Day trip from Los Angeles: Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach

On a clear, sunny, day, nothing beats the Southern California coast. Los Angeles has miles and miles of beach, and each beach community has its own distinct personality. But Laguna Beach, an hour south of L.A., is like nowhere else, anywhere, and epitomizes the So Cal vibe.

Laguna hasn't changed much since the '70s. It's filled with boutiques, cafes, surf shops and art galleries, but you won't see a building taller than a couple stories, anywhere. There's nothing cookie-cutter here. Park near Main Street and see downtown Laguna shops and galleries on foot. For a taste of the MTV show, walk the beach to Thalia and stand at the lookout area, or sit on one of the benches and enjoy the view, and then visit the infamous Thalia Surf Shop where all the local kids hang out.

If you leave Los Angeles after rush hour, at about 10 a.m., then you should be in Laguna in time for brunch, or an early lunch. There are a number of great options, from Break of Dawn (where you must try their Creme Brulee French Toast) to the long-standing Las Brisas for tacos and great views. For dinner, head to K'ya or Tabu, both local favorites. K'ya is very romantic and has a stunning view. Tabu, while expensive, is well worth the indulgence. An overnight trip is highly recommended (there are some affordable beach hotels here, as well as the gorgeous Montage), but not necessary. Relax, and enjoy!

- Lesley Bracker

[Photo Credit: Flickr/jcarbaugh]

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