The Complete Laguna Beach Travel Guide

A cove in Treasure Island Beach, Laguna Beach, Houses and palm trees are at the top of the cove, and a mountain with more houses are slightly visible in the background. It is a slightly pink sunset.

Living in Southern California has made me pretty spoiled when it comes to beach towns. Growing up in New Jersey, my summers were filled with beach days at the shore, and I’ll always have a soft spot for East Coast beaches, but most SoCal beaches just have that extra dose of natural beauty that’s unbeatable. (Plus, they’re free to enter in California, unlike in Jersey, when you’d be charged $6 or so during the summer.) And which beach is the best of the best in Southern California? For me, it’s Laguna Beach. This complete Laguna Beach travel guide breaks down the most beautiful beaches (and where to park), all the best Laguna Beach restaurants (at a range of prices), plus a couple accommodation options.

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Best beaches in Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach’s coastline stretches about seven miles, and nearly every one of its 60 coves and beaches offer dreamy, quintessential California views. But for me, there are a few standouts.

Treasure Island Beach

Treasure Island Beach

This was the first beach I ever visited in Laguna, and it will always have a special place in my heart. Treasure Island Beach is right behind Montage Laguna Beach, an outrageously fancy hotel), and it’s probably the beach I visit most frequently in Laguna, and always take visitors to, for two reasons: Not only is there a gorgeous walkway down to the beach with picturesque views and beautiful landscapes nearly everywhere you look, but there is also public parking available at the Montage that’s probably the cheapest in all of Laguna. When you get down to Treasure Island Beach, there are natural rock formations, and it’s just all around stunning. Every time I come here and I end up taking a million photos — it just never gets old.

Victoria Beach

Although Victoria Beach seems hidden, it’s actually one of Laguna’s most famous beaches, thanks to its pirate tower.  You can enter this beach near the intersection of Sunset Terrace and Victoria Drive, and it’s a bit of a walk to get to the beach itself. It’s pretty small, but super scenic. It’s worth a stop!

Park either along PCH (there’s free and metered parking) or in the nearby neighborhood — be warned that parking may be tricky during the summer months/on the weekend.

Table Rock Beach

This is another small-ish (and gorgeous) beach named for the flat rock that divides the beach. There’s also an interesting little rock tunnel here.

Park on PCH near West Street. Walk down a hill, where you’ll be led to wooden stairs taking you down. 

Thousand Steps Beach

Further south down Laguna is the beautiful Thousand Steps Beach. For some reason, I only visited this one for the first time a few months ago, and I was honestly upset I hadn’t visited earlier. Yes, there are many steps to get to and from the beach (there aren’t quite 1,000, but I’ll admit I did have to take a couple breaks going back up them), but I promise it’s worth it!

Park at a meter on PCH, and enter the beach right around Ninth Street.

Thalia Street Beach

If you’re interested in learning to surf, then this is the spot for you. But even if you’re not, this is a calm beach with beautiful views, and it’s close to Downtown (and closest out of all these options here).

Grab some metered parking along PCH, and access this beach by walking down the stairway on — you guessed it — Thalia Street.

Other things to do in Laguna Beach (besides the beach)

While you’re likely going to want to soak up as much beach time as possible while you’re here, here are some options in case you’re looking for something else to do.

Wander through Downtown

Laguna’s downtown is small, but full of interesting restaurants, wineries, ice cream shops, and artsy stores. Like all of Laguna, Downtown is super picturesque and cute. Most of the stores are pricey, but they’re still fun to explore, whether or not you’re looking to buy something. You can also find public art sprawled throughout the city, from murals, to statues, and more. 

Explore art galleries

Speaking of art, Laguna is home to a number of interesting art galleries. I love visiting art galleries because first of all, they’re free, and they’re also just a fun way to discover different artists and art styles.

Visit Laguna Art Museum

This oceanside art museum is considered the oldest museum in California! The Laguna Art Museum is relatively small, but it focuses on Californian art and features several exhibitions. Admission is $12, or $9 for students, seniors, and military. It’s free on the first Thursday of the month from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. (307 Cliff Drive)

Hike to the Top of the World

Okay, not exactly, but the “Top of the World” hike is definitely an amazing view. The whole thing is about two-and-a-half miles, but you can also just drive up to Alta Laguna Park if you’re not feeling a hike!

