A weekend in Laguna Beach

A weekend in Laguna Beach
A weekend in Laguna Beach

First things first: a huge shout out to the fantastic people following along on my new Wanders & Words Facebook page. If you haven’t followed it yet, I’ll be keeping the page updated with my latest blog posts, travel or wellness articles that peek my interest, and maybe a few memes about marriage. Seriously, it made my week to see 40 people in 24 hours choose to follow along on this blogging journey of mine. Back to Laguna Beach…


Southern California is every bit as dreamy as all the TV shows and movies make it seem. I visited for the first time, and proceeded to fall in love, last October when the Mr. and I took a vacation there. We split a week between San Diego and the greater LA area. The weather hovered in the 70’s with sunshine every day we were there. Desert-like mountains lined the horizon behind both cities while stunning, sandy beaches were just a short walk from each place we stayed. I knew I’d be back.

An opportunity for a trip to Orange County came this spring when I was reconnecting with a friend from Fairbanks. She’d relocated to a city outside LA and invited me to visit. It was her suggestion to spend the long weekend in Laguna Beach.

Flight

If you plan to visit Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, or any of the areas in and around Orange County – I’d recommend flying into John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana AKA the Orange County airport. This airport is smaller, easier to navigate, and most importantly you don’t have to deal with the traffic of LAX.

I flew Alaska Airlines from Seattle and found a ticket for just over $200, only $30 or so more than the tickets to LAX.

Transportation

My friend did have her car, and unfortunately for those without, I think it may have been necessary. We were able to check out a lot more beaches, explore more of the town, drive up and down Highway 1, and visit the “Top of The World” hiking area. Laguna Beach does have Uber and that may be sufficient, but you definitely can’t walk everywhere.

Accommodations

We stayed at a quirky little place called The Art Hotel. It was motel-style and on the northern edge of Laguna. It’s not fancy by any means, but it’s in an idyllic location and a great deal for the price. It’s on the land side of Highway 1, but crossing the street and walking a couple blocks down into the adjacent neighborhood will put you directly at Crescent Bay Beach and Crescent Bay Point Park. The hotel is about a mile from Downtown Laguna. We took an Uber to downtown and back one evening so we could drink and it was just a few dollars each way.

The hotel has parking (big plus!) and a small pool and patio. The owner was extremely helpful and provided us with a map, her favorite beaches, and food recommendations. The art around the hotel, everything from murals to paintings, was also beautiful. My friend is a graphic designer and really appreciated all the pieces.

There are hotels more centrally located to downtown Laguna or on the ocean side, but $180/night in Laguna Beach on a weekend in June was pretty hard to beat.

Beaches

Let’s be honest. If you’re planning a trip to Laguna Beach, there’s a good chance it’s for the beautiful beaches. We were able to check out a handful in the three days we visited, but these three were my favorites:

 

Goff Island Beach | Next to the Montage

 

Crescent Bay Beach | Across the street from our hotel (The Art Hotel)

 

1000 Steps Beach | Across the street from the Laguna Beach hospital. Good luck with parking. Oi.

Btw – this is my gorgeous California-living friend, Teresa. She’s not a big fan of social media or selfies, but she puts up with me 🙂

Food

Almost all the restaurants below were recommended by a coworker of mine. There were plenty of other places we were encouraged to try by people we met, but didn’t have the time or room. These were the highlights for me:

  • Beachcomber Café
    • North of Laguna Beach in the Crystal Cove area. Such a unique little spot on the beach surrounded by these little cottages I believe you can rent out. Some of them appeared to have been converted into gift shops, but a fun little village of colorful buildings surround the bar and restaurant. They make a fantastic Bloody Mary (pictured) and have super tasty beignets.

  • Rooftop Lounge on the roof of the La Casa del Camino hotel
    • Drank and watched a gorgeous sunset from this rooftop bar. Great drinks, but really crowded. It took us forever to get a table. We ended up eating downstairs first, coming back up after, and ultimately sharing a table with a couple from Newport who turned out to be great company.
  • K’ya Bistro Bar in the La Casa del Camino hotel
    • Accidental find due to the Rooftop Lounge being too crowded when we first arrived. Excellent, shareable dishes. I can’t rave enough about their tapas. Try the Coconut Shrimp or the Petit Filet Mignon.
  • Urth Caffe
    • Apparently this is a pretty popular chain in California, but it was my first time at an Urth Caffe! Great teas and dishes.
  • Banzai Bowls
    • Açaí bowls are life and these were SO GOOD. I could have eaten one of these for every meal.

 

T0-D0

Besides beaching it and eating, I didn’t do a whole lot else. But here are a couple of ideas…

  • Top of the World / Alta Laguna Park
    • Drive up the hillside from Laguna Beach’s downtown to reach the Top of the World park for fantastic views and a handful of hiking trails. It’s a really pretty area, but you start at the highest point and hike downwards so the hikes are mostly only good for a workout. BONUS: you get to drive by the Laguna Beach High School. Don’t even act like you didn’t watch Lauren and Kristin battle it out on MTV when you were in middle school.

  • Newport Beach
    • Just north on Highway 1 is Newport Beach with more restaurants, bars, nightlife, and shopping. Laguna wasn’t necessarily quiet, but it definitely has a smaller town vibe. Newport felt more lively.  The Newport couple we sat with for drinks at the Rooftop Lounge confirmed it is a busier area. Newport also happens to be the setting for The OC, so if you’re an obsessed fan like myself at least drive through and keep an eye out for Ryan Atwood.

 

 

Overall

A good friend, beautiful beaches, fab food, and strong drinks is basically my love language when the husband is away. Plus it was affordable, especially for any folks on the West Coast. Flights from Seattle to California are so cheap, I’d visit once a month if I wasn’t constantly making other plans.

In another life, I was definitely a California beach bum…

 

You can find this Laguna Beach travel guide and all the travel pieces I’ve written at the travel archive by location page.

“California is always a good idea.”

xo,

 

 

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