For over a hundred years Laguna Beach has drawn visitors for its unique combination of pristine beaches and a thriving arts community. Laguna’s seven miles of coastline make for some of Orange County’s most idyllic beaches, popular for families and surfers, sun soakers and beachcombers alike. Three annual arts festivals and over 100 galleries and studios make Laguna Beach the epicenter of Southern California’s coastal arts scene. Some visitors are simply drawn by premier shopping, dining, nightlife, golfing, and outdoor recreation.
Geographically, Laguna Beach is distinguished from its neighbors by rolling hills and steep roads that jut up from the coast. Although the town is spread over several miles along the coast and up into the foothills, the heart of the town is centered near Main Beach Park, where Laguna Canyon Road (Broadway Street) meets the Coast Highway. This is the main “touristy” area of town, and for good reason. Restaurants, shops, and galleries are conveniently integrated with Main Beach, a highly picturesque stretch of sand. Here, affordable beachfront dining and sandy sunset strolls are the norm. However, hotels, restaurants and shops are scattered all along the Coast Highway, both northwest of the main town and especially along the few miles to the southeast towards Dana Point.
Of course the central attraction of Laguna Beach is its beaches. In total there are 20 pristine coves and beaches spread across 7 miles of coastline. The various Laguna Beach beaches are popular for different reasons, and where to spend your time depends on your interests. But even Main Beach, smack dab in center of town, is nice enough to absorb your entire day, and it’s easily within reach of a quick meal or shopping run. Other beaches are better for beating the crowds, or for activities like surfing or exploring tide pools. As with most Southern California beach towns, parking is an issue. Be prepared with coins for parking meters, and a willingness to walk a few blocks down steeper walkways to access the better beaches. Some of the most popular Laguna Beach beaches are Pearl Street Beach for surfing, Crescent Bay and Shaw’s Cove for tidepooling, and Crystal Cove State Park—3.2 miles of beach, wilderness, hiking trails, and an “underwater park” great for snorkeling and diving.
Beaches aside, the history and growth of the Laguna Beach community is tied to the arts. Artists have been drawn here since the early 1920’s and have made an impact on the personality of Laguna Beach since that time. Today, over 70 pieces of public art are in open display throughout the town, created by local and international artists. Three annual arts festivals—Art-A-Fair, Festival of Arts, and Sawdust Art Festival—take place over the summer. Many of these events include workshops and classes for the public. A stroll through town will quickly reveal the abundance of Laguna Beach’s art galleries and studios, totaling over 100. The Laguna Art Museum is an excellent place to start for an introduction to local and California artists. Laguna Beach is also known for its access to primitive California wilderness. Several nearby parks are part of the South Coast Wilderness area, which includes Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Aliso and Woods Canyon Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park, and others, totaling around 22,000 acres. Hiking and biking trails provide an opportunity to see coastal California as it once was, and to get a view of local wildlife. Groups like the Laguna Canyon Foundation organize frequent fitness hikes open for locals and visitors willing to make a tiny donation.
Laguna Beach hotels and resorts are scattered about town, and there isn’t a main hotel district. A handful of Laguna Beach hotels are directly on the beach. However, at most hotels you’re rarely more than a short walk from the beach. Many hotels are far enough from the Main Beach downtown area to discourage walking there, but restaurants, bars, and shops are found in all areas.
Laguna Beach is accessed along the Coast Highway between Newport Beach and Dana Point, or via the 133 South, a 5 mile drive through Laguna Canyon from State Road 73, which connects with the 405 freeway and the 5 freeway. The town is about 50 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and 73 miles northwest of San Diego. To learn more about attractions, lodging, recreation, and other travel information about Laguna beach, explore the links to the left.