A Weekend in Laguna Beach – Best Things to See and Do!
Are you are planning a weekend trip to Laguna Beach? I’ve got you covered with all the best things to see, do and eat all jam packed into this post!
Laguna Beach is a popular Southern California beach town with picturesque beaches, secluded coves and a vibrant art culture. After visiting for the first time this summer it quickly became my favorite So Cal beach town. Therefore I think it is an excellent choice for a weekend getaway.
Why Visit Laguna Beach
Laguna beach is famous for, well… it’s beautiful beaches, but theres’s so much more! Here’s a few other reasons to spend a weekend in Laguna Beach:
- It’s an artist community- home to many artists, filmmakers, painters, photographers and writers. There are more than 400 working artists and more that 70 galleries to see and purchase art. The first art gallery opened in 1918 and is now the Laguna Beach Art Museum
- There are many art festivals during the summer including Festival of the Arts, Art-A-Fair, Sawdust Festival, and the Pageant of the Masters to name a few
- The weather is beautiful and is considered a mediterranean climate meaning that the winters range in the mid 60’s and the summers in the mid 80’s and mostly sunny skies. The rainiest season is January to March
- It is considered a bird sanctuary and refuge for marine life so the collecting of rocks, shell and marine life from the beaches is prohibited
- The population of dolphins off of the Laguna Beach coast is more than the Caribbean, Hawaii and Florida combined!
- There are more than 30 parks, beaches and coves- so there is plenty to explore!
What’s not to love about this beautiful city?
How to get to Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach is located in Southern California in southwest Orange County- about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego on the Pacific Coast Hwy. Access to Laguna Beach is either by the Pacific Coast Hwy or through Laguna Canyon.
If you are flying- try to fly into John Wayne Airport in Orange County and avoid the craziness of LAX! From the airport you can rent a car, or take a bus, shuttle, taxi or ride share into Laguna Beach.
Also- there is a free trolley service from Irvine and Dana Point during the summer (scroll down to where I talk more about the free trolley)!
Where to Stay in Laguna Beach
Did you know Laguna Beach has more beach front lodging than any other Californian city? There are countless hotels to choose from sprinkled all along the Coastal Highway. All are at various price points from budget friendly to total splurge. I am a budget traveler and kept it budget friendly for my weekend in Laguna Beach.
Laguna Brisas Hotel – This is where I stayed as it was the most budget friendly hotel I could find at the time I traveled (July 2021) at about $197/night (yes Laguna Beach is pricey!) The location was decent- about a 25 min walk to the main downtown area and Main Beach. But it was walkable to other closer beaches like Pearl Street Beach and Woods Cove. Also there was a free trolley stop right in front that takes you downtown and all along the Coastal Highway. They had free parking and a free breakfast- but honestly the breakfast was just cereal and granola bars.
Laguna Riviera Beach Resort – This hotel has a 4 start rating on Trip Advisor, right on the beach and walking distance to downtown and Main Beach. Also budget friendly around $200/night
How to Get Around Laguna Beach
Free Summer Trolley
If you are spending a weekend in Laguna Beach during the summer time you definitely should take advantage of the Free Trolley Service. The free trolley runs along the Coastal Highway from June through September. It also has a route to Dana Point as well as down Laguna Canyon Rd and into Irvine. The trollies conveniently run about every 20-30 minutes.
They also have a convenient Laguna Beach Trolley App with real time locations of the trolleys and map of the different routes.
Where to Find Parking
If you decide to drive into town I highly recommend downloading the Laguna Beach Mobile Parking App. It will help you locate available parking and manage your payment and parking time- and add time to your meter if needed. You can find free parking along the PCH highway to access beaches, but parking can fill up pretty quickly on a busy day so I recommend heading out early. Also- do not park in the residential neighborhoods, the locals won’t like it and you could be towed.
All the Best Things to do in Laguna Beach
Probably the main reason you want to spend a weekend in Laguna Beach is to check out the beaches! And there are a lot of beaches to visit… I wish I could have visited them all. Here’s the few I was able to visit.
Main Beach is the most popular stretch of Laguna Beach being centrally located right near downtown and close to shopping and restaurants. This beach features two basketball courts, a few volley ball courts, and is popular for body surfing, skim boarding and swimming. No surfing is allowed on this beach in the summer due to dangerous currents.
Featuring the famous white lifeguard tower as seen in movies and post cards, the Laguna Beach community has fought to preserve this tower as an important landmark. There’s a board walk that runs through the length of the beach and is perfect for taking a stroll and enjoying the views.
Since this is probably the busiest beach, I recommend going early before the crowds. Don’t forget there are many other beaches to check out so I wouldn’t make this your main stop.
Victoria Beach Pirate Tower
Did you know that there is this awesome Pirate Tower tucked away on a beach?! It totally reminds me of Rapunzel’s tower or something out of a fairy tale book! Head to Victoria Beach during low tide to access this area. Click here to find a more detailed post about how to find this pirate tower.