The path down to Treasure Island Beach, behind Montage Laguna Beach

Ride the trolley

This free trolley runs every 20 to 30 minutes, and can take you from north to south Laguna, to downtown, or even even further south to neighboring Dana Point. You can use the The Laguna Beach Parking App to find nearby parking — depending on where you’re coming from, you may even be able to snag a free spot. 

The Laguna Beach trolley runs year-round, but its hours are a little more limited off-season, which is September through June. Check out the full schedule and more info here.

Best restaurants in Laguna Beach

Laguna is full of restaurants to try, and I’m still making my way through them. I’ll be honest, a lot of options in this town are on the fancier side, and I’ve definitely had some meals in Laguna where I felt like the food quality did not match the price. But with that said, here are some places I’ve tried and enjoyed. 

Nick’s is an upscale American restaurant with a few locations in Southern California. I’ve visited the Laguna Beach location as well as a couple others, and I’ve always enjoyed the food and drinks. (440 South Coast Highway)

Finding more affordable places to eat is tricky in Laguna, it’s true. But I was impressed with Coyote Grill, which is not only a reasonably-priced Mexican spot, but is just a block or so away from the ocean, meaning you can still get a little bit of an ocean view if you sit outside. It’s further south, close to Thousand Steps and Table Rock beaches. (31621 Coast Highway)

Pizza Bar is another affordable place to eat. It’s a casual spot that has yummy pizza, and is right in Downtown in front of Laguna’s Main Beach. Get the lemon ice too! (397 South Coast Highway) 

The Cliff is overlooking the beach, so view-wise, it really doesn’t get better than this. It’s definitely on the pricier end of things, so I typically just get an appetizer and drink, and enjoy the view, of course. (577 South Coast Highway)

If you’re in the mood for Italian, Alessa is good (and I’m pretty picky about my Italian food). They have a varied menu, with lots of homemade pastas, pizzas, and other entrees. (234 Forest Ave.)

Finney’s Crafthouse also has a number of California locations, and is great if you’re looking for a casual bar atmosphere with lots of options ranging from appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, wings, and tacos. (340 South Coast Highway)

I recently tried The Lumberyard for the first time for lunch, and enjoyed my experience. I want to go back and try one of their pastas! (384 Forest Ave. #10)

If you’re looking for something on the healthier side, Active Culture has things like wraps, bowls, smoothies and juices, plus some breakfast options. I’ve been to a couple of its locations including the Laguna Beach one and is a great choice if you’re looking for something lighter! It even has a small gallery thanks to its partnership with Laguna’s Festival of the Arts, which is cool to check out while you wait. (1006 South Coast Highway)

Skyloft is another rooftop restaurant that lets you take advantage of Laguna’s amazing views. This is another spot where I avoid the entrees and stick to appetizers, a burger or sandwich (it’s hard to stick to a budget in Laguna, but I do my best), but again, the atmosphere and view makes it worth it for at least a drink. (422 South Coast Highway)

Laguna Beach

Where to stay in Laguna Beach

I think I’ve already mentioned half-a-dozen times that Laguna is pricey, but I’ll say it one last time, as it can be difficult to find a place to stay on a budget here. If I were you, I’d probably find somewhere to stay in the *slightly* less pricey Huntington Beach. Or, if you’re interested in exploring Los Angeles as well, head even further north of Orange County and stay in Long Beach, which is the southernmost-point of L.A. County. (If you are hoping to check out Los Angeles, check out this neighborhood guide with budget accommodations). 

But if you are traveling specifically to Laguna or just want to soak up as much time in this gorgeous town as possible, here are a couple local options:

Sonder La Ensenada is one of the most affordable hotel options in Laguna, especially if you book a non-refundable room on Booking.com. It’s a cute hotel with a rooftop pool, but its location is what really makes it a winner. It’s right on the beach, and is just 15 minutes walking from Downtown.

If you don’t mind staying about 20-minutes inland in Laguna Hills, the Laguna Hills Lodge is another option. It also has a pool, a sauna, free parking, a fitness room, and an onsite garden. Find out more here.

I hope you have the most amazing time in Laguna, and that this Laguna Beach travel guide is helpful for you. Laguna Beach really is a special place, and I know you’ll love it. What other beach towns are you interested in visiting? Or if you’ve been to Southern California already, which beach is your favorite? Let me know <3

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28 Comments

  1. June 22, 2024 / 3:57 pm

    I love Laguna Beach. It’s so pretty and there are tons of things to do nearby. Thanks for sharing!

