15 Best Things to Do in Costa Mesa (CA)

Located in Orange County on California’s scenic Pacific coast, Costa Mesa is a city of approximately 110,000 residents that was founded more than seventy years ago.

At the time, the area was mainly engaged in agriculture and cattle raising, but over the years it has become more developed and its population has grown nearly tenfold.

It’s just a few kilometers from some of the Golden State’s most famous beaches, including Huntington Beach to the north and Newport Beach to the south.

Visitors to Costa Mesa have a variety of outdoor recreation, arts, culture and dining options at their fingertips. Day trips to San Diego and Los Angeles are popular for those who don’t mind braving the often crowded highways.

1. Noguchi Garden

Noguchi Garden

The award-winning Noguchi Gardens on Anton Avenue in Costa Mesa is one of the area’s premier outdoor attractions.

Construction of the garden began in the late 1970s. It now covers nearly two acres and features native and exotic plants, flowers and trees.

The gardens are divided into many different areas, including walking paths, fountains and cultivated gardens, seamlessly blending natural and man-made elements.

Often referred to as the California Scenario, the gardens are regularly open to the public and are located just a few kilometers from the city center.

2. South Coast Repertory Theatre

South Coast Repertory Theatre

The South Coast Repertory Theatre has been an iconic local live entertainment venue for over 50 years.

It’s located on Downtown Boulevard in Costa Mesa and is usually well-regarded by industry pundits and those who know good work as soon as they see it.

The theater’s season typically runs from early fall to early summer, with productions ranging from old classics and contemporary comedies to musicals and murder mysteries.

Theater staff also offer a variety of community-focused programs for aspiring actors and producers, such as workshops, guest speakers, and residencies.

3. Splendid Park

Splendid Park, Costa Mesa

Spanning over 200 acres, Fairview Park in Costa Mesa offers an abundance of open space ideal for those interested in getting away from the crowds and enjoying the outdoors without wasting time traveling to far-flung state and national parks.

The park features a network of trails that meander through a variety of natural environments. They are open to walkers, runners, cyclists and horse riders.

Picnics, kite flying and remote control planes are also popular activities. The park is a public event venue for festivals, fairs, annual fry and carnivals throughout the year.

4. Costa Mesa Estancia

Costa Mesa Estancia, home of Diego Sepulveda

California’s history is largely influenced by Mexican immigrants who have traveled north over the years in search of stable jobs and a better life.

They brought their customs, cuisine and architecture, the latter evident in Costa Mesa Estancia, one of the oldest original buildings in Orange County.

This historic residence sits on a cliff above the wash of the Santa Ana River in Estancia Park. It has been preserved in a near pristine state in honor of the pioneers who came to the area nearly two centuries ago.

The home was originally built for cowboys and ranchers who tended large herds of horses and cattle in the area.

5. South Coast Plaza

South Coast Plaza Restaurant

Parts of Orange County are among the wealthiest communities in the country. There is no shortage of upscale retail options for those interested in shopping for trendy clothing in the area.

Located on Bristol Street in Costa Mesa, South Coast Plaza is home to a variety of high-end boutiques, trendy restaurants, and stores of domestic and foreign brands such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdale’s.

The square is a short walk from many of the city’s great hotels and beaches. It offers services not often found in traditional shopping malls, such as personal shopping, foreign language assistance and currency exchange.

6. Bad Coffee

Although its name may be a perfect example of reverse psychology in marketing, it is generally agreed that Bad Coffee’s java is definitely good.

The company was founded in 2016 by a few self-proclaimed coffee snobs determined to bring high-quality drinks to thirsty Costa Mesans.

Previous guests have commented on the store’s ample natural light, comfortable chairs, easy-to-use electrical outlets and fast Wi-Fi.

Bad Coffee is located on Adams Avenue in Costa Mesa. The menu includes a variety of non-coffee options such as chai tea, sodas and juices, as well as fresh baked goods such as muffins and pastries.

7. Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Segstrom Art Center

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts is a multi-venue entertainment attraction located on Costa Mesa Town Center Boulevard. It was established in the mid 80’s.

A modern performing arts attraction with stunning architecture, it is now home to several regional music organizations, including the Pacific Symphony Orchestra and the Orange County Philharmonic Society.

In total, the center’s unique halls can accommodate nearly 6,000 visitors. They offer a variety of shows throughout the year, attracting a variety of guests, including children.

