Now, that being said... looking at the serious side of things, we've recently seen how the coastal areas, south orange county, and communities on the ocean side of the freeway, have held their values most strongly in this changing market. It's also important to look at the school systems, which is why Irvine has maintained such a strong market hold even through this slump.
So, I do believe ALL of the answers below hold some merit and each has made a good case for why *these* are the 'best areas' to buy in the OC.
If you would like to see any homes that interest you and find out all about the community please feel free to visit my site and you can search by any city in Orange County,
If you're like 99% of the country and are not looking to spend that much money, then I would agree with Carrie on certain parts of the city of Costa Mesa. East Costa Mesa, particularly the area surrounding the shops and restaurants of 17th Street, is my favorite place in Orange County if you value good schools, an eclectic environment, good shopping, fantastic coffee (Kean coffee is the best coffee I have ever had), shopping, night life, and close beach proximity. It has a more down to earth Corona Del Mar vibe.
I would love to answer your question. What does best mean to you? Would you like me to look in my crystal ball to tell you which areas will go up the most (or down the least?). Are you looking for a single family residence, townhouse, condo? Do you work out of your home? If not, where do you work? Do you want to be close to the beach, hiking trails, or fabulous malls?
That being said, Los Alamitos & Irvine tend to hold value on the strength of their school districts.