16 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Laguna Beach, CA
Laguna Beach defines coastal beauty in Southern California. Luxurious mansions line the bluffs on the western edge of town, with big glass windows that take in the entire enchanting view. And in every direction along this coast, one postcard image after another evokes a vacation feel.
Laguna Beach is approximately halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, making it a popular weekend getaway. This charming oceanfront town also attracts international attention thanks to its brilliant sea cliffs, expansive beaches, and an artsy community that calls the city home.
Other popular ways to spend the day in Laguna Beach include mountain hikes, downtown shopping, and the annual Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters with live recreations of famous artworks. And it's hard to miss the landscaped paths of Heisler Park, off Cliff Drive near the Coast Highway, as this park is a must-see no matter the number of visits.
Make the most out of paradise with our list of the best things to do in Laguna Beach, California.
1. Heisler Park
Heisler Park is an oceanfront park full of scenic attractions and provides perhaps the most scenic stroll in all Southern California. The park's pedestrian path meanders by public art, beautiful bench seats, and an array of blooming gardens and wildflowers, all with miles-long views across the ocean.
Several access points line the park along Cliff Drive, less than a block from the Pacific Coast Highway. It's often one of the first places to go upon arriving in town, in part because of its surreal scenic beauty, and because it's a launchpad for exploring the rest of Laguna Beach. Downtown and Main Beach are just a short walk south of this beautiful garden area.
Alongside Main Beach, Heisler Park also lends access to a small selection of smaller and more secluded coves. Staircases lead down to both Picnic and Rockpile Beach, on either side of the peninsula jutting out from the lawn bowling club courts. And on the north end of Heisler, a graded ramp descends to Divers Cove, a popular spot for scuba diving.
Picnic tables, barbecue grills, and art exhibitions also line the path. For more art in the area, the adjacent Laguna Art Museum displays a wide range of California artists, pairing nicely with a Heisler Park visit.
Address: Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, California
2. Main Beach Park
At the intersection of Broadway Street and the Pacific Coast Highway, Main Beach Park is an iconic oceanfront destination. It's popular for celebrities and average tourists alike, and the beach gives a certain vibe that just feels like Southern California, especially come sunset when the surrounding hillsides full of mansions reflect the falling sun.
A boardwalk snakes along the beach, separating the open lawn space and basketball courts. The volleyball nets near this boardwalk are well-used throughout the day, and the adjacent sitting benches make the nets a spectator sport.
Other popular activities on Main Beach include laying out, beach walking, and swimming. Riptides are present just offshore, and those interested in swimming should consult with the on-duty lifeguards first.
Main Beach Park branches in either direction for more beautiful sights to see. The sand stretches for nearly a flat mile south, hitting several street accesses, and to the north, Heisler Park sits atop a bluff waiting to be explored. Plenty of local shops and restaurants of Laguna Beach are also inland in the downtown area.
Address: Broadway Street & Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, California
3. Art & Shopping Downtown
Much of the locally sourced creativity of Laguna Beach is found in the Downtown District near the ocean. Homewares, fashion labels, and many mediums of art define this downtown area, beginning at Main Beach Park and stretching to Legion Street. It's also the spot to wander for locally sourced restaurants and dining.
Galleries, boutique shops, public artworks, and ample local dining also extend up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. Parking is a challenge in this area at times. The recommended way to explore is the Laguna Beach Trolley. This free trolley runs throughout the year, connecting neighborhoods and downtown and providing a charming way to get around.
4. Crystal Cove State Park
The Southern California coastline is on full display at Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach, north of downtown. This top state park in California encompasses over three miles of sandy shoreline and thousands of acres of inland wilderness and is easily accessible from the Pacific Coast Highway.
The state park's oceanfront property comprises seven different coves, each providing opportunities to sunbathe, swim, snorkel, and explore tide pools. These beachfront areas are day-use only, with ample parking spread between them all.
Hiking is also popular at the park. The multi-use trails heading into Morro Canyon require some uphill effort, but each leads to spectacular ocean views. For further adventures, the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is adjacent to the state park's backcountry trails, adding even more miles to explore underfoot.
