There are many great things to do in Laguna Beach, California. This small coastal town in Orange County, about an hour south of Los Angeles, is known for its long-standing artists’ community and environmental preservation. Southern California in general is known for its mild weather, and Laguna Beach has the most amazing scenic coastal views.
But what does this small town has to offer? Continue reading to find out more!
What’s So Great About Laguna Beach?
Laguna Beach gained popularity and became a household name in 2004 thanks to the Reality TV Series produced by MTV called Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. But Laguna Beach holds much more magic, beauty, and culture than could be shown through a camera lens.
Between the deep-rooted art history that Laguna Beach captures, the culture that is exhibited throughout the town, the amazing food, and the friendly people, there is no shortage of fun things to do in Laguna Beach, a beautiful, sparkling beach town in Southern California.
14 Fun Things To Do In Laguna Beach, California
Hit the beach
Laguna Beach is a marine protected area. This means that no motorized boats or even fishing is allowed along the coastline which results in clean, beautiful water and tide pools rich in marine life. Laguna Beach actually encompasses over 30 beaches, but you can start with visiting Main Beach and Picnic Beach.
Main Beach marks the center point of the town and where you find all the action. Main Beach is the iconic beach view of Laguna Beach; it has sand volleyball courts, beautiful waves, and tide pools. A boardwalk lines Main Beach and separates the beach from the basketball court and playground.
You’ll also find a string of restaurants and shops bordering Main Beach. Anything you don’t find there, you will find across the street, on Broadway Street, Ocean Avenue, or Forest Avenue.
Main Beach does close from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am. Rules regarding dogs vary in different seasons at Main Beach, so check if your dog is allowed before you visit.
Picnic Beach is accessible via Heisler Park and removed from all of the commotions of Main Beach. There is a ramp going down to Picnic Beach (compared to stairs at many of the other beaches other than Main Beach), making it easy to haul your beach gear down to the beach. You’ll find green space and picnic tables, and public restrooms at the top of the ramp heading down to Picnic Beach.
Before heading to the beach, make sure you’re prepared with all the summer must-haves such as a cooler to fit your beach picnic, and sunscreen – these are perfect for any beach trip.
Walks and Hikes
Due to its artist community and abundance of art galleries, and exhibits, just walking around town in Laguna Beach is an experience.
Heisler Park in Laguna Beach has amazing views of the coastline in Laguna Beach and is full of lush gardens, green space, picnic tables, and art installations. You can walk through Heisler Park, down the stairs at the end, and end up on the boardwalk which takes you along Main Beach in Laguna Beach.
Heisler Park often has art installations places in the park, in addition to its permanent fixtures, all available to view at no cost.
Heisler Park is open 24 hours so you can enjoy this scenic route at any time.
Top of the World
Top of the World Hike is a moderately difficult out and back hike that takes you through the hills of Laguna Beach. Beautiful wildflowers line the trail and incredible views of the beach and the city await you at the top. The trail does not have shade, so take your hat, sunscreen, and water.
Top of the World Trail connects to a network of trails including Aliso and Woods Canyon Park, so you can make your hike an all-day adventure if that’s your thing. This trail system is a hit with the mountain biking community as well, so be aware that you are sharing the trail with cyclists.
The hike itself requires no admission cost but is only open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm and does allow dogs on a leash.
Laguna Coast Wilderness
Laguna Coast Wilderness Hike weaves you through the canyons of Laguna Beach and offers extraordinary views of the canyons and sparkling images of the ocean. This trail is also popular with mountain bikers, so be aware of bike traffic.
The trail is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm and does not permit dogs.
Eat at one of the Best Restaurants in Laguna Beach
One of the best parts of Laguna Beach is the high ratio of sunny days and mild weather, providing outdoor eating experiences on an almost daily basis. Combined with ocean views and high-quality ingredients, it’s easy to find great dining experiences in Laguna Beach.
