6 Reasons Why I Love Living in Orange County, California

Entrance to the Montage Resort in Laguna Beach, California

I moved to California in 2015, and since then I have absolutely loved living in Orange County. At this point in my life, I cannot imagine living anywhere else.

OC has everything, and whatever it doesn’t have is only a short drive away. We have mountains, gorgeous beaches, awesome hiking trails, cool attractions for the kids, and so much more.

Read more: The Ultimate Southern California Bucket List

Plus, just a 2-3 hour drive away are amazing places like Joshua Tree National Park and Big Bear Lake (where it actually snows), and Palm Springs.

When you hear about California it’s usually something about Los Angeles, San Diego, or San Francisco, right? Orange County is just one hour from the famous City of Angels, so it tends to steal the spotlight away.

In reality, Orange County is just as beautiful and has so much to offer! Are you ready to find out why exactly I love living in Orange County so much?

6 Reasons Why I Love Living in Orange County, California

There is a chance this post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.

Treasure Island Beach in Laguna Beach Orange County, California

1. The Beaches are Absolutely Gorgeous

There’s something very special about California beaches. This was a very important point that helped make my decision to move to Orange County.

I fell in love as soon as I stepped foot on my first California beach, which was Imperial Beach in San Diego County. I was with my husband, and I remember when we got there it was a perfect time because the sun was setting, and there was nobody else around. It was just us and the wide-open beach. It was cold and windy, but it was a nice change from the hot and humid weather back home in Puerto Vallarta.

Now that I live here, I have had a chance to explore even more beaches, and Orange County definitely has some of the best.

One of my favorite things about OC is that you will experience a different vibe in each beach city. For example, Laguna Beach has a small-town feel with a quiet artsy scene that seems to attract a sophisticated crowd. But a little further north in Huntington Beach there is more of a hippie, casual, free-spirited vibe.

If you plan to visit Orange County one day, I recommend that you at least try to see Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, and Huntington Beach. They are all very close to each other so you could easily see all 3 in one day if you want!

Plan a day to drive the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) starting in Laguna and ending in Huntington. Don’t miss capturing the famous Huntington Beach Pier at sunset!

If you are feeling really adventurous you could start where the PCH begins in Dana Point, and drive all the way up to LA’s Santa Monica Pier. There are tons of photo opportunities along the way!

Read more: Where to Find the Best Beaches in Laguna Beach, California

Hiking in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park Orange County, California

2. Endless Amount of Outdoor Activities

Californians take their outdoor activities seriously. There are so many things to do here that sometimes deciding what to do on the weekend is a real struggle. Camping, hiking, road biking, mountain biking, kayaking, paddle boarding, surfing, snow skiing, what isn’t there to do in this state?! You will never get bored!

Since I have been living in Orange County, my fitness game has drastically increased. I have never lived in a place where outdoor activities were acceptable all year long, so this is a major plus for me. One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to explore cool spots like sea caves, red rock canyons, ocean view hikes, and participate in outdoor yoga classes.

Another favorite activity of mine is kayaking. It doesn’t have to be open ocean kayaking, there are a few options that do not require you to go directly to the ocean. Newport’s Back Bay and the Dana Point Harbor are popular options. We kayaked in Dana Point and saw a few sea lions!

You can also go whale watching year-round (which I highly recommend)! I purchased a Groupon for Davey’s Locker which was an awesome experience! We saw several whales, including a mommy with a baby, and tons of dolphins. The captain knew exactly where to go for all of the action.

Read more:

11 of the Best Easy Hikes in Orange County

7 Unique Outdoor Activities in Irvine, California

How to Spend a Day in Crystal Cove State Park

Ruby's Diner in Laguna Beach, California

3. The Food is Diverse

Let me be clear, I am not referring to California’s beloved In-N-Out. (For those of you who do not know about this, it is the burger-and-fries fast-food chain that California seems to love so much.) Californians might hate me for this, but I am not impressed. I have had way better burgers in my lifetime.

What I am referring to is the variety of food options from different cultures around the world. Where I come from (Wisconsin), there are not nearly as many food options. The culture is not as diverse as California, so I suppose that could be why. Living in Orange County definitely opened up my taste buds and I love trying all kinds of new foods now!

There are types of food in California that I have never even heard of before. Whatever you want you can definitely get here in Orange County.

By the way, if you are interested in visiting a decent burger-and-fries type of place, check out Ruby’s Diner. It is a classic diner that services American food (and awesome shakes)! My favorite is the diner located at the very end of the Huntington Beach Pier; you will have excellent ocean views!

The Outlets at San Clemente in Orange County, California

4. First Class Shopping

California has some excellent shopping options. It is home to the rich and famous after all! Orange County’s shopping might not be as “good” as LA’s, but we definitely have some great options. Since I am not a big spender I normally don’t shop at the high-end malls. I typically stick to the outlet centers or my favorite, Target!

When I do shop, one of my favorites is The Outlets at San Clemente. WOW, this place is gorgeous. It has that Mediterranean style architecture with the white stucco walls, arches, and tile roof. Plus, it’s directly across from the ocean! If you are looking for some “higher-end” shopping options you can check out Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza or Newport’s Fashion Island.

Overview of Newport Beach, California

5. The Weather really is Perfect

If the weather wasn’t as great as it is, these other points probably wouldn’t matter as much. The summer definitely brings some heat, but it’s easy to pack up the car and head to the beach for the day. I love the fact that I can enjoy the beaches even in the middle of winter!

Spring and Fall are my favorite times of the year since the weather seems to be 75 and sunny, absolutely perfect.

