Where do we even begin with all the wonderful things to do in Laguna Beach? Laguna Beach holds a special place in our hearts and is undoubtedly one of California’s cutest and most beautiful coastal towns littered with great places to eat, art galleries, amazing beaches, and tons of great shops. We might be a bit biased because we used to live here, but Laguna Beach does have a personality and character of its own you just can’t find anywhere else in Southern California.
From the bluffy coastline creating tons of small idyllic turquoise beaches, hills full of the most lavish and beautiful homes in the world, and gorgeous views from almost any vantage point in the city. We highly urge anyone to come see why Laguna Beach is so special. It’s more than just a drama-filled teenager TV show that was popular on MTV over a decade ago, it’s home to a town celebrated by arts and culture, a laidback beach vibe, and beauty.
Check out our guide for the best things to do in Laguna Beach, California.
Laguna Beach has such a charming downtown full of art galleries, boutiques, shops, restaurants, and bars that will keep you busy for weeks. One thing we love about Laguna Beach is that it’s always been an art town. Be sure to take some time to go through some of the local galleries and admire the pieces many are from local artists.
Don’t forget to walk a bit north and south of town for more shops, restaurants, art galleries, cafes, and viewpoints. There is so much more to Laguna Beach than the streets in the heart of downtown.
Laguna Beach Art Walk
One of the best things to do in Laguna Beach is to show up on the first Thursday of every month for their art walk. All of the galleries and select shops open their doors often with wine and snacks to welcome visitors and enjoy the local art scene. The art walk takes place from 6-9pm so if you want to get the most out of the night start in the north end of Laguna Beach and head to the south end of the art walk. If you don’t want to walk the entire stretch then you can hop on the free trolley that stops at different points of the art walk. Some of our favorite stops include the Vintage Poster and Kush Fine Art, but they are all special.
While downtown be sure to give yourself enough time to enjoy Heisler Park. This is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach and will make you wonder if you’re actually in Hawaii. This park is a lush pocket of tropical flora and fauna and offers some of the most majestic views of the ocean, Catalina Island off in the distance, and Main Beach in Laguna.
Make sure you work your way as far north as Heisler Park goes because the views just get better and better. There are several benches along the way facing the ocean, sit down and enjoy the view and if you’re lucky you’ll spot the many dolphins that pass by (we have seen on several occasions) or if you’re extremely lucky you’ll witness a whale breach here like I did about 5 years ago!
Technically in Laguna Canyon but close enough to downtown is the famous Sawdust Festival. The Sawdust Festival is one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach if you love arts and crafts. Held in the evenings only during the summer months for the summer festival and during the winter months for the holiday festival you can come here and shop for local handicrafts and food. It’s a fun experience for only $8 a ticket.
Not visiting during the summer or winter? You can also participate in one of their many art classes that happen all year long!
Paegant of the Masters
Anyone who is an Arrested Development fan will recognize this one of a kind experience in Laguna Beach. The Pageant of the Masters is only held during the summer months across from the Sawdust Festival. This outdoor amphitheater showcases real-life moving art where locals paint themselves and act out actual famous art pieces from classical and contemporary art. Be sure to buy tickets online in advance because these suckers are hard to get last minute!
Go to the Beach
This is a no-brainer but one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach is check out the beaches. There’s a lot more to this coastal city than Main Beach. There are tons of beaches to check out and if you’re not a local chances are you might not even know where to look to find some of Laguna Beach’s best spots.
Some of our favorite beaches are located in south Laguna Beach. Be sure to give yourself enough time to check out a few for yourself – please note we can’t include every beach on here so we picked our favorites! We are snubbing the North Laguna beaches because we are most familiar with the beaches south of town. However, the beaches in the north are also amazing and worth checking out.
This is the most iconic beach in the city and one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach if you’re short on time and will be spending most of your time downtown. You can’t miss the iconic lifeguard tower or the buzz going on with crowds, volleyball courts, and basketball courts. Be sure to walk south along the beach to witness some of the beachfront homes and more of the stretches of beaches that connect to Main Beach.
Another great beach that is famous for its iconic Pirate’s Tower. This is one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach if you’re seeking out a cool photo spot. The mysterious tower looks like something out of a fairy tale but in all actuality, it’s just a staircase down to the beach during, during low tide, from the elaborate home above. The tower has an interesting history and at one point the home connected to the tower belonged to Bette Midler. You can read more about the Pirate’s Tower in Laguna Beach from Atlas Obscura.
Aliso Beach is a great spot to go and one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach on a peak summer day when Main Beach is crowded. The parking lot makes this beach easily accessible to visitors and the beach stretches along connecting to more beaches along the coastline including a local favorite spot, West Street Beach. The waves here break close to shore and can be a bit intimidating if you’re not savvy with the ocean. This is where you will also spot the popular local ocean sport, skimboarding which the waves here make the perfect conditions to catch a wave. If you want to try skimboarding do it knowing there’s a great possibility you might face plant a few times, it’s not as easy as it looks.