Start with breakfast at The Orange Inn or Driftwood Kitchen. The Orange Inn regularly rates as the town’s favorite go-to eating spot and is a local surfer favorite. Get there early and prepare to wait a bit; parking and seating are limited at The Orange Inn.
Only a few blocks south of The Orange Inn, you’ll find Driftwood Kitchen. Ocean views, fresh organic food, and large portions are what make this spot another local favorite.
For lunch, you can stick with Urth Cafe which is always a crowd-pleaser. It’s on Pacific Coast Highway across the street from Laguna Art Museum. Urth Cafe has a great outdoor patio with great food and incredible people watching.
For a more budget-friendly restaurant for brunch or lunch, you can visit Urth Cafe’s neighbor, Number Three Restaurant. This restaurant has very few options but everything is delicious and surprisingly cost-effective, especially for Laguna Beach.
Dinner at Las Brisas is always a memorable experience. It is popular for brunch and lunch as well, but reservations on the patio for sunset dinner will not disappoint. They have amazing cocktails and world-class Mexican cuisine. If you have a taste for steak and lobster enchiladas, you are in luck! Las Brisas is located on top of the bluffs in Laguna Beach, along the walking path in Heisler Park, making an evening stroll before or after dinner very convenient.
Sweet treats are easy to come by in Laguna Beach. You’ll find La Macaron on the Pacific Coast Highway directly across from Main Beach. You can find all types of French treats, but most notably, their variety of delicious macarons, hence the name.
You’ll find the best gelato at Gelato Paradiso, which is in a quaint, European-style shopping area, or at Dolce Gelato, a block from Main Beach on Broadway Street.
Enjoy Art in Laguna Beach
With over 100 art galleries and artist studious in Laguna Beach, there is no shortage of art.
First Thursday Art Walk
On the first Thursday of every month, you can take part in the First Thursday Art Walk all year. The evening includes artist demonstrations, live music, and exposure to the diverse art Laguna Beach has to offer. Starting June 2021, the shuttle will re-open and will be used to connect the participating art galleries.
The Art Walk is free and is from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm each Thursday and includes 40 different galleries.
Sawdust Art Festival
Nestled along Laguna Canyon Drive, you’ll find Sawdust Art Festival. The Sawdust Arts Festival is an arts and crafts festival that takes place twice a year; there is a summer and winter festival. Each festival provides thousands of local artists a venue to showcase and sell their creations.
You will find different types of ceramics and sculptures, crafts, paintings, and unique creations. The festival also provides great food, live music, and a funky and eclectic atmosphere. Sawdust Art Festival also offers year-long art classes.
Tickets to the seasonal festival are $9 USD for an adult and $4 USD for children 6-12 years old.
Pageant of the Masters
If you are fortunate enough to visit Laguna Beach in late summer, you have the opportunity to see Pageant of the Masters. Festival of the Arts puts on the Pageant of the Masters festival each year.
The festival is known for its incredible tableau vivants. These are “living pictures” in which living people dress up and recreate classical and contemporary works of art. The Pageant of the Masters is an extraordinary production. This production reigns as one of the most important and popular events in Laguna Beach.
Ticket prices range from $25 to $170 USD, depending on your seat location.
Go on a day trip from Laguna Beach
As if Laguna Beach itself doesn’t have enough to offer, it also sits in a central location to explore beautiful Orange County, California. The following are the best day trips from Laguna Beach.
Balboa Island is a 25-minute drive north on the Pacific Coast Highway from Laguna Beach. This drive is along some of the most gorgeous coastline in the United States and along the edge of Crystal Cove Park. You’ll also drive through the highly esteemed neighborhood of Corona del Mar.
You’ll cross over a bridge for Balboa Island access (unless you take the ferry from the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach) and are greeted with a quaint main street lined with Eucalyptus Trees. You can walk the perimeter of Balboa Island using the 2 1/2-mile-long sidewalk.
