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12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Laguna Beach, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Jun 6, 2019

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A charming oceanfront city lined with luxurious mansions and offering a variety of things to do, Laguna Beach is a Southern California hot spot. Located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, this relatively quiet coastal city garners international attention much in thanks to its brilliant sea cliffs, beaches, and massive homes that overlook it all. The annual Festival of Arts Pageant of the Masters also tends to draw a crowd, with live recreations of famous artworks.

Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach

An iconic destination and popular spot for tourists and celebrities alike, Main Beach Park connects the artistic Downtown District to the ocean via manicured spaces. Branching from Main Beach Park in either direction, a stunning Southern California shoreline invites memorable days spent at the beach. Places to visit along the Laguna Beach coastline include the Heisler Park; a picturesque Pirate Tower; and a scenic, sandy spot called Thousand Steps Beach.

Alongside the beautiful people and bustling community of Laguna Beach, the city also features an abundance of natural spaces to explore. It's home to one of the best state parks in California, Crystal Cove State Park, which features campgrounds with ocean vistas, and miles of multi-use trails navigating through inland chaparral canyons. Crystal Cove also connects to the much larger Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which encompasses over 7,000 acres of unspoiled coastal terrain.

Discover the best places to visit in this scenic city with our list of the top things to do in Laguna Beach.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Heisler Park

Heisler Park
Heisler Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

An oceanfront park full of scenic attraction, Heisler Park provides perhaps the most scenic stroll in all Southern California. With mile-long views of the ocean, the paved pedestrian path navigating Heisler Park meanders by public art, beautiful bench seats, and an array of blooming gardens and wildflowers. Picnic tables, barbecue grills, and plenty of access points to the ocean also line the path. Pairing well with the scenic attraction of the city park, the adjacent Laguna Art Museum displays a wide range of California artists.

Address: 375 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, California

2. Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park
Crystal Cove State Park

The Southern California coastline is on full display at Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach. Accessed from the Pacific Coast Highway, this top-rated state park in California encompasses over three miles of sandy shoreline and thousands of acres of inland wilderness. This abundance of public natural space is a commodity in Southern California, and Crystal Cove provides ample outlets to explore it all.

The state park's oceanfront property comprises seven different coves, each providing opportunities to sunbathe, swim, snorkel, and explore tide pools. The multi-use trails into Morro Canyon at Crystal Cove require some uphill effort, but each lead to spectacular ocean views. The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is directly adjacent to the backcountry trails at Crystal Cove, 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. One of the best campgrounds in Southern California, the Moro Campground at Crystal Cove overlooks the ocean for breathtaking sunsets atop a coastal bluff. Alternatively, inland primitive camping is available at Crystal Cove for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians.

Address: 8471 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, California

Official site: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=644

3. Main Beach Park

Main Beach Park
Main Beach Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

At the intersection of Broadway Street and the Pacific Coast Highway, Main Beach Park is an iconic oceanfront destination complete with sand volleyball nets, a boardwalk, and lifeguards on duty. Popular for celebrities and average tourists alike, the beach area gives a certain vibe that just feels like Southern California, especially come sunset when the surrounding hillsides full of mansions seem to glow. Riptides are present just offshore, and those interested in swimming should consult with the lifeguards first.

A central attraction of Laguna Beach, Main Beach Park branches in either direction for more beautiful sights to see. Plenty of local shops and restaurants of Laguna Beach are inland from the park, including the local favorite, Nick's Laguna Beach. To the north of Main Beach, Heisler Park sits atop a bluff and provides stunning landscaped gardens with ocean backdrops.

Address: Broadway Street & Pacific Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, California

4. Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters

Festival of Arts
Festival of Arts | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

A beloved summer event in Orange County, Pageant of the Masters brings classic paintings to life with live actors and a full orchestra. Hosted by the Festival of Arts, 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/

5. Crescent Bay Point Park

Crescent Bay Point Park
Crescent Bay Point Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

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. Overlooking Crescent Bay Beach directly below, this small cliffside park provides railings and park benches to appreciate the 180-degree views of the coastline. Adding extra appeal, the landscaping of this neighborhood park makes for a peaceful atmosphere far from the traffic noise nearby.

Address: Crescent Bay Drive, Laguna Beach, California

6. Art & Shopping Downtown

Art gallery in downtown Laguna Beach
Art gallery in downtown Laguna Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Much of the locally sourced creativity of Laguna Beach can be found in the Downtown District near the ocean. Beginning at Main Beach Park and stretching to Legion Street, the downtown area is filled with homewares, fashion labels, and many mediums of art on display. Perusing the galleries, boutique shops, public artworks, and ample local dining options of downtown Laguna Beach is an excellent way to spend the afternoon.

7. Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Sea lion release in Laguna Beach
Sea lion release in Laguna Beach | RDPixelShop / photo modified

Facilitating a process of rescue, rehabilitation, and release of injured marine mammals, this non-profit animal center encourages tourists to come and learn about their resident patients. Comprised primarily of California sea lions and Northern elephant seals, the rescued animals have an average length of stay of about three months until they are ceremoniously released back into the wild. Many of these animals can be 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

View towards the ocean from Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
View towards the ocean from Laguna Coast Wilderness Park

A tract of undeveloped land bordering the Southern California coast, this sprawling natural space comprises over 7,000 acres of dense coastal canyon terrain. Over 40 miles of multi-use trails span the oak and sycamore woodlands of the wilderness park, some leading up to high rocky bluffs, where stunning views of the ocean unfold. Numerous trailheads to the Wilderness Park can be accessed from Laguna Canyon Road, including the popular Big Bend Trail, open to hiking, biking, and horse riding.

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 can 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. Thousand Steps Beach

Houses on Thousand Steps Beach
Houses on 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 as you make your way back up. Perhaps thanks to this extra effort involved, Thousand Step Beach often sees far fewer crowds than its neighboring beaches.

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. Not accessible from the Pacific Coast Highway, this tucked away beach is also a good spot to avoid the crowds.

10. Treasure Island Park

Treasure Island ocean vista
Treasure Island ocean vista | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This stunning stretch of coastline in South Laguna Beach is defined by different coves, crazy cliffside homes, and eye-catching installations including a seaside castle. Treasure Island Park is an excellent jumping-off point for this scenic stretch of coast with panoramic picnic benches and access to the ocean.

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/

11. Alta Laguna Park

View of snowcapped mountains from the Top of the World
View of snowcapped mountains from the Top of the World

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

12. Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway
Pacific Coast Highway | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

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

Luxury Hotels:

  • 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.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • 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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