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What to do in Laguna Beach | Laguna Beach Travel Guide

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Living La Vida Laguna | Laguna Beach Travel Guide

Photography courtesy of Visit Laguna Beach

I took a plane from Scottsdale and headed to Laguna Beach with one goal in mind—to experience the city as the locals do.

Greetings from Laguna Beach! The small coastal town is all about greetings—famous for the waving and smiling greeters who adorn the street corners along Pacific Coast Highway, bringing a smile to anyone passing by. To experience the joys of living like a local in Laguna Beach, I headed to the walkable city for a firsthand experience.

Within minutes of deplaning at John Wayne International Airport, Go Rentals pulled up my rental car and I was off on the short drive to Laguna Beach to experience the beach town’s charm. There’s a lot to love about life in Laguna Beach, from the small local businesses that entice customers with chic housewares and swimsuit cover-ups, to the waves of the ocean and the top-notch luxury dining. 

THE RANCH AT LAGUNA BEACH

My first stop would be my home for the next few days—The Ranch at Laguna Beach. Hidden within a picturesque canyon and just a short walk or drive from the ocean, The Ranch at Laguna Beach is the best of both worlds.

My guest room at The Ranch had a cozy feeling that evoked images of a summer cottage, with an arched ceiling and no adjoining guests below or above me. Coastal-themed decor in the room provided a welcoming environment that left me feeling relaxed and at home. My spacious patio led right to the pool and hot tub, surrounded by picturesque Japanese plum trees with plenty of blooming pink flowers.

The Ranch is secluded away from the hustle and bustle of it all, so you can truly disconnect and relax during your stay. To get the most of the relaxing setting, I headed to the onsite Sycamore Spa by Hudson, which offers customized facials, massages, body treatments and an Infrared sauna.

For golf lovers, the 9-hole course offers stunning views of the lush walls of Aliso and Wood Canyons. The green offers the feeling of being surrounded by nature on each side, providing a laid-back atmosphere while you attempt to hit a hole-in-one. With a focus on sustainability, the golf course is GEO Certified.

Furthering the commitment to sustainability, The Ranch at Laguna Beach is a member of Beyond Green, a global portfolio of hotel, resorts and lodges leading the way in sustainable tourism. To be a member, The Ranch is evaluated on 54 sustainability indicators to ensure the property is following a green mission. The many sustainability initiatives include a reclaimed water program that saves 20 million gallons of potable water each year, on-site composting and plastic-free room keys. The property also boasts a bio-dynamic farm called Harvest Garden, overseen by Farmer Leo, which provides a large percentage of produce for Harvest restaurant’s seasonal menus.

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BROADWAY BY AMAR SANTANA

Broadway by Amar Santana, located in the heart of Laguna Beach, is well known for culinary excellence, so I knew I had to head there for dinner on my first day in the coastal city. I was joined by my friend, fellow ICONIC LIFE team member and Orange County local Dorothy Costello, and we were not disappointed by the New York City-themed interiors and our seats at the coveted six-person Chef’s table, overlooking the expert activity in the kitchen. 

I started with a Loucette cocktail, which offered bright, light and summer-inspired flavors with Sobieski Vodka, Carpano Bianco, grapefruit and lime juices, honey and rosemary mint. Costello and I shared the irresistible housemade focaccia bread, Japanese hamachi sashimi and the grilled charred spanish octopus before digging into our main courses. I was impressed with the freshness of the seafood and the effort and care that went into making each dish spectacular.

For the second dish, I chose the herb roasted mediterranean branzino, a popular dish at Broadway, which came finished with cauliflower purée, pickled clamshell mushrooms and truffle jus. The flavors were to die for. Costello went with the equally-delish lamb tagliatelle, a pasta dish with slow-braised lamb ragout, mint pesto, fresh horseradish and shaved parmesan. 

For dessert, we indulged in a house-made hazelnut ice cream, accompanied by decadent chocolate and gold-encrusted hazelnuts. Each dish was Top Chef-worthy.

HARVEST

The next day, I walked the short distance from my room at The Ranch at Laguna Beach to the hotel’s signature restaurant, Harvest, which is led by Executive Chef Kyle St. John. I was immediately impressed by the large glass windows that showed off the beauty of the surrounding canyons, and the luxe feel of the cabin-like interior.

My waiter, Philip, brought warm bread to the table and my seasonal cocktail of choice, the toasted horchata, which contained Forbidden Rice Horchata, Xicaru Mezcal and Licor 45. For my appetizer, I enjoyed the menu-staple french onion soup, complete with toasted baguette slices and plenty of gruyere cheese.

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For my entree, I went with the grass-fed beef and pork bolognese, with housemade fettuccine noodles, aged parmesan cheese, whipped mascarpone and basil, fresh from Harvest Garden. All of the elements combined into a tasty meal that left me satisfied and ready to explore all that Laguna Beach has to offer.

PEPPERTREE LANE

A trip to the area is not complete without a walk down the ICONIC Laguna Beach landmark, Peppertree Lane. Home to the ever-popular Gelato Paradiso, which almost always has a line of hungry customers, and La Rue du Chocolat, which serves handmade chocolates and truffles. I couldn’t leave without some gelato—I went with the amarena ciliegia flavor, which is a vanilla based blended with juicy dark cherries, straight from Italy

LOST PIER CAFE

What would a trip to Laguna Beach be without a stop by the beach itself? On my last day in the coastal city, I put on my sandals and sunglasses and headed for the ocean. I ordered my morning latte from Lost Pier Cafe, which is conveniently located right on Aliso Beach. With a latte in hand, I strolled along the sand and reflected on the joy that is ‘living la vida Laguna.’

This story is sponsored by our friends at Visit Laguna Beach.

MORE TO EXPLORE

A special place in Orange County, there is so much to see and experience in Laguna Beach.

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