This not so secret beach is not something only known by the locals anymore. This is where our apartment used to be and holds a special place in our hearts as this is where we tied the knot in our California Beach wedding. This is one of our favorite things to do in Laguna Beach and sometimes we just drive down the coast to solely hit up this sliver of beach. The beach is located in a gorgeous cove surrounded by rocky bluffs with huge, gorgeous homes resting on the top. Follow the wooden staircase down for the gorgeous reveal of the turquoise beach. Almost everytime we’ve been to this beach we have seen some sort of marine life as whales like to come up and rub on the rocks close to shore and there always seems to be dolphins that pass by.
Thousand Steps Beach
Don’t let the name scare you away, there aren’t actually a thousand steps here but it will feel like it when you are coming back up those stairs after a long day in the sun on the beach. Thousand Steps Beach is another one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach as its also home to John Wayne’s famous beach house, gorgeous homes, great swimming, and just an overall amazing beach. This beach is about as far south as you can go in Laguna Beach, but worth the visit. You’ll want to come prepared with snacks and water though because to get anywhere to buy and is going to be a mission once you’re at the beach.
One of the best things to do in Laguna Beach is enjoy one of the hikes they have to offer. You wouldn’t think such a small town had so many great options but they do. We are going to share our two favorites.
Top of the World
This is a must and one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach. Top of the World hike is easy and offers amazing views of both the ocean to the west and the city of Aliso Viejo to the east. If you want to get extra fancy you can use Top of the World to lead yourself to some of the trails in Aliso Canyon.
Drive your way up Nyes Place to start at the south end of the trail. You’ll have to park in a residential neighborhood but walk up to the end of the road where the Top of the World starts. This is an easy flat hike that can be done by all ages and all fitness levels and you’re rewarded with a great view.
You can also take Park Avenue near downtown Laguna Beach all the way up to the residential neighborhood of Top of the World. This residential neighborhood isn’t as keen on having tons of visitors walking through their neighborhood though, so we recommend entering from the south and leaving that small neighborhood of homes free of visitors.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
Another great spot for hiking in Laguna Beach is the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park in the canyon just short drive outside of downtown. There are many trails here, so stop at the Nix Nature Center to see which trail is right for you.
Where to Eat
One of the best things to do in Laguna Beach is EAT! There are so many fabulous restaurants and eateries to choose from you almost can’t go wrong no matter where you go. Almost. So instead of risking, take our top picks for places to eat in Laguna Beach.
K’ya Bistro is one of our favorite places to eat not only in Laguna Beach but in Southern California. This tapas style bistro serves up an array of small dishes all meant to be shared. It takes about 2-3 dishes per person to get your fill but what’s great is you can sample tons of amazing food. We didn’t have one dish we didn’t LOVE. Our favorites include the Hawaiin poke and the bacon wrapped dates – ohhhhh those bacon wrapped dates. Be sure to make a reservation as this can be quite a popular spot with the locals.
Only open for dinner, happy hour is from 4:30-5:30 weekdays.
Reunion Kitchen & Drink
This restaurant can be easy to miss if you’re not aware it exists because it’s located a bit north of town. But don’t worry you can walk up and appetite by walking here from Heisler Park! We already said one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach was to visit Heisler Park so time it with lunch so you end over at Reunion Kitchen & Drink. The menu here is AMAZING and it will be difficult to pick just one dish. We ended up splitting the bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers for a starter, I ordered the divine light and fresh seared ahi salad with wasabi dressing and Scott got the savory and mouthwatering brown butter shrimp that makes our mouths salivate just by saying that name. Don’t miss out on this menu!
If you’re looking for a quick, cheap healthy bite that you can take down to the beach with you then check out one of our local favorite spots, Banzai Bowl. These acai bowls are to die for with a few great combos to choose from. While you wait enjoy the surf videos on the tv that really make you feel like you’re in Southern California’s surf scene. We love getting the bowls to go and taking them down to Oak St. or Brooks St. beaches.
One of the best things to do in Laguna Beach is to get one of the Rooftop Lounge’s cocktails and watch the sun go down on the roof of the La Casa del Camino Hotel. This spot is extremely popular because of its killer ocean view and an awesome happy hour from 3-5 pm on weekdays. Be sure to make a reservation if you want to secure one of the best spots on the rooftop. You can also order some great appetizers to snack on up here with your drinks.
Where to Stay
We highly recommend staying at La Casa del Camino located right on the PCH and Cress St.. You not only have access to a small beach but you’re easily able to walk downtown, to more beaches, and tons of restaurants and shops. Besides being a lovely hotel in an old historic building this is also the location for two of our favorite food/drink spots in Laguna Beach. La Casa del Camino’s building is also home to the Rooftop Lounge and K’ya Bistro. This place has it all.
Getting around Laguna Beach is easy if you have a car. You will need a car to get there anyway. But one of the best things to do in Laguna Beach and one of the best ways to get around is to take the free trolley. During the summer the trolley runs every day, during offseason the trolley runs on the weekend. You can find the complete schedule here.
Disclaimer: This post was made in cooperation with Visit Laguna Beach. Also, this post contains affiliate links. By booking your hotel through our link we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. As always, all opinions and experiences are our own.
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