While I’ve been to Southern California many times, this was the first time I had been to Laguna Beach. My first impression? Laguna Beach is what you might consider a classic California beach town with a mix of historic, artsy charm and modern amenities.
Although we only spent about 4 hours in town, we packed quite a bit in to the afternoon:
Laguna Beach in 4 Hours
1. Hiking in Laguna Hills – Thanks to the recommendation from our resort yoga instructor, we spent our first 90 minutes in Laguna Beach hiking the Laguna Wilderness Trail. The full trail is quite long but we focused on a shorter route, the Dartmoor Trail, which is mostly used by locals, making it less crowded. We caught the trail at the end of Dartmoor St near Dunnegan Dr., where street parking is free (at least on a Saturday) but it is definitely limited and quite narrow. The trail entrance is very unassuming – a small gate with a few signs, and is surrounded by adorable beachy houses. Once on the trail, we were advised to take the path up and around to the left, a shorter but more scenic path. We walked uphill for about 30-45 minutes and were treated to amazing seascapes of the Pacific Ocean throughout, especially at the very top of the hill. I would highly recommend this trail for something moderate, with great views and it’s close to the downtown area, making it very convenient to grab a coffee or lunch after. Side note – there are no bathrooms on the trail, be sure to make a pitstop before you head out.
2. Historic Lifeguard Tower – Laguna Beach has a quintessential beachy feel which can be most felt walking along the beachfront path and through Heisler Park. Aside from the fun people watching, you can also get great pics of the shoreline, cliffs and the historic lifeguard tower. A visible landmark for the town, the tower was lifeguard central until 1985. Today, it’s used for lifeguard programs, storage and one of the most notable Instagram spots in the area.
3. Urthy Lunch – After doing a little research in advance, I learned that Laguna Beach has a number of caffès and coffee shops, most within walking distance of the beach area. We chose what appeared to be the local hot spot – Urth Caffe, which features farm to table bites, bakery items and incredible tasting coffees and drinks that look like works of art. The line was a bit long (to order and for the busy restroom!) but the wait was well worth the tasty salads, sandwiches and specialty lattes. Highly recommend if you are ever there!
4. Boutique Shopping – Every great beach town has its share of boutique shopping, and Laguna Beach has some adorable areas to do just that! We had a great time visiting the trendy clothing stores, home goods retailers and art shops all along the pedestrian-friendly Promenade on Forest as well as stores and sweet shops in Peppertree Lane. We intended to try Gelato Paradiso on a friend’s recommendation, but the line was so long it was nearly wrapped around building. Something for next time!
If future trips take you to SoCal, be sure to add Laguna Beach to your itinerary!