    • Tess
      Author
      June 22, 2024 / 4:07 pm

      thanks for reading, Chelsea! Laguna’s beautiful 🙂

  2. June 22, 2024 / 6:13 pm

    Sadly on our last California trip we only got a brief stop in Laguna Beach to eat. I can see we need to plan a longer stay. We definitely would want to try a couple of different beaches. And wander in the cute downtown area. And find one one those great spots to eat with a view. For our next visit!

    • Tess
      Author
      June 22, 2024 / 6:19 pm

      Yes that definitely doesn’t seem like enough time!! hope you get to return soon 🙂

  3. June 22, 2024 / 7:00 pm

    Thank you for the information.

    How is the water temperature there? Is there a season when it is warmer?

    • Tess
      Author
      June 22, 2024 / 7:11 pm

      weirdly enough the water in Southern California isn’t as warm as in other places! I’d say August is the warmest month though 🙂

  4. Marilyn
    June 22, 2024 / 7:16 pm

    I’ve only been to Laguna Beach once and thought it was GORGEOUS. Bookmarking this for my next trip there!

    • Tess
      Author
      June 22, 2024 / 7:26 pm

      it’s almost ridiculous how pretty it is!!

  5. Sara Meyer
    June 22, 2024 / 9:04 pm

    Laguna is my favorite place on earth

    • Tess
      Author
      June 22, 2024 / 10:36 pm

      it’s definitely one of mine too!

  6. Carmen
    June 22, 2024 / 10:35 pm

    We recently moved to Orange County and Laguna is lovely! The downtown is our favorite – the Temecula Olive Oil shop shouldn’t be missed!

    • Tess
      Author
      June 22, 2024 / 10:37 pm

      oohh I’ll have to check that store out, thank you!!

  7. Jennifer Record
    June 22, 2024 / 10:39 pm

    I have been wanting to visit Laguna Beach since I watched the tv show decades ago! Great post- esp like the dining recs.. saving for a future visit.

    • Tess
      Author
      June 22, 2024 / 10:42 pm

      haha that show is a classic! thanks so much for reading, Jennifer!

  8. Sonia
    June 22, 2024 / 11:04 pm

    I haven’t done the hike to the top of the world, but sounds like a great way to get wonderful views.

    • Tess
      Author
      June 23, 2024 / 2:04 am

      it definitely is!

  9. Rhonda
    June 23, 2024 / 12:17 am

    I lived in northern California and visited southern California often. I’ve been to quite a few of the beaches but never to Laguna Beach. I can see why you think it’s the best.

    • Tess
      Author
      June 23, 2024 / 2:04 am

      hope you get to visit!!

  10. June 23, 2024 / 2:24 am

    I’ve heard of Laguna Beach but I haven’t been as of yet. There’s so many things to do like riding the trolley, visiting the Laguna Art Museum and hiking to the top of the world. Definitely saving this post for later.

    • Tess
      Author
      June 23, 2024 / 2:31 am

      thanks so much for reading, Lenore! hope you get to visit soon 🙂

  11. June 23, 2024 / 9:15 am

    Sone gorgeous rock formations! It’s been a long time since I visited California, but I loved the beaches all along the coast. Time to visit again soon.

    • Tess
      Author
      June 23, 2024 / 5:16 pm

      the beaches here really are amazing!

  12. June 23, 2024 / 1:42 pm

    Great guide! These beaches look beautiful x

    • Tess
      Author
      June 23, 2024 / 5:10 pm

      thanks for reading! <3

  13. June 23, 2024 / 7:59 pm

    Your love and appreciation for Laguna beach shows, it’s not somewhere I have been. Maybe I’ll make it there one day.

    • Tess
      Author
      June 24, 2024 / 3:53 am

      aw thank you Marilyn, it’s one of the places that made me fall in love with California before I moved here! thanks for reading 🙂

  14. Shaf
    June 24, 2024 / 8:17 am

    this place has so much vibesssss, i can’t believe how pretty the Downtown is!

    • Tess
      Author
      June 24, 2024 / 7:43 pm

      right?! it really never gets old for me haha

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