The surf’s up as June gloom melts into July fry in Laguna Beach – the wet and rocky Orange County artist colony and funky-swank seaside town. Natural food stands hearkening the 70s granola-happy daze, surf shops and funky mid-fashion boutiques still abound here, setting it apart from the polished corporate chains of neighboring Newport Beach and the vintage frozen banana stands of Balboa Island.
Here are a few tips for a tide and true Laguna getaway:
Where to stay: A good choice is the Pacific Edge Hotel because of the diverse lodging opportunities, from one-bedroom ocean view apartments with full kitchens to beachfront kings with connecting rooms for family and friends. “The people who have been coming here for 30 years always book the junior suites,” shares Carlos, the front desk clerk, who accommodates guests with requests throughout their stays from sending a toaster or microwave to the room or additional yellow Adirondack chairs for the expansive decks.
The food at the property’s Beach House restaurant is very good although a bit pricey, yet upon check-in you’ll receive an Edge Card for discounts at the restaurant as well as local businesses partnering with the hotel. You also get complimentary access to the Laguna Health Club and are invited to join a Code Pink Bootcamp for early morning workouts on the beach. You can score rooms for as low as $169 a night with these perks, and save money by eating many of your meals on your deck. I highly recommend heading to the nearby Orange Inn for morning coffee, muffins and egg sandwiches and to The Stand where people line up for the best smoothies around. Pacific Edge is dog friendly, but the beach is only open to Fido before 8am and after 6pm.
Fun out of the sun: July 5 marks the opening of the Laguna Art Festival’s famed Pageant of the Masters, and the Sawdust Art Festival features booths displaying the crafts, gems and hemp fashions of local artisans. You can walk from the hotel to just about everywhere in good shoes, and there is a free bus service from North to South Laguna. Not to be missed: The new ENC (Environmental Nature Center) a living classroom in Newport offering hands-on interpretive nature program built around the ecology and history of California and its biodiversity. Locals, like Kristen and Tony Petros helped raise money for magnificent LEED platinum modern structure (a former trailer) and park-like grounds now visited by local schools and tourists alike to get closer to butterflies, reptiles, gurgling streams and even a life-size replica of a Coast Live oak tree.
Fun in the Sun: In terms of bumming it, you can buy a good boogie board for $40 (fins are useful too), take a surf lesson (the hotel offers packages) or simply beach yourself on a white chaise under an umbrella and listen to the surf pound while you finish that summer read. Dunk in the pool or hot tub or treat yourself to a healthy pedicure at Queen Nails (OPI Mod About You is the flavor of the month here) or shop second hand at Trash Pretty down the road. You will find life truly is a beach, at least till you are back to work in the fog on Monday.
Image: Kevin Zollman