Another popular beach and the only one with an on-site parking lot ($1 per hr)- but get there early to snag a spot! Great for relaxing, sun bathing, skim boarding, and surfing, this is also the only beach with fire pits (though they have been closed due to COVID)
My favorite thing at this beach was the walk up beach front restaurant Lost Pier. I had a delicious tuna poke bowl and a refreshing lemonade all for less than $20. I will definitely eat here again next time!
Woods Cove Beach
Woods cove is a beautiful sandy cove nestled between two rocky points. This is definitely not a beach for sun bathing but at low tide can be great for tide pooling and a treat for scuba divers during calm conditions. During high tide the beach is completely wet. Watching the waves crash amongst the rocks can be an exciting spectacle.
Fun Fact- Bette Davis lived in the English Tudor home just north of the stair case and is now a registered historic structure.
Thousand Steps Beach
Treasure Island Beach
Heisler Park is a must visit on your weekend in Laguna Beach and (in my opinion) the most photogenic spot in Laguna Beach. Heisler Park is large ocean front park on the bluffs directly above several of the North Laguna Beach beaches and is easily accessed from Main Beach. It has paved walking paths, grassy picnic areas with tables and charcoal grills, and access to beaches and coves for hanging out or tide pooling. My favorite thing was walking along the paved pathways and taking in the sweeping views and accessing the various beaches. Along the park you will find art sculptures and a veterans memorial containing a time capsule that was sealed in 1977 and is scheduled to be opened in 2027.
Laguna Art Museum
Formerly known as the Laguna Beach Art Association or the Laguna Beach Museum of Art, was founded in 1918 and exclusively features California artists. It features a permanent collection as well as temporary featured exhibitions. It is only a $7 entry fee and you can catch a tour with a docent at no extra charge! Definitely worth stopping in and located right near the downtown Main Beach area.
Wall Murals Laguna Canyon Rd
If you love wall murals you can find some nice ones around Laguna Canyon Rd. Hop on the free trolley and head down Laguna Canyon Rd to Laguna Beach Beer Co and walk around the area to find some fun wall murals.
Summer Art Festivals in Laguna Beach
If you are spending a weekend in Laguna Beach during the summer there are a few art festivals you may want to check out:
Sawdust Art Festival– local artists sell their art and handcrafted items
Art-A-Fair– discover and meet local and national artists and watch them create.
Festival of Arts– an outdoor art festival featuring Orange County’s finest artists.
Pageant of the Masters– a unique live performance bringing classical and contemporary works of art to life in a a 90 minute production.
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
This is a non profit marine mammal rehabilitation hospital for sea lions, harbor seals and elephant seals. They rescue the mammal and rehabilitate them from injuries like lacerations from fishing hooks or nets and conditions such as malnutrition and then they release them back into the ocean. Here you can see the patients, which have cute names like Mochi and Driftwood, and learn more about what we can do to help protect our ocean friends.
It’s completely free to visit, but I highly recommend giving them a donation of $5-10 to help support the work they are doing.
Where to Eat in Laguna Beach
There are lots of great restaurants to choose from during your weekend in Laguna Beach. There is a lot of finer dining that is pricey as to be expected, and the restaurants can get busy especially in the downtown area. I highly recommend making an advanced reservation with the open table app to avoid any wait times. And I prefer to search out the budget friendly food options.
Nick’s –A popular American food restaurant right in the heart of downtown. Definitely recommend a reservation for breakfast or dinner and will be a little pricey.
440 South Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, Ca 92651
Urth Cafe – A very popular European Style cafe with unique latte’s and breakfast/brunch foods like avocado toast. They will most likely have a long wait so arrive early or order online for pick up or delivery through their website or door dash.
308 N Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, Ca 92651
Taco Loco – Great spot for a quick bite of fresh fish taco’s. Ranging about $4-7 per taco. Fresh and delicious! No reservation needed here, I visited on a busy Saturday during summer and there was no wait.
640 S Coast Hwy St 1B, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Lost Pier Cafe – A delicious walk up cafe on Aliso Beach with great breakfast options like avocado toast, coffee and beignets to seafood lunch options like fish and chips, poke bowl and clam chowder fries. This was my favorite place I ate in Laguna Beach- laid back, delicious and affordable. There was very little wait time to order and food took about 15 minutes to prepare.
31131 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Laguna Beach Beer Co – Definitely a great place to grab a local craft beer and enjoy a bite to eat. They have a fairly limited food menu and you would expect for a brewery- I enjoyed the School of Tart sour beer on tap and a turkey bacon avocado sandwich. Also check out the area for fun art mural walls and the summer art festivals. Also very little wait time on a busy Sunday during art festivals and budget friendly.
859 Laguna Canyon Rd, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
I love to find and try local coffee shops. I am a former Starbucks barista and patron, but now prefer to find and support the local spots. These are the coffee shops I visited during my weekend Laguna Beach.
Koffee Klatch – This adorable little quaint coffee shop was right down the street from our hotel Laguna Brisas Hotel. I loved the eclectic vibe and unique chai options- like chocolate and raspberry.
1440 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651
Laguna Coffee Co – This busy little coffee shop will probably have a line but wasn’t too long of a wait. They roast their own coffee beans in house and support local artists by selling products.
1050 S Coast Hwy St B, Laguna Beach, CA 92651