Experience Fun Outdoor Adventures At This Beautiful Beachside California State Park

Newport Beach, in Orange County, California, exudes luxury and wealth, and the city is dedicated to preserving and sharing its scenic landscape. Of its several beaches and recreational areas, Crystal Cove State Park, bordering nearby Laguna Beach, is one of the best stops to make along the Pacific Coast Highway. The coastal park is extensive, to say the least, and features six beaches by itself — Moro Beach, Los Trancos Beach, Reef Point, Pelican Point, Treasure Cove Beach, and Little Treasure Cove — where visitors are encouraged to swim, surf, and snorkel. 

In addition, fishing (with a license) and exploring tidepools are allowed. In the tidepools at Reef Point and Pelican Point, visitors can expect to encounter starfish, abalone, hermit crabs, and other creatures. Hiking is also a must, as Crystal Cove offers 18 miles of trails, one of the most popular being the 5-mile El Moro Canyon Loop Trail. Keep in mind that mountain bikes and horses are also allowed on the trails too. With 2,400 acres of uncultivated land, there's plenty to explore. 

There is plenty of parking available too, in various on-site lots in different areas of the park. Parking rates range from $15-$20 a day or $5 an hour. If you're interested in oceanside camping, Crystal Cove is the place to stay.

Camping at Crystal Cove State Park

While Crystal Cove State Park makes for an ideal Southern California day trip, camping overnight offers a taste of the wilderness in the middle of a large city. Fortunately, the park's beautiful Moro Campground, overlooking the ocean, offers 58 camping sites in total, 28 of which have hookups. Those with RVs, trailers, camper vans, and tents will enjoy staying there, with its included picnic tables, restrooms, and showers. In addition, campers have easy access to Moro Beach, where they can enjoy fun outdoor activities like swimming or kayaking. Dogs are allowed at Moro Campground, but they must be on a leash. Make a reservation online to camp here, and check-in is at 3 p.m. while check-out is 1 p.m. Like most campsites, Moro Campground has quiet hours from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. 

If you want a more rustic experience, opt for Crystal Cove's backcountry camping. A permit is required and can be purchased at the Moro Campground kiosk. From there, it's at least a 3-mile hike to reach the primitive camping sites, which include the Upper Moro, Lower Moro, and Deer Canyon campgrounds. These sites have a pit toilet and little else — there's not even water or trash cans available. Simply put, campers have to bring all of their supplies with them, and leave their furry friends at home.

Check out Crystal Cove State Park's Historic District

Uniquely, Crystal Cove State Park, specifically the area around Los Trancos Beach, is of great historical significance to Southern California. Now known as Crystal Cove State Park's Historic District, the land was once home to indigenous peoples, then a sheep farm, and later, Japanese farmers. By the 1920s and 1930s, Crystal Cove had become a picturesque spot for filming movies, as well as a popular beachside destination. Several cottages were built, a number of which have been restored and are available for overnight stays. Prices range from $94 to $320 a night, depending on the cottage and accommodations you choose. Reservations can be made online, and these cottages are incredibly sought-after and often booked out months in advance. 

Nevertheless, the Historic District is worth a visit. View the cottages and shop for local goods at the Park Store, or have a meal with a view at the Beachcomber Cafe. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including grilled shrimp tacos, Scottish salmon pasta, chicken piccata, and more, are served at this former cottage. Or if you prefer burgers and shakes, eat at the Crystal Cove Shake Shack. There is a flight of stairs that leads from the Historic District up to the restaurant, which is on East Coast Highway. Parking at the Los Trancos lot provides easy access to the beautiful Historic District.