Camping is incredibly scenic and very popular at Crystal Cove, ranging from tent camping with a view to backcountry sites accessed with a hike. The Moro Campground supports tent and RV camping and overlooks the ocean for breathtaking sunsets atop a coastal bluff.
Address: 8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, California
Official site: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=644
5. Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters
Pageant of the Masters is a beloved summer event in Orange County. It's hosted by the Festival of Arts, and brings classic and modern paintings to life with live actors on stage and a full orchestra backing. These human recreated masterpieces earn the event its other nickname, the Festival of Living Pictures.
Shows run nightly throughout the summer, typically between early June and all the way through August. The large outdoor seating area surrounding the stage invites guests to spread out a blanket and get comfortable late into the summer evening. Other attractions and reasons to arrive early include the Festival Art Show featuring fine art from local California artists.
Adjacent to the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters facility, the Laguna Playhouse is another top-rated attraction providing evening entertainment. This historic theater is well known in the region for bringing in top names in talent, as well as offering a year-round selection of plays, musicals, comedians, and family-friendly performances. For budding thespians, the Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre offers some limelight for young actors and actresses.
Address: 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, California
Official site: https://www.foapom.com/
6. Victoria Beach
Victoria Beach is yet another stunning stretch of sand in Laguna Beach with some extra notoriety. It's a stunning slice of ocean paradise and is home to the unique "Pirate Tower" affixed to a cliffside. This photogenic feature was part of the original mansion atop the cliff, allowing the owners a twisting passage to the beach.
The Pirate Tower, also known as "La Tour," is on the north side of Victoria Beach, next to a circular man-made pool that fills with ocean water. The sand is sprawling and wide to the south, eventually connecting to Aliso Creek and Aliso Beach. Here, unlimited spots invite space to lay down the towel and enjoy the day.
As well-known as Victoria Beach and the Pirate Tower are, the sand stays relatively uncrowded for Orange County. That's because the parking and access to the beach are difficult. It's residential parking only at the end of Victoria Street, where a long and steep staircase leads to the beach. Non-residents need to find a spot to park on the side of the Pacific Coast Highway when visiting.
7. Pacific Marine Mammal Center
This non-profit animal center facilitates a process of rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured marine mammals. It also encourages tourists to come and learn about their resident patients.
The rescued animals comprise primarily California sea lions and Northern elephant seals and have an average length of stay of about three months until they are ceremoniously released back into the wild. Many of these animals are seen from the Visitor Yard at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, where admission is free, and donations are appreciated.
Address: 20612 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, California
Official site: https://www.pacificmmc.org/
8. Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
This sprawling natural space comprises over 7,000 acres of dense coastal canyon terrain. This vast expanse is a few miles inland from downtown, easily accessible off Laguna Canyon Road. Over 40 miles of multi-use trails span the oak and sycamore woodlands of the wilderness park, some leading steeply to high rocky bluffs. Some of these viewpoints include the ocean unfolding on the horizon.
Numerous trailheads access Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, including the popular Big Bend Trail, open to hiking, biking, and horse riding. There's a small fee for parking at any trailhead. Visitors should also bring their own water. Check the trail map at the trailhead, as different trails are designated for difficulty. The red lines on the map are potentially extremely steep.
The 7,000 acres of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park are complemented nicely by other unspoiled surrounding acreage. Crystal Cove State Park is adjacent to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, as is Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, totaling nearly 20,000 acres with a sprawling network of trails to explore. Trails may be closed for a few days following rain. More information about the area is obtained at the Nix Nature Center on-site.
Address: 18751 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, California
Official site: http://www.ocparks.com/parks/lagunac/
9. Treasure Island Beach
Treasure Island Beach is a gem of attraction for several reasons. The beach itself is popular for swimming and snorkeling, protected by a protruding landmass to the north. And a large concrete graded ramp leads to the sand, ensuring access for anyone who visits.
