The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

From the laidback atmosphere, to the town’s dedication to environmental sustainability, to genuine support and pride in the local community, Laguna Beach is the quintessential town that embodies Southern California culture.

Paddle Board

With more than 300 sunny days each year, pristine beaches, and a charming downtown lined by a beautiful seascape, Laguna Beach is the perfect backdrop for that iconic “Southern California Lifestyle”. Luckily for you, we’ve created the ideal vacation itinerary where you’ll be able to transport yourself into the mindset of a local. Discover art, bask in stunning and diverse scenery, and savor fantastic culinary explorations in this sun-soaked, sensational 3-day vacation.

Urth Caffe Honey Vanilla Latte


Breakfast at Urth Caffe

Set the tone for your Laguna Beach vacation and head to Urth Caffé, a popular Southern California born establishment committed to sourcing organic produce and serving healthy, California cuisine. Then, walk across the street and stroll through the scenic Heisler Park, an especially serene sight with hillside bluffs and great photo opportunities on a weekday morning.

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

Docent Tour at Laguna Art Museum

With humble beginnings as an art colony, artists including Norman St. Clair and Edgar Payne first came to Laguna Beach as tourists looking to paint the stunning seaside landscapes of Laguna Beach. While art is easily associated with big metropolitan cities like New York and Paris, Laguna Beach is a small-town rarity with a thriving and distinct arts culture that has embedded itself into the town’s DNA. Laguna Art Museum, celebrating 100 years this year, is the exemplary spot to experience this. Take advantage of the captivating Docent Tours at 11:00am daily, which are included with the museum entrance fee.

Find the right hat for the occasion

Explore Downtown

After soaking in the rich art history, meander on over to Laguna Beach’s downtown area. Here you’ll find local boutiques, various art galleries, and a myriad of restaurants to choose from. Because many stores are independently owned with merchandise exclusively found in Laguna Beach, you’ll discover that distinct and timelessly artful Southern California style in many clothing shops. Also visit artisan retailers, like Zinc Café and Market or Pearl Street General Store, that carefully curate as well as create original products. Regardless of what you’re searching for, you will delightfully see a laser attention to detail, quality and care throughout your shopping experience.

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

After building up your appetite, dine alfresco at Alessa by Chef Pirozzi for lunch where its owner and chef serves up quality Italian classics as well as creative Italian dishes with a refreshing Southern California sensibility.

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

Check in at The Ranch at Laguna Beach

The Ranch at Laguna Beach is an ideal lodging property to experience the Southern California vibe, finding a perfect harmony of elegance and ease in this boutique resort. They state, “We want our locals to feel like family, and visitors to feel like locals,” a core driver that creates the characteristically relaxed and warm Southern California hospitality throughout. The Ranch is also the only hotel in California to be named a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World.

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

The property holds its own organic garden, where they grow their own produce used to amplify the cuisine. Past this, The Ranch swears off the use of plastic straws and reuses and recycles glass bottles, showcasing their authentic pledge to environmentally conscious practices. After settling in, take advantage of the beautiful day and spend the afternoon at the hotel’s relaxing and spacious saline pool area.

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

Live Music and Happy Hour

Watch the sun set at The Ranch’s expansive outdoor patio, which overlooks Ben Brown’s, the only golf course in Laguna Beach. Indulge in a drink while soaking in the views of the canyons and daily live music.

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

Dinner at Harvest

Executive Chef Kyle St. John passionately brings his creativity and love of farm-to-table cooking to Harvest. Dedicated to freshness, bright and vibrant produce, and balanced yet innovative flavors, the cuisine itself is the epitome of Californian comfort. For the items that he doesn’t pick from the onsite garden, John is devoted to locally sourcing quality products; the staff will be able to point to which river the salmon came from or the farm the wagyu ribeye was sourced from, curating a very personal experience and qualitative difference you can taste. With a seasonally changing menu, you’ll want to come back often to try the new offerings.

Hikers in Laguna Beach enjoy the Valido Trail vista

Begin with a Morning Hike

Hiking not only emphasizes the gorgeous setting, but it exemplifies the California lifestyle commitment to appreciating both fitness and the outdoors. Grab an early power breakfast at Ben’s Harvest Pantry and head to the Valido trail, a scenic and short hike right near the resort.

