If you’re in Southern California and find yourself trying to decide which beaches to visit, I’ll make it easy for you, Laguna Beach should be at the top of your list. Really, the only challenge is deciding which of Laguna Beach’s 30 scenic beaches you want to visit first.
This uber-artsy town is located about halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles in the heart of Orange County and one of the best places to enjoy the Pacific Ocean.
In fact, Laguna Beach is the only marine reserve in Southern California, which explains why it has such pristine waters, epic panoramic views, and abundant sea life.
This part of the California Coast also has incredible weather year-round that’s perfect for long days at the beach.
Finding your way to these gorgeous beaches can sometimes be confusing though since there are a lot of secret coves, unmarked access points, and tricky parking spots that might leave you feeling frustrated.
So in this post, we’re giving you the inside scoop to navigate your way around Laguna Beach like a local so you can get your feet in the sand sooner and enjoy all of that precious beach time.
These are our picks for the best beaches in Laguna Beach and everything you should know before you go.
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Best for: Being in the heart of the action, walking, people watching, artsy types, swimming, sunbathing, exploring tide pools, shopping, dining, and surfing (but not in the summer).
Amenities: Lifeguard, grassy area, walking paths, kids play area, boardwalk, basketball, volleyball, restaurants nearby, restrooms and showers are located on both ends of the beach.
Parking: There is a ton of metered street parking and side streets to park along. Metered street parking will be available to you in most areas of Laguna Beach, rates range from $1- $4.50 per hour. Park in the downtown area wherever you can find a spot (around Forest St or Ocean Ave). You could also park in Lots 11, 12, 13, or 14.
Beach Access: This is the easiest beach to access; you’ll find it right where Broadway and Ocean Avenues intersect the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).
Main Beach is THE place to be if you want to be in the middle of the action and the heart of Laguna Beach.
It’s the largest beach in Laguna Beach and the easiest to access, which makes it a very popular spot. Since it’s smack dab in the center of town, you really can’t miss it.
In terms of amenities, Main Beach has a cool grassy area and boardwalk that makes it very family-friendly. There are also volleyball and basketball courts oceanside, which are a fun way to get some exercise before taking a dip in the Pacific Ocean to cool off.
Explore the tidepools off to the right (if you are facing the ocean) or grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants nearby on Broadway Street. There is so much to do in this area that you might not have time to hit everything unless you have multiple days.
If you’re looking for a cool area to shop for one-of-a-kind items and take a break from the beach, check out the nearby HIP shopping district. In this district, you’ll find local small businesses putting out some incredible artisan works for you to take home.
One thing to note is that Main Beach isn’t a good surf spot in the summer. Surfing is not permitted on Main Beach during the summer months due to the dangerous rip currents and heavy shore break waves.
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Best for: Surfing, exploring tide pools, rock formations, avoiding crowds.
Amenities: Lifeguard, restrooms, barbecues, picnic tables, gazebo, walking trails available nearby in Heisler Park.
Parking: Parking meters on Cliff Drive will give you access to Rockpile Beach through Heisler Park. There is free parking on the north end of Cliff Dr.
Beach Access: Rockpile Beach is on the south end of Heisler Park right below the park. To get down to the beach area, use the staircase between the gazebo near Las Brisas Restaurant and the flagpole to the north, just off Jasmine Street.
Rockpile Beach is just as the name implies, a scenic rocky beach that is best left for experienced surfers and those looking to explore some of the most spectacular tidepools in Laguna Beach.
The ocean floor in this area is made mostly of rocks which is why swimming is not permitted at this beach.
However, if you’re okay with not swimming, rocky cliff-sides, palm trees, and a small sandy area (it’s only 700 feet long) make this one of the best beaches in Laguna Beach to visit if you want to avoid the crowds.
Just make sure you check the tide charts before you visit because the sand at Rockpile Beach will be almost nonexistent at high tide.
At low tide, it’s easy to investigate the spectacular tidepools that reveal a ton of thriving marine life and will also allow you to get closer to Bird Rock which is a huge bird sanctuary just offshore.
Plus, right above Rockpile Beach is one of the best parks in Laguna Beach, Heisler Park. Heisler Park is located one beach north of Main Beach, stretching along the bluffs from Aster Street to Diver’s Dove.
It’s a popular wedding spot because of the oceanside gazebo that has some of the best views in Laguna Beach and there are some nice coastal walking trails at the park. And if you’re an art lover, you’ll enjoy exploring the 14 pieces of public art sprinkled throughout Heisler Park.
In case you didn’t know, Laguna Beach is known around the world for not only being a cool beach town in California but also for being a thriving artist community that holds several art festivals each year. This means it’s common to find random pieces of art around town, like what you’ll find at Heisler Park.
Local tip: Be sure to bring water shoes if you want to explore the tidepools and rocky area, it’s painful to do so barefooted.
Table Rock Beach
Best for: Adventurous types, photography, skimboarders, avoiding crowds, rock climbers.
Amenities: No Facilities.
Parking: Limited metered and free parking along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Beach Access: You will access this beach down a set of 200+ wooden stairs at the end of Table Rock Drive just off the Pacific Coast Highway near Bluff Drive.
