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7 (Covid) Safe Activities To Do In Orange County

Humpback whale flukes next to whale watching zodiac, Fast Cat

There is no better time to spend more time outdoors in Orange County. With COVID rules, regulations and face mask policies updating and changing frequently, you may be wondering what types of safe outdoor activities Orange County has to offer to make your vacation, staycation or day of fun with your family enjoying the beautiful sites of the Southern California area, a safe summer experience. The numbers of people getting a COVID vaccination are helping pre-pandemic commerce everywhere, get back to business as usual. Regardless of what you choose to do on your trip, we recommend staying up to date with the most recent CDC guidelines. If you prefer to partake in travel that includes activities and want to be sure to plan something that makes you feel safe, there are plenty of Orange County activities offering up an outdoor element or require a mask to help keep your family protected from the spread of viruses and germs.

Here are some local suggestions guaranteed to wow your itinerary and ensure that everyone has a great trip in this beautiful sunny place South Orange County dwellers call “home.”

Go Whale Watching!

Our list of amazing outdoor activities Orange County has available to you and your family would not be complete without first taking a boat ride on the spectacular clear blue waters off Dana Point, Whale Watching Capital of the World. With more species of marine life in one location, rivaling any other place in the world, there is no better time to join us out at sea! This time of year is extra special to us as we begin to enter into the time where the magnificent Blue Whale enters into Orange County waters. This enormous giant in the sea is a spectacular site to see, which is why this trip tops our “best of” safe outdoor activities Orange County provides its visitors. Getting a glimpse of these gentle giants and their massive 25 foot flukes (or tail) possessing a width more than half the length of a school bus, is a sight you and your family are sure to remember amongst all of your favorite Orange County activities this year. And that is not all you could see out on the water! Risso’s Dolphins, Common Dolphins, Humpback Whales, Fin Whales and Minke Whales are all some of our year-round visitors to these waters.

Wild Jumping bottlenose dolphin

There are plenty of boat options to choose from to accommodate your level of comfort and even private charters you can book all year long. Give this trip as a gift or bring your friends and your entire family on an unforgettable journey out at sea. With reduced guest capacity on already uncrowded vessels there is plenty of room, comfortable seating while social distancing from others to comfortably move around once on board making a trip with Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari our top choice for enjoying the very best of outdoor activities Orange County has to offer. Regular temperature checks for all staff members and frequently sanitized high-traffic areas ensure your adventure has the highest level of safety for both you and your family.

All award-winning trips (and complimentary triple fudge brownies from Mrs. Captain Dave) are available daily, and are an Orange County activity available to you all year round. Peak travel is right around the corner so be sure to book your next sea adventure in advance and arrive early to shop at the outdoor gift shop on the dolphin deck before leaving for your trip where you can pick up a whale/dolphin ornament, branded t-shirts and jackets, handmade Humpback Whale clay magnets, jewelry, candles and more so you’ll always remember the amazing experience you had with us while enjoying YOUR favorite outdoor activities in Orange County. If you find that you are unable to join us in person, we can still accommodate! Our incredible virtual tours allow you to go whale watching from the comfort of your home.

Paddle Board, Kayak, Swim And Stroll In Dana Point’s Friendly Harbor

Built in the 1960’s and named after author Richard Henry Dana (who, in the late 1800’s wrote the classic American novel, “Two Years Before the Mast,”) Dana Point Harbor is the heart of Dana Point, California. It is also home to the protected waters of Baby Beach, the perfect location to continue to enjoy some of our favorite outdoor activities in Orange County in a COVID safe environment. If your family dynamic includes a sweet little one at home who would have fun at a safe and gentle spot to swim and play in the sand without the stress of crashing waves, then Baby Beach is the perfect spot for you to enjoy some of Orange County’s beachside activities with a beach pail, sand castle molds and sand shovels. Public restrooms, showers and rinse off areas for your paddle boards and kayaks are also provided free of charge at this local hotspot for young families.

