Top Things To Do in Costa Mesa, California

Darley takes a Costa Mesa skateboarding lesson
Darley takes a Costa Mesa skateboarding lesson

Just a few miles from the beach and about 35 miles south of Los Angeles in Orange County, Costa Mesa combines cuisine and adventure! From skateboarding to tacos, Costa Mesa, the home for action sports in California, is a great getaway for families and those with an adventurous spirit.

Here are just a few fun ways to explore this southern California city, with its sunny weather and the diverse local food scene– skateboarding with Shreducate Academy, tacos at Wahoo’s Fish Tacos, craft beer at Gunwhale Ales, The Camp for sustainable and eco-friendly shopping and dining with a Top Chef at Vaca Restaurant. If you’re traveling to Los Angeles, we recommend adding Costa Mesa to your travel list. 

Travel Tip! Check out our Los Angeles Beach & Active vacation itinerary for more ideas and let Cathy with our Preferred Provider of Travel Services customize an LA and Beyond trip for you.

Top Costa Mesa Cuisine & Adventures

Shred it Shakeboarding

Take a skateboard lesson with Joey Lopez of Shreducate Academy. Learn the basics in a private lesson or with a group.  I thought this was a very OC thing to do. At the local skateboard park, Joey provided me with a helmet, safety pads and a skateboard and we got to work. I noticed all ages participating at this skate park, including what looked like a two year old, who would definitely be a future champion. 

Joey shared that skateboarding is one of the things to do in this part of California. “It’s definitely more prevalent here than anywhere else. Just because it never rains here. It’s always sunny in Southern California, and there’s skate parks everywhere. It’s definitely the birthplace of skateboarding.”

Taste Local Tacos

Next, head to Wahoo’s Fish Taco, a Costa Mesa institution started by Wing Lam and his brother. Wahoo’s Tacos supplies the X Games, top surf competitions, and more and is beloved by locals like Joey. On my visit, I’m lucky enough to get to chat with Wing Lam, one of the founding brothers.

“Southern California is the mecca for action sports,” Wing told me. “Basically, all the brands are started or originated, or headquarters in Southern California. It’s all here, and we happen to be the food for the entire industry.”

Fish tacos at Wahoos Fish Tacos with Joey Lopez and Darley Newman
Fish tacos at Wahoos Fish Tacos with Joey Lopez and Darley Newman
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Local Craft Beer

Gunwhale Ales gets its inspiration from the OC, bringing to market easy-drinking, carbonated pale ales, unfiltered hoppy beers, and more. Located in the SoBECA district of Costa Mesa, this is a cool place to grab a local brew. And you’ll find locals drinking here! We recommend trying their different craft beers there or taking them to go. Gunwhale stocks IPA, Saisons, farmhouse hybrids, and more. For those who want a caffeinated kick, Gunwhale also has cold-press coffee and kombucha.  

Eco-friendly Shopping

Get eco-friendly at The Camp, where retail stores and restaurants all promote environmentalism and the local community. Entrepreneur and creator of The Camp Shaheen Sadeghi curates the stores and tries to stay away from chain stores. Some places to check out here include Blackmarket Bakery for its tasty baked goods and coffee and SEED Peoples Market with cool, California-inspired ethical and eco-minded brands.

Costa Mesa shopping at The Camp
Costa Mesa shopping at The Camp

Top Chef Dining Experience

Dine at Vaca Restaurant, where celebrity chef Amar Santana brings a Spanish flair to Costa Mesa. Chef Amar Santana competed on season 13 of Bravo TV’s Top Chef series. Vaca is known for its meats. On my visit, Chef Santana was cooking up beef cheek croquettes made from slow-cooked beef cheeks, braised in red wine and breaded and fried, topped with beef carpaccio, yellow mustard seeds, and vinegar and sugar and curry shallot marmalade, and olive oil. Divine! Vaca also has craft cocktails and indoor and outdoor dining options with enough space for families and groups. It’s located in South Coast Plaza on Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.

Food at Vaca Restaurant in Costa Mesa
Food at Vaca Restaurant in Costa Mesa

Retro Milkshakes

Enjoy dessert at The Straw where retro, award-winning boozy milkshakes make for a very sweet end to your time in Costa Mesa. Entrepreneur Patrick Nguyen takes milkshakes to a whole nother level. I was able to interview him and have him personally craft a Donkey Kong milkshake for me with bananas, cookie butter, chocolate chips, cannoli shell and a chocolate wafer.

“You know I used to be a bartender, and so because most don’t realize that milkshakes derived from bars that were forced to close down during prohibition and so they didn’t have anything to sell. So that’s the reason why a lot of classic milkshake parlors they kind of look like bars because of that reason. Why do they have like a soda gun? Well probably cause they were making a gin and tonic the night before,” said Patrick.

Check out our Los Angeles Beach & Active vacation itinerary for more ideas.