Staff at the center also offer a variety of workshops and special events such as summer camps, art classes and dance schools.

8. Orange County Museum of Art

Orange County Museum of Art

While it’s technically located in Santa Ana, just a few kilometers from downtown Costa Mesa, for those who can get away from the area’s scenic beaches and chic shopping, the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) is the An attraction worth a visit.

Located in South Coast Village, the museum houses thousands of impressive objects centered on California history, from the turn of the 20th century to the present.

Items on display include historical photographs, sculpture, Native American art, and contemporary digital, video, and multimedia works.

9. Camp


CAMP is a popular option for the bohemian crowd who tend to avoid mainstream attractions like national chains of coffee shops and shopping malls.

Located in Costa Mesa’s trendy SoBeCa district, it’s a popular remote work and social gathering spot featuring green spaces and small businesses selling a variety of organic food and beverages, health and body products, and locally made crafts.

Orange County’s weather is perfect for the outdoors most of the year. CAMP doubles as a live entertainment venue, offering music performances, art walks, movie screenings and food events.

10. Los Lagos at Costa Mesa Country Club


For golfers, there is probably no better year-round climate than Orange County in Southern California.

One of the best golf courses in the area, Los Lagos at Costa Mesa Country Club is just over 6,500 yards from the blue tee.

This par 72 course is known for its neat greens and fairways, beautiful scenery, and water and sand obstacles that keep things interesting without making them too difficult.

Course facilities include a well-stocked pro shop, restaurant and bar, as well as practice facilities for those who need to warm up before clicking the link.

11. Pear Sushi

Cauliflower Sushi

Tucked away in a rather unassuming storefront on Bristol Avenue in Costa Mesa, Hanare Sushi is one of the culinary gems that all but the most savvy eaters will miss.

While traditional sushi and sashimi are often the star of the show, Hanare’s limited menu includes modern entrees such as caviar pumpkin soup and steamed lobster with mushrooms.

The prices at this restaurant are definitely on the high side, so it might not be suitable for large families looking to fill their stomachs on the cheap.

That being said, it’s definitely worth checking out for those looking for a unique dining experience in a relaxed setting.

12. Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Just 10 minutes from downtown Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach is a world-renowned surf town.

The beach boasts big waves, world-class surfers, fantastic beaches and sweeping ocean views. It attracts millions of tourists every year.

While many tourists prefer to find a quieter beach to enjoy the sand, sun and surf, Huntington Beach hosts many sporting events each year, such as professional beach volleyball and surfing championships.

The waterfront area has plenty of restaurants and shops, ample parking and bathrooms with showers, perfect for washing away sand and salt at the end of a long day.

13. Whale Watching Tour

Newport Harbor Whale Watching Tour

Especially during calving, whales are a relatively common sight in the warm Pacific waters off the coast of Southern California.

Many whale watching tours depart from Newport Harbor. No matter when you visit, you have a good chance of seeing several species of whales and other marine mammals.

Blue, fin, and humpback whales are common. They often jump out of the water, causing impressive splashes.

Whale watching trips are often one of the most memorable experiences of many tourist vacations. They are especially popular with families traveling with children who love animals.

Guests also often see seals, killer whales and porpoises.

14. Bomb the Canyon

bomber canyon

What is now Bommer Canyon was once one of the original cattle ranches in the area.

The well-preserved canyon features impressive rock formations, deep gorges and idyllic shade trees, making it popular with hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders.

It is located in Irvine, just 10 kilometers from downtown Costa Mesa, and is designated a State and National Natural Landmark.

The canyon has many trails, but some are only open to those visiting as part of a guided tour.

If you’re traveling with a dog, you’re out of luck; they don’t allow access to Bommer Canyon.

15. Bowers Museum

Bowers Museum

Unlike most museums in the area that tend to focus on California art, history, and culture, the Powers Museum on North Street in Santa Ana houses an eclectic collection of objects from around the world.

The museum is named after a charitable local who donated land in the 1930s. Although its collection started small, it has grown to include more than 10,000 works from as far away as China, South America, India and the South Pacific.

Museum staff often host temporary exhibits from private collections and other institutions, and there is a dedicated children’s area on site.

Santa Ana is about 15 kilometers north of Costa Mesa.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Costa Mesa, CA, CA
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