Nestled within the heart of Southern California, Orange County boasts a myriad of lesser-known treasures, each offering a unique blend of charm and serenity. Our curated list unveils the top 10 hidden gems in Orange County, inviting you to explore these off-the-beaten-path destinations that encapsulate the region’s diverse beauty. From secluded beaches with breathtaking views to tucked-away parks that whisper tales of history, this comprehensive overview promises to be your guide to the most captivating and lesser-explored secret spots in Orange County. Embark on this extraordinary adventure with us as we unveil the secret wonders that make Orange County a haven for those seeking the extraordinary amidst the ordinary.

Top 10 Secret Spots in Orange County

If you’re looking for something a bit more low-key than the well-known (and always crowded) destinations of Orange County, such as Disneyland and Fashion Island, don’t worry!

There are plenty of secret spots in Orange County waiting to be explored that will amaze your family and friends – whether they’re there with you in your group or catching the details from your Instagram Reels.

Here are our top picks for lesser-known hidden gems in Orange County that are worth a visit.

Black Star Canyon Falls Trail

blackstar canyon falls

A view from the trail. 

Would you love to spend a day finding a way through rocky roads and skiddy terrain to reach a beautiful waterfall?

Then head for this trail in Black Star Canyon in Silverado on your next day out.

This 7.1-mile (out-and-back) trail takes approximately 4-5 hours to complete.

Don’t feel like you have to complete the entire trail – feel free to make it shorter if that suits your preferences better.

Parking is free, no permits are required, and dogs are welcome as long as they remain on a leash.

Check weather conditions before you finalize your plans.

And we recommend long sleeves and pants – you might brush up against the odd poison oak during your hike.

Ready to put your hiking skills to the test at this hidden Orange County destination?

Pro tip: The Canyon is said to be haunted. There’s no one in your group that jumps if you say “boo”, is there?

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Intrepid Escape Rooms

intrepid escape rooms

That’s our lobby.

Ever sat through a movie, thinking, “it would be awesome if I could be part of the action instead of just watching”?

Well, here’s your chance to take part in an adventure where YOU drive the action.

You and your group will be led into a themed indoor adventure space, where your mission will unfold.

Working as a team, you’ll have to solve puzzles, crack codes, figure out how to open special locks, and spot clues to find the way forward.

With the clock ticking down, can you keep your wits about yourself and get to the bottom of things before you’re out of time?

Our adventures

Right now, we have 2 on-site escape adventures based on entirely different themes:

    • The Terminal: You’re a group of urban explorers exploring an abandoned terminal deep inside NYC’s subway system.

    • The Stolen Relic: You’re a team of investigators sent to Malaysia to uncover the mystery behind a vanished relic and a missing anthropologist.

For further information, please visit our escape adventures page.

Website: Visit the website

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Inquiry form: Visit the contact page

Email: info@intrepidescaperooms.com

Phone: (949) 885-0111

Little Corona Beach

little corona beach

Escape the crowds and discover the peaceful beauty of Little Corona Beach, one of Orange County’s top off-the-beaten-track destinations.

It can be a bit tricky to find – you’ll have to exit the Pacific Coast Highway onto Poppy/Ocean Street and follow the walkway down to the beach – but it’s worth the effort.

As one of the least frequented beaches in Southern California, Little Corona Beach is a great place to observe sea life and enjoy some peaceful, family-friendly fun.

Ready for a day of sun, sand, and solitude at this tucked-away beach in Orange County?

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Little Corona is a short drive away from Thousand Steps Beach, which is one of the best weekend activities in Orange County.

The Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens

casa romantica culture center

The image is taken from The Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens’ website.

Have you heard of Ole Hanson? He was a mayor of Seattle over a hundred years ago…and afterward, he founded San Clemente as a coastal resort town.

His mansion houses The Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens – an Orange County gem undiscovered by many.

Open every day at 10 am except for Mondays, the Center is part of a historic landmark.

Visitors can enjoy stunning views of the San Clemente Pier and Pacific Ocean from the beautiful gardens on the property.

A self-guided audio tour is available, or you can arrange a group tour.

They have many different kids’ events, including scavenger hunts.

Website: Visit the website

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Email: info@casaromantica.org

Phone: (949) 498-2139

San Clemente

san clemente

A view of the San Clemente beach.

Located halfway between busy San Diego and bustling Los Angeles, San Clemente may seem a surprising addition to our list of low-key Orange County destinations to explore.

However, this charming coastal resort town boasts beautiful beaches, exciting trekking opportunities, and stunning exhibits of Spanish colonial architecture.

Nestled on a hill, San Clemente offers breathtaking views of the ocean and is the southernmost town in both Orange County and the LA metropolitan area.

Website: Visit the website

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Contact details: Visit the contact page

California Citrus State Historic Park

california citrus state historic park

The image is taken from the Victorville Daily Press website.

Want to revisit the times when the citrus industry was a major part of Orange County’s economy?

Head for the California Citrus State Historic Park.

You’ll have a gratifying experience walking through the citrus groves in the Park, breathing in the zesty fragrance of fresh fruit.

Follow any of the trails that crisscross the park, and then sit down at a picnic table when you’re tired.

They also have a visitor center, a museum, and a collection of farm equipment you may like to check out.

