Best Things To Do in Laguna Beach
The best way to take in Laguna Beach is to soak up its magical scenery every second you can. Take advantage of its unique cove beaches, including 1,0... READ MORE
The best way to take in Laguna Beach is to soak up its magical scenery every second you can. Take advantage of its unique cove beaches, including 1,000 Steps Beach and Victoria Beach, though if a more traditional elongated shoreline is more your speed, you'll no doubt enjoy the bustling Main Beach or Crystal Cove State Park. And be sure to do as the Californians do and take a hike, preferably at Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. After you've worked up a sweat, end your day admiring the artwork at California's oldest museum or catch a sunset at Crescent Bay Point Park or Heisler Park, two coastal gems.
Updated September 1, 2020
- #1View all Photos#1 in Laguna BeachBeaches, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Crystal Cove State Park is one of the largest beaches you'll find in the greater Laguna Beach area. The shore measures 3.2 miles long, affording plenty of space for both lounging in the sand as well as long walks. The reason for this is that unlike all the other beaches in Laguna Beach, the beach at Crystal Cove State Park isn't in an enclosed cove. Rather, the beach is backed by seemingly endless bluffs that give way to 2,400 acres of backcountry woodland.
This section of the park features 15-plus miles of hiking trails that take visitors inland into the park's canyon and up and down pathways that afford beautiful views of the ocean. A good introduction to Crystal Cove's backcountry is the Moro Canyon trail. The trail is 3 miles out and back, but if you cut along the connected East Cut Across Trail down Moro Ridge, you'll eventually hit the coast following the Moro Ridge trail. It's important to know that no matter where you hike in the park, you may encounter wildlife, including snakes and bobcats. Stay on marked trails, don't mess with the environment and remain alert.
- #2View all PhotosfreeHeisler Park#2 in Laguna BeachBeaches, Free, Parks and GardensTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Free, Parks and GardensTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Located right on the coast above the bluffs, Heisler Park not only features breathtaking views of the Pacific but it also provides access to four Laguna beaches, including the popular Main Beach, Rockpile Beach, Diver's Cove and the park's Picnic Beach. Start your stroll at the northern end of this Highway 1 stop and you'll be treated to plenty of grassy spaces, stately palm trees, patches of wildflowers and some beautiful sculpture work as you venture down the park's waterfront pathway.
Heisler Park also features benches, picnic tables and barbecues, making it the perfect spot for an afternoon in the sun. What's more, if you start to feel peckish, the street opposite the park is lined with restaurants. Recent travelers agreed that Heisler Park is an absolute gem and highly recommend visiting during the evening for spectacular sunsets. Restrooms are available on-site. Keep in mind that because this is one of Laguna Beach's more popular attractions, parking may become challenging during the evenings and weekends as only street parking is available.There is no admission fee to enter this park and it's open 24/7 daily. For more information, visit the Laguna Beach tourism board's website.
- #3View all PhotosfreeVictoria Beach#3 in Laguna BeachBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Of all the beaches in Laguna Beach, Victoria Beach is probably the most unique. The reason for this lies with its lone resident: the pirate tower. The 60-foot-tall tower was affectionately nicknamed by locals, but once served as a staircase to the beach for a homeowner who lived in a property just above the bluffs. The tower is currently closed for its intended purpose but visitors can certainly enjoy a photo-op of this unconventional landmark. The relatively large cove beach also offers fun features, such as a pool on the sand (a circular concrete barrier along the edge of the water fills up during the right tide and creates a pool in the sand), sea caves, tide pools and volleyball courts.
