Laguna Beach is one of California’s earliest vacation towns. Settled not long after the American Civil War, the coastal village quickly became popular with inland ranchers keen to escape the summer heat. English-born painter Norman Saint Clair became enraptured by the dramatic coastal vistas in the early 19th century. By 1920 more than half of Laguna’s residents were artists and the area’s creative community continues to thrive today.
A great way to find your bearings is to hike the trails through Heisler Park. These trails offer panoramic views north to Crescent Bay and south to Laguna’s Main Beach. Laguna’s beaches, coves and bluffs are all unique and offer a range of activities.
Rent a stand-up paddleboard and hit the rolling swells at Main Beach, or head to Thousand Step Beach, a popular surf spot and volleyball venue. Pull on a mask and fins and explore the rich marine life at Diver’s Cove, or wander the tidal pools up and down the coast. Rent a skimboard at the sport’s birthplace, Victoria Beach, and at the end of the day grab some hot dogs and head for the fire pits on Aliso Beach.
Laguna offers much more than beaches. The city is filled with wonderful architecture, from early beachside cottages to ritzy cliff-hugging homes. Take a historic Bungalow Tour and learn more about the city’s history through its earliest buildings, including St Francis by the Sea, one of the world’s smallest churches.
Laguna’s downtown area is known as The Village. Spend half a day here visiting one-of-a-kind boutiques, cafés and galleries on Forest Avenue. When the sun gets a little hot, sample a local brew at the Laguna Brewing Company. Develop an appreciation for Californian art at the Laguna Art Museum, which houses more than 3,500 pieces from the early 19th century to the present day.
On the first Saturday of each month, more than 20 local artists open their studios to visitors. Feeling inspired? Take an art lesson in the scenic surrounds of Treasure Island Park.
In the warmer months the city offers an array of art, music and crafts festivals. To get the most out of your visit, call into the Visitors Center on Forest Avenue to pick up maps and brochures.