Orange County is known for its good vibes, great beaches, and sunny weather nearly all year round. It is a county built on connecting with the outdoors, from surfing waves to hiking through some surprising and unforgettable wilderness. It’s a place of cuisine that embodies the diverse community that comes from all walks of life.
It’s easy to mistake it just for its association with theme parks, but getting deeper into Orange County, it’s even easier to see why over 3 million people call it home.
Orange County is massive, encompassing nearly 950 square miles of land and sea, and comprising a sprawling list of neighborhoods, each with its own unique quirks and character. To give you a better idea of where to start your search, here are some of the best neighborhoods in Orange County.
A seaside neighborhood in the larger city of Newport Beach, Corona Del Mar offers a picturesque and laidback area that is symbolic of Orange County as a whole. Translating to “Crown of the Sea,” Corona Del Mar is best known for its state beach, which spans a half-mile of sand framed by cliffs and the entrance to Newport Harbor at its east end. Corona Del Mar State Beach is a popular destination for swimmers, surfers, and divers, along with people who just want to bathe in the sun or spend some quality time with friends and family.
Outside of the beach, Corona Del Mar features an expanding selection of shops and restaurants that keep locals coming back for more. The Village in Corona Del Mar offers some of the best dining and shopping in the area, all clustered together around Pacific Coast Highway.
The properties in Corona Del Mar range from condos to single-family houses to large, beachside palaces. As a fairly affluent neighborhood, the typical home value is about $2.9 million. The average rent in the neighborhood is about $2,700.
Planned and developed by the Irvine Company in the 1960s, Irvine has since become one of the most popular bastions thanks to its extremely low crime rate, highly rated schools, and available housing and job opportunities. The city today hosts over 100 global corporations, alongside more than 16,500 acres of parks and greenery.
The city is mostly quiet and mostly residential, though as home to UC Irvine, it offers a good selection of shops and restaurants to cater to the young and young at heart. The Irvine Spectrum Center, Fashion Island, and South Coast Plaza collectively offer a huge range of shopping and dining opportunities for all tastes, styles, and walks of life.
The median home value in Irvine is about $797,000, while the median monthly rent is about $2,260. While you can find some apartments available, the selection largely comprises condos and single-family residences.
Located at the midway point between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach is the perfect, picturesque city that is nearly emblematic of the Southern California attitude as a whole. Living in Laguna Beach means miles of coastal views and impeccable weather with a small-town feel. The city features over seven miles of coves and beaches, plus more than 20,000 acres of protected wilderness, making it a true retreat for people who need fresh air and adventure.
At the same time, Laguna Beach was originally founded as an artist colony, and that sensibility continues into the modern day. The city’s committees manage the natural beauty of the landscape, along with the art and creativity in public spaces. Laguna Beach regularly holds art festivals and other events throughout the year. Gallery exhibits, public art installations, and art classes are common features in the city.
The hillside neighbor to Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel, sits in the San Joaquin Hills. Originally developed as a master-planned community, the city eventually grew into its own and was incorporated in 1989, making it one of the newest cities in Orange County.
Laguna Niguel is largely occupied by affluent residents with white-collar jobs. More than one-third of the city is designated as open space, allowing for larger properties and upscale gated communities. While there are enough amenities and attractions for residents, the city is mostly residential, with most people going to nearby Laguna Beach and other surrounding neighborhoods for their shopping and dining.
Laguna Niguel also consistently ranks as one of the most expensive cities in the country and comprises mostly single-family homes within gated communities. The median home value in Laguna Niguel is estimated at over $795,000, while the median rental price is about $2,180.
Nestled within the Saddleback Valley in the southern section of Orange County is Mission Viejo. It boasts one of the lowest crime rates in the country and mostly comprises single-family homes with a few condos spread throughout. Mission Viejo’s median home value is just over $668,000, while renters can expect a median rental price of about $2,190.
Mission Viejo is largely a suburban commuter city with residents working and playing in nearby cities and neighborhoods. Still, the city has its own perks and amenities, including a mall and a private manmade lagoon known as Mission Viejo Lake. Hiking trails, manicured parks, golf courses, and shopping centers provide plenty of entertainment opportunities while creating a small-town atmosphere that makes it a prime place to raise a family.
Located within the larger city of Dana Point, Monarch Beach is a quiet, beachside community that was named after Monarch Bay, an area that was once a large breeding ground for monarch butterflies. Those butterflies have since been replaced by the city’s large, single-family homes.
Monarch Beach is mostly residential, though it offers access to beaches, parks, and an 18-hole golf course known as the Monarch Beach Resort and Links Course. The small neighborhood is also home to two luxury resorts: Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort and Club and the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.
The property value in Monarch Beach generally reflects that of Dana Point. The median home value in Dana Point is about $861,000, while renters can expect a median of just over $2,000.
One of the prime vacation destinations in California, Newport Beach lies just south of Huntington Beach and prominently features the Santa Ana River, which creates a delta that opens up into what most people know as Newport Harbor. Newport boasts the largest recreational harbor on the West Coast, with 10 miles of shore for fishing, swimming, boating, and surfing. Even if you aren’t big on ocean-based activities, Newport Harbor is a great place to take in the scenery and watch some seals, sea lions, and the occasional dolphin.
The Wedge, at the southeast tip of the Balboa Peninsula, is one of the most popular spots for body surfers as it offers some of the biggest swells in Southern California. Waves can easily reach up to 30 feet tall, making the Wedge a prime destination for body surfers from all over the state and the world.
The Lower Bay also features a handful of smaller land masses, including Balboa Island, Lido Isle, and Harbor Island. Balboa Island is particularly well-known for its Fun Zone, which combines a nautical museum, arcade, and amusement park for plenty of family-friendly fun.
The rest of the city offers an eclectic, diverse mix of activities, from outdoor adventures to an active nightlife to exceptional food options. With its mix of urban and suburban atmospheres, this city is perfect for just about any resident, whether you are raising a family or just out of school. The median home value in the city is over $1.78 million. The median rent in Newport Beach is about $2,175.
San Clemente is the southernmost coastal city in Orange County. It is known as The Spanish Village by the Sea, and its distance from the heart of Orange County makes it feel like going away on vacation without going too far. The city is full of family-friendly activities that take advantage of the beautiful beaches and impeccable waves. Surfers flock from all over the world to enjoy the city’s iconic surf spots, from San Onofre to T-Street, while the white-sand beaches offer a perfect setting for picnics, walks, playing volleyball, and taking in the sun.
San Clemente also offers an ever-growing list of boutique shops, restaurants, galleries, and parks that all reflect the city’s local flavors. Bars, breweries, and nightclubs provide an active nightlife.
San Clemente caters to residents of all ages, offering a mix of single-family homes, condos, and apartments. The median home value in San Clemente is about $881,000, and the median rental is typically around $1,800.
Tustin is located east of Santa Ana, making it much more inland than many other Orange County neighborhoods. While it may not have the same beachside activities as its neighbors, Tustin still offers a unique atmosphere rooted in a strong historical heritage. Tustin is known to locals as the City of Trees thanks to its many tree-lined streets. Old Town Tustin centers around Main Street and El Camino Real, and features a cluster of historic buildings erected in the 1880s.
The Enderle Center features a mix of specialty stores, fine dining, and salons. The Tustin Marketplace is home to more than 120 restaurants and shops, along with a movie theater.
The city has a small-town California vibe that is easy to sink into, whether you are a recent graduate, starting a family, or just looking for a change of pace. The median home value in Tustin is about $618,000, while the rental median is about $1,765.
Orange County is a place that is truly characteristic of Southern California. It is a great place to start a new life, but finding the right home can come with plenty of challenges. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties can help you find the home of your dreams. Our team’s expertise and dedication to great service ensure that you have the tools you need through each and every step of the home-buying process.