There are two things that are pivotal to enjoying summer in Orange County—staying cool and having fun. Luckily, we’re right next to the Pacific Ocean, allowing us to do both at the same time. The summertime offers endless water adventures that will keep you cool through the sweltering heat. The best part is all of them have something unique to offer: a great workout, a relaxing vibe, romance. Whatever it is that brings you to the water this summer, partake is one of these exciting activities to ensure you have the time of your life.


(credit: Shutterstock)

Wayward Captain Watersports
2406 Newport Boulevard
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 371-9555

One of the most popular ways to take to the sea is by kayak. Kayaking allows you to sit just above the water, enjoying a cool breeze while exploring areas that may not be accessible by foot. Newport Beach and Laguna Beach are both great spots for this, with Newport’s harbor offering an easy, wave-free ride and Laguna’s coves home to plenty of visible marine life. Plus, you’ll tone your arms and core while you go and it’s such a low-impact workout, you won’t even realize just how much work you’re putting in until afterward. Wayward Captain is just one spot where you can rent a kayak along the O.C. coastline, but they also offer monthly memberships with unlimited rentals included.

Whale Watching

(Credit: Newport Landing Whale Watching)

Newport Landing Whale Watching
309 Palm Street
Newport Beach, CA 92661
(949) 675-0551

Not everyone is up for adrenaline-inducing water sports, but a relaxing whale watching trip can be just as exciting. Head out on the Pacific—wind in your hair, sun shining high above—to see if you can spot some local marine animals. It’s an incredible experience to catch sight of whales breaching or blowing air through their blowholes. Plus, you’re bound to spot some other wildlife while out on the water, from sunfish to dolphins. Newport Landing Whale Watching has a variety of boats designed for whale watching, with unobstructed and elevated viewpoints. Plus, their website keeps a running total of the animals they spot every day so you can check out what has been in the area recently. Already this year, the team has spotted nearly 1,500 gray whales, almost 350 humpbacks, over 100 blue whales and 9 orcas—plus more than 200,000 dolphins.


(Credit: Tim Guzman Photography/Banzai Surf School)

Banzai Surf School
22355 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92646
(714) 813-2880

With Beach Boys’ songs, athletic competitions and various films and television shows glorifying Southern California’s surf scene, people travel from all over to ride the waves off our shore. It’s obviously one of the best ways to get out on the water this summer, for locals and visitors alike. Experienced riders can hit up places like Dana Point’s Salt Creek Beach, Trestles at San Onofre or The Wedge in Newport Beach for some killer waves, but one spot reigns supreme. Known as Surf City U.S.A., Huntington Beach is an obvious surf spot, and Banzai Surf School offers accredited lessons and summer camps to help get you up on the board and riding waves as soon as possible.


(credit: shutterstock)

Aventura Sailing Association
24707 Dana Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 493-9493

Another great way to get out this summer is by renting a sailboat. You’ll cool down quick as the wind ripples over the waves and you’ll find relaxation in the steady speeds of the sailboat. Head down to South Orange County to start your adventure away from the slew of tourists that hit Newport and Huntington. While you’ll need to be a member of the association to rent the sailboats (as is the case with most sailboats in the region), you’ll save a lot of money not having to worry about repair and maintenance—only pay for your time out on the water. Aventura offers a wide selection of sailboats ranging from 28 to 43 feet, and you’re the captain every time so you can choose just where you’ll head. Consider an overnight trip to Catalina Island or a daytrip down the coastline.

Gondola Ride

(Credit: Gondola Adventures, Inc)

Gondola Adventures
3101 West Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 646-2067

Though few people know that these Italian boats are available outside of Venice and Las Vegas, we’re lucky enough to have a gondola company operating right here in Orange County. There are two types, including the traditional gondolas imported from Venice, complete with a crew member to row, and non-Venetian gondolas, which feature a motor and allow the driver to steer instead. These cruises are especially romantic at sunset, and the company offers a variety of customizable perks to enhance your experience further. Singing gondoliers are available upon request, and wine and champagne are sold on-board (complete with glassware and a silver ice bucket). Rose petals can be scattered on the gondola. Plus, the brand also offers a special message in a bottle program where guests will find a love letter floating in the water along their path.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding

(Credit: La Vida Laguna)

La Vida Laguna
1257 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 275-7544

For a real on-the-water workout, consider trying your hand at stand-up paddleboarding. Also known as SUPing, this is one water activity that has definitely increased in popularity over the last decade. While it takes a great deal of balance—and, therefore, core strength—it’s a great way to explore, much like kayaking. Head to La Vida Laguna for lessons and tours that take you through the local waters, which also double as a marine protected area. Because these waters are protected, you’re bound to spot more sea life than you would anywhere else along the O.C. coastline. Tours and lessons include all of the necessary equipment as well as photos of your experience, which can include up to 16 people. Most tours also frequent Seal Rock, a sea lion sanctuary in northern Laguna.