Website: Visit the website

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Contact details: Visit the contact page

Phone: (951) 780-6222

Sherman Library & Gardens

sherman library and gardens

The image is taken from the Visit Newport Beach website.

Located in the heart of Corona del Mar, this beautiful garden features a stunning collection of botanical gardens and a research library filled with horticultural and botanical literature.

Visitors can wander through the tranquil gardens and marvel at the variety of plants and flowers, the cactus garden, the koi pond, and much more.

The library is also a treasure trove for horticulture enthusiasts, with a wide range of books and other resources available for research and browsing.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just looking for a peaceful place to relax and enjoy nature, the Sherman Library & Gardens is sure to please you.

Website: Visit the website

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Inquiry form: Visit the contact page

Phone: (949) 673-2261

Arroyo Bird Park

It began as a local community project but has become a fascinating place in Orange County, well worth a look!

Part art installation and part birdwatching destination, this venue is home to over a hundred hand-crafted birdhouses, artificial trees, and everything else ranging from gnomes to small Buddha statues.

Plus, there’s a free library where you can browse through a collection of interesting books.

And if you get in the mood to create something of your own to add to the Park, there’s an art supply station where you can get what you need.

This quaint little place is located at the intersection of Calle Arroyo and Via Sonora near San Juan Creek.

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Fullerton Arboretum

fullerton arboretum

The image is taken from Fullerton Arboretum’s website.

Escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and relax and unwind at the Fullerton Arboretum, the largest botanical garden in Orange County.

Boasting a rich collection of over 4,000 plants from around the world, the arboretum is a haven for nature lovers.

In addition to the beautiful gardens, you can also visit the Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum onsite, which offers a glimpse into the region’s agricultural history.

Take a break from your busy schedule and reconnect with nature at Fullerton Arboretum.

Website: Visit the website

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Email: farboretum@fullerton.edu

Phone: (657) 278-3407

Noguchi Garden

noguchi garden

The image is taken from the South Coast Plaza website.

The Noguchi Garden is an art lover’s paradise located in Orange County.

This unique outdoor destination is designed to represent the diverse geography of California, incorporating indigenous plants and materials.

Visitors can explore six different areas: the Forest Walk, Land Use, Desert Land, Water Source, Water Use, and Energy Fountain.

The standout feature of the garden is The Spirit of the Lima Bean, a dramatic sculpture made up of 15 rust-colored granite rocks expertly cut to fit together.

Website: Visit the website

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Bonus: 5 Additional Hidden Gems in Orange County You Should Check Out

Having revealed the top 10 hidden gems you should explore in Orange County, here are 5 specific OC attractions for you to check out.

Bunnyhenge in Newport Beach

When Newport Beach renovated their Civic Center in 2013, one of their strangest additions was a collection of fourteen large concrete bunnies in a circle, “staring” at one another.

There are two more bunnies, each over 8 feet tall, nearby.

While they were supposed to be a children’s attraction, they sparked interest among everyone – kids and adults alike.

Some find them creepy, and others enthusiastically dress them up for St. Patrick’s Day and take pictures for social media.

What do you think?

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

The Stephen Hillenburg Memorial

Who hasn’t heard of Spongebob Squarepants?

Fitting then, isn’t it, that in 2020 a Spongebob-colored bench came up in Anaheim as a memorial to Spongebob’s creator – Stephen Hillenburg?

It was the outcome of the efforts of several Spongebob fans, including YouTuber Griffin Hansen, writer John Oseid, and Stephen’s wife Karen Hillenburg.

They placed it at Savanna High School (his old school).

Are you planning on visiting the bench…and perhaps taking a seat?

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

The Petrified Tree at Disneyland

Easily Disneyland’s most venerable attraction, the petrified tree is reported to be between 50 to 70 million years old.

It was bought by Walt Disney himself in 1956 as an anniversary gift for his wife Lillian.

The latter, it’s rumored, was not all that impressed and would donate it to Disneyland.

What do you think – could you muster up a smile for a photo?

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Peter the Anteater at the University of California, Irvine

In 1965 the student body at UCI voted on a new university mascot.

And the anteater from the famous comic strip B.C. won.

And ever since then, Peter the Anteater’s statues have graced UCI’s campus – the only university in the United States to have an anteater for a mascot.

Location: Check address/Plan route on Google Maps

Modjeska Shakespeare in Silverado

Have you ever seen a statue that changes to fit the season?

That’s precisely what artists Pamela and Thomas Wishart do with a 75-year-old sculpture of The Great Bard.

They remodel it according to a different theme every holiday.

Will you be there to take photos of it?

Exploring Hidden Gems in Orange County? Book an Escape Room at Intrepid Escape Rooms

Orange County, California, is a treasure trove of hidden gems and secret spots waiting to be explored. Uncovering the lesser-known wonders of this vibrant region adds a sense of excitement and adventure to your local experiences. Whether you’re a resident seeking new delights or a visitor eager to discover the heart of Orange County, the top 10 hidden gems highlighted in this article provide a diverse array of attractions. From secluded beaches to charming eateries tucked away in quiet corners, these secret spots offer a unique perspective on the beauty of Orange County. For those looking to elevate their exploration even further, Intrepid Escape Rooms invites you to embark on an immersive adventure with us. Contact us to book an escape room experience, and delve into the thrill of solving puzzles and unlocking mysteries. Make your time in Orange County unforgettable, turning hidden gems into cherished memories.