I spent five years living and attending college in Laguna Beach, California, so it would be a shame if I didn’t write up a post on my favorite Laguna Beach experiences. Laguna is a small beach town that packs a lot of fun into a small area. I can only describe the community as part art colony, part hippie haven, and part fancy rich person playground. It is a town of gorgeous ocean cliffs, of galleries galore, hiking trails, and delicious food. If you’re planning on visiting Laguna Beach, here are a few of my favorite things:
The Tide Pools
One of my favorite things about Laguna Beach is the incredible tide pools along the coastline. This is a shallow, rocky area where you can explore and discover sea life. It’s a great place for people of all ages and a truly awesome experience if you have kids. You can find out more information about the tide pools here.
You can’t miss Main Beach. It’s appropriately named as it is the main beach in town. This is where Laguna Canyon Road intersects with Coast Highway where you’ll find a beautiful little sandy beach that has volleyball courts, basketball courts, a playground for the kids, benches and picnic tables, and showers and restrooms. The tide pools (above) are found on the North section of the beach, so this is a great place to spend a sunny afternoon.
I used to live right across the street from Heisler Park, so I spent a lot of time there during my college years. This is a really beautiful little park along the coastal cliffs that has gardens, walking trails, barbecues, picnic tables, coastal access to the tide pools, and even lawn bowling greens. It’s a great place to go for a stroll or have a picnic lunch, and an awesome place to be at sunset.
La Sirena Grill
La Sirena Grill is a great affordable place to eat. It’s just real, fresh, delicious Mexican food. A local favorite! At first glance, this place doesn’t look like much. It’s just a little taco shop on a side street with a walk-up counter and outdoor seating, but don’t be fooled. This is some of the best Mexican food in Laguna Beach. Try their tacos. I recommend the blackened fish of the day, which is always delicious. If fish isn’t your thing, try their flautas, which are amazingly delicious.
I must have eaten at Taco Loco at least 3 times per week when I was in college. This off-kilter eatery is a psychedelic world of delicious delights. It’s a really small place but they have outdoor seating. I recommend the blackened mushroom and tofu burger, a side of extra guac, and some green sauce. I know a tofu burger doesn’t sound like the thing you might want to try at a place with ‘taco’ in the name, but trust me…just try it. Their tacos aren’t bad either, so maybe also get a calamari taco, a blackened swordfish taco, and a blackened potato taco. Wash it all down with some Reed’s Ginger Brew for the full experience.
If healthy vegetarian food is more your thing, I suggest heading over to Zinc Cafe. It’s a great place for breakfast or lunch, with delights such as poached eggs on toast, huevos rancheros, quiche, asparagus sandwich, delicious salads and sandwiches, or potato enchiladas. I ate here a lot when I lived in Laguna and it was always fresh and delicious. They also have a variety of baked goods, pastries, espresso drinks, as well as wine, beer, and mimosas. Perfect for brunch!
Las Brisas is more of a fancy restaurant, so it will set you back a little more than the other places I suggested. However, the location is absolutely incredible. Situated right on the ocean cliffs, it boasts the best views in town. The cuisine is Mexican, but with an upscale twist. Look forward to things like ceviche, gazpacho, shrimp tampiqueños, halibut tomatillo, and salmon a la parrilla. They also have an amazing Sunday brunch. Reservations are recommended for eating here.
Top of the World
There is a nice little park perched up on a hilltop called Top of the World. The really cool thing about this park, however, is the view. You can see all of Laguna and Aliso Viejo on the other side of the hill, and there is a really great little hiking trail up there with incredible views that I highly suggest you check out. There’s ample street parking by the park.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
If you’re into hiking, you won’t want to miss the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. This is a park of preserved coastal canyon land where visitors can hike, bike, jog, or go horseback riding on beautiful trails through 7000 acres of land. There are regularly scheduled guided tours available (check their website for the schedule). Do check their website for current open hours, directions, and information on parking fees. There are four parking areas depending on where you want to hike, so definitely study the map before going.
Every year, the city of Laguna Beach holds the Sawdust Festival. This unique festival is a celebration of the arts and crafts of local artists. Visitors can shop for unique, one of a kind items, enjoy live entertainment, art demonstrations and workshops. There are two annual events: one in the summer and one in the winter. Tickets are required. For more information, visit this website.
Pageant of the Masters
The Pageant of the Masters is one of the premier events in Laguna Beach, and you won’t want to miss it because it’s awesome and really one of the most unique productions in the world. The pageant is a 90 minute long stage show of “living pictures”. What this means is real people dressed up and painted re-creating classical and contemporary artworks. The show takes place in an outdoor amphitheater and I really can’t describe how incredible it is using words- it’s just something you have to see for yourself. The Pageant of the Masters takes place during evenings in the summer season. Check their website for information on tickets, parking, etc.
Laguna Art Museum
Since Laguna Beach is a town of the arts, it only makes sense to take the time to visit the Laguna Art Museum. This little museum has a great collection and regularly features interesting exhibits on a rotating basis.
First Thursdays Art Walk
The first Thursday of every month in the evening, the city of Laguna Beach puts on an art walk event. This is basically a time when all the local art galleries open their doors in the evening and usually offer little snacks and sometimes even wine. People can walk around town from gallery to gallery and enjoy the social aspect of the evening as well as admire a lot of really great artwork. My alma mater of Laguna College of Art and Design even participates in the event in their school gallery, so definitely go check them out!
One tip: Laguna gets extremely crowded during the summer months. If that’s the only time you have to visit, that’s ok, but be prepared for heavy traffic and some time spent searching for a parking space. The good news is that the city provides a free trolley on weekends and information on where to park. You can check that out on their website, here. My recommendation, however, is that if you have your choice of any time of year to visit, you should do it in mid-to late September. That way, you’ll have fantastically beautiful summer weather without all the summertime crowds.
Also….do NOT let parking meters run past their time in Laguna Beach because you’ll get a ticket almost immediately. Bring quarters with you if you’re planning on parking at a meter.