But the real appeal of Treasure Island Beach is the landscaped parkland atop the bluff. The city and the luxurious Montage Laguna Beach co-manage this beautiful park overlooking the ocean. This postcard space includes thriving coastal plants, decorative art installations, and several benches to take in the view from.
Directly north of Treasure Island Park, Victoria Beach is home to a picturesque Pirate Tower adjacent to the cliffside. South of Treasure Island, Aliso Beach is known for its ocean activity including swimming, skimboarding, and skin diving.
Official site: http://treasureislandpark.com/
10. Sawdust Art Festival
The Sawdust Art Festival is celebrating over 50 years of supporting local Laguna Beach artists. Today, this world-renowned event occurs for nine weeks throughout the summer, from late June to late August, and draws in over 200,000 visitors to Laguna Canyon every year.
The festival primarily takes place within a handcrafted village complete with sawdust on the streets. Over 200 local artists set up shop during the festival, offering a bouquet of style and mediums, many inspired by the sea. Visitors also find live music across three different stages.
The Sawdust Art Festival also puts on a Winter Fantasy holiday art festival. Lights and ornaments adorn this warm-weather event in winter, alongside over 150 artisans on display. Both the summer and winter festivals offer several different pop-up classes to make personalized pieces of art.
Official site: https://sawdustartfestival.org/
11. Thousand Steps Beach
Of the many different coves and beaches lining the city, Thousand Steps Beach may be the best one to visit for a workout. It's not quite a thousand steps leading from the Pacific Coast Highway down to the beach, probably closer to 300, but it feels like a healthy grand on the way back up.
Perhaps thanks to this extra effort involved, Thousand Step Beach sees far fewer crowds than its neighboring beaches. But for Laguna Beach standards, still expect to share the sand with a few other people. There's still ample space to spread out, though, and plenty of room for other activities like volleyball and picnics.
To the north of Thousand Steps, Table Rock Beach is the next beach over and provides a rugged coast to explore. Featuring a dynamic shoreline and abundance of rock features, Table Rock Beach has a scenic rock archway that's possible to pass through (with caution) during extremely low tide. This tucked-away beach is not accessible from the Pacific Coast Highway and is another good spot to avoid the crowds.
12. Alta Laguna Park
Also known as the Top of the World, this hilltop public space features park amenities like picnic tables, tennis courts, and a baseball field–but it's most popular for the views. Simply driving up to this scenic city park to catch the sunset is a fun and free thing to do.
Playgrounds, restrooms, and running water are also available at the park. Quick-changing weather can hit the Top of the World from time to time, making a rain jacket a good item to bring along.
Address: 3299 Alta Laguna Boulevard, Laguna Beach, California
13. Laguna Art Museum
The Laguna Art Museum is right next to Heisler Park on Cliff Drive. It offers three floors of galleries, each dedicated to California art. Though the art museum has over 3,600 items in its personal collection, the facility specializes in rotating exhibits, ensuring something new to see with each visit.
Visitors can tour the museum within an hour, though more interested patrons could spend more time. The museum also regularly hosts programs like art auctions, speaker series, and family workshops. Admission is free for kids age 12 and younger.
Address: 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, California
Official site: https://lagunaartmuseum.org/
14. Murphy Smith Bungalow
The Murphy-Smith Historical Bungalow offers a colorful slice of history in the heart of downtown. The Laguna Beach Historical Society offers guided tours of this bungalow, which dates back to 1923. Today, period-authentic furniture and historical exhibits adorn the home, telling the story of Laguna's first population boom in the 1920s.
Tours are free and are available on most Fridays and Saturdays throughout the afternoon. Volunteers lead the tours and provide further insight into the historical context. Reservations aren't required.
Address: 278 Ocean Avenue, Laguna Beach, California
Official site: http://lagunabeachhistory.org/visit-the-bungalow
15. Crescent Bay Point Park
A small hidden gem of Laguna Beach, Crescent Bay Point Park is tucked into a neighborhood off the highway and provides one of the best sunset viewing spots in the city. It Overlooks Crescent Bay Beach directly below and has railings and park benches to appreciate the 180-degree views of the coastline. And the landscaping of this neighborhood park makes for a peaceful atmosphere far from the traffic noise nearby, adding extra appeal.