Table Rock Beach is where the locals love to go to avoid the crowds. Its name comes from the large flat rock that cuts the beach in half and makes for a fun area for rock climbing if the lifeguards don’t chase you off.
Speaking of climbing, if stair climbing is not for you, you might want to steer clear of this beach. The way down is not nearly as daunting as the hike up after a long day in the sun.
One of the best attributes of Table Rock Beach is that it’s a bit more secluded than other beaches in Laguna Beach, with towering cliffs on both sides and a row of million-dollar beach homes up above. Overall, the atmosphere is one where it’s easy to feel like you’re in paradise.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can climb over the rocky point on the south end to gain access to another hidden treasure called Secret Cove. Just be careful because the waves can crash really hard here and the rocks are slippery.
Otherwise, if you’re there at low tide, it’s possible to instead go through the arch tunnel just below the cliff that has a huge house on the edge of it.
Thousand Steps Beach
Best for: Swimming, sunbathing, tide pooling, boogie boarding, stair walking, skimboarding.
Amenities: Lifeguard, volleyball courts, restrooms, and showers.
Parking: Parking can be tricky here, so be patient and look for a free spot right along the Pacific Coast Highway. There are no designated parking lots specifically for this beach.
Beach Access: Head to the intersection of 9th Avenue and the Pacific Coast Highway. The beach access is the gate across from 9th Ave down the stairwell.
Thousand Steps Beach is one of the largest Laguna Beach beaches and is a great place to take a dip in the Pacific Ocean or explore some of the tidepools at low tide.
The sea cave on the south end of the beach is the best place to investigate for tide pool sea critters. Just be sure to check the tide charts so you don’t get stuck in a dangerous situation with the tide coming in quickly.
And you don’t need to worry too much about the name of this beach, it really isn’t 1,000 steps, it’s only 223. I counted. With that said, you’ll still enjoy a decent cardio workout as you exit and have to make your trek back UP those stairs.
Best for: Instagram photos, TikTokers, swimming, volleyball, caves.
Amenities: No facilities available.
Parking: There are no official parking areas or entrances for this beach which can make it tricky to find. If you’re using GPS, search for “Victoria Drive” if “Victoria Beach” doesn’t get you where you need to go. Park directly on the Pacific Coast Highway for free. You also might luck out with finding metered parking if you go to the nearby Montage Resort.
Beach Access: Park on the Pacific Coast Highway (if you can) and follow Victoria Drive until you reach the steps. The entrance to this beach is right between the houses on Victoria Drive and Sunset Terrace.
If you’re planning a trip to Laguna Beach, Victoria Beach should be on your list.
Victoria Beach is the most famous beach in Laguna Beach because of the social media fame it’s received over the years, mostly because of its mysterious Pirate Tower.
The Pirate Tower/Victoria Tower is one of the most Instagram famous spots in Laguna Beach. This towering castle stands 60 feet tall looks as if it’s grown from the sandstone cliff that surrounds it.
In reality, the tower was built in 1926 to serve as an enclosed staircase to access the beach from the private residence above the cliffs. Be aware that it’s still on private property so you can’t go inside the tower.
If you head north on Victoria Beach, you’ll gain access to both the Pirate Tower and the super-cool circular concrete pool that fills with seawater during high tide. The pool is another favorite swimming spot that you’ve likely seen before on Instagram or TikTok.
Just be mindful of the high/low tide schedule when exploring some of these nooks, coves, and beaches.
Access to the Pirate Tower is much safer during low tide and access to the concrete pool is better during high tide so that the pool is full of water.
Crescent Bay Beach
Best for: Scuba Diving, sunbathing, coastal views, snorkeling, skimboarding, body whomping, tide pooling, swimming.
Amenities: Lifeguard, restrooms, showers, and accessible features.
Parking: No designated parking lot. Try to find a spot along Cliff Drive or the Pacific Coast Highway.
Beach Access: There are two access points to this beach, one entrance is off of Barranca St and the other is off of Circle Way.
Next up is Crescent Bay Beach, where you can explore your own little slice of paradise.
The tall cliffs that surround the beach are topped with tons of towering palm trees, which creates beautiful postcard views that are hard to forget.
And as you may have guessed, between the cliffs sits the ¼ mile crescent-shaped sliver of sand for you to sprawl out on and soak up the sun.
Crescent Bay is a favorite place for the Laguna Beach locals to partake in body whomping.
What exactly is “body whooping,” you ask? It’s the phrase locals use for body surfing at a beach with an extreme beach break. If you plan on trying your hand at body whomping at Crescent Bay Beach for the first time, please be careful and watch the experts a few times first.
If body whomping isn’t your thing and the waves are a little tamer, be sure to get out and snorkel, take a swim, or explore the tide pools.
Crescent Bay Beach is located on the north side of Laguna Beach, near the north end of Cliff Drive and the Pacific Coast Highway.
Just be careful of the powerful riptides in this area if you plan on getting out in the water.
Pearl Street Beach
Best for: Scuba diving, sunsets, sunbathing, bodysurfing (no boards allowed), tide pooling.
