California : Safety by City
- Chino Hills
- Chula Vista
- Costa Mesa
- Daly City
- El Cajon
- El Monte
- Garden Grove
- Huntington Beach
- Lake Forest
- Long Beach
- Los Angeles
- Mission Viejo
- Moreno Valley
- Mountain View
- Newport Beach
- Palm Springs
- Rancho Cucamonga
- Redondo Beach
- Redwood City
- San Bernardino
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- San Jose
- San Leandro
- San Luis Obispo
- San Mateo
- Santa Ana
- Santa Barbara
- Santa Clara
- Santa Clarita
- Santa Cruz
- Santa Monica
- Santa Rosa
- Simi Valley
- South Gate
- Thousand Oaks
- Union City
- West Covina
Costa Mesa, California, breaks the master-planned community mold in Orange County and sets itself apart with its unique charm.
It’s a shopping and dining Mecca, whether you want a quick taco or a Michelin-star-rated taco.
It’s a city of contradictions, feeling like a seaside community yet no beaches to be found.
One of the most popular places is Triangle Square.
It’s a city rich with amenities but not as safe as you’d think.
You’re just as likely to see a coyote as you are a Chanel bag.
Costa Mesa is also home to one of the largest shopping centers you’ll ever see and retail sales are counted by billions.
It borders two of the most popular beach towns in California.
It has access to freeways that can get you anywhere in Southern California.
One of the surprising parts of Costa Mesa for tourists is how dense the population is.
It’s a town of 112,000 people in 15 square miles, and that doesn’t include the tourists that come in.
It can feel a little suffocating for people who aren’t used to busy suburbs.
The Orange County Fair is held in Costa Mesa every summer and the fairgrounds host a multitude of activities throughout the year.
Warnings & Dangers in Costa Mesa
OVERALL RISK: LOW
There's a low overall risk, but with some key areas of safety, we need to discuss. As far as Orange County goes, this isn't one of the most affluent cities, but for someone not familiar with the area, it's going to feel bougie.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
The Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) provides bus service around the county, and there's a shuttle in Costa Mesa to get around the shopping and historical areas. OCTA comes with a fee, but the HeART of the Costa Mesa shuttle is free. Taxis and rideshares are also available. All options are low risk, but whatever you choose, you'll be dealing with a certain amount of traffic.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW
There were 12 pickpockets or purse snatchings reported in Costa Mesa in 2020. That's a low risk, but certain items are really going to grab a thief's attention. I was flabbergasted when looking at the theft data and one category stood out with an $18,000,000 taken by thieves. Can you guess what it is (HINT: It's not cars)? The answer coming up.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Costa Mesa faces earthquake, wildfire, and flooding risks. While an average day is going to be picture-perfect sunny weather, there are risks you need to educate yourself on before visiting, so we'll call it a medium risk.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
The robbery rate is slightly above the national average, but there were just 22 highway robberies that could impact a tourist in 2020. There's a low risk, but some clear examples have happened on what not to do when a robber does attack. A woman who was robbed ended up being run over by the suspect's car during an incident in 2020. She held onto the bag and was dragged, getting seriously hurt.
TERRORISM RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk of terrorism due to its location in the massive L.A. Metro area. It's also close to Disneyland and other big theme park attractions.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
The biggest concern here is rental scams. You aren't going to find a rock-bottom price on a rental home in this desirable community, so that's the first red flag. The second flag comes when someone asks you to wire money to secure that home. These scammers have no access to the home they are listing and are just looking to get away with your money. Use a local home rental service that has a business license from the city for a safe rental experience.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW
There's a low risk here, but keep in mind those higher crime rates in theft and robbery. You might do a lot of shopping here and that could make you a target. See if the mall offers lockers to store your bags while you shop, instead of taking a risky trip to the car to store bags in the trunk.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
Costa Mesa has safe tap water and the Mesa Water District states, "There is no need to overbuy bottled water, which is more expensive than tap water, and boiling your water is not necessary” says Mesa Water Board President, Shawn Dewane. “The district continues to operate 24/7 and, as the only water agency in Orange County that serves 100% local reliable groundwater, Mesa Water assures that our community has plentiful, affordable, and pure water supplies for generations to come.”
Safest Places to Visit in Costa Mesa
One of the biggest lures for visitors to Costa Mesa is shopping.
There are plenty of options here:
- South Coast Plaza: The largest mall west of the Mississippi
- The Camp: Shopping center geared toward outdoor enthusiasts
- The Lab: A counter-culture mall breaking the stereotype of the traditional shopping center with an eclectic vibe
- Metro Point: A mall meets nature and modern amenities with a luxury movie theatre
- Triangle Square: The place to be if you’re looking for nightlife and a fantastic meal
The OC Fair & Civic Center is where the county fair is held every summer, but throughout the year there is also a popular swap meet and farmer’s markets.
