Laguna Beach is one of those places that really is just like what you see on TV. The coastal city sits along miles of sparkling ocean and a multitude of beaches that are populated with surfers, bathing beauties, and tourists lugging coolers and beach umbrellas. Many of these tourists go to Laguna Main Beach and never leave (which is fine with the locals), but this beach is far from the prettiest or relaxing, and the parking is a nightmare.
Here are my picks for the stunners of Laguna and tips on where to park to avoid meter and parking fees (because nobody got time for that).
Table Rock Beach
This is my personal favorite because I can take Valido Trail, from high up on Caselero Road, all the way down to Table Rock Beach. You gotta love a hike that ends at a beach. Obviously, I don’t have to worry about parking when I hike down, but when I drive, I park on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) between 3rd and 4th Avenue. There is two hour parking, which is enough time for this small, but scenic beach.
Go in the early morning for the awe-inspiring views of waves crashing on the rock formations and the low tides that let you scramble around said rocks. If you’re lucky, like me, then some high school kids might show you the secret beach that only low tide brings…
*The riptide is strong here. I don’t recommend this as a beach for kids to swim at*
Thousand Steps Beach
The name of this beach is misleading. You won’t have to go down 1,000 steps, but there is something like 200-300 and I definitely have to stop and catch my breath when I’m going back up them. The stairs are always crawling with runners and workout addicts who run up and down them, but the beach itself is big and open, giving you plenty of room for laying out and/or playing in the waves.
Parking is free on the PCH, before and after 9th street, with no time limit, so you can enjoy the splendor of Thousand Steps all day. Try and check out the hidden pools, but be careful and do your research beforehand, as unaware visitors have gotten seriously hurt.
Victoria Beach gets points for most stunning because of its tower that looks like something out of a fairytale. This was built in the 1920s and you can’t go into it, but it’s a great photo-op and gives the beach experience a whole different feel. Right next to the tower is a concrete pool that fills with salt water at high tide. Absolutely not your typical beach day.
Finding ANY sort of parking near the beach is impossible. I went on a weekday and the three small spaces near the entrance were taken, so imagine on a weekend. Don’t even try.
It’s a 5-10 minute walk, but I suggest parking on Nyes Place Road. It’s free with no time limit and saves the headache of driving through the small residential streets looking for a non-existent spot.
Goff Cove Beach
The nice thing about Goff Cove is that it is located right at Montage Resort, so on your walk to the beach entrance, you get to stroll through gardens and the perfectly groomed resort grounds. Access to resort bathrooms are an added bonus. I love this beach because it’s small, but never over-crowded and looks like you’re in the Mediterranean. Perfect for reading a book, swimming in the small waves, or laying out underneath the cliffs.
Two options for parking here. The parking garage at Wesley Drive is a dollar an hour and right at Montage Resort. Convenient, but costs ya. Or you can park at Nyes Place (where you parked for Vicotria Beach) and walk east, down the beach until you hit Goff. It’s a 20 minute walk, but free. The choice is yours.
Strands is the quintessential “long walks on the beach” spot, with a long stretch of white sand and million dollar homes overlooking the waves…ok, that last part is only typical of Laguna Beach 😉 Lucky for us non-millionaires, beach access is free. The parking lot doesn’t charge and there is lots of street parking on Selva Road.
A unique aspect of this beach is the funicular (small cable car) that goes from the parking lot, down the steep hill to the beach. I’ve never taken it, but it probably beats huffing and puffing back up those stairs!
Crystal Cove State Park-Los Trancos Beach
Technically, this isn’t Laguna Beach. It’s more Newport Beach, but hey, I do what I want and it’s only like 5 minutes from the outskirts of Laguna Beach.
Crystal Cove is a state park, which means its beaches are unspoiled and full of natural beauty. Los Trancos Beach is known for its rustic beach cottages, painted in fading pastels, and rented out to the public. Once you walk through the tiny village, you’re on the beach, which is so massive that you’ll have no trouble finding a spot for yourself.
Parking is 15 dollars, but wait, there’s a loophole! If you spend $15+ at The Beachcomber Restaurant, then you can get validated. The restaurant is right on the beach and has a delectable menu. I got the lemongrass skewers with peanut sauce and edamame, which was very much worth the money. I also had a blackberry margarita that was so strong that I went and passed out on the beach afterwards. It was pretty respectable.
Do you agree with my choices for most stunning beaches in Laguna? Let me know!