Jet Skiing

(credit: Crok Photography/shutterstock)

Pure Watersports
34671 Puerto Place
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 661-4947

Those that are looking to pick up the speed and kick up some dust (or, in this case, water!) should consider renting a jet ski. Few things are as rejuvenating as flying over the water on one of these high-powered vehicles. Whether you’ve used one before or not, Pure Watersports can help you out with rentals for the day. Each visitor must go through a pre-launch safety talk, ensuring that everyone learns how to operate the jet skis and stay safe on the water. While you need to be at least 16 years old to drive the jet skis, passengers can be any age so this is a great activity for the whole family to do together. It is sure to be a thrilling experience—plus a great way to cool down and beat the summer heat.

Deep Sea Fishing

(Credit: Newport Landing Sportfishing)

Newport Landing Sportfishing
309 Palm Street
Newport Beach, CA 92661
(949) 675-0550

While many will stand on local piers to catch fish, that simply won’t do for those that are itching to get out on the water this summer. If being on a boat is what you crave, and you love to fish, considering a sportfishing excursion. Nearby saltwater fishing can result in the capture of everything from halibut, barracuda and sand bass to yellowtail, albacore tuna and dorado. Just like with their epic whale watching tours, Newport Landing offers the best-of-the-best sportfishing experiences in Orange County. They offer a variety of trips, from half days, three-quarter days and twilight trips to overnight jaunts to San Clemente Island or Catalina Island. Those that have never fished before can also try their hand; if they’re not able to catch anything, at least they’ll have stellar views of the deep blue sea.

Riding A Ferry

(Credit: Visit Newport Beach)

Balboa Island Ferry
Agate Avenue
Newport Beach, CA 92662
(949) 673-1070

Whether you’re looking to walk on or drive, the Balboa Island Ferry is a unique way to get onto the water in Newport. Though not technically a boat, the floating vessel offers stunning views of the local channels and historic Balboa buildings as it shuttles guests from the peninsula to Balboa Island. This relaxing experience is especially important to this list because it offers plenty of activities once you arrive in addition to the ride itself. Once on the island, visitors can enjoy an impressive array of shops, eateries, vintage homes and ice cream stands—especially considering how very small the island is. Visitors traveling the other way—from the island over to the peninsula—will find a plethora of seafood restaurants and the Balboa Fun Zone, offering waterfront rides and arcade games.

Take A Cruise

(Credit: Hornblower Cruises)

Hornblower Cruises
2431 West Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 646-0155

Those looking for complete and total relaxation without any work involved can simply hop aboard a cruise in the Newport Harbor. Make it a functional experience by taking one of Hornblower Cruises’ Champagne brunch or dinner cruises. That way, you’re killing two birds with one stone—a trip out onto the water with an accompanying meal. These cruises include delicious meals, but they also include live entertainment in the form of early afternoon jazz music or nighttime DJ sets. If you’re looking for a more casual experience, the brand’s Summer Sunset Cocktail Cruise is a great option as well. Offered mid-week from June through October, these jaunts combine must-have summer sips and tasty appetizers with gorgeous sunsets that are some of the best California has to offer.

Ashley Ryan is an Orange County native that loves traveling, live music and photography. She blogs at Pure Wander and freelances for a variety of publications including Newport Beach Magazine and Laguna Beach Magazine.

Comments (2)
  1. Moxy Anne says:

    Hi there,

    I was checking out your information on Gondola Adventures Inc. in Newport Beach, and their location has actually just moved from 3101 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach, California 92663 to 200 N Bayside Dr, Newport Beach, CA 92660.

    Thank you so much!

    Cassandra Mohr
    Gondola Adventures Cruise Associate

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