Published September 2013

5 Reasons to Visit Laguna Beach

This California coastal town promises art galleries and gardens galore

BYJackie Dishner
Located midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach is an Orange County​ community like no other. With only two roads into town — the Pacific Coast Highway and Laguna Canyon Road — it has remained relatively secluded from the crowds that flock to other California beach towns.
 
Unlike a typical, wide stretch of sandy beach, Laguna has more than 20 coves within city limits, each offering a different kind of recreational experience, from going tide pooling to riding a skimboard (a surfboard’s smaller, finless cousin). And the entire seven-mile coastline is a Marine Life Refuge, protecting the rich variety of sea creatures that call it home. The town, surrounded by mountain canyons and lush greenery, maintains its century-old artist colony character.
 
For Arizona’s desert dwellers seeking relaxation by the sea, here are five reasons why Laguna Beach is worth the drive:
 
1. An Aptitude for the Arts
Laguna Beach’s picturesque setting has long played muse to artists of all mediums. In 1918, locals formed the Laguna Beach Art Association, which went on to open a gallery that firmly planted the town’s creative roots. Today, that gallery is the Laguna Art Museum, an ideal jumping off point for exploring the town’s visual arts scene.
 
Galleries and studios line Laguna Canyon Road (aka California State Route 133), the Pacific Coast Highway (aka California State Route 1), and Forest Avenue, displaying everything from oil paintings to handcrafted jewelry to wearable art, such as the women’s top made entirely of soda can tabs found at Duet gallery on the Pacific Coast Highway.
 
Laguna Beach is also home to 65 pieces of public art, from the symbolic timeline Steps in the Sand in the north, to the free-form sculpture Laguna Kelp Beds View 2 in the south. Find a public art map at the visitors center or online here. During your stroll among art pieces, you’ll likely happen upon plein air painters and street performers in parks and on beaches.
 
The town also hosts walks, open-studio shows, and festivals year-round. On Sundays, members of the Laguna Craft Guild sell their wares under tents at Main Beach Park. One of southern California’s most attended art events, the non-juried Sawdust Art Festival, attracts 200,000 visitors each year to fall and winter shows held in a funky, fairytale-like building in the hills east of town.
 
2. The Consummate Coast
Laguna has an abundance of beachfront lodging. Plenty of hotels offer rooms where the ocean breeze and sounds of the waves will lull you to sleep, and you’ll wake up in your bed to the calls of pelicans, cormorants, and seagulls.
 
Along the sugary sand, go for a jog or join in a game of volleyball. Or watch the surfers and paddle boarders from stadium-style seating off of Brooks Street. In the water, try skimboarding, where you use a skimboard to glide across the water beginning at the shore. Jump in on the south end of Victoria Beach where enthusiasts say the board sport was invented.
 
Tide pooling is also a popular beach activity. Explore Shaw’s Cove, accessible off Fairview Street and Cliff Drive, or Rockpile Beach, a surfing-only stretch at Heisler Park (no swimmers or body-boarders allowed). Between the mounds of mussel shells and barnacles, you’ll spot anemones, urchins, and crabs in the ponds of saltwater that collect in the hollows of the rocky shore when the tide is out. Walk out farther to see starfish, some of which are as big as a Frisbee. You might even see a whale breaching off shore. Gray whales migrate through these waters December through April; blue and fin whales frequent them May through November. To see other wildlife, head to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, open free to the public, which rescues and rehabilitates seals found on the Orange County coastline.
 

View Laguna Beach, CA in a larger map>

Laguna Beach at sunset
Laguna Beach at sunset
Sea life in a tide pool
Sea life in a tide pool
To enjoy customized local content, please enter your ZIP Code below.
Zip Code
AAA Arizona proudly serves AAA members in the state of Arizona
×