A Travel Writer’s Perspective on His Hometown

I consider Laguna Beach home. I can’t remember how many times I skipped school to go boogie boarding (and later surfing).

The truth is, I grew up just outside of Laguna Beach in South Orange County, but since I practically lived on the beaches of Laguna throughout my childhood as well as my teenage years, I consider Laguna Beach home. I can’t remember how many times I skipped school to go boogie boarding (and later surfing), or how many times I ordered pizookies at BJ’s, just across from Main Beach, or loaded a bucket full of candy at Candy Baron. Later on as an adult, I remember spending time in Laguna’s now-closed infamous Boom Boom Room, as well as dancing to reggae at Mozambique. Or even the late night karaoke sessions at Main Street Bar & Cabaret, Laguna Beach’s oldest (and still standing) gay bar. 

Laguna Beach was always and still is my escape. When I lived nearby, I could drive a few miles through the canyon and suddenly all my worries would disappear, as soon as the ocean appeared in the distance. I could spend countless hours just browsing through all the local art galleries, or indulge in some really cool local shopping. In the evenings, my friends and I would take over a fire pit at Aliso Beach, toasting marshmallows until the late evening hours. And now that I live outside of the state, each time I return, I make it a point to visit Laguna Beach, often booking my hotel there. It’s kind of become my “happy place.” A place where I know that I can always go to, a place where I feel welcomed and a place that will continue to grow and evolve, all while keeping that incredible energy and welcoming vibe that I was drawn to many moons ago when I was just a kid playing in the tide pools. 

Here are a few of my personal recommendations of what I love about #MyLagunaBeach. 

Where To Stay:

Oceanfront Resorts

Montage Laguna Beach – Situated on 30 acres in the heart of Laguna Beach, the luxury 250-room resort offers sweeping panoramas of the Pacific Ocean. 

Surf & Sand Resort – This 4-star resort houses 167 luxurious rooms and suites, all facing the ocean.

The Inn at Laguna Beach – A Laguna Beach icon, this amazing property overlooks Main Beach. 

Upscale & Different

The Ranch at Laguna Beach – Set in the Aliso & Wood Canyons, with a golf course setting, this 87-acre property gives off a classic, beach cottage feel. Also named as one of the Unique Lodges of the World by National Geographic Traveler, this property is a must-see!

Adults Only B&B

Casa Laguna Hotel & Spa – Ranked among the ‘Top 25 Small Hotels in the U.S.’ by TripAdvisor, this adults only bed and breakfast is incredibly romantic. 

Where To Eat:

With a View

Deck on Laguna Beach – Go for the decadent culinary and cocktail creations as well as an ultimate oceanfront experience. 


Mozambique – Three levels of dining, including the veranda rooftop that boasts panoramic ocean views. 


The Loft – Situated on the fourth floor of Montage Laguna Beach, this popular spot also features panoramic views in addition to excellent American cuisine. 

Other Favorites (and perfect for everyone)

La Sirena Grill – Scrumptious traditional Mexican cuisine in a environmentally friendly restaurant that has a mission to preserve the planet, minimize waste and maximize sustainability.

The Cliff – Located in Laguna Village, this restaurant has unsurpassed ocean views and is walking distance to downtown.

Watermarc – The wine list here is hard to beat with over 200 wines to choose from, all which can be paired with their menu.

Maro Wood Grill – Inspired by Argentina, this restaurant cooks over an open fire. 

Outdoor Adventures:

Hiking

Crystal Cove State Park – With 3.2 miles of beach and 2,400 acres of undeveloped woodland, this place is great for hiking. You can also camp here! 

Kayaking

La Vida Laguna Kayak Tour – This 2-hour guided kayak tour takes you past a hidden coastline for views of some exclusive homes as well as a sea lion sanctuary. 

Sunset

West Street Beach – One of the most beautiful beaches to catch the sunset. Just walk down the stairs and look for that perfect stretch of sand to sit on. 

Surfing

Thalia Street Beach – Used almost exclusively for surfing, don’t head here unless you are with your board and know how to surf (unless you are going as a spectator).

Best Places for Drinks:

LGBTQ

Main Street Bar & Cabaret – Welcoming to everyone, this iconic gay bar is the last gay bar standing in Laguna Beach. Great for wannabe singers on karaoke nights (most every night). 

Hidden History

The Seahorse – A neighborhood beer and wine bar located inside Pearl Street General Store in the Pearl District of Laguna Beach. The bar has a really cool LGBTQ connection as it once served as Laguna’s first gay bar (in 1946).

Live Music & Locals

Marine Room Tavern – A neighborhood watering hole for over 75 years, this is the place to mingle among the locals. 


Sandpiper Lounge – Another low-key favorite among locals. 

Daytime Beers

Laguna Beach Beer Company – Located at The Hive shopping and dining complex, this brewery has a killer menu that includes local beer and shareable plates, sandwiches and more. 

When you decide to visit my hometown be sure to share your experiences with Visit Laguna Beach on FACEBOOKTWITTER and INSTAGRAM by tagging them @VisitLaguna and utilizing their citywide hashtag, #MyLagunaBeach.

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About the Author

David Duran

Wordsmith

David Duran is an award winning travel writer who has traveled to all seven continents and more than 70 countries. His work focuses on general destination and luxury travel as well as culinary, hospitality and airlines. He has contributed to such publications as Travel+Leisure, Jetsetter, The New York Post, Fodor’s and Southbay Magazine. In addition, he has written for every major LGBT publication in the US as well as several others overseas.

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