As a travel writer, often working with a tight budget, I’ve long been a fan of going on trips during “shoulder season”. This phrase refers to traveling during off-peak times; which are, of course, different for every destination. In Laguna Beach, the high season is late June through Labor Day, which means the shoulder seasons are September to December and March to early June.
The argument against traveling in shoulder season would be that the weather at those times is less than optimal—but with temperatures averaging in the 70s during the non-peak months, Laguna doesn’t have this problem. Of course, weather isn’t the only reason to visit Laguna Beach in the fall or spring. Here are five more:
1. LONELY BEACHES // If you’re anything like me, your dream beach features crystalline water, fine sand, and an utter lack of people. Hitting this trifecta isn’t impossible mid-summer (if you’re willing to be intrepid)—but on a September weekday, finding an isolated beach is an absolute breeze. At El Moro, 10th Street, Crescent Bay, and the tucked away coves below Montage Laguna Beach you can easily score a beach all to yourself and spend a day living the Robinson Crusoe life.
2. GREEN CANYONS // Laguna Canyon is one of the city’s most beloved attractions. Residents (and an increasing number of visitors) savor time spent hiking, mountain biking, or exploring the endless trails. But for as scenic as the canyons are in summer, and as cool as it is to watch Peruvian goats munch away at the rugged hillsides, the shrubs are parched dry. In March and April, after the winter rains, these same canyons become verdant and lush—akin to Oahu’s North Shore. Hiking through the canyons during shoulder season you’ve got a chance at stumbling upon running waterfalls, green shrubs, and blooming wildflowers.
3. FESTIVALS + SPECIAL EVENTS // Summers in Laguna Beach are packed with three famous art festivals and the world renowned Pageant of the Masters—but there’s no shortage of events when shoulder season rolls around. In September, the Laguna Dance Festival welcomes world-class dance companies to Laguna for a weeklong event. The Plein Air Painting Invitational in early October offers a chance to meet and connect with some of the nation’s most talented artists. In late November (still very much a part of Laguna’s extended shoulder season), the Sawdust Winter Fantasy, Hospitality Night and the Montage Christmas Tree Lighting help kick-off your holidays with a huge dose of spirit in still-summery climate.
4. INCREASED CONVENIENCE // Does trying to park on vacation make you feel like you aren’t on vacation at all? Laguna’s shoulder season travelers enjoy finding parking, being able to try new restaurants without reservations, and having a little elbow room while strolling the famous Main Beach Boardwalk. If these small matters of convenience matter to you, shoulder season is the time to go!
5. LIFE AS A LOCAL // Laguna residents are friendly. Famously so (see: The Greeter!). Still, with summer crowds, parking struggles, and PCH traffic even the kindest local can get a little terse. In the shoulder season Lagunans are at their very best, eager to offer directions, share stories, give recommendations, and point visitors to their favorite spots. Laguna Beach locals savor the shoulder season—guests planning a trip would be wise to follow their lead!