Looking for an easy, breezy romantic getaway? Well, picture this: 7.8 miles of sandy beaches, crashing waves, breath-taking views of the Pacific and sea lions, too. The artist enclave of Laguna Beach offers an eclectic fusion of sandy coves, stunning coastal bluffs, delectable treats, high fashion, coated with a surfer cool sheen. Halfway between L.A. and San Diego, Laguna Beach is the ideal choice for lazy walks, impromptu paddleboard lessons and a great opportunity to relax and enjoy one of the most resplendent spots on the California coast.
DAY 1: VISIT THE SEA LIONS
Rise and shine! Start your morning on the patio of The Cottage Restaurant, a charming 1920s cabin converted into a sunny, well-located eatery. Great eggs benedict, German apple pancakes and unique omelets are served up in this local-loved spot that is as friendly to dogs as it is to people. Next, head down to Crescent Bay, a beautiful beach popular with local scuba divers that also happens to be the prime viewing spot for the local sea lion colony. For up close and personal viewing, go to Pacific Marine Mammal Center, where injured and ill sea lions, seals and other marine mammals are rehabilitated. These aquatic cuties will definitely tug at your heart strings. If you’re an animal lover like me, you’ll feel compelled to make a donation.
Now that you’ve gotten some salt air in your lungs, it’s time to head back to the hotel. First off, you need to understand that in Laguna Beach, there are a few different ways you can go with a hotel. (Hint: Even the cheaper hotels are not cheap.) Some folks don’t mind spending the better part of their monthly mortgage on a few nights at Montage Laguna Beach Resort and Spa. Gorgeous Craftsman architecture, feather beds, big ‘ol tubs…yes the Montage has it all.
I prefer to save my money for a few nights on the Laguna strip and embrace the rustic charm of Casa Laguna Inn and Spa. For about 1/2 of the price of the Montage, you can embrace this tranquil setting that’s all about romance and serenity – which is to say that this is not a family-friendly hotel. So, leave the kids at home and relax by the heated pool, schedule a couples’ massage, or reserve a private sunset soak with champagne in the terraced garden. After a restful sleep on a cloudlike, seven-layer bed with luxurious linens, I highly doubt you will be missing much of anything!
DAY 2: HIKES AND STRAWBERRY WATERMELON AGUA FRESCA
Drive 10 minutes to the Nix Nature Center, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park’s new headquarters spread out over 20,000 acres. Designed as the perfect spot for nature lovers to hike, walk, cycle, horseback ride and bird-watch, the South Coast Regional Wilderness is a vast network of linked trails ideal for challenging visitors of all ages and abilities to appreciate nature from various perspectives. Grab a map with trail guides that will help you explore the biodiversity of this treasured eco-region.
For a delicious bite after your hike, enjoy lunch at the family-owned and operated La Sirena Grill. Touted by some as the best Mexican restaurant in Laguna, La Sirena Grill is located inside an old casita a few blocks from the beach. Relax on the patio with a delicious calamari burrito (who even thought of that?), strawberry watermelon agua fresca, and a big butterscotch cookie for dessert.
To wile away the rest of the afternoon, head to Woods Cove Beach, a secluded spot tucked inside a residential area that’s just perfect for your well-deserved siesta. To get there, turn south on Diamond Street from PCH. The entrance to Woods Cove is just past Diamond Street on the south side of ocean.
DAY 3: CLIMB ABOARD A PADDLEBOARD
Lighten up your morning with a gourmet vegetarian breakfast from the Zinc Café & Market on boutique-lined Ocean Avenue. Be patient, because locals line up early at this favorite spot. People-watch, read the paper or just enjoy the food while you dig into your delicious and healthy breakfast of popovers, muesli and scrambled eggs.
After that breakfast you will definitely need a workout! Which means it’s time to embrace your inner surfer and head over to Stand Up Paddle Company for an awesome paddleboarding experience. A private lesson is worth every penny – the certified instructors are patient, calm, and knowledgeable. They will guide you through the basic techniques for stand up paddling, including entering the water, paddling with the proper stance, using efficient strokes and turning. Laguna is the perfect location for both first-timers and experienced paddleboarders, and there’s a good chance you’ll have a dolphin chaperone swimming along as you maneuver through a kelp forest!
After mastering paddleboarding, get yourself cleaned up and head over for dinner at Sapphire Laguna restaurant, where the old local landmark, Pottery Shack, sat for 60 years. Order a lychee mojito and an appetizer of home-fried potato chips sprinkled with sage-rosemary sea salt. Settle in to watch the sunset on the patio while you enjoy mouth-watering roasted Mediterranean sea bass and the scrumptious Snickers Bar — salted peanut nougat with vanilla ice cream.
DAY 4: ARTY PARTY
Laguna Beach is famous for cultivating and embracing artists since the 1920s. These days, the streets overflow with art galleries featuring everything from sculpture to photography to artisanal jewelry. If the dozens of galleries overwhelm you, spend an afternoon at the Laguna Art Museum. Located directly on the beach, it’s definitely worth missing a bit of the glorious Laguna sunshine to duck inside for an introduction to California art.
If soaking in all of that art has inspired you to make your own masterpiece, create a personal keepsake at a Sawdust Studio Art Class, which offers one-day workshops in painting, ceramics, glass-blowing and jewelry-making. A professional artist leads each class.
Before heading home, hike down from PCH to Victoria Beach, a stunning pocket beach with a secluded cove that guarantees a dose of serenity and calm that will stay with you long past sunset – and there’s free parking! Victoria Beach is framed to the north by rocky tide pools and to the south by Treasure Island Beach. A careful walk (with shoes!) over the rocks will lead to some amazing discoveries including a turreted beach access stairway covered in plants. It’s just another special touch that makes Victoria Beach unique. My recommendation for a great getaway in Laguna Beach? Do everything or nothing at all, which Laguna Beach makes easy, any time of year.
And for more insider tips on California activities and tours, California vacation spots, California tourist attractions, California vacation packages, and California inns, B&Bs, lodges, hotels, and restaurants, explore LocalGetaways.com, where you’ll always find best California travel deals.
If you have your own tips and recommendations about Laguna Beach and the surrounding communities that you’d like to share, feel free to add your own comments to our blog below. We’d love to hear from you.
For more insider tips on California activities and tours, California vacation spots, California tourist attractions, California vacation packages, and California inns, B&Bs, lodges, hotels, and restaurants, explore LocalGetaways.com, where you’ll always find best California travel deals.