Address: Crescent Bay Drive, Laguna Beach, California
16. Pacific Coast Highway
Separating the city from the sea, the Pacific Coast Highway connects numerous seaside cities and stunning places to visit up and down the California coast. Laguna Beach is a stop on one of the best West Coast road trips, and it also makes an excellent base camp destination. Other cities nearby on the Pacific Coast Highway include Huntington Beach and Long Beach to the north, and Carlsbad to the south. For easy parking and traveling on the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, the Laguna Beach Trolley is a free service offered on the weekends.
Where to Stay in Laguna Beach, California for Sightseeing
- For an all-inclusive experience in one of the most beautiful areas of Southern California, The Ranch at Laguna Beach offers everything needed for some fun in the sun. Eighty-seven acres compose this luxurious resort, with special amenities like fine dining, spa services, and a pristine nine-hole golf course spread throughout. The property itself oozes with Southern California style and comfort. Various rooms are available, including creekside studio suites and a lofty "treehouse" suite with floor-to-ceiling windows.
- Perched high above the Pacific on a seaside cliff, the Montage Laguna Beach is a luxurious hotel with stunning ocean views. Its prime location next to the surf, with easy access to Treasure Island Beach, makes these decadent digs often booked. Montage's luxury is immediately apparent upon walking through the front door, and the style and comfort continue into the guest rooms. Overnight accommodations include rooms, suites, and 3,000-square-foot villas with private balconies.
- Adjacent to the ocean, all 150-plus rooms and 13 suites at Surf & Sand Resort offer water views. Alongside excellent sunset panoramas, each room at the resort features plush bedding, marble bathrooms, and private balconies. It's a popular spot for honeymoons and otherwise romantic vacations. And with the on-site Aquaterra Spa and in-house Splashes Restaurant, guests never have to leave the property for a full vacation experience.
- Right next to Main Beach Park at the heart of Laguna Beach, The Inn At Laguna Beach provides arguably the best location. Guests are steps away from some of the most active and eye-catching parts of the city, including the eclectic and artful downtown district. But patrons don't need to leave the property to enjoy the Southern California landscape. The property has 70 bungalow-inspired rooms, many with views of the ocean. Sunset dining is also available and is an excellent way to cap off the day.
- With a distinct coastal vibe and Moroccan influence, the Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa offers a dreamy seaside escape at a more favorable rate. The property dates back to the 1920s, although all 23 rooms were beautifully restored in 2016 with modern amenities and plush furnishings. Among the overnight offerings are garden rooms, deluxe ocean-view rooms with patios, and a bungalow suite.
- For a relaxing beach escape within a reasonable budget, Capri Laguna On The Beach offers a surplus of coastal attractions. A distinct Mediterranean vibe emanates from the hotel, including gorgeous ocean views from many rooms. Capri Laguna has 45 guest rooms available, ranging from ocean-view king suites to standard guest rooms. Another unique amenity at the hotel is the sprawling back deck available to all guests, perfect for watching sunsets.
- For a romantic spot that leaves room in the budget for other adventures, The Tides Laguna Beach is a popular choice. Featuring 21 rooms, this seaside hotel has an excellent reputation for cleanliness and laid-back coastal comfort. A charming pool area is a popular place to congregate at the end of the night, with an outdoor fireplace and BBQ stations. The hotel's complimentary amenities include fast and reliable internet, a parking space, and air-conditioning in each room.
- Offering a distinct SoCal vibe at an affordable price, the Laguna Beach House is a hip and fun place to stay. Vintage furniture and breezy coastal decor define this classy but laid-back spot, as well as the smell of the ocean not far away. Rooms vary from ocean-view to poolside, and all feature sunny and warm furnishings for a good night's sleep. A special "Love in Laguna" package adds other romantic touches for a couple's stay.
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