Crystal Cove State Park Destination Guide: Traveling, Staying & What To See When You Get There


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Crystal Cove Beach California is probably one of the most beautiful beaches out there to visit.

Its tranquility and popular historic district are one of the many reasons there’s so much to appreciate when visiting this particular beach.


A Little Bit About Crystal Cove

Crystal Cove Beach California is located in Orange County just north of Laguna Beach and is nestled in the Newport Beach area.

So if you’re ever in this area needing a little bit of fresh air or perhaps a weekend to do something fun then look no further than Crystal Cove. 

This beach consists of 3.2 miles of Pacific coastline to visit and explore. According to the source, It is considered a state park that was established in 1979.

Activities include exploring the tide pools, hiking, swimming, and even camping.

And for those experienced divers, you can even explore an underwater Park. Moreover, it has become a close source for studying marine conservation with a large amount of wildlife present!

Crystal Cove has a history regarding its famous and popular cottages that line the beach coast. Some of these beach cottages were built in the 1920s and 1940s and have made it into old movies.

However, out of all the cottages, people have the ability to reserve one of the 24 available cottages for rent.

If you’re looking for something to do in Crystal Cove, then be sure to stay at one, it is best to reserve early! 

They do fill up rather quickly! Visit Reserve California for checking. 

Best time to visit Crystal Cove

As with every California beach, the pacific ocean is not one of the very warmest water temperatures to swim in. Nonetheless, some of the warmest temperatures are still in summer specifically in July.

Not only is it one of the best times to visit the beaches, but it’s perfect for planning a summer getaway.

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If you are coming during any other time of the year you may be lucky that the California weather is pretty nice throughout the year, but there are some days where it is actually chilly.

Just keep in mind that summer is probably one of the busiest times of the year to visit, and parking lots get filled up quickly!

How to get to Crystal Cove

Crystal Cove is found in Orange County south of LA and in the Newport Beach area.

There are plenty of options on how you plan to arrive and a couple of airports to choose from. It all depends on you!

There are plenty of options on how you plan to arrive and a couple of airports to choose from. It all depends on you!

Flying in…

from LAX

If you plan on flying in, the closest airport to you will be the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The distance is approximately 52 miles and about 1.5 hours in time.

Of course, depending on LA traffic that can always change! Your best bet is to rent a car of course, which will help facilitate your ride there! Find a rental car here!

from LGB

If you’re looking for a more direct route, the Long Beach Airport (LGB)is another viable option. It is the closest airport to Crystal Cove, however, there are limited airlines at that location. 

The distance from LGB to Crystal Cove driving is about 30 miles distance and 35 minutes without traffic give or take. Double-check with your airline to see if it flies to LGB.

from SAN?

The San Diego International Airport (SAN) is probably one of the furthest ones out. It is still an option for those hoping to explore San Diego first and possibly LA next.

However, it is a great option for those wanting to take the Pacific Coast Highway road trip!

It is one of the ones I have recommended to many people.

Check out our Pacific Coast Highway Roadtrip guide here, if it’s something you may be interested in doing. 

If you are doing a pacific coast highway, then you can most definitely start at the San Diego International Airport(SAN).

Cheap Car Rentals

From there you can take the I-5 North and make your way up north catching all the cool places along the way.

However, keep in mind the distance is approximately 86 miles and an hour with 45 minutes approximately.

Where to park

There are a couple of parking lots you can find in Crystal Cove. So far, all the parking lots do have fees at the entrance. So be sure you are carrying either cash or your card with you. 

Parking Fees 

Day Use:$5 per hour / $15 daily max 

Senior Use:$5 per hour/ $15 daily max

Lot 1 Los Trancos/Crystal Cove

Looking for parking near the Historic District? Then this is the closest parking lot which is located inland of the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

If you’re looking for the tunnel bypass then be sure to look for Los Trancos. There is also a shuttle that runs here 7 days a week and costs $1.50 for each person one way. 

We parked here and you have to walk a bit down the hill to find the tunnel. Before walking down the hill there are bathrooms you can use before getting down there. 

Lot 2 Pelican Point 

This entrance is the northmost entrance found at PCH and Newport Coast Drive at Pelican Point. 

Lot 3 El Moro

This parking lot is closest to El Moro Canyon next to El Morro Elementary School by the state park. It is closest to the Moro Campground.

It is at the lower end of the parking lot. It is found on the inside of the PCH. 

Lot 4 Reef Point

This parking lot is located at Reefpoint Drive and PCH is actually found adjacent to the ocean. 

