Looking for a beach vacation with a twist? Nestled between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach, California is a charming seaside town. It is known for its stunning landscape, vibrant art scene, and endless outdoor activities.

If you’re a Millennial like me, then this Orange County destination got on your radar with the hit MTV show Laguna Beach in 2004. (More on that below.)

Then, again with the Dirty John series on Bravo in 2018. Click here to listen to my podcast episode where I interview Terra Newell, the woman who took down Dirty John.

When my husband and I visited Southern California in the winter of 2023, we stayed at the Art Hotel. Because it’s right off of North Pacific Coast Highway and just one block from the beach, it’s a great place to stay.

In this blog post, I’m going to cover everything about Laguna Beach – where to stay, what to do, how to get there, and more.

Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

The Art Hotel is just

But, let’s get back to the popular destination of Laguna Beach!

Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

Hit The Beaches 

One of the best things to do in Laguna Beach is hit up one of its many gorgeous beaches. From coves and lagoons to wide-open beaches, there are many to choose from. 

Main Beach is the most popular spot in town. It’s great for swimming and sunbathing and offers plenty of nearby shops and restaurants.  This is about a one-mile walk south of Art Hotel.

Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

Victoria Beach is a very popular place. It’s home to iconic sights – like the famed “Pirate Tower” and a circular, man-made pool, or tide pools, that blew up thanks to Instagram. It’s also beloved by skimboarders. So much so that the most successful skimboard company on earth, Victoria Skim Boards, borrowed the beach’s name.

Crescent Bay is perfect if you’re looking for some peace and quiet. It’s tucked away from most tourist activity but still offers all the ocean views you could want. 

Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

Explore The Arts Scene 

Laguna Beach is also known as one of California’s premier art hubs… hence the hotel I’m staying at this trip. The Art Hotel shows a lot of love to local artists in their lobby and throughout the property. 

Every summer since 1932, the city hosts its annual Festival of Arts (also known as Pageant of the Masters) which features over 140 artists from around Southern California who come together to showcase their work.

The Sawdust Art Festival hosts two main events annually – Sawdust Art Festival summer festival (June to August), and Winter Fantasy (November to December). These summer festivals feature live music, art exhibitions, craft displays, and interactive workshops.

When we were by Sawdust, we stopped by the Laguna Beach Beer Company. My husband loved trying the beer and I loved eating the garlic cheese bread, and of course, the Mexican Coke.

Take a stroll along Gallery Row on Pacific Coast Highway (where the Art Hotel is located), where you’ll find an array of galleries displaying everything from contemporary works to traditional and abstract art.

There are also dozens of art galleries throughout town that feature everything from modern art installations to classic oil paintings. Spend an afternoon strolling through these galleries like the Laguna Art Museum with an impressive permanent collection featuring works from over 150 years’ worth of California art. 

If musical arts is more up your alley, visit the Laguna Playhouse for live music and shows. 

5 Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California sawdust

Life Is Better Outdoors 

Finally, don’t forget about all the outdoor adventures waiting for you just outside your door. 

Take a hike at Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park or take a stroll along any number of trails in Crystal Cove State Park.

The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park lies within some of the last remaining coastal canyons in Southern California where rocky bluffs tower above the canyon trails.

These are also great places to spot marine life, like California sea lions, northern fur seals, and northern elephant seals, in their natural habitat along the California coast. 

Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

Go Downtown

Shoppers will love exploring downtown Laguna Beach too! With a variety of boutiques and shops selling everything from clothing and jewelry to home decor items, you’ll be sure to find some great souvenirs or gifts. 

There are also plenty of restaurants in town where you can enjoy fresh seafood dishes, fine dining, wine tastings, or grab a coffee while taking in the beautiful ocean views. Walking around downtown with my husband was my favorite part of the trip.

His favorite spot was Urth Caffe. He found it in between Art Hotel and downtown Laguna Beach on the Pacific Coast Highway… and snapped this picture of his breakfast.

Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

If wine tasting is your jam, don’t miss a trip to the Laguna Canyon Winery. Take a short drive into the picturesque Laguna Canyon to enjoy wine tasting, learn about the winemaking process, and perhaps purchase a bottle or two to savor later.

Remember the art scene I mentioned? Downtown is a great spot to take an art walk and check out the famous works of art from California artists on a walking tour of the area.

Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

Hop on the Trolley

If there is one thing I love when traveling, it’s this. I love a hop on and hop off trolley service.

If you want to give your walking shoes a break, then the free trolley will take you to a few of the top things to do in the city of Laguna Beach like,

  • Coast Highway between North Laguna and Heisler Park
  • Downtown
  • South Laguna and Mission Hospital
  • The Ritz Carlton in Dana Point

For more on when and where to hop on the Laguna Beach trolley, click here.

I could go because there is so much more to do in Laguna Beach, like watching humpback whales along the spectacular views of the laguna beach coastline, having lunch at one of the many picnic tables at Alta Laguna Park, or visiting the Pacific Marine Mammal Center to see local rescue animals be rehabilitated.

Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

Dana Point Harbor

Just a short drive south of Laguna Beach, Dana Point Harbor offers a picturesque marina and a variety of water activities. Take a harbor cruise, go deep-sea fishing, or rent a jet ski for an exhilarating adventure on the water.

Crystal Cove Historic District

Located within Crystal Cove State Park, the Crystal Cove Historic District features charming beach cottages from the 1920s and ’30s. Take a walk through the district, visit the Beachcomber Cafe for a meal, and enjoy the preserved coastal atmosphere.

Heisler Park

Situated along the coastline of Laguna Beach, Heisler Park offers breathtaking ocean views, beautifully manicured gardens, and picnic areas. Take a leisurely stroll along the coastal path or find a peaceful spot to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

Newport Beach

Just north of Laguna Beach, Newport Beach offers a range of activities and attractions. Explore the Balboa Peninsula, take a harbor cruise, or rent a bike and ride along the scenic boardwalk.

You can also visit the historic Balboa Fun Zone for classic arcade games and rides. This classic amusement park, located on the Balboa Peninsula, offers an array of rides, arcade games, and attractions for the whole family. Enjoy the Ferris wheel, bumper cars, and the historic Balboa Pavilion, which has been a local landmark since 1905.

Here, you can also take a short ferry ride to Balboa Island, a delightful enclave known for its picturesque streets lined with charming cottages and boutique shops. Explore Marine Avenue, the island’s main shopping district, where you’ll find unique stores, art galleries, and delectable treats like the famous Balboa Bars and frozen bananas.

Another island you can check out is Fashion Island. Indulge in retail therapy at Fashion Island, an upscale outdoor shopping center known for its luxury brands and trendy boutiques. Explore a wide range of fashion, home decor, and specialty stores. After a day of shopping, relax and savor a delicious meal at one of the many waterfront restaurants overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Mission San Juan Capistrano

A short drive inland brings you to Mission San Juan Capistrano, a historic Spanish mission founded in 1776. Explore the well-preserved mission grounds, including the beautiful gardens and the famous ruins of the Great Stone Church.

Crystal Cove Shopping Center

If you’re in the mood for shopping and dining, head to the Crystal Cove Shopping Center. This upscale outdoor mall features a variety of boutique shops, restaurants, and cafes. Enjoy a leisurely day of retail therapy and delicious cuisine.

Remember to check opening hours, availability, and any current restrictions before visiting these destinations.

Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

How to Get to Laguna Beach for Your Vacation

Planning a trip to this coastal paradise? Here is a comprehensive guide on how to get to Laguna Beach.

By Air

The nearest major airport to Laguna Beach is John Wayne Airport (SNA), located in Santa Ana, approximately 15 miles away. From the airport, you can rent a car, take a taxi, or arrange for a ride-share service to reach your destination in Laguna Beach.

