Orange County Gets Green Light To Reopen Most Beaches. Here’s What You Need To Know – LAist

People gather north of the Newport Beach Pier on April 25, 2020 in Newport Beach. (Michael Heiman/Getty Images)

Lita Martinez contributed reporting to this story.

Orange County beaches are now open for “active” recreation only, which essentially means you can use the beach for everything except sunbathing and large gatherings. Basically, no loitering.

Swimming, surfing, scuba diving, jogging, walking, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, boating, dog-walking (where permitted) and boogie boarding (siiiiick) are all allowed. Just don’t sit around or, as the All American Rejects said, move along.

Sunbathing, sitting down (yes, really), sandcastle-building, bonfires, volleyball (and other “high-touch” sports), beach blankets, beach chairs, coolers, BBQs, tents, umbrellas and bascially all beach toys are against the rules.

The county received approval from the state of California to launch its four-phase plan to reopen county-operated beaches today, according to a press release from OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett. Earlier this week, Bartlett brought the motion for the plan forward; it was approved by a 3-2 vote. The “active recreation” addition is part of Phase 2.

This comes just one week after Governor Gavin Newsom ordered Orange County beaches to shut down, after throngs crowded them in defiance of COVID-19-prompted stay-at-home orders.

If you have questions about specifics, prepare to be confused, since each coastal city has their own set of rules, which are also all subject to change.

Here’s what we know so far:


Hours: Beginning May 11 at dawn, beachgoers can hit the sand, surf, or swim from Monday to Thursday during daylight hours.

Fines: Picnics, sunbathing or other large gatherings are still off-limits and violators are subject to a $1,000 fine.

Details: Seal Beach police sergeant Nick Nicholas says the city welcomes visitors from out of town but officers and lifeguards will be out to make sure everyone keeps moving and practicing proper social distancing.

“About 40% of our population is 65 years of age or older,” Nicholas said, “so we want to take proactive measures to make sure that people in Seal Beach don’t get sick, especially if they’re in one of those vulnerable population groups.”

Seal Beach is also home to Leisure World, a gated retirement community of about 9,000 residents.

Seal Beach plans to gradually expand access to its shoreline based on changes to public health guidelines, although officials are prepared to rescind the reopening order if beaches get too crowded.


What’s Open: Laguna Beach has implemented a four-phase plan to reopen all city-owned beaches, beginning May 5. City-run beaches span from Treasure Island in the south to Victoria Beach in the north.

South Laguna beaches are controlled by Orange County, however, and will remain closed for now.

Hours: City beaches will be open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. for “active recreation only,” so again, no sunbathing.

Fines: None


What’s Open: The city of Huntington Beach has opened all of their beaches, except those in Huntington harbour, for “active recreational use” starting May 5. The beach bike pathway will also be open. State beaches, which include Huntington State Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach, will also be open for active recreation. Social distancing is required.

Within Huntington Harbor and all connected channels, active recreation such as kayaking, boating, and paddle boarding is allowed.

Hours: Open beaches are accessible from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., every day.

What’s Closed: The Huntington Beach pier and beach playground will remain closed, along with the open grass and picnic areas next to the beach.

Fines: The city has not announced fines for anyone who violates this policy, but if you tamper with the new signage about active recreation, you could be arrested.


What’s Open: All city beaches in Newport are now open for active recreational use.

Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.

Details: According to the city website’s FAQ section, the following rules apply: “Passive games,” loitering, sunbathing and other stationary activities are NOT allowed. Gatherings of people (even if engaged in active recreation) outside of those within their immediate household are not allowed. Coolers, umbrellas, beach blankets and towels are also against the rules.

Things that are allowed include walking, running, hiking, swimming, surfing, bodysurfing, boogie boarding, kite surfing, paddle boarding, skim boarding, kayaking, fishing and recreational activities that keep individuals in “non-stationary, active motion.”

Fines: None

If you want to jog in place on the beach, this is your time to shine.


What’s Open: Doheny State Beach, Salt Creek Beach, Strands, Baby Beach, Capistrano Beach and Dana Cove.

Hours: 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.

What’s Closed: Doheny State Beach is closed to car access (no parking facilities and roadside parking is prohibited). Parking lots and “amenities” are closed at Salt Creek Beach, Strands, Baby Beach and Capistrano Beach; restrooms are open with “high-frequency sanitation protocols,” according to the city’s website.


What’s Open: As of May 5, the San Clemente Pier is open for active use with “two-way travel” but closed to fishing, rail-leaning, sitting, bicycles and dogs. As of May 4, the beach is open for active use.

Hours: Not specified.

What’s Not Open: All beach restrooms and beach parking will remain closed until further notice.

Fines: None.

See? Not confusing at all.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Read more about what’s open/closed right now:

You can explore other how other counties, states and the U.S. on the whole are faring in the pandemic at COVID-19 Case Mapper.