Laguna Beach remains a unique gem all too rare in our often overdeveloped world. A small coastal town that maintains the historical character of its origins as an Artist Colony… surrounded by the lush landscape that Plein Air painters made famous. Clear azure beach coves, framed by pristine golden beaches, find themselves surrounded by wildflower-dotted hillsides perennially graced with euclyptus and palm trees. Charming beach cottages nestle beside stunning contemporary homes along the Laguna Coast landscape that climbs from canyons to soaring cliffsides with breathtaking ocean views.
Attempting to distill everything into a “Top Ten things to love about Laguna Beach” list is near impossible. Almost as difficult as trying to capture the infinite splendor that surrounds us with a simple paint brush on canvas. But it is my mission to highlight the most noteworthy and unique aspects of this special beach community. Well, here goes… these are my top ten things to love about Laguna Beach in the spring time!
LAGUNA’S BEACHES #1
Spanning out from central “Main Beach” – with its boardwalk promenade and open expanse of gardens, beach volleyball, basketball courts and walking paths… Laguna Beach is home to twenty-five individual beaches and coves. Each with their own distinctive character and natural beauty. First of all – Diver’s Cove and Picnic Beach, located just above Main Beach and tucked below Heisler Park. With landscaped pathways, artsy sculptures and whimsical handscrafted benches leading down to the sand that exemplify North Laguna’s artistic heritage. Further North, Crescent Bay comprises a magnificent seascape… complete with tidepools and protected cove surrounded by steep, rocky cliffs. Surf-friendly beaches like Brooks, Oak and Cress are always lively and situated in the heart of the “Hip District”, where cafes and surf shops are just steps away.
The more serene “neighborhood” beaches in Wood’s Cove, Moss Point and Table Rock are typically frequented by locals. Victoria Beach is known for its iconic castle-like turret and seawater pool. Expansive walking beaches can be found at West Street, where one can stroll along a long, wide stretch of sand. Aliso Creek Beach, with its beach-side cafe and fire pits on the sand offers “day-trippers heaven”. The unique rock formations and tide pools at Treasure Island, just below the Montage Resort, provide inspiration to photographers and plein-air painters alike. Also a wonderful place to discover sea anemones and starfish with children!
LAGUNA’S ART GALLERIES #2
With over fifty Art Galleries in Laguna Beach, Laguna has maintained its standing as an Artist Colony since 1918. That’s one hundred and one years! From Plein Air Galleries to Contemporary and Modern Art, there is something for everyone here. On the first Thursday of each month, Laguna’s Galleries open their doors from 6pm to 9pm to “First Thurdays Art Walk”. Further welcoming residents and the public to come explore what’s new! Appetizers, desserts and wine are available at most Galleries. Many of the cafes, bars and other local establishments hold festive events… more opportunities to socialize and wander from one end of the Village to the other!
SEA SPORTS #3
Surfing, Skimboarding, Sea Kayaking, Paddleboarding, Boating, Sailing, Scuba Diving, Snorkeling, Swimming – we’ve got it all! There are so many options and ways to take advantage of enjoying the ocean in Laguna Beach that there is probably one I’ve missed… but our most prized amenity is the clear blue Pacific that hugs our shores. Laguna is world renowned for Surf Sports ever since Hobie Alter put us on the map. The Brooks Street Surf Classic has brought Surfing legends to our shores since 1955 . Likewise, Victoria Beach’s World Championship Skimboard competition is an annual event. From young and old, locals and vacationers alike take to the waves every day. Surf culture is definitely a way a life in this community. Paddleboarding is the newest wave (literally!) and there are several local companies that offer lessons and equipment for rent and sale for all of the above!
PARKS AND HIKING TRAILS #4
Everyone in Laguna has their favorite Hiking Trails and Parks – and there are plenty of both for whatever mood you are in! Whether you like to take long walks, jog, hike, go for a leisurely stroll or just have a picnic. You can “feel at one with nature” at dozens of gorgeous locations along the coast. Laguna Beach is blissfully surrounded by Wilderness Parks and verdant green space as the residents have protected the most awe-inspiring scenic vistas for all to enjoy. Heisler Park is perched above the downtown village with views all the way to Dana Strand Headlands. Painting Easels are set up from artists around the world here to capture Laguna’s famed shoreline… dubbed “the Riviera of the West Coast.” With landscaped pathways meandering through bucolic gardens one can stroll with children, dogs or a partner for a romantic interlude.
Treasure Island Park, adjacent to the Montage Resort, offers painter-friendly vistas of waves crashing along the arched rocks and scenic paths along a promentory point. Bluebird Park – better known as “the Rocketship Park” by children – is fun for family members of all ages. With its colorful playgrounds and picnic areas (also offering free concerts in summer!) Moulton Meadows offers incredible canyon views with miles of hiking trails along with tennis courts, a playground and basketball courts. There are many other small parks tucked within the neighborhoods. Above all, miles of trails that connect the community along the ridgeline with forever coastline views.
BOUTIQUES & SHOPS #5
Laguna’s charming and eclectic Village area is made up of quaint boutiques. With artistic clothes and beachy-chic decor shops like Tuvalu & Cottage Furnishings. Surf-style clothing and accessory stores like Hobie abound. Since chain stores are not permitted in Laguna Beach, every establishment is unique and individually owned. Consequently, gifts purchased here are often “one-of-a-kind” and handcrafted by artists.
