This Underrated California Seaside Village Has Postcard-Worthy Views Like Portugal's Algarve

California attracts visitors in droves. It's no surprise, really, considering the spectacular coastline, nine national parks, significant cities, Disneyland, wine country, mountains, and desert. Sometimes that can mean battling crowds for the most popular destinations. But California is also a huge state, so there's something, and some place, for everyone to build the type of vacation they want. For seaside postcard-worthy views that remind you of the romantic villas, cliffs, and sandy coves that make Portugal's southern Algarve region one of the best beach locations in Europe, you can save the passport stamp and head to Corona del Mar.


Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, Corona del Mar is a neighborhood within the slightly more well-known Newport Beach. With its combination of cottages, upscale housing and cliffside accommodations, visitors can enjoy an array of architectural designs. Nature showcases all her splendor here, too, since Corona del Mar is wedged between the San Joaquin Hills and the Pacific Ocean, about a half-hour drive north of the underrated coastal stop of Dana Point. Of course, beaches are a central focus within the Corona del Mar community, as are ocean activities on, under, and near, the water.

Coastal activities in Corona del Mar

The beaches are a primary draw, and Corona del Mar State Beach is great for swimming, surfing, and diving. The half-mile-long beach means there's room for everyone. There are also volleyball nets and fire pits, so you can make a day of games and grilling. Plus, it's conveniently lined with picnic benches, bathrooms, and outdoor showers.


Nearby Little Corona Beach offers calm waters for swimming or snorkeling and the natural landscape features tide pools where you can hunt for marine life during low tides. Slightly further south, you can take in the terraced hillside of homes above Cameo Shores Beach, or explore other small beaches like the rocky Little Treasure Cove at the northernmost part of Crystal Cove State Park or Pirates Cove's small sea caves that were featured in the popular 1960s TV show, "Gilligan's Island."

Up and down the coastline, these small and varied beaches provide stunning similarities to the cliffs and offshore rock formations Algarve is known for. Although popular with the locals, with a population of just over 13,000 people, Corona del Mar offers all this without massive crowds or huge resorts.


Beyond the beach

The beaches and ocean activities can keep visitors busy for days, but there is more to this coastal community than shell hunting and building sand castles. Even without stepping foot in the sand, you can take in the views of Newport Harbor from Lookout Point or enjoy a picnic at nearby Inspiration Point.


Like Portugal, the coast of California offers an abundance of seafood, and it's easy to find it served up in local restaurants. In the evening, you can enjoy a cocktail from a rooftop bar, take in coastal views over dinner, and feel the salty air while listening to live music. If you prefer to do your own cooking, don't miss the farmers market, where you can pick up locally produced goods. While you're in shopping mode, take in some of the boutique shops in the village and peruse the antique and second-hand stores.

Also include a trip to shop the massive selection of plants at Roger's Gardens and meander through the gardens at the Sherman Library & Gardens. If you time your visit right, you might see the gardens decorated for holidays like Halloween or Christmas. Also, check the calendar for Corona del Mar's annual Christmas Walk, Holiday Networking Celebration, the Scenic 5k, or the Annual Sandcastle Contest that takes place every fall. There is also another California city with a gorgeous seaside park to check out, or, if you find yourself further up the California coast, you might want to check out the beaches, architecture, and historic sites in Carmel too.