By Claire Newell
Dec 4, 2021
I recently had the pleasure of taking the Air Canada flight between Vancouver (YVR) and Orange County (SNA). This was the first time I have flown on the new A220 – a gorgeous aircraft! And what a treat flying directly into Orange County which is the closest airport to one of my favourite areas in SoCal – Laguna Beach & the surrounding area. Laguna Beach has only 23,000 residents so it is a small, eclectic town with no big box stores or high rises. What it does have is a quintessential beach town vibe, 30 beaches and coves along the 7 miles of coastline, great hiking trails in the 20,000 acres of wilderness & over 100 art galleries and art studios.
During the 4 day trip I got to see & experience all sorts of new things…as well as some old favourites. If you are planning a visit or heading to Laguna Beach here are some must-visit locations you may want to add to your list.
WHERE TO STAY
Montage Laguna Beach
Montage Laguna Beach offers guests a blend of comfort & elegance. It is perched on a coastal bluff above the Pacific and welcomes guests into the heart of Southern California’s preeminent artist colony. Set on 30 acres, the beachfront sanctuary features 2 outdoor pool decks, a 20,000-square-foot spa & 3 signature restaurants with spectacular views of the California coast. It is seaside luxury at its best!
The Ranch at Laguna Beach
The Ranch at Laguna Beach is a 4 star, sustainably-minded, private resort and luxury hotel with access to Aliso Beach, a 9-hole golf course, spa & fitness center, pool & hot tub, a signature restaurant (Harvest) & beach cafe. This authentic private resort is set in a secluded, peaceful area between two canyons so there are some great hikes you can do. And it is just 350 yards from Aliso Beach which you can get to by taking the beach path or a complimentary shuttle. While at the beach you can dine at Lost Pier Café.
Sand & Surf Resort
Surf & Sand Resort (4 star) resembles a sun-washed Mediterranean Village and lies on California’s Laguna Beach shoreline. All 167 smoke free hotel rooms & suites feature spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The resort’s signature restaurant, Splashes, blends flavors from Southern California’s coastline and Mediterranean-inspired preparations to create unforgettable dishes. Executive Chef Ron Fougeray focuses on using fresh, local ingredients.
Nestled on a lushly landscaped hillside overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this historic hotel was originally built in the early 1920s. The Spanish architecture and bungalow spirit throughout the property has been honored and maintained as part of a reimagination of the hotel in 2016.
It is a short walk to Victoria Beach, which has the feeling of a private beach retreat. Downtown Laguna Beach is located approximately one mile to the north, which is full of cafes, restaurants, boutique stores & over 100 art galleries and art studios.
WHAT TO DO
Pirate Tower at Laguna Beach
Rapunzel’s Tower at Disneyland is just one hideaway you’ll need to see. Visit Victoria Beach located in Laguna to catch a glimpse of Pirate Tower. The 60-foot tower inspires imaginative tales of swashbuckling and swordplay, plus makes for a photo fit for a princess. Just keep in mind you can only visit at low tide!
Thousand Steps Beach
Your private beach is just 1,000 steps away. The beautiful Thousands Steps Beach earned its name for the staircase required to visit. While it isn’t exactly 1,000, (it’s a steep 218) the stairs do deter some visitors, allowing for more private explorations of the sea caves, rocks, and tide pools. Go during low tide for the best access.
QUICK TIPS FOR LAGUNA BEACH & SURROUNDING AREA
Must-dos for any visitor:
- Spend some time exploring the 30 beaches and covesalong the 7 miles of coastline. Surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), skimboarding (which starting in Laguna Beach!), snorkeling, dolphin safaris, tide pool exploration and other invigorating water activities are offered locally.
- Visit Main Beach to see the Boardwalk & Lifeguard Tower
- Pagaent of the Masters – summer season
- Walk around Balboa Island
- Art Walk throughout Laguna (first Thurs of every month)
- Hike/bike in the 20,000 acres of wilderness
Best beach: Thalia
Best walk/hike: Top of the World Trail
Best park for a picnic & view of the ocean: Heisler Park
Best local shopping area: Downtown Laguna – Forest Avenue
Best Mall: South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa)
Best coffee shop: Laguna Coffee Company
Best lunch spot: The Deck (waterfront in Laguna Beach)
Best local brunch: Coyote Grill
Best ice cream/gelato: Gelato Paradiso
Best casual restaurant: La Sirena Grill (Laguna)
Best nice restaurant: Selanne Steak Tavern (owned by Hockey Hall of Famer Teemu Selanne)
Sunset spot: The Roof top Lounge (on top of hotel La Casa del Camino)
Best down & dirty local bar: Sandpiper (locals call it The Dirty Bird)
Best local bar: Marine Room
Best roof top bar: Lido House (Newport)
Best spa: Spa Montage at Montage Laguna Beach
Best golf: Monarch Beach Golf Links or Pelican Hill