I tend to make a lot of quick travel decisions based on seat sales and this was one of those trips. A lot of people were surprised about Orange County as a choice but now that I have gone, I highly recommend it and would go back in a heartbeat.
This yer mid-may in the OC wasn’t the warmest, too cold to go into the water, but it was perfect for some light exploration and even a bit of tanning. For this trip, I took an extra day off to make it a long weekend. We arrived on Friday and begun the day with Crystal Cove State Park. There are various shuttles that travel around the area you could take advantage of but we already had a rental car so took the tunnel path from the parking lot into the beach. The centre of the beach is a lovely area with a few shops and restaurants colourfully painted on the outside and a fun turquoise beach house by the boardwalk. The geography of the beach, and the entire OC Laguna Beach Marine Reserve side, is mountainous with beautiful white sands and clear blue water with various rocks popping up from the water – lots to look at, more to explore.
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Making it home for the weekend we checked into the Pacific Edge Hotel * on Laguna Beach. A fun little hotel with a popular beach restaurant, called The Deck, nautical decor, and fairly spacious rooms. The indoor restaurant, Driftwood Kitchen, has a great brunch with an open-air sitting area, and at night turns into a pretty happening bar where we had a couple of old-fashioned while making small talk with the locals.
The neighborhood around the hotel is charming, with a lot of restaurants, shops, and a strong beach community vibe. One of the more popular restaurants in the area is The Cliff, located in a small, somewhat gated area, filled with art galleries, and craft shops. The Cliff has a large seafood menu and a great view of the sunset – its main attraction. The art centre enveloping the restaurant has an outdoor bar, fire pit, and live music in the evenings – visibly, a popular spot with the locals.
For the adventurous types, there are quite a few hiking trails of various complexity, we took on one that was about 5 hours total. The view of the mountains was stunning, with beautiful vegetation and a few up and down surprise curves. Our endpoint was a waterfall but since it was a rather dry spring the cave was dry.
I’m not an avid hiker so for my exploration day I chose Victoria Beach. The entrance into the beach is from a residential neighborhood, clearly marked as a “No drone zone.” The beach itself is quite popular, there is a natural pool and a Pirate Tower, both of which are popular spots for photography. This weekend, the pool was also dry but the crashing waves had no mercy on the crowd posing on the rocks in front of the Pirate Tower.
If you keep walking along the coast you’ll walk into the Montage neighborhood. Here, after exploring some rocks and tanning (aka burning) in the sun, we went up the hill to have a glass of wine and some oysters in the Montage Beach Resort*, an upscale hotel with a few great upscale restaurants. We set on the veranda looking out onto the ocean for a glorious couple of hours. Sadly this last stop was the ending of the weekend but I’m looking forward to going back and seeing more of this beautiful coast.
Pacific Edge Hotel address: 647 S Coast Hwy, Laguna Beach, CA 92651, USA
To see the adventure through Instagram look up #xoOC18.