Some recent visitors were delighted to find that Victoria Beach, despite its uniqueness and sheer beauty, isn't super crowded. Travelers thoroughly enjoyed their time at this beach, though some did say that you'll want to consider what attraction you want to see the most before you go: It's best to visit during high tide to enjoy the beach pool and low tide if you want to get a closer look at the pirate tower. It's also important to note that there is rocky terrain around the tower, so be sure to bring proper footwear to prevent cuts or bruises. Plus, since this beach is located steps below a residential neighborhood, parking may be tricky come peak visiting hours.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Laguna BeachBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you're the kind of beachgoer who craves seclusion over crowded shores, head straight to 1,000 Steps Beach. Situated in South Laguna, a little more than 4 miles south of the center of town, 1,000 Steps Beach takes some effort to reach. The entrance is not your traditional beach entrance where you simply park your car and walk right onto the sand. The beach is located in a residential neighborhood and visitors have to walk down more than 200 steps to get there. Once you descend, you'll see the scenery is more than worth the extra effort. The posterior end of the beach is flanked by jagged, verdant cliffs that prop up the million-dollar homes in this affluent community. Expect to get up close and personal with California palm trees as you relax on this piece of paradise.
Along with dreamy Southern California scenery, the beach also features restrooms, tide pools and sea caves that are accessible during low tide. One sea cave actually leads to another beach, Totuava Beach, a very secluded cove beach that also has another sea cave access point from Table Rock Beach. Should you venture there, it's extremely important to pay close attention to tides, otherwise you run the risk of getting stuck on the beach or getting injured or drowning trying to get out.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Laguna BeachToursTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDToursTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Orange County is one of the best places in California to whale watch. Every year, thousands of gray whales make the migration down the California coast from Alaska to Mexico. The best time to spot these specific whales is during the winter months, typically December through April, though you will be able to see other cetaceans, including dolphins, orcas and humpback whales throughout the year. If you visit from May to October, you may be able to see blue whales, which are the largest animals on earth. While there are lookout points along the coast, including spots in Crescent Bay Point Park, there are no whale watching tours that leave from Laguna. You'll have to drive to nearby Newport Beach or Dana Point for charters.
Highly rated tour operators include Captain Dave's Dana Point Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari in Dana Point (about 10 miles south of Laguna Beach) and Newport Coastal Adventure in Newport Beach (about 13 miles north of Laguna). Captain Dave's features two tours, one that is held on a catamaran-like boat that has underwater viewing pods to see the marine life in their natural habitat, and another on a smaller zodiac boat, which allows travelers to get closer to the water, and thus closer to the animals. Newport Coastal Adventures, on the other hand, offers zodiac boating experiences that give visitors not only an up-close experience but also a fast one: The boats can reach up to 30 miles per hour, enabling passengers to catch up to see the various marine life.
- #6View all PhotosfreeMain Beach#6 in Laguna BeachBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
To be in the heart of Laguna Beach's action, it's best to take a seat in the sand at Main Beach. This beach is located right smack dab in the middle of town, so expect plenty of amenities and plenty of people. In addition to a nice stretch of sand, this beach is equipped with basketball and volleyball courts and a playground, as well as necessities, such as restrooms, showers and lifeguards. You can also easily access Heisler Park, which is connected to the beach. And should you work up an appetite, know that there are plenty of restaurants within walking distance on Highway 1 and Broadway Street.
Recent travelers agreed that Main Beach is the place to be. Visitors enjoyed the atmosphere of the beach as well as its beautiful setting. Many also appreciated how well-maintained the beach (and the surrounding area) is and recommended venturing up the street to find a spot for a bite to eat. Some did note that it can get pretty crowded during the summer months, making finding parking a challenge. Main Beach has no set hours and does not require any kind of fee to enter. There is metered parking along Highway 1 and in the nearby downtown village area. For more information, visit the Laguna Beach tourism board's website.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Laguna BeachParks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Hiking, RecreationTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
A trip to California isn't complete without a hike, and in Laguna Beach, visitors can take advantage of Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. The park encompasses 7,000 acres of land and features 40 miles of trails throughout. What stands out about the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is that it is one of the few coastal canyons left in southern California that hasn't been taken over by development. Should you decide to walk along one of its trails, you'll stroll through woodlands and valleys, along creeks and a lake and up and down hills, some of which lead to lookout spots that afford incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.
