Do the O.C.: Explore California’s coastal communities

The sun sets behind Catalina in Dana Point, Calif. Credit: George Rose/Getty Images
The sun sets behind Catalina in Dana Point, Calif. Credit: George Rose/Getty Images

The Hollywood sign, perched on the hills above, may guide tourists to the Sunset Strip and movie-making studios, but there is more to the Los Angeles area than star tours and celebrity sightings. Located south of La La Land is The O.C. — Orange County. Whether you have one, two or three days to spend, the communities hugging the scenic Pacific Coast Highway have their own stories to tell.

Sweat and sand
It’s easy to see why Huntington Beach is known as Surf City USA. Wet suit-clad pedestrians — surfboards tucked under their arms — are as common a site as shopping bags and Starbucks coffee cups. A four-block radius located on the PCH and Main Street sets the scene for this city, but there are 8.5 miles of sand to play in.  Start your day with breakfast at Michelle’s Sugar Shack Cafe on Main Street, before heading to the International Surfing Museum. It opens according to surf time. That’s 11 a.m. or noon, unless wave conditions are too good to ignore. If it’s closed, you can still check out the names of those honored along the Surfing Walk of Fame at Main and the PCH, including musician Dick Dale for adding to board culture.  Spend your afternoon playing beach volleyball or catching waves along the beach. Stroll along the historic Huntington Beach pier that juts into the Pacific. At its end is Ruby’s Diner, a 1950s-inspired local restaurant chain. Before nightfall, stake out one of the fire pits located on the beach for an evening spent sitting on the sand and listening to the surf break on the shore.

Shop and sip
Located south of Huntington along the PCH are tony Newport Beach and artsy Laguna Beach. While Fashion Island is home to big brand stores, Laguna’s downtown features a number of smaller shops, showcasing local artists and handcrafted goods, all set against a backdrop of green hills.  No afternoon is complete without sipping a cool cocktail at The Cliff . Offering a 180-degree view of the ocean, you can sit on the patio watch sunning locals on the beach below or scan the big blue for passing whales. You can also grab a treat at Gelato Paradiso  in Peppertree Lane and take a stroll in Heisler Park located high on the bluffs above the Pacific.  The popular Las Brisas, with its beckoning margaritas menu, offers a fusion of Californian and traditional Mexican cuisine, with fresh seafood offered each day. The building the restaurant is located in started life as the Victor Hugo Inn in the 1930s, before being converted in the late 1970s.

Sea and sanctuary
Located at the southern end of the O.C., Dana Point is a nature-lovers paradise. With a number of migration routes passing by, whale watching is in order. Dana Wharf has a fleet of 12 vessels that often encounter sea lions, blue and gray whales or even the occasional mega-pod of a few thousand dolphins swimming and playing in the wake of  boats.  Exhausted after a day at sea? Pamper yourself at The Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel. The hotel is located 150 feet above Salt Creek Beach and offers stunning coastal views. You can take them in while sipping wine on the 180blu patio — a perfect sunset spot — or enjoying a yummy meal at Raya, with its Latin-inspired menu of sustainable seafood, local produce and organic meat created by chef Richard Sandoval. Spend an afternoon walking through the grounds of the hotel and feeding the rabbits that hop around the property. Use the Ritz’s beach butler service to be carted down in a buggy from the resort to the beach below. They will set up chairs and umbrellas, provide recreational equipment and even build you a sandcastle to enjoy.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

National

Divers struggle in search for South Korean ferry…

By Jungmin Jang and Narae KimMOKPO/JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - Rescuers struggled with strong waves and murky waters on Thursday as they searched for hundreds…

National

New Hampshire moves to decriminalize adultery

For the first time in hundreds of years, it's about to be legal to cheat on your spouse in New Hampshire.

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

Movies

Review: 'Fading Gigolo' finds few jokes in women…

John Turturro writes, directs and stars in "Fading Gigolo," in which he plays a prostitute whose pimp is Woody Allen. And there's still very few jokes.

Movies

Interview: 'Fading Gigolo' director John Turturro talks about…

John Turturro discusses his new film "Fading Gigolo," how to get Woody Allen to wear more than khakis and the far-off "Barton Fink" sequel.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

NHL

Rangers' speed versus Flyers' size makes interesting playoff…

Among the myriad aspects that will make this Metropolitan Division semifinal series fascinating will be the battle between the Rangers' speed and the Flyers' size,…

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.