Are you looking for something new to try on the water during your ocean stay? Or maybe you’d like to be able to stay active on your paddleboard, kayak or sailboat while visiting Orange County? Renting equipment for your favorite outdoor activities in Orange County is easy as 1,2,3 at Baby Beach too. Westwind Sailing is located across from Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari just inside the marina’s north end, adjacent to Baby Beach. Watercraft rentals start at one hour. They even have Boga Super SUPs, which means you can bring a companion out there with you on the same board!

Our pets need social interaction just as much as we do and taking a stroll around the loop of the Dana Point Marina is the perfect spot to bring along your furry friend for some Orange County activities your pet will enjoy too. With picnic areas, grassy spots to stop for snack or picnic lunch and rest areas with an oceanfront view, there are loads of options for you and your dog. Many outdoor dining eateries offer water bowls and even pet menus for dogs too. The Dana Point Harbor is the premiere spot to enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities in Orange County. Outdoor dining throughout the harbor creates the perfect ambiance to enjoy the sunrise or sunset while watching beautiful boats pass through the channel.

Dana Point Harbor is the perfect place for a full day packed with things to do for a full day of fun while outdoors and safely socially distanced from others.

Spend Time At A Local Conservation Museum

If you are ready to take a break from the outdoors while still enjoying time in Dana Point’s Harbor, try a visit at the Ocean Institute located at the end of Harbor Drive. One of our all time favorite Orange County activities is learning about local marine habitats and The Ocean Institute is another great option for families with young children who are visiting this area. This local educational marine facility is an “ocean education center offering in-depth Marine Science, Maritime History and Outdoor Education programs.”  Using the ocean as their primary resource for classrooms, their mission and goal is to always “inspire children to learn.” Now open on weekends from 11am-3pm, with all offerings in alignment with California’s state guidelines from our local health officials.

At the end of the day our recommended outdoor activities in Orange County would not be complete without capturing a view of our breathtaking oceanfront sunsets. Take an easy late afternoon (or morning sunrise) hike through an enjoyable winding loop up to the Dana Point Headlands, a scenic coastal area in Orange county. With a mix of natural-surface hiking trails and paved shared-use paths, the salty coastal air is sure to leave your senses awakened and refreshed. You may just get lucky and see a passing Humpback Whale or Fin Whale or pod of dolphins passing through too! Don’t forget to leave enough time to first stop at the Nature Interpretive Center on Scenic Dr. and Strand Vista Park on Selva Rd. They have a small but informative museum filled with everything you may see along your walk, making this stop a perfect match for the best outdoor activities in Orange County.

Trail at Dana Point Headlands heading towards the ocean during sunset

Visit Iconic Surf Shops

If shopping is on your list of things to do while enjoying some of Orange County’s activities, then you are in luck! With its beginnings in surfboard design over 60 years ago, the Hobie store is a place not only the surfing and SUP communities call home, but also an establishment promoting clean living and an ocean oriented lifestyle. Hobie Alter’s career began making surfboards in his family’s Laguna Beach summer home for friends, and what resulted was not only the beginning of a cutting edge surfboard company, but also the shaping of surf culture. Now, with three stores located in Dana Point, Laguna Beach and San Clemente, Hobie stores offer trendy surf apparel, surfboards, footwear and a style that continues to shape Southern California.

Just minutes away from good surf to both the North and South, Killer Dana is a local surf shop with accessories and gifts to fit anyone’s budget. The owners and many of the employees are second and even third generation surfers from Dana Point, making them very knowledgeable of the surf in the south county area. Killer Dana has been in business since the early 1990’s and has witnessed first hand the many changes this picturesque growing city has seen over the years. From the moment you enter the door, you are welcomed and “experience the aloha and stoke of an old-fashioned, sand on the floor, California style beach surf shop.” Grab a branded hoodie or a hat to commemorate your Dana Point experience.