To check out the beauty of the canyon, take a hike along the peaceful Laurel Canyon Trail. For ocean views, hit up Laguna Bowl and Water Tank Road Loop where you'll hike to a ridge that towers over the city. Recent visitors said the park is pretty and peaceful, though some did warn future travelers to arrive early to beat the heat (there are few trees in the canyon so don't expect any adequate cover from the sun during your hike). It's also important to note that poison oak and wildlife (think: snakes) dwell within, so be mindful by staying on marked trails, not taking any part of the park with you and remaining alert at all times.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Laguna BeachFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Laguna is known for its beautiful coastal parks, and Crescent Bay Point Park is one of the city's most popular. Located just a mile south of Crystal Cove State Park, Crescent Bay Point Park is much smaller than the neighboring Heisler Park but still stuns with its incredible views of the ocean. From its lookout point, you see up and down the impressive coastline, complete with cascading hillsides and craggy cliffsides as far as the eye can see. The park itself features grassy areas, benches and lookout points that, should you come during whale watching season, might enable you to spot migrating marine life from afar.
Another perk of Crescent Bay Point Park is that it is a short walking distance from Crescent Bay Beach, a relatively small shoreline that is flanked by pretty bluffs on either side. Here you can find tide pools at low tide as well as diving opportunities. Swimming here, however, isn't advised due to dangerous riptides and strong currents. Travelers who visited both the park and the beach found the overall setting to be incredibly awe-inspiring. Recent visitors suggested really taking in the scenery and if you have time, consider having a picnic or staying long enough to watch the sunset.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Laguna BeachMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The closest thing you will get to an aquarium in Laguna Beach is the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center may actually be better than an aquarium because it provides a more intimate experience by showing visitors the seals they rescue and the process that goes into rehabilitating the animals.
The Pacific Marine Mammal Center is responsible for the rescue, rehabilitation and release of seals on the Orange County coast. Currently the center houses sea lions, Northern elephant seals, Pacific harbor seals and Northern fur seals. While not all of the seals will be on display for visitors to see (some may be in deep rehabilitation), travelers will get the chance to see the seals in their temporary home as well as learn more about the center's process and the individual animals, as well as the overall environment.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Laguna BeachMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
California's oldest museum is unique in that it only showcases California artists or pieces of art that depict the state and its history. The museum originally opened in 1929 after the city's resident art colony, later dubbed the Laguna Beach Art Association, fundraised to create an official space for art in the community. Today, the Laguna Art Museum boasts a collection of 3,000 works from present day all the way back to the 19th century.
The museum features an eclectic mix of paintings, sculptures and photographs as well as modern, abstract art, landscape works and classic oil paintings, to name a few. Visitors recommended this museum for its diverse range of art, while others noted that they enjoyed the extensive information provided about the work and artists featured. Others found the museum to be rather small, so they said there's no need to plan an entire afternoon to see it all. Travelers also enjoyed the museum's close proximity to Heisler Park (it's right across the street) as well as the various amenities within walking distance (you'll find restaurants, shops and other galleries a short stroll away).
- #11View all PhotosfreeAliso Beach#11 in Laguna BeachBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDBeaches, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
If you prefer a traditional beach over Laguna's typical cove beach, visit Aliso Beach. Aliso Beach is one of the larger shorelines available in Laguna Beach and it's incredibly easy to get to – unlike some other of the area's beaches. Here, you won't have to deal with navigating parking in a residential neighborhood or traversing steep stairways to get to your destination. At Aliso Beach, all you do is park, take a few steps and you are on the shore. Along with convenience, this beach features restrooms, showers, tide pools, a playground, a concession stand and fire pits, perfect for barbecuing. There is no other beach in Laguna that has fire pits so if you plan on taking advantage of this amenity, show up early to claim it. And if you happen to be a skimboarder, know that the conditions here are considered perfect for skimboarding when the swells are in the right place.
Recent visitors praised the beach for its easy parking and access, and were pleasantly surprised at the few crowds they encountered. Some even said that when going on a weekday, they didn't run into very many people at all. Aliso Beach is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and it costs $1 per hour to park in the on-site lot. You can find Aliso Beach about 3 miles south of the center of town. For more information on Aliso Beach, visit the Laguna Beach tourism board's website.
Explore More of Laguna Beach
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.