Alternatively, Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is another option, situated about 50 miles north of Laguna Beach. From LAX, you can rent a car or take a shuttle service to reach your destination, like I did!

By Car

If you prefer a road trip or are arriving from nearby cities, Laguna Beach is conveniently accessible by car. The Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) runs along the coastline, providing a scenic and picturesque drive.

If you’re coming from Los Angeles, take Interstate 405 South to Highway 133 South. From San Diego, take Interstate 5 North and exit at El Toro Road (Highway 133).

By Train

Laguna Beach does not have a train station within city limits, but you can reach the area by train and then continue your journey by other means. The closest train stations are Irvine Station and San Juan Capistrano Station. From there, you can rent a car, take a taxi, or use local transportation services to reach Laguna Beach.

By Bus

Several bus companies provide services to Laguna Beach. The Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) operates local bus services that connect neighboring cities and areas within Laguna Beach.

Additionally, regional bus services, such as Greyhound, offer routes that pass through nearby cities, providing convenient access to Laguna Beach.

Getting Around Laguna Beach

Once you’ve arrived in Laguna Beach, getting around is relatively easy. The city offers a free trolley service during the summer months, which connects major attractions and beaches. It’s a convenient and scenic way to explore the area.

Planning Your Stay

When planning your vacation in Laguna Beach, consider the season and book accommodations in advance. The town offers a variety of lodging options, including luxury resorts, boutique hotels, vacation rentals, and beachside cottages.

Where to Stay in Laguna Beach

I already mentioned the Art Hotel where I stayed, but let’s look at some other options.

Montage Laguna Beach

Nestled on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Montage Laguna Beach is an exquisite luxury resort that combines elegance and natural beauty. Indulge in spacious rooms and suites with ocean views, world-class dining experiences, and a serene spa. The resort’s oceanfront location provides direct beach access and the opportunity to witness breathtaking sunsets from the comfort of your own private balcony.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach

Nestled in a serene canyon, The Ranch at Laguna Beach offers a rustic yet refined escape. This eco-friendly resort features stylishly appointed rooms, a nine-hole golf course, and a spa surrounded by nature. Explore nearby hiking trails, relax by the saltwater pool, or enjoy farm-to-table cuisine at the on-site restaurant. The property’s proximity to Aliso Beach and its scenic canyon setting make it a perfect retreat.

Surf & Sand Resort

Located right on the beach, Surf & Sand Resort offers a quintessential Laguna Beach experience. Immerse yourself in luxury with oceanfront rooms, a private balcony or patio, and access to a private stretch of beach. Indulge in spa treatments, dine at the acclaimed restaurant with breathtaking ocean views, or relax by the oceanfront pool. The resort’s prime location allows for easy access to nearby art galleries and boutiques.

Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa

This boutique hotel nestled in the hills above the coastline offers a tranquil and intimate escape. Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa combines Spanish-style architecture with modern amenities. Relax in uniquely designed rooms, rejuvenate at the on-site spa, and savor a complimentary breakfast served in the charming courtyard. The hotel’s secluded location provides a peaceful oasis while still being close to Laguna Beach’s main attractions.

Pacific Edge Hotel

For a vibrant and lively beachfront experience, Pacific Edge Hotel is a top choice. Located on Laguna Beach’s iconic Pacific Coast Highway, this hotel offers rooms with stunning ocean views and direct access to the beach. Enjoy the vibrant atmosphere at the hotel’s two beachfront bars, relax by the pool, or rent a cabana for the ultimate beachside experience. Like Art Hotel. this hotel’s central location allows for easy exploration of the town’s galleries, shops, and restaurants.

Vacation Rentals and Beach Houses

Laguna Beach is home to a variety of vacation rentals and beach houses, providing the opportunity to create your own private retreat. Whether you desire a cozy cottage nestled in the hills or a beachfront home with panoramic views, numerous rental options are available. Enjoy the freedom of your own space, cook meals in a fully equipped kitchen, and soak up the coastal ambiance at your leisure.

