UC Irvine or UC Newport?
If you drive about one mile down University Drive, you’ll be greeted with a sign that says, ‘Welcome to the City of Newport Beach’ — a marker that signifies UCI’s geographical ambiguity. Being an Anteater gives you all the benefits of Irvine (á la, incredibly safe city, shopping centers like Diamond Jamboree, tree-lined suburbs) and the beauty stored in the coast. However, “The Coast” is such a general term, and doesn’t even begin to explain the variety of adventures each beach contains. Here is a list of all surrounding coastal cities and the jewels that they contain.
Corona Del Mar, a Classic and Quick Getaway
This gorgeous, rocky beach is a simple fifteen minute drive down MacArthur Blvd to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). It is easily the most convenient beach to go to — one I would recommend for a quicker beach trip or a coastal venture with a larger group of people. CDM is a spacious beach where parking is a bit easier to come by compared to other shores. It is bonfire friendly and a great place to go for a swim as well. When you’re done on the sand, Fashion Island (a luxurious and beautiful mall) is only five minutes away. It’s fun to people-watch at the Koi Pond and pretend to be as bougie as everyone else who goes there. There’s also a Sprinkle’s Cupcakes, and who doesn’t love cupcakes?
Balboa Pier: Take to the Sea!
If my memory serves me correctly, my most pleasant recollections of ocean swims took place in the waters by Balboa Pier. On good days, the beach’s wide expanse offers a spacious shore to relax by. The pier offers a gorgeous stroll, and a Ruby’s Diner is located at the end of the dock. It’s a double-story restaurant where you can sit in an open-air patio; I can’t tell if I enjoy eating there because of the french fries or because of how great a place it is to watch the sunset. Further inland, Balboa offers super fun water activities, such as ferry rides and paddle boarding. At Balboa Parasail Newport Beach, you can actually parasail for free on your birthday! It is a surprisingly peaceful experience that I would recommend to someone who wants to fly (even if just for a moment). But one of the best excursions I have ever had on Balboa Pier is whale-watching. For under $20, I departed from the shoreline just after sunrise to see dolphins glide through the waters.
Laguna Beach, an Art and Food Mini-Vacation
Laguna Beach is arguably the most beautiful sight on the coast. It’s rocky cliff sides and abundant palm-trees make it the perfect place to get dinner, stroll along the sand, or watch the sunset. Laguna Beach is around a 25 minute drive down PCH and contains a lovely sight. My favorite things to do at Laguna are not restricted to water activities; I also enjoy exploring the the food and art Laguna has to offer.
Eating in Laguna is an essential part the whole experience. Gelato Paradiso will fool you into thinking, for the slightest moment, that you are walking in narrow Italian streets. I remember smelling its chocolate-y, nutty goodness even from a few feet away. Perhaps Laguna is most famously known for Urth Caffe. Urth serves as a pilgrimage for hipsters hungry for an Instagrammable meal and delicious Organic Green Tea Boba. It is a short walk to Laguna’s scenic overlook and right across the street from the museums.
What better way to follow-up your aesthetic meal with some sights? Laguna Beach has a flourishing art scene. The Laguna Art Museum is a great place to visit, and is free if you sign up for a student membership!; I’ve had the opportunity to visit here for free through UCI Illuminations. If you’re interested in contemporary or Californian artwork, the museum’s intimate galleries will undoubtedly attract you. However, if you’re looking to connect to your inner child, there’s a fantastic Narrative Gallery — a free gallery right next to the shore that displays the artwork of Dr. Seuss. When I visited, the gallery curator was kind and welcoming, offering fun facts about the production of the images I had grown up loving.
With fantastic places to eat, galleries to see, small shops to wander and waves to catch, Laguna offers a perfect getaway to any UCI student.