Low Key Laguna

sunset at laguna beach[trip style = beach + sun]

Laguna is the kind of place where people walk into the neighborhood Whole Foods grocery store with I-just-went-swimming-in-the-Pacific kinda hair, wearing only a bathing suit, mini cover-up and flip flips.

{more pics below}

Only an hour away from LA, Laguna feels the opposite of glitzy. Its low key vibe, coupled with the constant rhythm of waves lapping---and occasionally crashing---into shore sooths your mind, body and spirit into a slower pace of life.

With beaches that go for miles and lifeguard stations regularly dotting the shoreline, Laguna is a quintessential California Beach town with a few surprises up its sleeve.

On a five-day trip to Cali, we stayed in Newport for the first three and Laguna for the second two. The slower and less flashy pace of life Laguna offered was an excellent way to unwind and cap-off our California visit.

Laguna Surprises

  • Bohemian vs High-Brow. Yes, it’s arty and bohemian, but there’s also an ire of expectation seeing as the beachfront properties range from $2.5 million for a 1000sf condo to $31 million for a custom 5-room mansion. With beach entrances throughout the swanky beachfront neighborhoods, parking police lie and wait for people who mis-park in these neighborhoods.
  • Whaling Wall. Wyland, the 54-year old artist who found fame painting whales on canvas and buildings takes up residence in Laguna.  His home/gallery are on the ocean side of the PCH. No wonder he keeps on doing ocean-inspired art, the Pacific is right in front of him!
  • Artsy Fartsy. The Art scene in Laguna is budding to say the least. With galleries on every street corner, there's a piece for everyone's taste.
  • Catch a Wave. Just down from the main beach is where the surfers, skimboarders and stand-up paddle boarders congregate---right in front of a string of beachfront condos and homes that make you wish you grew up in the OC. Surprisingly, these activities aren’t reserved for the young---people of all ages share and ride the waves.
  • Eating Out.  Here are some of my favorite locations:
    • Breakfast - Occupying a home built in 1917, the cute Cottage Restaurant has been serving food for the last 35 years. Expect fast, efficient service and decent food in a lovely outdoor setting. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
    • Coffee/Snack - Just off the beach, C'est La Vie had the biggest chocolate and cinnamon pastry twists I'd ever seen! The pastry and desert selection was seriously decadent!  Coffee wasn't too shabby either.
    • Lunch - We usually skipped lunch or snacked on items from Whole Foods.
    • Happy Hour - I don't think there's a tourist or local who leaves Laguna without eating or drinking at Las Brisas.  With one of the best restaurant views in all of Laguna, this giant mexican restaurant always seemed busy. Always.  Sit on the patio at 4pm to soak-up the views and enjoy top-shelf margaritas, and chips and guacamole.  The guac is to die for.
    • Dinner - Finish off your day at 230 Forest.  This funky eatery and martini bar is right in the centre of town. Look out, the crab cakes were surprisingly filling.
  • The Beach. One refreshing feeling in Laguna is how the locals are just as excited---if not moreso---about the beach than tourists. Locals and tourists co-exist on the same beaches and do so in harmony.  Laguna is welcoming no matter where you go.
  • The Little Hotel that Could.  Yep, there's the brood of high-end hotels like the St. Regis, Montage and The Ritz within 15 mins of laguna, but why not stay at  a locally run hotel?  I'm already planning on returning to The Tides.  Located one street up from the beach on the PCH, this simple hotel is well maintained and its owners are more than accommodating and helpful.  Spend time at the pool, the Inn's BBQ bar area or roast marshmallows and hotdogs in the outdoor fireplace.  See my review here.

Pictures laguna {The coast}

laguna beach {Beach right in front of town, not all of Laguna's beaches were this busy}

wyland gallery {Wyland Gallery}

cottage restaurant laguna {The Cottage Restaurant}

C'est la vie laguna {C'est La Vie Restaurant and Cafe's giant baked goods}

las briasa restaurant laguna {Las Brisas Restaurant's ummmm guac}

230 forest laguna {230 Forest}

Tides Inn Laguna BBQ Bar {Tides BBQ bar}

Tides Laguna Pool {Tides pool}

Tides laguna fireplace {Tides fireplace}