From luxury resorts offering world-class amenities to boutique hotels, beach houses, and vacation rentals providing privacy and freedom, Laguna Beach caters to a variety of preferences.

Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California

Laguna Beach on MTV

Like a true Millennial, I was excited to check out Laguna Beach because I watched the popular MTV show when I was younger. It’s been so long since I’ve seen it that I didn’t recognize a thing. In hindsight, I should’ve watched some old episodes before my visit to make it more fun (like my drive-by of SUR when I flew into Los Angeles. #teamariana).

If you’re not familiar, in the mid-2000s, MTV brought us an addictive reality television show that took us inside the lives of a group of affluent teenagers living in the picturesque coastal town of Laguna Beach, California.

“Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County” captivated audiences with its captivating drama, picturesque settings, and relatable coming-of-age stories.

Here’s a trip down memory lane into the groundbreaking MTV show that became a cultural phenomenon.

A Glimpse into Teenage Life

“Laguna Beach” provided viewers with a voyeuristic look into the lives of a group of teenagers navigating high school, relationships, and the challenges of adolescence. From romantic entanglements to friendship drama, the show tapped into universal experiences that resonated with audiences around the world.

The O.C. Meets Reality TV

Often referred to as the real-life version of “The O.C.,” “Laguna Beach” showcased the opulent lifestyle of its young cast. With their lavish beachfront homes, glamorous parties, and stylish wardrobes, the show epitomized the aspirational Southern California lifestyle that captivated viewers and fueled their fascination.

The Cast of Characters

“Laguna Beach” introduced us to a cast of memorable characters who became household names. From the charismatic and mischievous Kristin Cavallari to the dreamy heartthrob Stephen Colletti and the girl-next-door Lauren Conrad, the show’s ensemble cast left an indelible mark on pop culture.

The Power of Reality TV

The success of “Laguna Beach” paved the way for a new era of reality television, showcasing the power of unscripted storytelling. It captured the attention of viewers, who became invested in the lives of the cast members, their relationships, and the interpersonal dynamics that unfolded on screen.

The Music Soundtrack

Beyond the compelling storylines, “Laguna Beach” was also known for its iconic soundtrack. The show featured a carefully curated selection of indie rock, pop, and alternative songs that perfectly captured the emotional highs and lows of teenage life. The music became synonymous with the show and contributed to its cultural impact.

The Setting

The breathtaking backdrop of Laguna Beach served as more than just a picturesque setting. The show beautifully showcased the stunning beaches, scenic cliffs, and upscale neighborhoods that make Laguna Beach a sought-after destination. The town’s natural beauty became an integral part of the show’s allure.

The Reality vs. Fiction Debate

While “Laguna Beach” presented itself as a reality show, there has been an ongoing debate about the extent to which the events were scripted or manipulated for dramatic effect. This blurred line between reality and fiction only added to the show’s intrigue and sparked discussions among fans.

Legacy and Influence

“Laguna Beach” left a lasting impact on popular culture, influencing subsequent reality shows and shaping the way we consume and engage with unscripted television. It also launched the careers of several cast members, who went on to pursue successful ventures in the entertainment industry.

Whether you were a fan of the show during its original run or discovered it later, “Laguna Beach” holds a special place in television history, leaving a lasting impression on the reality TV landscape and forever etching its name into the pop culture lexicon.

What is your favorite thing to do here? Find me on Instagram at @ChristinaAllDay and let me know!

And if you travel to San Diego, check out my favorite things to do in La Jolla here. Palm Springs? I’ve got you covered here too!

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I'm Christina!

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 a millennial mom here to inspire you to live your best life without feeling anY mom guilt.

Thanks for stopping by for my unfiltered approach to family and lifestyle where I share what helps me run my family, business, and life while being lazy AF as often as possible. (Bubble bath, anyone?)



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