Often overlooked for the Channel Islands and other larger and more visited Californian islands, Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach are two places anyone in SoCal should visit at least once.
Even if you are a tourist spending a few days in the Greater L.A. Area, a visit to Balboa Island can be a rewarding side-trip.
What is Balboa?
Named after Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa, this resort island has endless options for fun water activities, great sightseeing, or just experiencing the island atmosphere and natural beauty. You can visit the island by ferry or by driving on Jamboree Road, or take the ferry from Balboa Peninsula (Balboa Island Ferry). As the island is best experienced on foot and has limited street parking for visitors, we always recommend that clients travel here by the affordable $1 ferries instead of driving onto the island itself.
One of Balboa’s main attractions is understandably the amazing architecture of the many beautiful little cottages found here. Now multimillion-dollar homes and vacation homes, it is funny to think that these cottages once sold for under $300 in the 1920s! Balboa Peninsula, which was created by a mistake in the early 1930s, is now home to some of the best beaches in Orange County as well as the Balboa Pavilion & Fun Zone.
Whether do dine in one of the great restaurants, stroll down the quaint tiny roads, check out the famous landmarks, lay on the beach, rent a beach house, or any other reason for visiting Balboa – contact us for your limo transportation today. Many of our clients love to go here for recreational activities such as kayaking, surfing, jet-skiing, whale-watching, and much, much more. Along the island’s main street, Marine Avenue, people come to window-shop and check out the cool little stores, cafés, and bars.
Do not forget to try out the island’s signature Balboa Bar ice cream and shave ice! Balboa has one of the highest population densities in the country, even higher than San Francisco, and has some of the most expensive real estate prices – real estate prices are even higher than in Manhattan!
What can I do on Balboa?
The options for activities at Balboa are endless. You can for instance go parasailing over the Pacific with Balboa Parasail or jet-skiing with Balboa Water Sports. Another favorite among many renting an LA limo service is to head here for one of the great whale-watching excursions. Companies such as Davey’s Locker Sportfishing & Whale Watching and Balboa Newport Landing Whale Watching offer great whale-watching excursions from Newport Harbor.
Want to rent a boat, head to Duffy Boat Rental! Prefer a chauffeured boat for an ocean adventure? Check out Newport Coastal Adventure. And for paddling or kayaking, head to the Island Paddle Board or Balboa Surf & Style.
Maybe the most popular for those traveling with children is to visit the Fun Zone on the Balboa Peninsula. The Balboa Fun Zone is home to several rollercoaster rides, cotton candy vendors, and everything else you’d find at a carnival.
The nearby ExplorOcean museum is a great educational experience for children as well as adults. One of the island’s many famous landmarks is the St. John Vianney Chapel, which is located on the main street, Marine Avenue. This beautiful tiny chapel is a charming architectural piece of art.
Another popular activity for families is to pay a visit to Our Gang’s General Store to check out the unique toys, as well as the Marina Park playground. We transfer not only a lot of LAX sedan customers to Balboa, but because of its close proximity to the John Wayne Airport also a significant amount of people from John Wayne.
Landmarks & Attractions
A landmark worth checking out is the Balboa Pavilion. Constructed in 1906, the Pavilion is a California Historical Landmark and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It is currently functioning as the terminal for passenger- and whale-watching cruises.
While on the Balboa Peninsula, grab a bite at the original O.C. Ruby’s Diner on the Balboa Pier! Also on the peninsula is the famous Crab Cooker, a favorite for many who enjoy seafood. Established in the early 1950s, it has been ranked as one of the world’s best restaurants by Venture Magazine and has also been featured in the television series The O.C., where the restaurant is referred to as the Crab Shack.
To see today’s fresh seafood being unloaded from the dock, head to the Dory Fish Market, a historical landmark dating back to the early 1890s! For a historic landmark, many Los Angeles limousine riders have talked about the Lovell Beach House as the most iconic Balboa house.
More interested in beaching, surfing, and other ocean activities? The Wedge on the peninsula is a tremendously popular surfing spot, while all of the peninsulae is recognized for its pristine beaches. Didn’t make it on a Malibu wine tour? Check out the Balboa Island Wine Walk! Two 1920s landmarks worth checking out include the Balboa Theater and the Balboa Inn.
Where do I stay?
Wanna spend the night here but cannot afford a vacation home rental? You are not alone! While there are no hotels on the island per se, there are numerous hotels in surrounding areas, including on the Balboa Peninsula. Here many prefer staying at the Balboa Fun Zone to ride the Ferris wheel and other rides. There are also many eateries, cafés, and souvenir shops in the Fun Zone area.
At the nearby Newport Harbor Nautical Museum you can see exhibits on the Pacific Ocean and California waters. You can for instance see ship models dating to the late 1790s, or check out the tanks with various native species found in the waters off California. Two nearby hotels worth checking out if you are looking for accommodation are the Island Hotel and the Newport Beach Marriot Hotel & Spa.
Looking for a snack, drink, or restaurant? Head to Sugar & Spice for the original Balboa Bar chocolate ice cream! Disappointed you never made the Malibu wine tour? Let’s head to Basilic for a delicious meal and great red wine to accompany the steak, turkey, or dish of choice. For a delicious breakfast, get a Los Angeles limousine and head to Wilma’s Patio for a great egg- or omelet dish.
Looking for a place to enjoy an evening cocktail? Head to the Village Inn for great live entertainment and a drink of choice. Remember to go by Dad’s Donut & Bakery to pick up a delicious chocolate banana to bring home.
Island of Celebrities
With its luxury housing and secluded character, many celebrities have found their home on Balboa. While Chuck Norris once owned a restaurant here, John Wayne bodysurfed here during summers. Visitors include everyone from Frank Sinatra, Richard Nixon, as well as Nancy- and Ronald Reagan.
LA limo service clients have made us aware of the many movies filmed here, including Shadows (1922), To Have and Have Not (1944), The Breaking Point (1950), and many more.
Whether you are looking for an LAX sedan to get here from the airport, or maybe a party bus to get into LA from Balboa, we can help you! On Balboa, don’t forget to check out the outstanding two-mile Island Boardwalk to see the boat parade and scenic views.
For art lovers, the Balboa Island Artwalk is an annual happening drawing over a hundred artists for live music, painting exhibits, custom-made jewelry, and much more. For a signature, Balboa shopping experience, see the selection of unique oil products and more at Olive Oil & Beyond, the ideal place to find gifts for Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day.
With just 0.2 square miles and about 3,000 inhabitants, Balboa is a small island that is easy to navigate, discover, and enjoy! Bon voyage!