The magic of Laguna Beach is found in its “variance.” There are just so many things to do here. You can scuba dive in crystalline waters or hike through craggy canyons. You can search for sea anemones in the tide pools at Crescent Bay or run along the sand at Main Beach. You can stay at a five-star spa resort or you can tailor your experience to something more affordable. And while all of these variations deserve attention, today we turn our focus to Laguna Beach on a budget.
WHEN TO GO:
Not surprisingly, summer is Laguna Beach's peak season. But rates drop considerably just following Labor Day and into the winter and spring months. Shoulder seasons are still very ideal in Laguna, as September and October offer the warmest, sunniest, clearest days of the year. If you really want to do Laguna Beach on a budget, avoid the peak travel season.
NORTH LAGUNA ON A BUDGET:
Art Hotel Laguna Beach is located in North Laguna – with easy access to popular SoCal points of interest and some of the town’s best beaches. On weekends, the free trolley stops right along PCH and in front of the hotel, leaving you steps from Crescent Bay Point Park where tide pools unveil a plethora of sea creatures during low tide. The 28 rooms here are clean and comfortable, with free underground parking (a huge plus in Laguna Beach!), flatscreen TVs, an outdoor heated pool, and seven pet-friendly rooms on the first floor. The 'art' in their name is inspired by proprietor, Gail Duncan, who displays paintings and prints for sale by local artists in rooms as well as throughout the hotel, and holds court during the monthly First Thursdays Art Walk. Grab a casual meal at Madison Square Garden and Cafe or the newly opened Urth Caffé at the Cottage where you can sit outside and enjoy the year-round sunshine.
VISIT: ArtHotelLagunaBeach.com or call 877-363-7229. Located at 140 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. Rates are $119-$149 off season.
SOUTH LAGUNA ON A BUDGET:
The non-smoking Laguna Beach Lodge near Treasure Island Park offers ocean views. Newly renovated guest rooms and an outdoor pool make this a great landing spot. They offer free parking and a complimentary continental breakfast. After strolling to nearby Treasure Island Park—with trails that lead visitors past the beautiful grounds of Montage Laguna Beach and its stunning coves—enjoy organic fare from the nearby La Sirena Grill, pizza from Z Pizza, or classic burgers and fries from the family-friendly Ruby’s Diner, all within walking distance. In the evening, head over to Aliso Beach Park just south of the hotel. Get there early to score one of the firepits (based on a first-come, first serve basis), and cook burgers, hotdogs, and roasted marshmallows while watching the local skimmers display their acrobatics before a technicolor sunset. If you’re a golfer, you’re in luck. Carved against the lush walls of Aliso and Woods Canyon, Ben Brown's Golf Course at The Ranch at Laguna Beach is home to the only golf course in Laguna Beach, a Gary Roger Baird designed 9-hole, Par 32 course that’s one of the best deals in SoCal. Looking for an afternoon tee time? Check out their Twilight rates beginning at 2:00pm, with Super Twilight rates at 3:30pm.
VISIT: LagunaBeachLodge.com or call 949-499-2227. Located at 30806 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.
MAIN BEACH ON A BUDGET:
At the Tides Laguna Beach, 21 clean comfortable rooms with a pet-friendly first floor are located just a few blocks from Main Beach. With this property as your base, everything can be enjoyed on foot—from beaches to art galleries to shopping to nearby hiking trails. A heated saltwater pool, outdoor BBQ and fireplace, free parking, and 10 furnished kitchenettes make this a budget friendly place to enjoy home cooking. Stroll downtown and grab a fresh pastry from Zinc Cafe for breakfast, a bagel sandwich at Shirley's Bagels, or gelato from Dolce Gelato, and take it to Main Beach where families relax on the sand or stroll the boardwalk. Play volleyball near the blue-and-white lifeguard tower, body-surf, or get in some half-court hoops. When you’re ready to recharge, check out the Happy Hour menu at Tommy Bahama from 3:00-6:00pm or Gu Ramen Taps & Tapas a little further south at Thalia Sreet, where you can enjoy some sizzling ramen in bone broth with $5 tall draft beer before the sun sets.
VISIT: TidesLaguna.com or call 888-777-2107. Located at 460 N. Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach. Rates from $119.