See the sailboats, yachts, and multi-million-dollar homes as you stroll around and get your exercise. Have brunch at Wilma’s Patio – but make reservations before you go! Afterward, stop at Sugar n’ Spice for their famous Frozen Bananas and hand-dipped Balboa Bars.
Spend an afternoon on the Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach. The Balboa Peninsula is known for its wild summers, popular tourist scene, beautiful people and its 3-mile-long boardwalk. The boardwalk stretches the length of the peninsula and runs along multi-million-dollar homes, shops, and restaurants. Rent a Suri for your group and ride down the boardwalk for great beach views, people-watching and house gazing.
Newport Beach is a perfect spot to go for whale-watching too! You can book your whale-watching tour here.
Pack a cooler with drinks and snacks and rent a Duffy boat in Newport Beach for a sunset cruise in the bay. This is an incredible way to see Newport Beach from the water. You will also get an up-close glimpse at the incredible boat scene. You can even order dockside delivery for your dinner in your Duffy boat or, after your sunset cruise, have dinner at The Cannery for a phenomenal seafood experience.
Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City USA, is further north along the Pacific Coast Highway from Laguna Beach. One of the most iconic images of Huntington Beach is its famous Pier with a Ruby’s Diner at the end.
You can find Ruby’s Diner on the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach, but the Huntington Beach Ruby’s Diner is the iconic location. The second story of Ruby’s Diner on Huntington Pier was converted into a Jan & Dan’s Tiki Lounge for a tropical and Hawaiian Experience.
Things To Do In Laguna Beach For Kids
Are the kids along for the ride to Laguna Beach? The beach, the ocean, and hikes provide plenty for the kids. But there’s more!
Take it one step further and take surf lessons or go standup paddle boarding.
You can also schedule a whale and dolphin watching excursion just several miles south of Laguna Beach in Dana Point.
Book your whale-watching tour here.
Playgrounds and sports
In addition to the entertainment mother nature provides, Laguna Beach also has some excellent playgrounds.
Main Beach has a basketball court and a playground on the boardwalk, perfect for getting out some energy before a relaxing dinner. Another popular playground is the Bluebird Canyon Playground, a couple of miles inland from the beach.
Bluebird Canyon Park has a 4-story spaceship, complete with 2 slides, The playground also has 2 other main play structures, a basketball court, slides built into a hill, and a small paved walkway perfect for scooters and small bikes.
Alta Laguna Park is another top-notch playground in Laguna Beach with incredible views of the ocean. It has basketball courts and is located at a trail head for Top of the World Hike, so its a great place to park if you want to do that hike.
Practical Tips To Plan Your Trip
How To Get To Laguna Beach
The proximity to Los Angeles International Airport makes getting to Laguna Beach easy from anywhere in the world. You can also fly into John Wayne Airport in Orange County for a 20-minute drive to Laguna Beach. If you are flying in with kids, see these tips for booking flights with kids for a more relaxed travel day experience.
The Best Hotels in Laguna Beach, California
Hotel Joaquin is the hotel of choice in Laguna Beach. It has ocean views and places you in the perfect location to walk to Crescent Bay and a trailhead for the Laguna Coast Wilderness Hiking and Biking Trail. You are also a few blocks from Heisler Park, which is a preferable method of walking downtown.
Montage Laguna Beach is another well-known hotel in Laguna Beach. Montage is a luxury, oceanfront resort with 2 outdoor pools, 5-star restaurants, a spa, and breathtaking views of the California Coast.
This post was contributed by Linzey Taylor of The Family Fun Tour. She travels full time with her husband and 2 young kids. Her aim is to inspire a fun and intentional life through traveling. She is the face behind the blog, which provides tips, resources and insights into traveling with a family in tow. She is from Austin, Texas, but has lived a nomadic lifestyle since 2019 and is currently in Costa Rica.
Make sure to check my other posts:
- A Fabulous 3-Day Itinerary For San Francisco
- The Best Day Trips From San Francisco
- The Best Things To Do In California
- 9 Great National Parks In California
- The Best Free Things To Do In San Diego