I know, I know! California is nearly a paradise. Especially southern California. It’s where everyone goes to enjoy the beaches and the perfect weather. But if you live in southern California, you know it’s not always perfect. Sometimes the summer warmth goes into overdrive. And since we’re used to onshore breezes and mild weather, we have to figure out how to beat the heat in California when it gets crazy hot.
We recently had a week of unprecedented severe heat wave warnings in San Diego. Our weekday highs would be nearly 100 degrees F. with expected highs of 108 degrees for the weekend. Our home doesn’t have air conditioning. And there was a risk of experiencing rolling power blackouts, so we might not even be able to use our fans. Pretty much out of desperation, we knew we had to leave for the weekend to beat the heat in California.
Where can you go where it’s cooler?
Seriously, we searched weather forecasts for places within a few hours’ drive all around us. If we drove further inland, the temperatures just soared even higher. The obvious answer was to head towards the beach. Except that that’s what everyone else was doing too. In San Diego, beach hotels are already pretty pricey. But now because of the demand, they were booking up and the prices were going up too.
A good bet might be booking any hotel with air conditioning, and hopefully it would have a pool, too. We looked into a hotel just 6 miles from us along the I-15 inland corridor of north San Diego county (Rancho Bernardo). The price was still a little high, but less than the beach hotels, and it had a pool. We could just bring along things to do inside and enjoy the air conditioning, so it didn’t matter if it wasn’t near the beach. Or that the outside temperature would still be over 100 degrees. Or did it?
Is there any place better?
At the last minute, I started wondering if we really couldn’t find a more interesting place to go to beat the heat. I received an email reminding me of a city not too far away where we’d once visited. The email was advertising good rates for hotels. Sure enough, we could book a room at a nice hotel in Costa Mesa, only 15 minutes from the beach, for nearly $100 less than we were going to pay for the Rancho Bernardo hotel. And guess what? Forecasted temperatures looked cooler there, too. No more than 96 degrees F. The drive from San Diego to Costa Mesa is only a little over an hour. So worth it to escape!
So here’s how we beat the heat in California…
We booked a room for two nights at the Best Western Plus Newport Mesa Inn in Costa Mesa. Our total was about $300 with taxes, compared to over $400 in Rancho Bernardo. Plus, this hotel is ranked #3 out of all Costa Mesa hotels on TripAdvisor. Our hotel had a pool, fantastic air conditioning (!), was very quiet, and was centrally located to beaches, the Costa Mesa fairgrounds, and other attractions.
We learned later that our hotel was completely booked the nights we stayed there, but we would have never known because it was so quiet, and we hardly ever saw anyone. Even when we used the pool, we nearly had it to ourselves.
Checking out local parks
Because my husband wanted to try out his new drone, we stopped at several local parks. We were specifically looking for parks with interesting views. All of these parks had nice views and walking or hiking trails. However, the temperatures were just a bit too high for our comfort. So I’m listing them here for your information, but we didn’t stay long.
- Coastal Peak Park, Newport Beach: a nice park with playground, restrooms, ballfields, and entrance to several rim trails. View of mountains, city, and sea.
- Chaparral Park, Irvine: a neighborhood park with playground and no restrooms, steep staircase to views of mountains and valley below, including city
- Vista Park, Costa Mesa: a small neighborhood park with playground and restrooms, shady paved walkway around park with benches and views of Santa Ana River.
Going out for lunch
We were invited to check out a new taqueria in Costa Mesa called Descanso Restaurant, and I’m so glad we did! I’m quite the taco fan myself, so I was thrilled when I learned their most popular entrees were Mahi tacos (for me) and California burritos (for my husband). Oh — and then there were the churro doughnuts to contend with. They won, of course!
A little island paradise!
My husband had never been to Balboa Island before, and I wanted to show him just how sweet it was. If you’ve never been, it’s soooo cute! Lots of quaint cottages and nicer homes, too. The friendliest people anywhere who sit out in their yards and say hello to passersby. Fun little boutique shops and restaurants. And a tiny three-car ferry that takes you for a short ride to the Balboa Peninsula. Lots of flags and pennants, beach-themed decor, and the feeling that you’ve found a kinder, gentler place.
We drove onto the island and parked our car on Pearl Avenue, and then proceeded to walk all the way around the island. (Actually it is two small islands and a bridge that crosses the Grand Canal between them). It’s only about 2 miles or so to walk all the way around both.
Then we boarded the Balboa Island Ferry to explore some more on Balboa Peninsula. (Cost is $1.25 per adult one way)
A pier and a beach
Such a quintessential southern California destination! Once we reached the Balboa Peninsula, it was just a short walk to the Balboa Pier with great views up and down Newport Beach. Palm trees lined the Balboa municipal parking lot, and crowds lined the beach to watch a beautiful sunset. The ocean breezes and temperatures were perfect, and it was absolutely the best way to beat the heat in California. By now, it was a balmy 76 degrees!
By the time we got back to our car, it was getting late and we were famished. A quick Google search revealed a Tommy Bahama Restaurant in Newport Beach that was still open and we headed there. You’d probably never guess (he-he!) that I had tacos again!
Want to know how we beat the heat on our second day? It was a Sunday, and we really wanted a super relaxed “escape” kind of day. So the first thing we did was sleep in. Eventually we did get up and get dressed but we stayed in our hotel room for a good portion of the day, just loving that wonderful air conditioning! We read, wrote in our journals, played games, and also held a “virtual” church meeting with other family members via Google Meet. And took a nap. What a luxury!
For dinner, we enjoyed cold salads we had made ahead of time and stored in our room’s refrigerator. We also made microwave brownies for dessert! It’s good that we stayed indoors, because on this day the temperatures soared to 100 degrees F.
A peaceful evening
As the temperatures went down, we decided to capture another beautiful sunset and this time we headed to Inspiration Point in Corona del Mar. Luckily, we found parking on Poinsettia Avenue. When we got to the beach we were met with an interesting sight. Smoke from nearby fires had settled along the horizon, and the sun was slowly sinking right into the thick layer of smoke. As sad as it was that California was again contending with fires, the effect of the smoke on the sunset was beautiful. We didn’t leave till long after the sun had dropped below the horizon.
Did we beat the heat in California?
For us, this was the perfect solution to what could have been a very miserable weekend had we stayed at home. By Monday morning, the temperatures had cooled by 10 degrees, and we headed home. In the past we have asked ourselves if it would be worth it to install air conditioning in our home. But when we talked to our friends, they mention their sky-high monthly utility bills for actually using the AC. That’s why we decided we might come out ahead if we just booked a hotel for the worst heat waves. I think this time, it definitely worked out for the best. I hope you find a way that works for you to beat the heat when it gets crazy high!