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Orange County is home to some of California’s most beautiful beaches, like Laguna Beach and Newport Beach. The area is also full of well-known bars, restaurants and tourist-friendly shops. But it’s also fun to go off the beaten path and explore the places that only locals seem to know about. Here are a few of our favorite hidden gems.

1. Caffe Caldo, Huntington Beach


It’s easy to pass by Caffe Caldo when you’re looking for a latte or a delicious breakfast in Huntington Beach. Located at the corner of Beach Boulevard and Atlanta Avenue, this cafe is not always easy to spot. But inside you’ll find a clean, charming coffee shop with friendly service and a substantial breakfast and lunch menu.

2. Laguna Beach Pirate Tower

orange county gems

This mysterious 60-foot tower is tucked away in a Laguna Beach cove. Inspired by castles, it was built for California State Senator William Edward Brown in 1926 so he and and his family could have easy access from their home down to the beach. Read the full story about it here.

3. Starfish Laguna, Laguna Beach

Orange County

Starfish is a little off the beaten path (located at 30832 South Pacific Coast Highway). But when you find it, you should definitely do yourself the favor of having a meal there. The menu consists of Thai classics as well as Asian fusion dishes done right.

4. Strand Beach, Dana Point

Orange County

The beaches of Orange County are perpetually crowded… unless you know where to look. Dana Point’s Strand Beach isn’t secluded, but it’s a lot more mellow than the rest of the beaches in the area. From Pacific Coast Highway, turn toward the coast on Selva Road. You’ll find free lot parking, which is another bonus. To reach the beach, you have to walk down a steep set of stairs, which is often what defers people. But the walk is well worth it.

5. Little Corona, Newport Beach

Orange County

Big Corona del Mar is a beautiful, yet hectic beach. But its smaller sister, Little Corona, lies just down the road at the end of a steep walkway. To reach it, head south on Poppy Street from Coast Highway until you see signs. This is a great beach for exploring tide pools.

6. The Riders Club Cafe, San Clemente

Orange County

Tucked away at 1701 N. El Camino Real in San Clemente is one of the best burger joints in America – The Riders Club Cafe. Catch a sunset from their patio as you sink your teeth into a savory meal.

7. The Retreat In Laguna, Laguna Beach

Orange County

There are numerous popular resorts in Laguna Beach, but somehow The Retreat stays quiet and uncrowded despite being steps from the ocean. Each villa is beautiful and luxurious with an Italian vibe.

8. The Speakeasy, Huntington Beach

Orange County

It doesn’t get much more secretive than a speakeasy. This charming bar can be found in Huntington Beach’s Old World Village, but it’s a little hidden, so it’s often overlooked. From the dim lighting to the classic comfort food, this place is a great find.

Have you been to any of these places? What are some of your favorite hidden gems in Orange County?