With seven miles of stunning coastline and 27 beaches and scenic coves, Laguna Beach is one of Southern California’s most beautiful seaside towns. Towering cliffs, ecological preserves, tide pools teeming with sea life, and a vibrant art scene blend together in perfect harmony here. No matter how many times we visit, all the fun things to do in Laguna Beach seem to work their magic on us. This small beach town is enchanting us time and again with its charm and allure.
The best part is that this coastal village in Orange County is a less than an hour-and-a-half easy scenic drive from San Diego up the coastal highway, making it the ideal day or weekend road trip. Adding to its appeal, Laguna Beach is ideally situated halfway between San Diego and L.A.
But a word of warning. A day trip here is never enough. You’ll want to answer Laguna Beach’s siren call to return and re-experience all that makes this the perfect ‘California dreamin’ destination.Here are some of our absolute favorite things to do and see in this quintessential Southern California beach town that has a reputation as one of the most dog-friendly villages in all of California.
Top Rated Laguna Beach Tours
- Laguna Beach Open Ocean Kayaking Tour with Sea Lion Sightings
- 1.5 Hour Surf Lesson in Laguna Beach
- Best Bites of Laguna Beach Food Tour
- Laguna Beach Backroads Electric Bike Tour
Enjoy the Fabulous Beaches of Laguna Beach, CA
Referred to as Laguna’s “Window to the Sea,” Main Beach sits right smack in the heart of Laguna’s downtown village. Famous for its iconic Lifeguard Tower, this sandy playground is filled with happy beachgoers who sun, surf, swim, play beach volleyball, and build sandcastles.
Thousand Steps Beach is one of Laguna’s largest beaches. The wide stretch of sand sports a large cave at its southern end that can be entered and walked through at low tide. There are enticing rocks to climb on behind the cave, though signs warn visitors to use caution due to its slippery boulders and holes. Though the beach stairs only number 233, the return climb feels more like 1,000 steep steps after the fun is done. Hence the name.
Go Surfing in Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach has been one of Southern California’s top surfing hotspots for decades. Thalia Street Beach is ideal for the novice who wants to learn to surf. But even those who are more experienced love this beach. There are gentle waves closer to the shoreline but Thalia offers more challenging curls just a little further out.
Rockpile is ideal for the experienced surfer looking for a true challenge. The area earned its moniker because of the jumble of rocks that jut out offshore, creating a myriad of tide pools and a world-class break known for its great barrels.
Brooks Street is a beach popular with seasoned and confident surfers. The left-breaking waves are some of the biggest in Laguna Beach with surf reaching 10 feet on a really good surf day. When it does, you’ll hear the surfers in town talking about it.
Explore Downtown Laguna Beach
Laguna is an easily walkable hip town with a super cool beachy vibe. You will find charming boutiques, amazing restaurants, impressive art galleries, classy clothing ,and jewelry shops, and some of the best home-décor venues you’ll find in Southern California – mostly with a beachy theme, of course.
Shopping in Laguna Beach is such a fun experience and popular pastime. There are nearly a hundred of these shops nestled in various clusters in the north part of town, the downtown village, and the very southern tip of the Pacific Coast Highway. Even for non-shopaholics, it’s impossible to resist browsing and buying something here. Trust me, I know.
Pageant of the Masters – July 7-September 2, 2022
Laguna Beach is not just renowned for its surfing. Art also reigns supreme here and nothing is more impressive than its Pageant of the Masters.
This theatrical performance transforms art from a two-dimensional canvas to three-dimensional real life. The pageantry alone is responsible for putting Laguna Beach on the radar as a stellar and serious Southern California art destination.
Famous works of art are acted out in this 90-minute unforgettable star-lit theatrical performance. A live narrator guides the audience through the story of each renowned piece of art, accompanied by music from a full orchestra.
This year’s performance runs from July 5-September 2 and the 2002 theme covers a kaleidoscope of international art providing a passport to distant lands, fascinating history, and cultural celebrations. It’s one of the most unique productions in the world and an absolute must-do. Get your tickets here>>
Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts – July 5-September 2, 2022
A top-rated juried art show, Festival of the Arts features some of Laguna Beach’s finest creative artists. Held every summer, the dates coincide with the Pageant of the Masters. This year, the festival features over 140 artists showcasing their magnificent artisan pieces in an outdoor setting just a short walk from downtown Laguna Beach. You’ll find paintings, ceramics, photography, jewelry, and much more.
The event also features art workshops, art tours, nightly entertainment, jazz concerts, cooking demonstrations, wine and chocolate pairing, and more.
It’s the perfect place to treat yourself to a stunning work of art or handcrafted artisan piece. It’s also great for finding that unique or unusual gift for family or friends that can’t be found elsewhere.
Sawdust Art Festival – June 24-August 28, 2022
There’s certainly no shortage of magnificent art shows in Laguna Beach. Since 1967, the Sawdust Art Festival has sponsored local artists who exhibit and sell their magnificent handcrafted wares in a picturesque outdoor setting in booths and tents under the trees of the magnificent Laguna Canyon.
Sawdust’s Summer Festival will take place June 24-August 28 with over 200 artists, live music, art classes, foodie experiences, and more. Winter Fantasy returns again this year for five weekends in November and December (dates will be announced).
Laguna Art Museum
If nature hasn’t already blessed Laguna Beach with sheer unadulterated beauty, rest assured its talented artists have captured its splendor in many other ways. Just strolling through its downtown, we found a myriad of unique and creative works of fine art celebrating the sun and the sea.