OC pretty much has great weather all year, which might be my favorite thing about living here. Wisconsin weather sucks compared to California, and I definitely do not miss that snow.

We do have two months out of the year where the weather is a little less “ideal” (but we are spoiled). We have this thing called “May Gray” and “June Gloom” which means the morning is cloudy with what the weatherman calls a “marine layer”. The ocean area is cloudy in the morning, but once the sun heats up it usually melts all that away. Once in a while, this marine layer could linger into the afternoon. This is nothing that I would specifically try to avoid though.

Read more: What to Pack for a Trip to Southern California

Overview of Huntington Beach from the pier

6. Excellent Location

Another one of my favorite things about living in Orange County is the fact that I can easily drive to so many awesome places!

With Los Angeles to the north, San Diego to the south, and Riverside (Palm Springs area) to the east, this gives Orange County a prime location. No wonder it’s one of the most expensive counties in California!

There are so many things to do in the area and I pretty much know that I can drive 2 hours and be in any one of those locations. Plus, we are a little less populated than our neighbors, which makes living here a whole lot easier.

Search Orange County hotels

Another bonus is that there are 2 nearby major airports to choose from! I definitely recommend using Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (SNA) if it fits your budget. In my experience flights are a little more expensive here than Los Angeles (LAX), but it might be worth it depending on where you are staying. This route is way less stressful than flying into LAX.

If the flight options to SNA are not ideal then your next best option (and probably the cheapest) would be LAX. If you are staying in Orange County expect a 1-2-hour drive from the airport. Traffic through south LA county can be so annoying.

Read more: The Best Weekend Road Trips from Orange County, California

Walking through Heisler Park in Laguna Beach, California

If you are considering living in Orange County yourself or taking a trip here, feel free to ask me any questions!


The Best Pacific Coast Highway Stops in Orange County

The Ultimate Southern California Bucket List

The Perfect Itinerary for Your First Trip to Southern California

How to Experience the Best of Orange County on a Budget

6 Reasons Why I Love Living in Orange County, California6 Reasons Why I Love Living in Orange County, California

Related Posts

12 Awesome Laguna Beach Activities You Can Do for Free

12 Awesome Laguna Beach Activities You Can Do for Free

I fell in love with Laguna Beach from the moment I arrived in the OC. It’s a cute little town with gorgeous beaches, beautiful parks, tons of cute little boutique stores, and lots and lots of things to do. And a lot of the activities […]

7 Unique Outdoor Activities in Irvine, California

7 Unique Outdoor Activities in Irvine, California

You might not know it yet but Irvine, California, or “The Center of Orange County, California”, has a ton of outdoor activities. I mean miles and miles of outdoor fun! I live right next door and I am just now realizing exactly how many things […]

30 thoughts on “6 Reasons Why I Love Living in Orange County, California”

  • Wow! You had me a gorgeous beaches and shopping! I am adding this to my US travel bucket list!

  • These pictures are gorgeous and Orange County sounds amazing! I’ve been to Fresno, CA and I got to see the National Parks which was awesome. I definitely want to see the beaches too in Southern California and your post has convinced me to put it on my travel list for the near future 🙂

    • I’ve only been to one National Park so far, it was Joshua Tree and I was blown away! I know there’s so many more to explore! I hope you get to visit OC someday soon!

    • I love Huntington Beach! It has such a fun & casual vibe, how could you move away?! And Laguna Coast is one of my favorites! My husband and I volunteer for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy so we go on plenty of hikes and mountain bike clinics in the Irvine area, it’s such a rewarding experience! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Hi, I’m an OC gal, living in Huntington Beach. While I want tourists to stay away, I know that it is inevitable for people to discover the beauty of OC. The best way to enjoy is to definitely take a long drive along Pacific Coast Highway!

    • I definitely understand you! Once a place gets over-run with tourists things don’t get taken care of, it’s dirty, and things get damaged. Plus, us locals can’t enjoy it as much! But, it is nice to share the beauty of OC, as long as people take care of it and keep it beautiful! I love taking a drive up the PCH….still need to make it past LA though, need to finish that classic road trip!

  • I absolutely love this post. I am from Southern California myself (Long Beach) and Cali has the best beaches to me. nothing compares (maybe Florida).

    • True, Florida has some really great beaches too, and warmer water! I just love the California coastline though! Some beaches are flat, long, and HUGE, and some are rocky with cliff sides that are so picturesque! And the SUNSETS!! Just amazing!

    • Right! I will have to edit this post one day to include Disney! It’s so crazy because I’ve ran into several people that had no idea Disney was in Orange County. I guess I just assumed people knew where it was! I’ve even ran into people who have no idea where OC even is!

  • Love it Heather, I am literally ‘California Dreaming’ and even though is beautiful here in Australia, I keep dreaming of living there especially OC.

    Well done and thanks for sharing the beauty of OC.


    • I know the feeling! It is a beautiful place, and I sure hope you live close enough to get out and enjoy some of the beaches there in Australia. Thanks for your comment, take care!

  • Hi, I’ll be moving to OC in January from Indiana – I hate the weather here and some friends are letting me rent their house! I’m only taking my Prius…what are some stuff (other than winter gear) you felt you didn’t need when you got there? I’ve been going back and forth with packing!

    • Hi Samantha! How exciting?! Congrats! I would keep some winter gear if you plan on ever driving up to places like Big Bear where it does get cold and snows. I have one set of winter gear just for things like that. The style here is a little different of course, so I wouldn’t bring too many boots or flannels, but you are most likely still going to wear things like hoodies and sweaters. Other than that things should be pretty similar!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.