23 mi / 37 km
Los Angeles (LAX)
Oh, Laguna – just a mention of the name should be enough to get you reaching for the boardshorts and sunscreen. Welcome to the sunny side of Orange County, where the vibes are always good, the waters a shade of blue that would make the Cote d'Azur jealous, and the people as beautiful as they come.
Our route through this much-loved corner of Southern California actually begins in Huntington Beach. Known as Surf City USA, it's famed for the barreling waves that form on either side of its urban pier. Go there to watch the pros ripping up the swells. Or, if it's flat, check out the nearby International Surfing Museum, where vintage boards and bios of legendary surf figures like Duke Kahanamoku are the name of the game.
Newport Beach picks up where Huntington leaves off. There, you can hit up Balboa Island to cruise the backwaters between kitschy coast cottages and cool concept stores. By the way: Frozen banana is the local delicacy – don't depart without sampling one with a blob of artisan ice-cream on the side! Closer to the ocean is Balboa Pier, capped off by the vintage 1980s diner of Ruby's, itself a homage to earlier Americana diners from the 40s. That's the place for stacks of pancakes topped with blueberries.
Constructed in 1905, the Balboa Pavilion has stood as an iconic landmark for over one-hundred years. Originally envisioned as a grand seaside resort, the Pavilion became a hub of social activity and entertainment during the early 20th century.
During the Prohibition era, the Pavilion faced a unique challenge. With the sale of alcohol banned, enterprising individuals devised creative ways to continue the party. The Pavilion's basement was converted into a speakeasy - a hidden and secret invite only venue where people could gather to drink and socialize in defiance of the law.
Leaving town, the Santa Ana ranges creep ever closer to the Pacific and the roads begin to curve and bend around headlands capped off by perfectly-positioned coastal mansions. The views get pretty darn spectacular. There are the cinnamon-tinged sands of Crystal Cove; here are the dark rock reefs and blue-green waters of Emerald Bay.
Viola: Suddenly you're in Laguna Beach itself. The sands – all 30 of them! – are the main draw, no doubt about it. Don't worry, though, the refreshing surf of Aliso Beach and the soft powders of Crescent Bay will still be there later. First, make time to delve into the art scene…
Laguna Beach is one of the undisputed art hubs of Southern California. You'll find prestigious galleries like the Laguna Art Museum (LAM), home to 3,500-plus works by towering figures in the American portrait scene, along with a whole host of independent galleries stringing down Ramona Avenue.
As the drive comes to an end and the sun starts to set, grab yourself a gelato to enjoy the orange hues and golden shimmering waters as you reminisce the sights and sounds of this classic Californian drive.
Laguna Beach boasts the Montage Laguna Beach, a renowned luxury resort offering elegant rooms, a full-service spa, and exquisite dining experiences. Another option in Laguna Beach is the Surf and Sand Resort, which provides direct beach access, oceanfront rooms, and a relaxing spa.Parking fees may apply to some areas - see signage on site. Got a tip for this route? Send us yours! The roads in Los Angeles are sealed. View current alerts and warnings from the City of Manhattan Beach.
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