Art lovers should not miss the Laguna Art Museum situated on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This scenic spot was specifically selected by Laguna Beach artists in 1929. As the oldest cultural institution in the area, the museum’s collection covers all periods and styles since the 19th-century. We call it the perfect balance between the historical and the contemporary with more than 3,000 works of art in various forms by California artists representing the life and history of our state.
For a relatively small town, Laguna Beach sure has some talented actors! A historic theatre within the art colony of Laguna Beach, the Laguna Playhouse hosts live comedy, drama, musicals, and family child-friendly performances. It’s so good that it received the “Best in OC” Live Theatre award by the OC Register every year since 2015.
Founded as a community theatre in 1920, the playhouse’s mission is to enrich lives through the magic of live theatre and create experiences that stimulate cultural and social interaction inspiring the community. Get your tickets here>>
And with over 90 restaurants within eight miles of the theatre, it’s easy to nab a delightful pre-performance lunch or dinner.
Check out this Local’s Favorite: Victoria Beach
We’re giving this beach its own special shout-out!
Thanks to a local recommendation, we discovered Victoria Beach, a fairly secret place mostly known by only the locals. Surprisingly, you can get to the beach through a residential part of town.
A steep and narrow set of concrete stairs descends to a secluded pristine beach overshadowed by towering rocky cliffs pounded by impressive winter waves. You can see a soaring 60-foot medieval-like “Pirate Tower” in this small beach cove, but only at low tide. Dodging the powerful incoming surf to reach the tower is an adventure within itself. But it’s so worth it!
Stroll the Promenade of Heisler Park
There can’t be a more beautiful promenade on the West Coast than the incredible oceanfront Heisler Park winding along the bluffs of the Laguna Coast. Walking trails lead to stunning gardens, picturesque overlooks, and a gazebo all offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the tide pools of its lower beaches. At low tide, you’ll see locals and visitors alike exploring on the rocks or walking the series of connected long beach stretches.
Each bend in the oceanside trail leads to more awe-inspiring vistas. Benches along the way invite strollers to relax and celebrate the incredible gifts Mother Nature has created. Artists with their colorful palates try to best capture the essence of their spectacular surroundings. It’s quite the treat to watch them bring their special magic to the canvas.
Picnic tables and barbeques are located on the park’s grassy knolls for those who love to grill in the great outdoors and play lawn games like Bocce and bowling.
Crescent Bay Point Park
One of the most popular sunset-watching spots in all of Laguna Beach, this small blufftop park offers unsurpassed views of the Pacific Ocean, its magnificent tide pools, and coastline.
The park is perfect for picnicking, whale watching, and photo shoots, but it has no restroom facilities. We love the walking path along the perimeter of the park with railings to safeguard outdoor enthusiasts from the steep cliff drop-offs.
Two offshore areas known as Dead Man’s Reef and Seal Rock are popular scuba-diving locations. This is also an area where a myriad of sea lions and birds gather atop the rocks. Swimming in Crescent Bay is dangerous because of rip tides, so swimmers and snorkelers who are into more adventurous activities should definitely wear fins.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
There aren’t many coastal canyon wilderness areas remaining in Southern California. Thankfully, the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park created by the Natural Community Conservation Planning program is one of them
Though the park is surrounded by housing developments, it’s a gift to know that this habitat was designed to protect rare and endangered species, along with the disappearing Coastal Sage Scrub community. Wildlife spotting in the canyon often includes Mule Deer, Long-tailed Weasels, Bobcats, Red-tailed Hawks, and other coastal species.
Forty miles of well-maintained trails lead hikers through oak and sycamore woodlands and onto ridges providing expansive scenic vistas. Rocky bluffs towering above the canyon trails showcase panoramic views of the rolling hills, grasslands, and the Pacific Ocean with Laguna’s beaches in the distance. It’s like seeing California as it’s existed for thousands of years. It’s no wonder the habitat is popular with not only hikers but also with mountain bikers and horseback enthusiasts traversing through miles of Orange County’s pristine natural lands.
For a good place to get an orientation, trail information, and learn more about the Wilderness Park, visit the park’s award-winning Nix Nature Center. We found the rangers here exceedingly helpful and more than happy to assist visitors and offer the inside scoop on how to best enjoy this coastal wilderness park.
Crystal Cove State Park
Orange County’s largest remaining preserve of open space and natural seashore is located in Newport Beach’s picturesque Crystal Cove State Park. We’re mentioning the park as it’s only a mere five miles up the coast from Laguna Beach and an absolute must-visit coastal treasure.
Featuring 3.2 miles of beach and 2,400 acres of backcountry wilderness, the Cove’s historic district is like taking a step back in time. The seaside colony with 46 vintage rustic cottages built in the 1930s and 40s has been authentically restored, paying homage to this earlier era. These beach gems have amazing nostalgic appeal and are available by reservation.
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
This non—profit organization rescues and rehabilitates marine mammals washed ashore on Orange County’s beaches due to illness or injury. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center also inspires ocean stewardship through research, education, and collaboration. Beach clean-ups are one of their most popular volunteer programs.
The Marine Center is open every day of the week and though there’s no admission charge, donations are highly appreciated. On a recent visit, we observed California sea lions, Pacific Harbor, Northern Elephant, and Northern Fur Seals.
Jacque Cousteau once said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” This describes Laguna Beach to a T.
Find a Hotel in Laguna Beach
Last Updated on June 21, 2022 by sandiegoexplorer