This enchanting corner of California’s coast is studded with landmark hotels and converted Mission-style villas. Read on to discover the best, and book your stay with Culture Trip.
Settled in the 1920s as an artists colony, thanks to its lustrous light and ocean views, this small city has retained its creative streak, while becoming a hotspot for upscale restaurants and recreation. It’s easy to while away the hours in the laid-back art galleries and sunset bars in Laguna Beach – not to mention on the beach, which offers golden sand, dramatic rocky scenery and varied surf spots. Then, trace back to your sandside stay, signposted by us.
With its whitewashed walls, terracotta roofs and colorful azulejo-tiled fireplaces, Casa Laguna showcases the Spanish Mission architecture so characteristic of Southern California. The rooms, originally built in the 1920s, uphold this aesthetic while adding Moroccan dashes, like Moorish ceramics and woven fabrics. Opt for the Deluxe Ocean View Patio room for a private terrace overlooking the ocean and Catalina Island – and don’t miss the hot-stone massage at the relaxing spa.
A worthy recipient of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World award, the Ranch occupies an 87-acre (35ha) estate within the dramatic slopes of Aliso Canyon. The rooms pay homage to the 1950s heritage of the hotel with beautiful carved wooden furnishings and Spanish-style bathroom tiles. For the ultimate in exclusivity, book the Treehouse, which overlooks the canyon from its perch high in the trees and features its own gazebo, perfect for entertaining.
With an unbeatable setting overlooking Main Beach, the Inn is classic Laguna Beach: rooms are both luxurious and relaxed, with white wooden shutters opening onto balconies or private patios overlooking the ocean. The community’s rich creative heritage is on show at the Laguna Art Museum just next door. In the other direction, the trails of Laguna Canyon make for a rewarding afternoon’s hike, while the Top of the World viewpoint promises unbeatable coastal views.
Offering great value, the rooms at Laguna Beach Lodge are nonetheless extremely stylish, with a tasteful mid-century modern atmosphere. A short walk away is the lovely Treasure Island Beach, where rock pools are teeming with marine life. Foodwise, the acclaimed restaurants in Laguna Beach offer no end of dining options – head to the beloved Ruby’s Diner to enjoy classic American burgers, sandwiches and shakes while overlooking the ocean.
There are no prizes for guessing the main theme at Surf and Sand, which celebrates its oceanfront setting with aplomb. Rooms have a blue-and-white marine color scheme and overlook the water, with the Vista Suite offering panoramic views from a private sundeck. Splashes Restaurant, meanwhile, is a fine-dining outlet celebrated for its seafood – try the Ōra King salmon, from the prized New Zealand purveyors, here served with purple potato gnocchi – while the Aquaterra Spa offers sea-salt scrubs among its organic wellness treatments.
Justly acclaimed as one of the finest hotels in Laguna Beach, the Montage is a vision of five-star luxury. The vast Craftsman-style complex opens onto a pool with sun-themed tiles. Rooms are traditionally luxurious yet laid back, with all-marble bathrooms and, in the luxe villas, full kitchens with Viking appliances. Among the several top-end restaurants is Studio, where dishes include pan-seared baja bass with cured chorizo and vierge (“virgin”) sauce.
This Spanish Mission-style hotel offers comfortable rooms and suites overlooking the sandy Cress Street Beach, with private cottage accommodation also available at La Casita for extra privacy. The Casa Surf Rooms and live-in gallery showcase the work of local artists, while the rooftop bar is the perfect place to watch the sun sink over the Pacific, with a cocktail in hand.
The project of an immigrant Parisian hotelier, Seaside Laguna Inn has a somewhat European feel in its tinkling fountains and vine-shaded pergolas, but it’s pure Laguna Beach in the local artworks that decorate the walls and its sweeping views over the rocky bluffs of Agate Street Beach. Suites feature comfy sofas and private balconies, and furry friends are welcome at the hotel for a small extra fee.
Sitting right on the sands of Mountain Road Beach and overlooking the craggy outcrop of Halfway Rock, Capri Laguna on the Beach can’t be beaten for location. Beachfront King Rooms look right over the sand from private balconies and feature cozy wood-burning fireplaces. It’s well worth the half-hour stroll up the beach to beautiful Heisler Park, home to art installations, ocean views and vibrant wildflowers.
Distilling Laguna’s boho spirit into a laid-back luxury hotel, the Joaquin’s breezy guest rooms are peppered with vintage furnishings and local artworks. Some have freestanding bathtubs with retro brushed-gold fittings, and all promise views – either of the garden or the Pacific Ocean, some from Juliet balconies, others from private patios. Coffees and pastries are delivered to your door each morning.
These recommendations were updated on August 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.