OCEAN FRONT RESTAURANTS AND ALFRESCO CAFES #6
Laguna Beach is definitely “Foodie” heaven! From lively alfresco cafes like Zinc, Anastasia, Alessa and Urth in the heart of the Village to Ocean Front treasures like Driftwood, The Deck, Las Brisas and Splashes. Locals and visitors alike have a favorite spot to get their fix and meet friends. Most outdoor cafes are pet-friendly and casual. People-watching is always entertaining! Again – few restaurant chains here – just lots of unique restaurants with brilliant chefs and great ambiance. Nick’s and Mozambeque are locals favorites (along with all cafes mentioned above). There is always something new to try. Heidleberg Cafe, the Rooftop (with forever ocean views!) and Avilas El Ranchito all have outdoor patio areas in the “Hip District”. Further south, Montage Resort’s Mosaic Grill, The Loft and Studio are worth the splurge for their Coastline views and gourmet dining!
PEPPERTREE LANE #7
Historic Euro-style “Lane” tucked in the Village off Coast Highway between Nick’s and Watermarc Restaurant (which has romantic tables among the branches of a Peppertree!). This little alleyway, built around the pepper tree in 1930, is a Laguna Beach landmark gem lined with boutiques and specialty shops. Discover La Rue du Chocolat – where picture perfect handmade chocolates and truffles can be found. At Gelato Paradiso one can savor a dozen or more fabulous flavors of authentic Italian Ice Cream. Yum!
LAGUNA BEACH ARTS DISTRICT AND THE HIVE #8
The Festivals (Festival of Arts, Sawdust & Art a Faire – all which would be at the top of this list in summer) are not open again until June. But nestled in Laguna Canyon within the “Arts District” (between the Festival grounds beside Seven Degrees Gallery) is a new creative collective. With a mix of restaurants, bars and retail shops, this lively retail center is colorful. Surrounded with painted murals and mosaics, it has become the central “hub” in the Canyon. With a cool coffee shop and restaurant (Kitchen in the Canyon), a local brewery (Laguna Beach Beer Company) complete with a beer tasting room and dining. A wonderful Vietnamese fusion Cafe (Another Kind Cafe) and a quaint boutique (Laguna Candles) nestle beside Laguna College Art + Design Studio/Gallery. Soon to come – Oliver’s Osteria Mar e Monti – an authentic Italian restaurant.
From Quaint Beach Cottages to Contemporary Cliffhangers, Upside-down houses and Modern Mansions… Laguna Beach has a wide range of Architectural styles designed by Artists and landmark Architects throughout the years. Many Village homes were originally built as one-room beach cottages in the downtown area beginning in 1800. Some of the Craftsman, Cotswold and Beach Bungalows remain, but they have mostly been expanded over time, and are now surrounded by lovely gardens. Upside-down houses were created in the hillsides to take advantage of the views. These stacked two and three story homes are mostly in Arch Beach Heights and the Summit areas of Laguna Beach, with the primary living areas on top, and bedrooms below.
Cliffhangers were built into the canyon cliffs and steep hillsides of Laguna Beach. Cascading down three or more levels to take advantage of the panoramic ocean views from all levels. A fete of Architecture – most were built on challenging slopes by creative builders in the areas of Portofino and Alta Vista. Modern Mansions are tucked along the hillsides and Coastline areas of Laguna Beach, with walls of glass and cutting edge angles. These masterpieces typically have amazing ocean views. Many Mediterranean homes with terracotta tiled roofs and sepia tones bring to mind villas in the Riveria or sister city Menton, France.
Eclectic abodes abound – like the Rock House, which was carved into the rock at Aliso Creek Beach with an interior seemingly designed by Elves from Lothlorian. Likewise, the Witch’s House” on Wave Street in North Laguna was built by architect Vernon Barker during weekends for over 5 years beginning in 1924, resulting in a home straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale. Also noteworthy, the whimsical Normandy-style Pyne Castle above Riddle Field. All tell a tale of eccentric artisans that lived in a beach town that encouraged creativity!
VACATION RENTALS #10
Not intended as a shameless plug for this Realtor’s readers, Vacation Rentals are a wonderful alternative to Laguna’s many hotels. Especially for families and those that appreciate the privacy of having their own “home away from home”. Vacation Rental Homes have become a popular choice for vacationers wanting to experience the authentic Laguna Beach lifestyle. It’s also a great way to test out the community or specific neighborhood before making a committment to purchase an investment home, second home or make a permanent move. From Beach Cottages to Ocean Front Estates, there are many options. Often within walking distance of beaches, shops and restaurants.
Turn-key homes that are completely equipped with full kitchens provide a more cost-effective accommodation for longer term stays than a hotel (where the restaurant expenses, occupancy taxes, tips, etc. add up). Especially in the “off-season” months of September through May when prices tend to drop. Vacation Rentals are also a terrific option for locals doing remodeling projects and offer a “staycation” close to home.
Note: Short term rentals under a month have become a bit of a controversy in the past few years in Laguna Beach because of sites like Airbnb and VRBO (unfortunately due to lack of oversight and disgruntled neighbors dealing with parking issues and noise) so please book through a respected local agency like Laguna Coast Real Estate (okay, there’s my plug). Also be cautious of dealing directly with out of town “owners” that are not present to show the property – they may not be the actual owner! Finally, don’t ever send funds via untraceable routes like Western Union. Seriously, it costs clients nothing to work with a local Realtor – use a professional who offers concierge-level service!
So there you are – a local mom’s (and Real Estate Broker’s) take on the Top Ten things to love about Laguna Beach, my hometown. I’m sure I’ll think of many more within the next few weeks and promise to post a Summer update including Laguna’s famous Festivals. The Laguna Beach lifestyle is something I appreciate every day and feel blessed to enjoy with my family and friends. We are foremost a close-knit community. My children were born and raised here. I have traveled the world and can’t imagine a better place to live. I’d love to introduce this beautiful community to you. If you are looking to rent or purchase a home here, click on the link below or call me direct.
You’re the reason why I love what I do! Thanks for reading! ~ Cynthia Ayers