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Laguna Beach City Trip - California's Riviera

An everyday scene in Laguna Beach

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do

LAGUNA BEACH DAY 3: Montage Laguna Beach, Treasure Island, Around Orange County

Begin the day by exploring the extravagance of the stretch of coastline known as California's Riviera, arguably the most exclusive and expensive beach district in all of Orange County. Located a 10-minute drive from downtown Laguna, this community runs basically from Victoria Beach to the city of Dana Point at Laguna's southern tip. The area is mainly residential, but is also home to Montage Laguna Beach, Casa Laguna Inn & Spa, St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach and The Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel.

If you didn't stay at Montage Laguna Beach, take the time to find a way to this world-renowned resort. The awe-inspiring views from the glassed-in perch of the resort's handsome lobby makes it completely worth a visit, if only to sip a glass of well-picked wine and nosh on a few appetizers while watching waves crash below on Treasure Island Cove.

For breakfast, sit along picture windows with fabulous views at the resort's more casual restaurant, The Loft. With a fourth-floor perch that overlooks the awesome Treasure Island Cove, the restaurant features an exquisite Craftsman-style décor and modern California-style seasonal dishes prepared with great skill by executive chef Casey Overton. After you eat, head over to Treasure Island's beach and enjoy a day punctuated by lush tide pools, white water spraying off black rocks, delicately glistening sand, blue sky and turquoise-colored water. You may also be fortunate enough to catch a glimpse of a dolphin or two at play.

Treasure Island Park in Laguna Beach, California

Following some shore time, hike around neighboring Treasure Island Park and cross Pacific Coast Highway to Ruby's South Laguna for a classic burger, fries and shake. This retro 1940s diner, nestled along a stretch of PCH amongst the colorful flowers and verdant vegetation of California's Riviera, is a fun breakfast, lunch and dinner option if you are traveling with kids in tow.

After lunch, stroll back across PCH and check into the resort's Spa Montage to experience a few hours of pure indulgence with a selection from their full menu of ancient-meets-modern treatments. The spa's co-ed lounge features a lovely waterfall that plunges into a hot pool, a brick-lined lap pool with ocean view, a fitness facility and ultra-luxe men's and women's relaxation lounges. Even the gift shop at the Spa Montage has an esteemed local reputation for its innovative gifts, which are designed with natural products culled primarily from the sea.

The dining room of Studio at The Montage in Laguna Beach, California

Any dinner at The Montage's exemplary Studio restaurant is truly a memorable feast. Award-winning chef Craig Strong's light, yet highly flavorful cuisine is best enjoyed as an impressive multi-course meal of seasonal, contemporary Cali-French cuisine with wine paired by an expert sommelier. And the location is spectacular too: Studio sits right at the cliff’s edge in a romantic Craftsman bungalow with views of the hotel's meticulously kept grounds, as well as the surrounding hills, picturesque coves, crashing waves and the chef's own vegetable garden.

If you came to Laguna with clubs in tow, then get ready to spend your third day here mixing the stunning coastal views with a little golf. Take the 10-minute drive northward and hit the links at Pelican Hill Golf Club in Newport Coast. Featuring two courses constructed by legendary course designer Tom Fazio and set on a hillside featuring natural coastal vegetation and a dramatic backdrop, Pelican Hill is truly one of the world's best spots to golf. Other facilities here include a top-notch equipment and shoe rental, an amazing practice range, a men's and women's spa-inspired locker and lounge, and a European-style espresso bar and snack shop. After your golf game, head for lunch at the club's Palladian-inspired Pelican Grill for some gastropub-inspired small plates, or chill out in the super upscale sports lounge while taking in the day's action on the massive pair of 9-foot HDTV screens.

The North Course at Pelican hill golf Club in Newport Beach, California

If the spa or golf scenes are not your thing, take this last day to visit some of OC's famed nearby coastal destinations such as South Coast Plaza, Dana Point Harbor, Crystal Cove, Corona del Mar, Fashion Island, Balboa Island, Balboa Peninsula or Huntington Beach's bustling Main Street. Additionally, vacationing families have lots of kid-friendly day trip options like Dana Point's Ocean Institute, the Long Beach Aquarium, Mission San Juan Capistrano, Disneyland and Legoland.

Laguna Beach certainly lives up to its sensual, yet sophisticated title of California's Riviera. And the moment that you observe the setting sun stretching dramatic red, pink, and purple hues over Laguna's golden cliffs and cold turquoise ocean waters, you will be compelled to start hatching a return visit.

by Sheryll Alexander

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*Treasure Island beach image courtesy of Visit Laguna Beach


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