Downtown Laguna Beach has its obvious appeals; on another visit you might want to stay at an inn or hotel within walking distance of its restaurant and boutiques. On this trip, however, your base is going to be a little to the south. Located in one of the canyons at the south end of town and across from Aliso Beach, The Ranch at Laguna Beach
has a wonderfully rustic location on the site of a 152-acre homestead from 1871—here the night sky is filled with stars, and you’ll wake to birdsong.
The Ranch, entirely renovated in 2017, reopened with a new, rustic California feel. Fitting with the spirit of Laguna Beach, the staff has a welcoming, no-attitude approach—you’ll soon feel like the Ranch is your home. Whether you opt for a Canyon Room or splurge on the Treehouse, the décor has a contemporary cottage look, created by local designer Laurie Alter of Tuvalu, (who’s also the daughter of surfing icon Hobie Alter). But as tempting as it may be to spend an afternoon napping, don’t get too comfortable yet.
The hills of Laguna Beach are crossed by numerous trails for hikers, bikers, and runners
—perfect for some exercise before dinner. Head inland from The Ranch, and after a short, 10-minute drive, you’ll arrive at the Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. This 4,500-acre reserve has five different trails, ranging from under a mile to over nine in length and from easy to strenuous. You can opt for an easy stroll through meadows or to conquer the ridge for breathtaking views of the Southern California coastline. Another scenic option is the even larger Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, which sits just inland from the town of Laguna Beach. When you walk its 40-plus miles of trails through some of coastal California’s last remaining stretches of old-growth forest, it is easy to imagine how the state would have looked when the first settlers arrived.
After an afternoon outside, heading indoors for dinner may not sound that appealing. Take advantage of Laguna Beach’s mild climate to enjoy alfresco drinks and dinner. The Deck
is one of the only restaurants in town located right on the beach. You can pair signature cocktails with shared cheese boards and bar snacks, sandwiches, or more serious entrees. A popular rooftop option, Skyloft
, has two full bars and, on many nights, live music performances. They’re known for their barbeque dishes—ribs, brisket, and sandwiches. The menu at Mozambique
, another option with a rooftop verandah overlooking the ocean, is a South African steakhouse, with live music nightly.