their own.
The general atmospheres however do differ. Laguna Beach is overwhelmingly artistic by nature; Newport Beach is a fascinating mix of present-day beauty and ancient stories; while Huntington Beach caters to everyone, families and pets alike. Therefore, deciding what you’re looking for in your holiday, combined with these insights, will help you make the perfect choice!