- Things to Do
- Plan Your Trip
There’s no better way to connect with your family than a day under the sun at the beach.
The sun is out, the activities are endless, and (different from a theme park) you also have the perfectly good option of not doing anything at all. Perhaps more than anywhere else in the go-go-go atmosphere of Southern California, at the beach you and your family can just be. Life is simpler; and in that simplicity there’s joy.
The only question left is: which of Laguna Beach’s perfect stretches of sand are the right one for you and your clan?
IT’S TOUGH TO beat Aliso Beach Park, and the fact that this is our second runner up is proof of just how great Laguna’s options are. The beach has a playground, ample parking, bathrooms, and fire pits. In the summers, the waves break right on shore, making this a classic spot for skim boarders and an easy place for ocean novices to swim out past the wave zone.
For families longing for a little more elbow room, a stroll north to the southern end of Montage Laguna Beach's “Treasure Island Beach” will offer plenty of space to spread out without putting you too far from Aliso Creek’s bathroom and snack bar- Lost Pier Cafe, operated by The Ranch. There’s no surfing here (except for the occasional NW winter swell), but kids will love letting the shore break wash them way up onto the sand.
Post up at the northernmost fire pit, in easy sight distance of both the bathrooms to the south and the playground (just a few feet away). The chance to barbecue right on the sand is rare and getting rarer—jump on it while you can! Roast hot dogs, grill short ribs, or wait for dark and have a s’more-making contest for the ages! Word to the wise: the fire pits fill up quickly, plan to share or send a scout to the beach early (7am on summer weekends).
Main Beach is an obvious choice doesn’t keep it from being an awesome one. The playground here is beloved by kids, just as the bathrooms, drinking fountains, and outdoor showers are beloved by parents. Laguna’s famous boardwalk is perhaps Orange County’s best people-watching locale, and a great place to stroll all together as you decide on where to spread out your beach blanket. For active teens, there are basketball and volleyball courts to choose from (with games of varying intensity). No surfing is allowed at Main Beach, but the break at Thalia Street is just a ¼ mile walk south—easily manageable for groms keen to catch a few waves. If you forgot your boogie board, smash ball, or lunch, there are plenty of shops nearby where you can get whatever you need.
Just south of the southern end of the boardwalk, the crowds thin out pretty quickly. Take fifty steps and you and your family will have triple the space to spread out—especially on a summer Saturday. If you get the angle right, you can have a clear sight line of the ocean, the Main Beach playground, and the more remote beaches further south all at once.
PICNIC BEACH IS sort of the dark horse candidate in the “best beach” conversation. Unlike Aliso Beach and Main Beach it doesn’t have bathrooms right on the sand. There is no playground. But what Picnic Beach lacks in facilities, it makes up for with family friendly waves, sandstone cliffs, craggy rock formations, and fewer people. On any given day at Picnic Beach you might barbecue (there are grills positioned along the spreading grassy lawns of Heisler Park), explore tide pools (a few steps north at Diver’s Cove), swim (the swells are a little bigger at Picnic Beach and not so big at Diver’s), and play bocce ball or Frisbee on the sand (without fear of accidentally hurting someone due to a lack of space). The bathrooms are only a short walk away and the sunsets from the sand or the bluffs above are second to none in the whole town. As with so many things in life, it’s not one big thing, but a whole lot of little things that make Picnic Beach the best bet for families.
While the fire pits at Aliso Beach are nice, you can have a gourmet dinner at the barbecues just above Picnic Beach. There are picnic tables and though space fills up in the summer, people are generally happy to share. A series of concrete paths make a great circuit for kids to skateboard or ride scooters while the coals heat up, and the hilly lawn is perfect for a million wild games. Best yet: this little corner of Heisler Park really reveals the “Laguna Vibe” on multiple levels—people share their charcoal and condiments with a smile and public artwork abounds.