Victoria Tower Landscape
Victoria Beach

Soak in the Sun, Sand and Sea

Laguna Beach is blessed with an abundance of magnificent beaches to relax and relish in, each with their own charm. To spend the day closest to the resort, the splendid Aliso Beachis a short walk away. Wood’s Cove Beachis a local hidden gem, ideal for a picnic and exploring nearby tide-pools and caves. If you want to learn how to surf, head to Thalia Street Beachfor a lesson on catching those waves. While surfing is a top attraction, skimboarding is the iconic sport of Laguna, and Victoria Beachis a locally loved favorite for this pastime as well as for its picture-perfect moments. Don’t miss out on Main Beach either, popular for its prime downtown location, where you can play or watch a game of Beach Volleyball. For more inspiration, explore our full list of the 30 beaches and coves spanning across the 7 miles of coastline.

The Stand Thalia Surfer Bowl
The Stand’s Thalia Bowl

Beach Day Sustenance

Nosh on options like The Stand, a local shack known for their vegan shakes and acai bowls, or Active Culture, a locally loved café. For an expanded list of notable options, check out our article on some fantastic healthy options in town or the spots perfect for preparing a beach picnic.

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

Happy Hour at The Deck

Looking for a fantastic Happy Hour? The Deck is the only restaurant in town situated on the sand. Walk up from the beach, and enjoy their fresh seafood and cocktails as you watch the sun sparkle over and fade into the ocean.

If you’re feeling extra boozy and want to do a Happy Hour Crawl, check out this list of spots to get your drink on.

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

Dinner at 242 Café Fusion

Sushi Living in Southern California means there is an abundance of sushi spots filled with high-caliber fish. However, nothing screams Laguna Beach the way 242 Café Fusion does. This small, laidback establishment has small skimboards as tables, but don’t be fooled. Chef Miki Izumisawa fuses her passions of art and nature to showcase visually stunning, playfully creative and boldly flavored Japanese cuisine like you’ve never tasted before. Trust in Miki’s instincts and craft, and let her all-female staff take lead in their striking “no soy sauce zone”. The perfectly paired sauces they serve are much better, and you will thank them later for it.

Pro Tip: Leave your car at the hotel for all these adventures because The Ranch provides complimentary Uber service to guests within five miles to and from the hotel.

The Ultimate Southern California Vacation Experience

Recuperate: Spa Morning

The Ranch’s Sycamore Spa is the epitome of relaxation, where their unique spa treatments are inspired by the Southern California landscape, beautifully blending the natural elements of coast and canyon. After a few long days in the sun, we suggest the Beach Recovery Treatment to restore balance and reset the body. Get pampered with this full head-to-toe therapy consisting of a hydrating full-body elixir, moisturizing seaweed face mask, exfoliating foot scrub and peel, and nourishing coconut oil scalp massage. Your skin will thank you later when it is radiantly glowing. The Spa also uses Epicuren products for most of the treatments, a family owned company in neighboring Laguna Hills. Not only will you have a high-quality luxurious experience, but you will be contributing to The Ranch’s commitment to supporting the local community. 

Harvest at the Ranch Laguna Beach

Check Out and Brunch

As you finish up a restorative spa session and check out of The Ranch, feed your appetite and head to brunch. Laguna takes brunch seriously, and it can be hard to choose. However, if you’ve been following along, you’ll know we haven’t let you down so far. Select one of the options we’ve pinpointed with confidence: Where You Should be Brunch-ing in Laguna Beach. It will be hard to say goodbye to this haven, but every vacation must come to an end. However, after experiencing that Southern California lifestyle for a three-day escape, you simply must make it a point to return. . . maybe permanently next time. 

Whenever you decide to visit, be sure to share your experiences with us on FACEBOOK, TWITTER and INSTAGRAM by tagging us @VisitLaguna and utilizing our citywide hashtag, #MyLagunaBeach.

About the Author

Caitlin Sakdalan

Caitlin Sakdalan

Caitlin Sakdalan is a social media influencer and food writer. Through her passion for food as an experiential connector of people and cultures, coupled with expertise in social and digital, she shares her extensive food knowledge and experiences to thousands of followers daily. Caitlin is one of Dovetale’s “5 best Influencers to watch in 2017,” and her photography is featured on Tasting Table, Yahoo, Huffington Post, and other online outlets. Follow her on Instagram @befatbehappy.

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