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.
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.
The Art Hotel is just
- one block from the Pacific Ocean,
- five minutes from Crystal Cove State Park,
- one minute from Crescent Bay Point Park,
- 20 minutes from Newport Beach,
- 22 minutes from San Juan Capistrano, and
- 20 minutes from Balboa Island.
But, let’s get back to the popular destination of Laguna Beach!
Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach, California
1. 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.
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.
2. 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).
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.
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.
3. 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.
Or if you’d prefer something more relaxing, head down to Heisler Park where you can take in all that nature has to offer while sitting on a bench overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
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.
4. 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.
If wine tasting is your jam, don’t miss a trip to the Laguna Canyon Winery.
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.
5. 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
- 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.
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!