It may be best known for its postcard-pristine beaches and twinkly-eyed TV stars, but Laguna's SoCal vibes and old-school hippie history have made it both the art capital of Orange County and one of the coziest spots on the California coast. From beachside bars to galleries, there's always something new to check out. Here are a few tips on how to best soak up the culture and the sun of this OC resort city.


Day 1: Kicking Back

Crystal Cove via Website


Seaside Laguna Inn

For beach bums

If what you really seek is a fancy hotel, you can find plenty of them downtown, but even high-end places can be a little cramped in Laguna. For a more coastal experience, it’s best to go right by the water’s edge at Seaside Laguna. Just a short, free trolley ride from the center of town, Seaside puts you right above Pearl Beach, a calmer area with gorgeous tide pools when the water is down. Pearl is also a short walk from the iconic but much busier Main Beach. Be it by trolley or by coastline, you’re connected to everything. 

1661 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA. 
+1 949-494-9717; seasidelagunainn.com

 

Wahoo’s

The snack of surfers

Any first day anywhere deserves a first-class meal, and no beachside treat is more satisfying than the savory tacos at Wahoo’s, a beloved local hangout that serves some of the best fish tacos you’ll ever eat. The fresh flavors and laid-back attitude all packed into one cool place by the ocean is exactly why people love living on the California coast. Everyone from sun-baked surfers to upbeat tourists can be found at this legendary locale. 

1133 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA. +1 949-497-0033; wahoos.com

 

Crystal Cove

100% natural beauty

This state park contains some gorgeous, well-preserved coastline a short drive north of Laguna. One of the best spots on the planet to catch a jaw-dropping sunset, Crystal Cove also has scenic trails for the hiking and biking crowd. Or just take a leisurely stroll on the sand to watch sea lions and pelicans sunbathing by the water. It’s amazing to think that in the not-so-distant past, nearly all of California’s coast looked just like this. 

8471 Pacific Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA. +1 949-494-3539; crystalcovestatepark.org

 

Day 2: Beachside Galleries

The Cliff via Website


The Cliff

Breakfast, booze and ocean views

Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner on its oceanfront terrace, The Cliff is the ideal spot for an informal snack or fine dining with top-of-the-line cocktails. The mango rum mixes, heavenly honeydew martinis and summer sangrias will deliver a buzz. Be back by 3 p.m. for happy hour.

577 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, CA. +1 949-494-1956; 
thecliffrestaurant.com

 

Kush Fine Art

Sweet Surrealism

If you combined the skill and style of Salvador Dalí with the whimsy and beauty of a fairy tale, you might find the unbelievable works of Russian painter Vladimir Kush. One look at his one-of-a-kind paintings and a nostalgic sensation will stir inside you. Few galleries anywhere exhibit such imaginative and recognizable work, let alone right by the beach. 

265 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, CA. +1 949-376-8017; vladimirkush.com

 

Cove Gallery

'70s vibes

Cove is a cozy, artist-owned gallery whose style harks back to the idealistic hippie days of 20th-century Southern California. So too do the works of the 13 local artists who regularly exhibit there. Oil, glass and an array of other mediums are all available for viewing at this satisfyingly eclectic space.  

1492 S. Coast Hwy. #8, Laguna Beach, CA. +1 
949-494-1878; covegallerylaguna.com

 

 

Day 3: Festival Fun

Sawdust Festival via Website


The Deck

Seafood and special occasions

Perched right above the beach, The Deck is where you can taste some of the freshest seafood in town (the king salmon and halibut are particular standouts) and then follow up your meal with a revitalizing dip in the ocean. This is also an ideal spot to bring friends for a big event or just to gather before an afternoon of cruising around art fests. 

627 Sleepy Hollow Ln., Laguna Beach, CA. +1 949-494-6700; deckonlaguna.com

 

Sawdust Festival

The design bonanza

From June 30 to September 3, Laguna’s 51 th annual Sawdust Festival will be in full swing. Featuring more than 200 local artists, it includes exhibitions and interactive art stations that are all about inspiring and educating visitors on an art scene that’s fully local. Whether you love photos, paintings, scupltures, jewelry, woodwork or just the electricity of a creative crowd, you'll find it at Sawdust. 

935 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, CA.+1 949-494-3030; 
sawdustartfestival.org

 

Pageant of the Masters

For the ultimate art aficionado

Right by the Sawdust Festival is the Festival of Arts, home to the famous Pageant of the Masters. The Pageant is a theater production where the works of master artists throughout history are re-created with human performers standing perfectly still. Each performer is also heavily adorned in order to resemble the very painted figures they’re portraying. This “living art” occurs nightly from July 7 until August 31. It’s one of the hottest tickets in all of California  and an experience that couldn’t be more uniquely Laguna.   

650 Laguna Canyon Rd., Laguna Beach, CA. +
1 800-487-3378; foapom.com


By Jesse Van Mouwerik

Berlin-based illustrator and columnist Jesse Van Mouwerik is an avid fan of art, whisky sours and being alive. When the aliens land, he will draw them a picture.