Laguna Beach is 50 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. September and October are the best months to visit Laguna Beach. The tourists have left because the art fairs are over, but the beaches and sunsets reach peak beauty.
Once you’ve arrived in Laguna, head to Las Brisas for a classic Mexican cocktail and chips on the patio. It’s often packed, so reserve a spot. From there, walk along Heisler Park for spectacular views of Laguna during sunset. For dinner, make a reservation at Broadway by Amar Santana or Driftwood Kitchen.
Start your day on the patio at the original Zinc Café. They have strong coffee, healthy vegetarian breakfasts, excellent pastries, and a great little market. Pick up some fruit and snacks for the beach there, or at the nearby Saturday Morning Farmers’ Market.
Laguna has great playgrounds and hiking. Bluebird Park is a Laguna childhood institution, or drive to the Top of the World park (officially called Alta Laguna Park), with incredible views, a fun playground, and tennis courts. The park serves as the trailhead for hiking and bike trails in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Another kid-friendly activity is a quick visit to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, where you can see the sea lions and seals currently being rehabilitated by the center.
For lunch, get Laguna’s best Mexican food at La Sirena Grill. There are two locations, the original shack on Mermaid St. in downtown (hence the name La Sirena), and the bigger location with a bar and seating in South Laguna. The downtown location is closed on Sundays. A couple blocks from the Mermaid St. location is Gelato Paradiso. Be sure to find time for this gelato while in Laguna. The line is always long, but it moves fast, and waiting in the charming Peppertree Lane is half the fun.
Spend the rest of Saturday at the beach. The best Laguna beaches are the coves in North Laguna, so drive to Crescent Bay Beach or Shaw’s Cove. If the tide is low, make sure to visit the tide pools. There is often a guide there to point out sea life.
For a casual dinner, pick up Chinese takeout at Mandarin King and have a sunset picnic at Crescent Bay Park. Or head downtown for pizza and pasta at Alessa. It’s a touristy chain, but its outdoor deck seating on the newly pedestrian-only Forest Avenue makes it feel like a European vacation. End the night with a cocktail at Saloon or The Seahorse at Pearl Street General.
For a fun morning outing, drive north to Crystal Cove for breakfast at Beachcomber. This restaurant on the beach is inside Crystal Cove State Park, surrounded by historic beach rentals. (Fun fact – Beaches was filmed here!) Park across the street and either hike for 5 minutes, or take the shuttle, down to the beach. Get there early or expect a wait. You can walk on the beach while waiting for your table. Be sure to order the beignets. For less of an outing, grab breakfast at Café Heidelberg or Orange Inn.
For shopping in Laguna, head south of downtown to Laguna Beach Books, which has a sweet kids section and lovely staff, and then to Sound Spectrum for records. Lala: A Kerry Cassill Store has beautiful cotton linens, pajamas, and beach wear. Anneliese Schools Store is a sweet pop up with groceries and home goods but is currently only open weekdays.
In downtown, there’s the new home store Good Together House, Laguna Supply for designer women’s clothing, and stock up on salt water taffy at The Candy Baron. Other favorites are Sue Greenwood Art gallery and Nicholson Antiques, both just north of downtown. For classic Laguna Beach surf and locals-only gear, go to Hobie Surf Shop and Coast Hardware.
For lunch, grab Laguna surfer classics. Fish tacos and beer at Taco Loco, or vegan salads, sandwiches, and burritos at The Stand Natural Foods. Squeeze in one more beach visit to watch the surfers and skimboarders at Thaila Street Beach.
On your way out of town, grab a burger during sunset at the 1940’s Crystal Cove Shake Shack.
Where to Stay
I love to walk in Laguna so I recommend staying in a place that’s close to downtown, even if it means a less fancy choice. These are my recs while I wait for the reopening of the iconic Hotel Laguna.
The Inn at Laguna Beach is right on the north end of Main Beach in downtown with great ocean views.
Pacific Edge Hotel has a perfect beachfront location and is right next to Driftwood Kitchen and Bar.
The Surf and Sand Resort used to be the fancy hotel in Laguna before the Montage moved in. It’s a great luxury option, although a bit further south than the other two.
Even further south is the adorable Casa Laguna, a recently renovated 1920’s bed and breakfast, and the highest end hotel option is the Montage Laguna Beach. Walking the grounds of the Montage is a great activity, even if you aren’t a guest.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your weekend getaway to beautiful Laguna Beach!
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