According to a recent study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Orange County has some of the cleanest beaches in the country, and none is cleaner than those in Newport Beach, all of which received five-star rankings. Hygiene counts, and it helps to explain why this year's winning stretch of sand is neither in Huntington Beach, the self-declared "Surf City," or Laguna Beach, which certainly would win the award if a dramatic, cliffy coastline was the only measure of worthiness. Located on the west side of Balboa Boulevard between 61st Street and Island Avenue and encompassing the Newport Beach Pier, this beach offers plenty of metered parking; endless sand, complete with showers, picnic tables and fire pits; and unbeatable waves. The beach closes at 10 p.m., but you can walk or fish on the nearby pier until midnight. If sack lunches aren't your style, there's a ton of nearby stores, bars and food joints, including the legendary Blue Beet and 21 Oceanfront, a swanky, elegant restaurant with ocean views.