I’m a foodie and love to find places for an indulgent splurge and there are two places in Costa Mesa I’d make reservations at today.
Taco Maria and Hana re Sushi are the only two Orange County restaurants to be awarded the distinguished Michelin stars.
All that any you are less than 6 miles to both Huntington and Newport beaches.
Places to Avoid in Costa Mesa
Looking at the crime map, it appears the area north of the 405 and along the 55 have the highest crime rates.
The shopping destinations could also have criminals looking for crimes of opportunity.
Avoid wearing expensive jewelry in Costa Mesa when you are out and about.
The 2020 crime statistics show $18,688,292 in jewelry and precious metals were stolen in the city.
Even more “Wow”?
Less than $8,000 of that was recovered.
While most of the robberies targeted jewelry stores, it’s still worth noting that your necklace is more at risk than even your car in this posh community.
If you can, avoid traveling during 7 am – 10 am and 4 pm – 7 pm on the major interstates or main streets.
Traffic is one issue Orange County hasn’t been able to fix.
There is an extensive bicycle trail map available if you’d rather tackle the town on two wheels instead of four.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Costa Mesa
- While the area is dense, it also has some natural parks and lands nearby, leading to more coyotes coming into the community. If you see one, never turn your back on it. Back away slowly. Coyotes might be scary, but they do help control the rodent population in Costa Mesa.
- The Costa Mesa police advice against using an ATM when it’s dark outside. Be sure to use banking facilities during the day and go inside if you can so nobody sees how much cash you have.
- There are so many great dining options in Costa Mesa. Police recommend that you never leave a purse slung on the back of a chair as it’s too easy for a thief to snatch it.
- If you should get approached by a robber demanding your purse, throw the purse away from you and run in the other direction. The robbery isn’t as worried about you as they are the goods in your purse or wallet. Report the incident to the police immediately.
- If you are a victim of a non-urgent crime, you can file a police report through the department’s website.
- You can sign up for emergency alerts through Nixle.com. This way you’ll get immediately notified if there is a suspect on the run, an accident blocking a road, weather emergencies, and civil emergencies.
- Go511.org should be your new best friend when traveling through Southern California. The traffic website gives you real-time traffic updates and live cameras showing traffic. While traffic is always pretty heavy in this region, you still want to see the timing of getting to your next destination.
- John Wayne Airport is immediately next to Costa Mesa. That means there will be a certain amount of airport noise in the community. Costa Mesa has one of the most stringent noise ordinances to keep flights from being too disruptive to daily life.
- There’s a lot of walking to do in Costa Mesa and with all that traffic it can get a little dangerous to cross the street. Always use a crosswalk and follow the rules of the road. Cross when the signal allows but pause to make sure cars are stopping to let you by.
- From time to time, there might a minor earthquake here. For locals, it’s just part of life in Southern California, but it can startle a tourist. These generally last just a few seconds and shouldn’t be any cause for alarm. If it’s the “big one”, you’ll notice a much bigger shaking of the earth, and those emergency notifications will come in very handy.
So... How Safe Is Costa Mesa Really?
Violent crime is slightly above both the California and national average, yet the city hasn’t seen more than four homicides per year in the past decade.
Here’s the average risk in Costa Mesa:
- Violent crime: 1 in 249 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 964 risk
- Theft: 1 in 41 risk
Cars and jewelry are the things most like to get stolen.
It’s imperative you lock your car, roll up the windows, and keep all personal belongings out of plain sight.
Don’t get dressed up in couture with your finest jewelry if you are going to be walking around. It’s an area where you’ll be tempted to dress up a little more, but also know that comes with the risk of being robbed.
Insure all your jewelry before visiting.
How Does Costa Mesa Compare?
|New York City||67|
|Phnom Penh (Cambodia)||61|
|Niagara Falls (Canada)||87|
|Buenos Aires (Argentina)||60|
As long as you got through the airport or port of entry with your Visa, you won't need any additional proof of identification to get into Costa Mesa. Keep your ID on you if you plan on drinking as the drinking age is 21.
The currency used here is the U.S. Dollar. Given the robbery and theft rates, it's best if you just use one credit card for payments and avoid carrying any cash around.
It's hard to tell what season it is because the weather is almost the same year-round. You'll have highs in the upper-60s or low 70s and lows in the upper-40s or 50s. Pack some beach gear because you're very close to two popular beach areas, and bring plenty of sunscreens.
The John Wayne Airport is right next door to Costa Mesa, only about 5 miles at most. The takeoff there has been named one of the scariest in the nation due to the way planes have to accommodate the noise ordinance. Flights have a short runway and need to get up in the air quickly to avoid getting a noise citation. It can feel like you're on a rocket ship the first time you take off from John Wayne. The Long Beach Airport is 21 miles northwest and Los Angeles International Airport is 40 miles northwest.
Get travel insurance in case weather, wildfires, or power outages impact flight patterns.
Costa Mesa Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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