Life Is Better At The Beach

“Doho” by the locals, Doheny State Beach has COVID friendly outdoor activities Orange County loves to boast all year round. You can walk the boardwalk and pack a lunch or grab some food and a tasty beverage or ice cream at the only all outdoor restaurant on site. Beach cruising and surfboard rentals are all available at this local historic hotspot so you can get out and enjoy an assortment of beach friendly outdoor Orange County activities. Doheny is also the perfect setting for taking in the natural habitat around it due to the many animals swimming in the sea and soaring in the air, who have come to call this area home. The local tidepools offer a cornucopia of marine life to see and experience such as barnacles, crabs, sea urchins, sea stars, molluscs plus pelicans, hummingbirds, Egyptian geese and more! Doheny State Park provides the opportunity to see and learn about amazing animal species, but it also provides the perfect backdrop for teaching all about the critical importance of conservation. Through seeing areas like this filled with wildlife, protecting them for our future generations is of the utmost importance. If you want to get more involved in outdoor Orange County activities, sign up to join the holiday cleanup event after your boat cruise and 4th of July adventure out at sea.

If your furry friend is accompanying you on your travels and is in need of a beach day just as much as you, be sure to visit Dog Beach, a dog-friendly stretch of beach at the northern end of Huntington Beach City Beach where dogs are allowed on the beach. Please be aware that all dogs are allowed off-leash at Dog Beach by locals, but signs do indicate that the city ordinance requires a 6 foot leash.

Hang 10 Bruh!

“Life is like riding a wave. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” – Eric Carlson

Father's Day, Dad and son surfers on the beach

One thing is certain and that is, the waves have remained unchanged throughout COVID and the swell is ready for you to enjoy everyday of the week. Surfing what some may call the most consistent sets in Southern California, “surf city” or Huntington State Beach, is a classic and popular beach break and another great way to experience outdoor activities Orange County is best known for. With soft white sand you are bound to ride a smooth shorebreak wave at this beach. Whether you ride a shortboard, longboard, bodyboard or body surf there is definitely a wave waiting for you even if other spots along the coast are flat. This incredible spot on our top Orange County activities list is filled with exhilarating, action packed wave riding, the whole year through. With 42 miles of stunning coastline and waves for all levels, there are plenty of surf spots to choose from and a select few are sure to become your favorite spot the next time you paddle out.

If you are more of a beginner, just south of the San Clemente Pier in San Clemente, California you will find “T-Street”. This local crowd favorite location is friendly to surfers of all ages and all levels. If it is longboarding you are after you can head north up the road to Doheny Beach’s surf spot called “Boneyards” and “Hammerhead.”  This break promises to give some of the longest rides in Orange County! There are small rocks on the ocean floor in this area but you could spot sea turtles while waiting for your next wave in this iconic surf spot. Known for being the first California State Beach, surfing legends like Hobie Alter, Mikey Dora and Bruce Brown all perfected their wave riding skills at Doheny State Beach, making surfing an outdoor activity Orange County can boast 365 days out of the year.

Take A Hike

Orange County is filled with hiking trails designed to get your heart rate pumping and refuel your soul while taking in the gorgeous 180º vista views Orange County coastlines display. The easy to moderate 5 mile trek at the El Moro Canyon Loop Trail is no exception and one of the best places to go for any hiking enthusiast. Near Laguna Beach, El Moro has a loop design, making it easy to navigate, landing the top hiking spot on our list of outdoor activities in Orange County recommendations. If you find yourself on horseback this Orange County activity is also a great location to take a horse down this trail too. The winding trail will take you through a series of well-marked loop trails offering pristine coastal nature and grand ocean vista views. Here, you will have a chance to see the endangered native coastal sage scrub plant wilderness, which once covered the entire Orange County area before it was developed into what it is today. Then, you can hike to heights where on a clear weather day, you’ll be able to see the San Gabriel Mountains all the way to Catalina Island.

A man wearing a backpack while hiking on a dirt trail

There are many activities to choose from, but we think this list of outdoor activities in Orange County are sure to make your visit one to remember. Book one activity or book them all but most of all, stay safe, enjoy the outdoors and have a memorable time while visiting this incredibly diverse area. We hope to see you enjoying these recommendations of Orange County activities very soon!

Until then,

Your friends at Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari