As a California local, it has been my great pleasure to explore all the best things to do in Laguna Beach. Do I like it? How shall I put this… If I hit the lotto on a Tuesday, catch me shopping at Laguna real estate on Wednesday.
Magnificent scenery and a thriving arts community are hallmarks of this gorgeous beach burg, yet that’s just the beginning of why this is one of my favorite places on Earth.
In this guide, we’ll go over the top attractions in Laguna Beach, California to make the most of your stay. And don’t forget to read our guide to the best hotels in Orange County to score the best accommodations. Let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- 24 Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach
- Crystal Cove State Park
- Main Beach
- Heisler Park
- Kush Fine Art Gallery
- Shaw’s Cove
- Crescent Bay Point Park
- Sawdust Art Festival
- Laguna Beach Trolley
- Pacific Marine Mammal Center
- Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
- Top of the World
- Festival of Arts
- Laguna Beach Backroads Electric Bike Tour
- Laguna Art Museum
- The Laguna Playhouse
- Murphy-Smith Historical Bungalow
- Victoria Beach
- Pirate Tower
- Treasure Island Beach
- Adventure Atop the Waves with Victoria Skimboards
- Aliso Beach
- Table Rock Beach
- 1000 Steps Beach
- FAQs About What to Do in Laguna Beach
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24 Best Things to Do in Laguna Beach
Crystal Cove State Park
Roam the hiking trails and explore an enclave of rustic coastal cottages in one of the OC’s largest expanses of open space and natural seashore.
Seek out the wildest sections of Laguna Beach in the 2,400-acre backcountry of Crystal Cove State Park. 18 miles of trails wind through endangered coastal sage scrub to beautiful mountainous vistas backed by the Pacific Ocean’s endless blue.
Thrill seekers can get their heart rate up on the park’s mountain biking trails, listed here. Only one is rated easy, so be prepared to tackle a challenge. Getting to Crystal Cove State Park, on the other hand, couldn’t be easier. From Main Beach, simply drive 5 minutes north on Pacific Coast Highway, towards Newport Beach.
I highly encourage lovers of the great outdoors to continue cruising up PCH in future wanderings! About two hours north, natural wonder ranks high among the best attractions of Malibu, California.
🧑💻 Sightseeing Speedrun: For gamers looking to spice up their trip with a personal best – if you start at Crystal Cove State Park, it is possible to run every item on this list in a single day. Just make sure to note your favorites so you can go back and play through them for fun.
Laguna Beach’s most popular beach, for a lot of good reasons.
Main Beach is exactly what it sounds like: the main beach. Sounds sort of basis for a creative arts haven. But, hear me out – essentially the name answers the #1 question before said question is even asked. Which is sort of functional short-form poetry.
Adjacent to Main Beach you’ll find Main Beach Park. Between the two, or in shops within sight of them, you’ll find all the main beach things. Food stands, souvenir shops, bike/board/toy rentals, beach cafés, the works.
It’s unabashedly the most touristy area. The Laguna Beach crowd is interesting in a good way, so busy days can be a lot of fun. I mostly opt for quiet days, which occur largely between mid-September and early May. Put on a cozy sweater, have a morning amble down the boardwalk, and stop to chat with artists selling their creations. Absolutely lovely.
🏖️ Pro Tip: In peak summer (June – August) get here early and don’t expect it to stay quiet for long.
Enjoy public art with a backdrop of magnificent ocean views.
As high tide renders many area beaches inaccessible, it is the ideal time to check out local parks. Heisler Park has a pleasantly tropical vibe. Walkways meander along the dramatically beautiful coast, lined by lush lawns, flowerbeds, and palm trees.
Heisler Park features sculptures of marine life you can see up close and a marine reserve you can view from a distance.
🦞 Good Eats: Take in the gorgeous view from the Heisler Park Gazebo, then treat yourself to a meal at iconic Laguna Beach restaurant Las Brisas, right next door. If you’re lucky, you can get a table with that very same view.
Kush Fine Art Gallery
Wonder at the mind-bending creative artworks crafted by Vladimir Kush, the founder of metaphorical realism.
You don’t have to know anything about art to experience the creativity on display in this gallery. Vladimir Kush designs his work to parallel reality with metaphor, provoking the viewers’ artistic nature.
Each exquisitely crafted piece unites elements in seeming contradiction of one another, entwined in such a way your mind accepts them as one. Truly something you must see to believe.
🖼️ An Heirloom Souvenir: Works on display in Kush Fine Art Gallery are for sale. Any one of them is likely to parallel the cost of several nights in one of Laguna’s five-star resorts, but for the well-heeled collector, this is the souvenir of a lifetime.
Sneak away to a hidden cove and let the tide carry your worries out to sea.
So… this is sort of a controversial choice, on my part. Shaw’s Cove is one of those local secrets residents might prefer to stay secret, as it were. Which I get, it’s my favorite place here, too. So, in my defense, I couldn’t in good conscience make a list of Laguna’s best without it.
To me, this tiny, idyllic cove is about as perfect as a place can get when all you want to do is nothing. An amiable visit to tide pool denizens is about as much activity as you’ll get. Mostly, this is where you just settle in the sand, or out on the rocks, and just be.
🤫 Pro Tip: This spot is prized for its peaceful, quiet ambiance. Especially by residents of the homes overlooking the cove. Please visit respectfully.
Crescent Bay Point Park
Pause for a brief respite with a 180° view of the Pacific Ocean.
You won’t have to spend all day at Crescent Bay Point Park to enjoy all this lovely little park has to offer. You will be missing out if you don’t take a moment to smell the roses and see this phenomenal view.
🌅 Running Late to Sunset? Downtown traffic and cliffside stairways can eat up precious time and energy. Atop a bluff on the north end of town, Crescent Bay Point Park is an easy-to-reach spot to take in this signature Southern California spectacle.
Sawdust Art Festival
Browse eucalyptus-shaded displays of fine art and artisan offerings at a celebration of local art set in a handmade village.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (949) 494-3030 | Website | Dates: Late June to Early Sept, Weekends Mid-Nov to Mid-Dec | Hours: 11 am – 7 pm Sun – Thurs, 11 am – 10 pm Fridays & Saturdays | Entrance: $10, adults, $7, seniors, $5 ages 6-12
In a drastically oversimplified sense, Sawdust Art Festival is the artisan to Festival of the Arts fine art. Artists and craftspeople put on demonstrations of glass blowing, woodworking, and live painting. The atmosphere is livelier, with louder music and more of it.
Over 150 local creators are chosen to show here each season. Along with exceptional paintings, sculptures, and ceramics, makers here showcase wearable art and handmade jewelry.
During the festival season, the traffic/parking struggle is real. Early arrivals can try Lot 16 for spaces within walking distance of festival sites. Lots vary each season, so use the stops on the Laguna Beach Trolley route to pick an available lot further from town to minimize hassle.
🎁 Winter Fantasy Festival: If there’s a better multitask than knocking your holiday shopping out of the park while enjoying a weekend at Sawdust, I don’t know it. Well, one. You could pick up a season pass ($30) and stock on unique, handcrafted gifts for the year ahead whilst enjoying several weekends of festival fun.
Laguna Beach Trolley
Hop aboard a free trolley to get around Laguna Beach with ease.
📍 Multiple Locations | Phone: (949) 497-0766 | Website | Hours: 7:30 am – 6 pm Mon – Thurs, 7:30 am – 10 pm Fridays, 9 am – 10 pm Saturdays, 9 am – 7 pm Sundays | Entrance: Free
Southern California isn’t typically known for superlative public transportation. The Laguna Beach Trolley is a noteworthy exception to that rule.
The Coastal Route offers stops along Pacific Coast Highway from North Laguna/Heisler Park, through downtown and South Laguna, going as far as the Ritz Carlton in Dana Point. The Canyon Route will get you to the art festivals and provides transport from parking areas further afield when lots downtown or near the coast are jam-packed.
The trolley will get you close to most of the beaches and art galleries, but it won’t take you everywhere on this list. If you’re looking for a rental, check out Discover Cars for great deals from pickup points near Orange County’s John Wayne Airport.
🅿️ Pro Tip: On weekends you can park for free in Lot 16 and catch the trolley from there.
Pacific Marine Mammal Center
See – and hear – sea lions and other pinnipeds on the mend in this heartwarming non-profit animal sanctuary.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (949) 494-3050 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm daily | Entrance: Free | 👉 Book a Wavehuggers Surf Lesson, Donate 1 lb of Fish to a Sea Mammal in Need
When OC locals spot a pinniped in distress, it’s Pacific Marine Mammal Center’s call to carefully assess the need for rescue. Sea lions are the most common visitors, and the center regularly cares for northern elephant seals, Pacific harbor seals, and northern fur seals.
You’ll get to observe current patients from an elevated platform while a volunteer explains the finer points of our flippered friends’ recuperation and release. Your heart will soar watching videos of rehabilitated sea lions racing down the beach to leap back into the sea.
To make viewing these exuberant creatures in their natural habitat a part of your trip, go on a kayak tour with sea lion viewing.
The center is cherished by earth-and-sea-focused communities in Laguna, with a few pitching in on fundraising efforts. For example, that surf lesson thing is not a scam, Wavehuggers surf school genuinely donates the price of 1 lb of fish to Pacific Marine Mammal Center, per lesson.
👪 Good for Visitors of All Ages! Animals in very poor condition are treated in a private veterinary area, so kids aren’t going to encounter any graphic medical issues.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park
Hike through coastal canyons to sweeping vistas.
Those looking to explore the inland wilderness of Orange County need to look no further than the 40 miles of hiking trails in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. Springtime streams feed bright patches of wildflowers. Birdsong fills the air in oak and sycamore woodlands.
Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is one of several parks that make up the South Coast Wilderness area. This includes Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, Crystal Cove State Park, and The City of Irvine Open Space, covering nearly 20,000 acres.
👉 Pro Tip: Wildflowers bloom brightly in March-May, but don’t expect them year-round, and please spare the rangers an earful if you don’t find any! They’ll be happy to point you toward the season’s best sights.
Top of the World
Hike to a scenic lookout over Laguna Canyon country then pick up a round of pickleball at Alta Laguna Park.
The view from this overlook is epic, stretching up the Southern California coast as far as Catalina Island and inland to Mt. Baldy. A fine reward for the moderately challenging 2.4-mile Top of The World Hike.
A couple of the Aliso & Wood Canyon hiking trails that begin here are tamer. For next to no trekking at all, there’s a short trail from adjacent Alta Laguna Park. You also find restrooms and a host of sports facilities here.
🐋 Alta Laguna Park Bonus: Lawn whales.
Festival of Arts
Celebrate California artists at a cherished Orange County art festival.
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (949) 494-1145 | Website | Hours: 4 pm – 11:30 pm Mon – Thurs, 10 am – 11:30 pm Fri – Sun, July 5 to Sept 1 only | Entrance: $10/$15, adults, $7/$11 seniors, $5 ages 6-12 (weekdays/weekends)
Festival of the Arts is the nucleus of the Laguna Beach summer events calendar. An open-air gallery space showcasing award-winning Orange County artists is the main draw, bolstered by art classes, workshops, and live music.
Doors remain open until late in the evening, allowing time to view the art either before or after the festival’s trademark evening event, the Pageant of the Masters. Using a captivating blend of performance, storytelling, and music, the “living pictures” created on stage make for a one-of-a-kind show.
💰 Pro Deal: If you’re here for the Festival of the Arts, consider picking up a Passport to the Arts. Available at the festival box office, these passes include entry to the Festival of Arts, Laguna Art-A-Fair, and Sawdust Art Festival, as well as a free parking pass for the trolley lot.
Laguna Beach Backroads Electric Bike Tour
Get the lay of the land and your daily cardio on this stress-free tour.
It’s a wonderful feeling to cruise Laguna Beach’s coastline breeze on wheels, but knowing where to go and how to navigate traffic can be tricky for newcomers.
On this easy bike tour, La Vida Laguna will set you up with everything you need to roll through several of the area’s top attractions, including Heisler Park, Main Beach, and Pyne Castle.
Laguna Ethos offers a similar tour of the hidden alleyways and panoramic vistas of North Laguna, starting at Crescent Bay Point Park.
🚲 Have Bike, Will Travel: Don’t miss the bike path that treks from Santa Monica’s top attractions to the wilds of Venice Beach.
Laguna Art Museum
Embrace the California experience as depicted by contemporary artists.
Though Laguna Art Museum is the oldest cultural institution in Laguna Beach, what I like best about the present-day museum is that it always feels fresh. In addition to compelling temporary exhibitions, curators rotate themed selections from a permanent collection of over 3,000 artworks.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time repeat-gazing at thought-provoking masterpieces in Los Angeles Museums. Return visits have been made to world-class cultural institutions of San Francisco for a painting that engaged my mind at a glance and required further consideration. At Laguna Art Museum, on the other hand, my favorites inspire love at first sight.
🎨 Love Art? After visiting the Laguna Art Museum head to Heisler Park (just a block away on Cliff Drive) to view sensational public art and dazzling sunsets.
The Laguna Playhouse
See a show at a regional theatre named “Best in OC” seven years and counting.
Located on Laguna Canyon Road adjacent to the Festival of Arts, The Laguna Playhouse stages a year-round season of productions showcasing the area’s top talent. Their calendar also features touring companies such as ballets and concerts.
Comedy nights are amongst the most affordable events at Laguna Playhouse. That said… if it’s the comedy you’re after, a mere 90 minutes north you’ll find some of the best clubs in the world. Get all the details in this guide to the best entertainment in West Hollywood.
Murphy-Smith Historical Bungalow
Step through the door of this 1920s beach cottage and embark on a trip to the Laguna Beach of times past.
At Murphy-Smith Historical Bungalow, the Laguna Beach Historical Society achieves peak nostalgia inside and out. It crafts an experience that’s more like a trip down memory lane in the home of a local history buff than a museum visit.
🅿️ Pro Tip: If you park at Ocean Ave Lot B, you’ll be just a short walk from both the murphy smith historic bungalow and the charming shops and restaurants along Forest Ave.
Kick back and relax on a pristine white sand beach bordered by cliffside mansions and luxury resorts.
Victoria Beach is hard to beat. Impeccably clean and spacious, for starters. Anemone-filled tide pools and rock formations lend it an air of wild & untouched. The abandoned pirate tower also helps.
As cliffside beaches go, Victoria Beach is remarkably easy to access. A paved ramp bordered by palm trees and beds of succulents is one of several amenities that are maintained by the premier resort Montage Laguna Beach. Other perks include parking garages, helpful staff, and the best public restrooms in town.
🐕 Pro Pup Tip: Dogs are welcome all open hours from mid-September through mid-June, but in peak months (June – September) bring your puppers before 9 am or after 6 pm. Leashes are required and must be no longer than 6 feet.
Play pretend at a historical landmark that inspires visions of swashbucklers and chests bursting with gold.
Is it really a pirate tower? No. Does it look enough like one for your inner child to raise the jolly roger? Yeah. Equally rad for make-believe or social media (which isn’t not make-believe, come to think of it.)
🏴☠️ Pirates, Beware: You can’t access the building, and if you did all you’d find is a rickety set of stairs. And at high tide, you can’t access the tower at all.
Treasure Island Beach
Stroll landscaped cliffside pathways to an immaculate beach bracketed by tide pools and hidden coves.
In the off-season, Treasure Island Beach feels like a remote slice of windswept paradise. It’s drastically more crowded come summertime, but still heavenly. Plus that’s when the water is warmest and this is a lovely beach to go for a dip.
Great spots for snorkeling lie just offshore. North-end waters are the best entrance for these, whereas the sandy bottom toward the south end is ideal for swimming.
Atop the cliff, Treasure Island Park offers several acres of manicured lawns and pathways. You’ll often spot an easel or two set up near benches around here. There are plenty to go around, all of them facing one of Laguna’s most spectacular sunset views – a foreground landscaped with native plants, the middle-ground awash with Pacific Ocean blue, and against a background of the pastel-streaked sky.
🧑🦽 Tip for Persons With Disabilities: Beach wheelchairs are available at Main Beach and Aliso Beach. Treasure Island Beach and Christmas Cove offer wheelchair ramps. Though Laguna Beach beaches are not equipped with access mats, you will find this feature on several of the best beaches in Los Angeles.
Adventure Atop the Waves with Victoria Skimboards
Test your balance out on the waves in a thrilling sport that was invented right here in Laguna Beach, CA.
📍 Multiple Locations
While Huntington Beach is widely considered the surf capital of Orange County – and you are sure to find a wealth of excellent on-theme things to do in Surf City, USA – Laguna Beach is the birthplace of its very own boardsport.
Many folks haven’t heard of skimboarding, but my Weezer fans may recall the lyric “You take your car to work, I’ll take my board…” and that, in a catchy 90’s rock nutshell, is skimboarding.
Industry leader Victoria Skimboards, named for Laguna’s own Victoria Beach, offers private lessons from some of the best in the game. You can also get on board with instructors at Laguna Ethos or Goff Tours, owned by Laguna Beach longboard champion Goff Stepien.
Relax on the shore – or glide along it – at one of the best skimboarding beaches in Laguna Beach, CA.
The prime claim to fame of Aliso Creek County Beach, more often called Aliso Creek or Aliso Beach, is a shore break that creates ideal conditions for skimboarding. You can spot at least a few stars of the sport here on the regular. Once a year, at The Vic world championships, you can catch just about all of them.
Less than a mile south of Victoria Beach, Aliso Beach and Aliso Beach Park are only about a five-minute walk from the parking garage and top-notch amenities serving Victoria, Treasure Island Beach, and Treasure Island Park.
👪 Pro Tip, Parental Edition: The closest lot to Aliso Beach is Monterey St parking, offering quite possibly the shortest lot-to-beach journey anywhere in Laguna Beach. That in and of itself makes this a favorite choice among families hauling in a lot of gear.
Table Rock Beach
Those up to the challenge of finding this hidden gem will be rewarded with a serene pocket of beachy bliss.
A highly-ranked local favorite, this secluded patch of paradise features a suitably mysterious brand of astonishing beauty. Rugged rock formations and striated cliffs jut out into the sea at an upturned angle, as if reaching for the sky.
Visits to quite a few of the beaches in Laguna Beach, California begin with a round of hide ‘n’ seek. This one sometimes ups the ante by having GPS direct you down inaccessible private roads. Skip the headache by taking the Coastal Trolley to the stop on Coast Hwy & Bluff Dr, which is an ideal starting point for your adventure on foot (see below.)
🚶 How to Get There: Take the trolley (or locate parking nearby,) then walk away from the highway down Bluff Dr. You’ll cross both ends of the private residential loop Table Rock Drive on the right. The second crossing deadends at a driveway. Walk between the posts on your right to locate the stairs leading to the beach.
1000 Steps Beach
Pack a lightweight picnic to seek out this hidden treasure, you’re going to want to stay awhile.
First off, the staircase here has 219 steps. I can’t say for a fact that the name is a calculated overstatement designed to dissuade throngs of tourists… but it is true that protecting this sliver of heaven on Earth is worthy of minor subterfuge.
The tide pools here are incredible. Look, don’t touch. Collecting is strictly prohibited throughout Laguna Beach. Unless it’s litter, such as my new friend, Captain Gustav MacPuffypants.
Extensive repairs in 2021 made the steep staircase less precarious. Even so, it’s nice that all you need to enjoy a day here are the bare necessities. The number of surfers lugging their boards up & back is a strong testament to the shore break.
Grip it and rip it on lush courses with exquisite views.
📍 Multiple Locations
Laguna Beach golf courses are as luxe as the resorts in which you’ll find them. It’s easy to see the appeal of the oceanfront links at Monarch Beach Resort. Players looking for a relaxed, un-stuffy experience will love the super private nine-hole course carved into the hills behind The Ranch at Laguna Beach.
Golfers looking to explore a bit further afield will want to take a swing at nearby Pelican Hill. Listed as one of the best in Southern California by Golf Digest, their prized golf course is among the top activities in Newport Beach.
Overall, the beach most loved by PGA fans is undoubtedly Pebble Beach. You’ll have to go many an extra mile to get there from Laguna Beach – about 400 of them – so maybe save this one for your next trip up north. It’s an easy day trip from San Francisco.
⛳ Speaking of Games… If you are attempting the aforementioned speedrun, the cheat code is driving range.
FAQs About What to Do in Laguna Beach
Is Laguna Beach worth visiting?
Laguna Beach is well worth visiting for anyone who loves gorgeous scenery, pristine beaches, or California art.
What is Laguna Beach known for?
Laguna Beach is known for its magnificent coastal scenery and beaches, as well as a thriving local art scene.
Is Laguna Beach or Malibu better?
Laguna Beach is better for a purely relaxed getaway, but Malibu is ideal when you want to mix beach days with world-famous Los Angeles attractions.
What is the best time to visit Laguna Beach?
For art lovers, the best time to visit Laguna Beach is late summer, when festivals are in full swing. For beach vacations, the best time to visit Laguna Beach is March-May, before the onset of summer crowds.
Thanks for reading my list of the most delightful things to do in Laguna Beach, California. Whether it’s your 1st or 50th, I hope your next visit is as spectacular as this Orange County cliffside paradise. Interested in exploring further south? Check out the incredible things to do in San Diego on your next adventure in California.
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