Where to Stay

If you’re looking to stay for longer than a day there are a couple of options when it comes to overnight stays. Luckily if you are a camper, then Moro Campgrounds may be what you’re looking for.

However, if you prefer a hotel then you have a couple of options there too. 


Yes, if you are into camping then luckily for you there is a campground nearby! Of course, during summer spots fill up quickly, but it is the perfect way to relax and wind down after a day at the beach.

The campground you’re looking at is called Moro Campground! You can see Moro beach from your area but it is considered a backcountry hike-in campsite.

Keep in mind that once you park in either the lower or upper lot, it is about a 3 or 4-mile hike to your car. There is no water and no trash cans. So please keep your area trash-free and bring a bag to pack it out.  

To check out more information be sure to visit the California State Park Page on Moro Campground. You can also find more information on Moro Canyon day use. 


If you’re more into the hotel scene, there are a couple of hotels nearby. The two closest ones are:

Marriott’s Newport Coast Villas $$$

The Resort at Pelican Hill $$$$

Beach Cottages on Crystal Cove $$$ (fill up quickly and book 6-12 months in advance)

However, keep in mind the prices. If you are looking for a more budget-friendly hotel, you will have to look outside of the immediate crystal cove beach area.

Newport Beach is closer if you’re looking for hotel options there.

On the southern end, you have Laguna Beach which also has quite a few hotel options. Whichever one you decide, they are all within distance of crystal cove.  

Coolest Things to do

  1. Walk through the Crystal Cove Tunnel
  2. Check out the Crystal Cove Beach Cottages
  3. Explore the Tidepool area in Crystal Cove
  4. Visit the Historic District
  5. Hike Crystal Cove State Park
  6. Walk the Crystal Cove Trail
  7. Eat at the Beachcomber Cafe
  8. Catch the sunset while you eat at Shake Shack
  9. Crystal Cove Shopping Center
  10. Go whale watching between December and April
  11. Learn about the underwater park or if you’re a professional diver explore it
  12. Visit Balboa Island
  13. Go to Corona Del Mar State Park
  14. Huntington State Beach
  15. Visit Mission San Juan Capistrano

The 3-day Itinerary

Day 1

  • Start your day at Crystal Cove Beach
  • Explore the Historic District
  • Dine at the Beachcombers Cafe
  • Catch the sunset while you eat or walk the beach

Day 2

  • Go hiking at Crystal Cove State Park or Crystal Cove Trail
  • Visit Crystal Cove’s nice shops
  • Finish the day at Shake Shack 

Day 3

  • Venture outside of Crystal Cove if time allows
  • Visit Balboa Island just north of Crystal Cove
  • Or check out Corona Del Mar State Park (also north)
  • Explore Mission San Juan Capistrano (south about ~20miles)

Tips and Tricks

  • Arrive early especially if you planning on going on a weekend
  • Los Trancos Parking lot allows you to walk through the tunnel; bathrooms are located here
  • You can make reservations at the Beachcombers Cafe
  • Check out Crystal Coves Conservancy Map to find the best places to swim, surf, and tidepool explore here. 
  • If you plan on hiking be sure to bring good hiking shoes and hiking gear. I recommend these shoes right here!
  • If you have a lot to unload best parking places are the ones closest to the beach
  • Bring your beach umbrella. Here are the ones we recommend
  • Bring your beach blanket. This one is the one we use
  • Bring your beach chairs if you are planning to relax by the beach for a bit. Check out our blog of the ones we recommend!


Crystal Cove State Park is known for its Historic District, peculiar beach cottages, wooded Moro Canyon, and more! Not to mention, exploring hiking trails, surfing, swimming, camping, horseback riding, and wildlife sightseeing, there is plenty of things to do at Crystal Cove.

It is the perfect place to get away from its surrounding populous cities for a chance to relax at the beach! It is definitely a hidden gem in the midst of busy city life!

Hopefully, this guide helps you start the planning process so you can start focusing on other things. It is definitely a quiet and gorgeous beach to explore if you are ever visiting California!

If you’re looking for more information about anything else, I highly recommend the Crystal Cove Conservancy site, where they explain more information about particular events or even reservations for the beach cottages or camping. 

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Jess & Jeanette

Jess and Jeanette, two sisters who founded Unseen Beaches, were inspired by their family’s beach vacations while growing up.

Their passion lies in guiding you toward the most remarkable beach destinations across the U.S., while also protecting and preserving these beautiful coastal treasures! 🌊❤️

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