Laguna Beach is a seaside resort city that is much more than a beach town. The city is nestled amongst rolling hills and valleys overlooking the shoreline with great beaches, shops, restaurants and art galleries - giving it a distinct French Riviera allure.
Laguna Beach is a great destination for a family looking to escape the heat of the inland cities or for couples looking for a romantic stroll on the beach.
Along with great beaches, hiking trails and tide pool explorations, the city is famous for its artist community with plenty of art galleries and festivals.
During the summer months, make sure to visit the “Festival of Arts” or the “Sawdust Art Festival” – or both. The “Festival of Art” is an art show that gathers over 150 artists from Southern California to show off their handiwork. The “Sawdust Art Festival” is an artist village that gets rebuilt every year from the ground up and features art exhibits, family entertainment, workshops and food.
When you are not visiting festivals and art galleries try walking along Cliff Drive, visiting Sunset Beach or going to the Top of the World. See more details below.
Heisler Park, Main Beach to Arch Cove375 Cliff Dr, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
One of the best ways to enjoy Laguna Beach is to walk through Heisler Park, down to Main Beach and on to Arch Cove. This is a long walk but you can always relax on the beach and enjoy the views.
This walk starts from the south end of “Heisler Park” on Cliff dr. around High dr. or Maple st. Once you park, make your way to the footpath along the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Local Tip: Parking is very hard to find around this park. Try parking on one of the side streets leading to Cliff dr. You might need to go further away from the park. Another alternative is to park in one of the city parking areas around Broadway st (HWY 133) or Ocean then walk back to Cliff drive.
The Park itself is worth a visit. It is clean and well maintained with good restrooms, picnic tables and Barbeques. The park is also home to a large variety of shade trees, cactus, sage brush, palms and flowers.
After enjoying the park, continue your stroll along the path that commands the best views of the ocean from any Southern California beach town. It is perched high up the bluffs, with several pathways leading to small secluded coves and beaches.
Towards the south end of Heisler Park, Cliff drive veers left into shops and residences and crosses PCH. You want to stay to the right where you can find a gazebo overlooking the ocean with a spectacular 360-degree view.
Right on that corner you will also find one of my favorite restaurants, Las Bresas, where you can enjoy Mexican cuisine with a great view. They also offer a great Sunday brunch.
Between the Gazebo and the restaurant there is a footpath going down to the “Main Beach” area. Once you reach the bottom of the path, you are at one of the most popular beaches in SoCal, which is called Main Beach.
Continue your walk along the boardwalk and then take your shoes off and stroll on the sand as far as your feet can take you. I personally love to walk through the surf and get my feet wet.
Local Tip: If you decide to visit Main Beach, keep in mind that it is one of the busiest beaches in OC. No parking at the beach, but you can park in town across Pacific Coast Highway.
On your right you can watch the waves and the surfers. On the left you will see a lot of hotels and restaurants.
One of my favorites is the “Ocean View Bar & Grill”. The balcony is right on the sand with great views in every direction. Best time to visit is during breakfast hours when it is less crowded. If you visit at lunch or dinner reservations are recommended.
If you continue your walk south on the sand, you may come across some rocky formations. During high tides your path might be totally blocked. You can try to scale those obstacles, but be careful. They could be slippery and rough on your feet. If you prefer to play it safe, climb one of the stairways back to the street level and go down the next stairs.
Toward the end of this walk you come to Arch Cove at Pearl Street beach. The beach is famous for its Arch, which you can walk through at low tide. If you prefer not to walk all the way this point, you can get to it from street level at 1791 Ocean Way. See Thousand Steps beach below.
On the way back you can retrace your steps or you can hike back on PCH to enjoy the shops.
Thousand Steps BeachPearl Street, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Another secluded beach in Laguna, Thousand Steps beach, is named for the length of the beach. The beach is at the bottom of a long stairway with around 250 steps. Going back up the steps probably feels like a 1000 too. The official name is Pearl Beach because it is located at Pearl street.
At the south end of this beach there is a natural formation Arch called Keyhole. You can actually walk through the arch during low tides which leads you to another nice beach called Woods Cove beach. At high tides you will have to wade or swim through it.
The beach is also famous for its blow hole. Water rushes through the blow hole with every wave, then recedes. Adventurous swimmers dive into it and swim under the rocks through a little underwater cave. Watch these videos to get an idea: https://youtu.be/GmgVl31gRvk. or https://youtu.be/g0q5OHQEc9s.
Sunset Beach at Montage ResortWesley dr. at PCH, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
This beautiful and leisurely walk is located at the south end of Laguna Beach. It is famous for the tastefully landscaped walkways and great views of the sunset.
This walk starts at the intersection of Wesley dr. and PCH. You can park at the free underground parking or at the Montage resort.
Heading north along the path you will find beautiful flower gardens, palm trees and the occasional bench overlooking the beach below. On the right you will come across a great blue mural and some nicely maintained restrooms.
Towards the end of the concrete path you will reach a dirt path with several benches – a nice place to rest before you turn back. It is also the prime spot to relax and enjoy the sunset.
Several paths along the way will lead you down to the beach where you can enjoy the sand and surf.
Top of the WorldW Ridge, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
At the highest point in the Laguna Beach hills you will find this nicely appointed park with an amazing view. The park itself is a nice place to have a picnic or play tennis, but most people come for the views and the extensive hiking trails.
Park your car in the free parking lot or on Alta Laguna road, then walk through a small wooden bridge and up a short trail to get to the beginning of the viewing area. From that vantage point you can feast your eyes on a panoramic view of the ocean. On a clear day you can see Catalina Island and the Santa Cruz Islands in the distance. Closer by you can gaze at the multi-million dollar homes of Laguna Beach.
If your goal is to hike, there are a lot of hiking trails starting at this point. A sign at the entrance shows a map of Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness trails. You can spend a couple of hours or a full day hiking in this area.
One of my favorite hikes is called Car Wreck trail. It is so called because there is a wrecked car at the bottom of the ravine. No one knows how the car ended so far down - away from any road.
The hike is strenuous due to the steep trail, rocky path and deep grooves from flash floods. You can make it a little easier by going down to the car wreck and looping around another trail for the climb back up.
Local Tip: Please remember to take lots of water with you, especially on warm days.
Start at West Ridge trail (off the viewing area). Turn right onto Mathis trail. Turn right again into Car Wreck trail. This is where it gets very difficult. Towards the bottom of that trail you will see the wrecked car nestled in the trees.
As you descend beyond the car wreck the landscape changes around you into a wooded area with nice shade trees, a stream and some benches to rest your feet.
You will be starting your return trip on “Oak Grove” trail. After a nice stroll you will turn left and start climbing back on Mathis trail. This climb is more gradual but it is long. Keep going until you hit the West Ridge trail again, then turn left to the main viewing area. You just completed a 7-mile hike.