Laguna Beach and Dana Point

If you close your eyes and imagine the ideal California beach town, it will likely look exactly like Laguna Beach or Dana Point. Nestled about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, the picturesque communities are home to dozens of beaches, numerous art galleries, a phenomenal food scene, and miles and miles of hiking trails. Known for practically birthing surf culture in Southern California, both towns are worth a day trip, a long weekend, or even a longer visit to soak up the sun and explore beyond the beaches.

Crescent Bay of Laguna Beach, Orange County, California USA

Photo by Juancat/Shutterstock


When’s the best time to go to Laguna Beach and Dana Point?

The weather in Laguna and Dana Point is pretty much perfect year-round. In the winter, temperatures rarely fall below 65 degrees, and in the summer, it hardly ever gets above 80. As such, there’s no bad time to visit, though the most popular season is summer. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the towns host several exciting events, including Laguna’s annual Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters. If you’re not one for crowds, go instead during shoulder season, which runs from September to December. The weather will still be glorious, but there will be far fewer tourists.

How to get around Laguna Beach and Dana Point

Laguna and Dana Point are accessible from several airports, including LAX, which is about two hours away by car, and San Diego, just 90 minutes away. Once in town, getting around is a breeze thanks to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, plus a free trolley in Laguna. Both towns are also extremely pedestrian-friendly, with sidewalks and pathways just about everywhere. Still, many visitors end up renting a car so they can reach several beaches, hiking trails, and points of interest in a single day.

Food and drink to try in Laguna Beach and Dana Point

Laguna Beach and Dana Point may be small, but they’re home to a wealth of excellent dining options. Be sure to try the omnipresent California coastal cuisine, which takes the form of ahi watermelon skewers at Watermarc, Dungeness crab with fried green tomatoes at Broadway by Amar Santana, and house-made ravioli with lobster at Ocean at Main. Equally varied is the drinks scene, with options like craft beers at The Saloon, rare vintages at the Wine Gallery, and cucumber-jalapeño margaritas at Skyloft.

Culture in Laguna Beach and Dana Point

Art is everywhere in Laguna Beach and Dana Point, with public works serving as a big part of the scenery. Laguna also boasts a namesake museum, a wealth of spectacular art galleries, and several popular festivals throughout the year. While most visitors are drawn here for the laid-back, surf-town vibe, it’s worth taking a break from the beach to explore spots like the galleries Dawson Cole Fine Art and Avran Fine Art, or events like the Festival of Arts in the summer and the Art & Nature festival in the fall.

Can’t miss things to do in Laguna Beach and Dana Point

Among the dozens of things to see and do in Laguna and Dana Point, visitors must make time to simply sit on the beach and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Head to Thousand Steps Beach for views without the crowds, or Aliso to see the surfers in the last slivers of light. At Crescent Beach, you can even watch the sunset from a tide pool, wading in the shallow water as a glorious array of colors spreads across the sky.

Practical Information

You don’t need a passport to visit Laguna Beach and Dana Point, but it’s still a good idea to bring one along. The Mexico border is just a 90-minute drive south, making for a fun and easy day trip.

Guide Editor

Stacey Leasca is a journalist from Rhode Island now living in Los Angeles. Her words, photos, and videos have appeared in print or online for the Los Angeles Times, Travel + Leisure, Departures, Southern Living, and more. Though she now specializes in travel and lifestyle reporting, her work has covered everything from women’s representation in media and the immigration crisis at the U.S.–Mexico border to criminal justice reform and cannabis legalization.

Read Before You Go
Sunny days, sandy beaches, incredible surf—this part of California’s State Route 1 may be the best road trip out there.
Resources to help plan your trip
Laguna and Dana Point are the stuff happy hour dreams are made of. With ocean views, inventive cocktails, and light bites of California coastal cuisine, the bars here are perfect for drinks after a long day in the sun. Wipe the sand from your feet and step inside to find everything from craft beers and local wines to refreshing cocktails—all within view of the sparkling Pacific.
People mostly come to Laguna and Dana Point for the beaches but end up staying for a plethora of other activities, from hiking in the surrounding canyons to hopping between the renowned galleries and museums. Visitors can even spend time with injured seals at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, see a show at the historic Laguna Playhouse, or pick up souvenirs at Southern California’s first surf shop, meaning there’s something here for everyone.
Together, Laguna and Dana Point are home to an exciting food scene, with restaurants offering everything from Mexican and Asian favorites to vegan, Belgian, and California coastal cuisine. Make a reservation at a beachfront spot overlooking the ocean, or try your luck and just walk in somewhere. The worst that can happen is you’ll have to wait at the bar with a creative cocktail or glass of California wine.
Shaped by artists’ enclaves, surf culture, LGBTQ heritage, and Hollywood glitterati, Laguna Beach and Dana Point have a laid-back but sophisticated vibe. The hotels here capture the atmosphere perfectly, offering amenities like vintage vinyl and loaner boogie boards alongside Mediterranean, Mission Revival, and mid-century-modern style. Whether you come for the picture-perfect beaches, rooftop cocktails, canyon hikes, or ocean kayaking, you can find a chill but chic stay to suit your needs.
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