Laguna Beach is a small coastal city in Orange County, California. It’s known for its many art galleries, coves and beaches. I could spend a week in Laguna, and I have! But if you only have 24 hours to visit, this guide will help you get the most of your trip!
Stay Near the Beach
I have been coming to Laguna Beach for years, and was so excited to bring my husband here for the first time. Of course, he fell in love with the landscape, intimate beach, and laid back vibes, of this sleepy yet energetic town. We baby mooned here in 2016 and came across Laguna Beach House. It's an old motel totally gutted and converted into this surfer inn. In fact, I was so in love with the feeling this hotel gave me, that I asked to purchase the owner's childhood surfboard for my son. It's now decorating his beach themed baby room, and reminds me of the fond memories we always make each time we visit Laguna. I digress...
The staff are all so nice, and the rooms bright, airy and clean. They serve a simple granola and yogurt breakfast, and the fire pit, hot tub and pool are the best ways to wind down after a day at the beach. Here's the best part: Free wine during a happy hour from 5-6. And wait for it... Fresh baked cookies and milk from 6-7. All complimentary. People, this is not a paid ad, and I vouch that Laguna Beach House is in my top 5 hotels I have ever stayed in anywhere. It's simplicity and warmth, lets you forget any worries, and slips you right into vacation mode.
Bottom line, regardless of where you stay, I think it's key to be close to the main boardwalk and beach. It is a small town and relatively easy to get around, but my enjoyment has always come from walking around the city and exploring by foot. There are high end hotels I looked at that are into the canyons, but it was just too far away from the energy of the town.
If you don't fancy the idea of walking everywhere, the city even has a free trolly that will take you up and down Ocean blvd.
#PROTIP: Guests of Laguna Beach House can also go to The Inn at Laguna Beach for the complimentary happy hour from 5-6, and cookies and milk from 6-7 pm. They have an amazing roof top terrace with panoramic beach and ocean views.
There are so many amazing places to grab a bit to eat in Laguna Beach, from ultra casual to exclusive fine dining. If I had 24 hours to kill, I'd start with breakfast at our hotel hotel at the Laguna Beach House, keeping it simple. I'd work up an appetite for an early lunch at Cliff Restaurant, which has great views and good cocktails and food. I personally loved their ahi tuna tacos.
Finally, hands down, the best dinner and views in town is at Mozambique, an upscale eatery & lounge serving South African-inspired cuisine plus wine in a colonial setting. I think its 3 or 4 floors, and their panoramic rooftop terrace seats maybe 100 people, with incredible views of the ocean. Mozambique is a bit further south. You can walk it; and will take you about 20-25 minutes. Or you can catch the trolly or an Uber. If you opt for driving, they do have valet for $5, which is actually required.
A Tiki Happy Hour
My friend Bridget and I were staycationing in Laguna this spring, and walked by an unassuming tiki bar/restaurant near our hotel, the Royal Hawaiian. Their happy hour sign drew us into a quiet restaurant, that quickly filled up after an hour. Reminiscent of 1990 North Shore Hawaii, their cocktails and tiki drinks are S.T.R.O.N.G. I mean, two will put me on my behind, but in a glorious, island, no worries kind of way. Stop here for happy hour which usually begins around 3:30, a bit early, but hey, it's island time! Their food also looks great and I'm told you need reservations for dinner during peak times. PSA - babies are not allowed directly at the bar, but you can snag a table behind the bar. ;)
I mentioned this earlier, but if you do stay at Laguna Beach House or The Inn at Laguna Beach, they have a complimentary happy hour from 5-6 for hotel guests.
If you want a break from the beach, surfing, food and galleries, the hiking options are abundant, with varying degrees of difficulty. My favorite is hiking through Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, a recreational area within the costal canyons. You definitely want to drive and park at the trailhead. I did this hike at 7 months pregnant, and it was very hot, unlike the beach which tends to get a nice cool breeze. It was beautiful, wild and dry. You saw warning signs for rattle snakes and mountain lions. We have never come across either!
If you're looking for something more leisurely, you can stick to a casual stroll on the boardwalk. You find lovely views of the ocean, and the best spots to catch the epic sunset. Depending on the waves, you can even enjoy watching the surfers all day. There's lots of opportunities to explore the tide pools in the morning and early afternoons, with staircases to the water up and down the boardwalk. You might even run into the Laughter Club. My first time coming across this group was odd, because they were all hysterically laughing, in uniformed motion. But laughter is truly contagious, so I joined in.
Mind your safety anytime you're directly on the water or walking across the tide pools. You are on the Pacific, and the waves can be strong and rise quickly. As always, pay attention to posted warning signs.
#ProTip: Bring lots of water and sunblock for the Canyon hikes. Expect it to be 10-20 degrees hotter in the canyons than on the beach.
Art & Galleries
Laguna is home to more than 100 art galleries and studios. This art colony will daze and amaze you with the abundance of talent and beautiful work you can find here. You can even discover the artist in you and take an art class taught by Laguna's most elite instructors. More info at Mystic Arts Gallery.
My favorite gallery is the Art of Dr. Seuss Gallery. The nostalgia alone will delight your inner child. My son even loved walking through, recognizing some of his favorite characters. Generally, I love Laguna art.com, which is great site that shares everything fine art in Laguna Beach, including key work for sale.
There you have it. My guide to Laguna Beach, one of my favorite beach in the world.
Explore, enjoy and live.
We are explorers.
Thrill Seekers. Foodies.