Amenities: Lifeguard but no restrooms available.
Parking: Free & metered street parking on the Pacific Coast Highway.
Beach Access: Two different stairways are available – one located on Agate St and the other on the west end of Pearl Street. Pearl Street ends right at Ocean Way – one block off the PCH.
The coolest feature at Pearl Street Beach is the natural arch rock wall located at the south end of the beach.
At low tide, you can walk right through the arch and check out all of the marine life in and around the tide pools and crevasses which makes for a great way to spend your afternoon.
If you’re looking to surf, take your board elsewhere – surfing isn’t allowed at Pearl Street Beach, although it can be a good spot for bodysurfing.
Aliso Beach Park
Best for: Family fun, bonfires/fire pits, volleyball, surfing, picnicking, bodysurfing, skimboarding.
Amenities: Firepits, volleyball courts, restrooms, showers, snack bar, picnic tables, lifeguard, and kids play area.
Parking: Designated parking area right off the Pacific Coast Highway for $1.00 per hour.
Beach Access: Easy access from the off-street parking area off of Aliso Way and the PCH.
Aliso Beach Park is one of the best beaches in Laguna Beach for family fun. It can get super crowded so be sure to get there early, especially during the summer.
This next feature might end up being your favorite part of Aliso Beach, it’s the only beach in Laguna Beach that has metered on-site parking! So, if you’re sick of hunting down parking spots, this is the beach for you.
The other exclusive feature that Aliso Beach is known for is fire pits – this is the only beach in Laguna Beach that offers them.
As you can imagine, the fire pits get swooped up fast, so if s’mores are on the menu you’ll need to beat the crowds and get there early well before the sun goes down.
Across the street from the beach is a grassy park and Aliso Creek, which you’ll often find flowing across the sandy beach into the ocean. Be sure to check the water quality before swimming here, the creek water is usually not safe for swimming in.
Another thing Aliso Beach is most famous for is hosting The Vic, which is the annual world championships for skimboarding. If you can time your visit right, it’s a fun and unique event to watch in Laguna Beach and just another way to enjoy the city’s many great beaches.
Treasure Island Beach
Best for: Swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, sunbathing, walking, photography.
Amenities: Lifeguard and accessible features.
Parking: Along the Pacific Coast Highway is best for free or metered parking (although it’s a bit of a hike with a lot of stairs). From the PCH, you’d enter the beach area by using the public stairs on the north side of the resort. If you can’t find parking on the PCH, park at Lot 7 or Lot 8 ($1.50/hour) and take the pathway on the south side of the Montage Resort.
Beach Access: There are pathways or stairs on both sides of the Montage Resort. If you’re carrying a lot of beach gear you might want to take the ramp from Lot 7 or 8 across from Wesley Drive.
Treasure Island Beach is located right below the Montage Resort and is a very well kept beach since the staff at the resort work hard to keep Treasure Island Beach looking impeccable.
This beach is located on the south end of Laguna Beach and is at the north end of the same large cove that makes up Aliso Beach Park.
If you want to take a scenic walk after sunbathing, hop on the paths above the beach near the Montage Resort for panoramic views and a gorgeous place to watch the sunset.
Thalia Street Beach
Best for: Surfing, skimboarding, scuba diving.
Amenities: Lifeguard but no other facilities.
Parking: Parking meters along the Pacific Coast Highway or Thalia Street.
Beach Access: On the dead-end where Thalia Street meets the ocean, you’ll find a long stairway to give you access to the beach.
Thalia Street Beach is exclusively for surfers and skimboarders and an excellent place for beginners to learn how to surf.
Swimming and bodyboarding are not allowed on Thalia Beach because of how rocky this area can be, especially during the winter months. If you want to swim you should head south to Anita Street Beach where it’s much more enjoyable.
As with a lot of the top beaches in Laguna Beach, be sure to check the tide charts before you go. At high tide, the water can completely cover the beach area so you’ll probably want to go during low tide.
Tips for Visiting Laguna Beach Beaches
- There’s a free Laguna Beach Trolley – As you now know, parking at some of the beaches in Laguna Beach can be challenging so you’ll want to take advantage of one of the coolest features in Laguna Beach – the FREE open-air weekend trolley service. You can catch the free trolley into Laguna Beach from June 27th through August 30. All of the trolley signs are color-coded and the trolleys travel through nine routes around town. In other words, it’s very convenient. You can hop on and off wherever you like and a lot of the best beaches in Laguna Beach mentioned in this post have nearby stops. Download the Visit Laguna Beach app to gain access to the real-time Trolley Tracker. Note: During the week there’s sometimes a 75¢ fare for adults.
- Don’t miss the free summer parking lot – There’s also a FREE summer parking lot with 100+ spaces where the 405 freeway and Highway 133 meet (Lot 19-Summer Breeze Lot). The Summer Breeze bus that leaves from the lot takes visitors to the Laguna Beach Bus Station where they can pick up the free trolley mentioned above.
- Navigating the streets/parking in Laguna Beach – When you’re parking in Laguna Beach’s residential areas, be aware of the NO PARKING signs, they mean business and you can get ticketed or towed if you ignore them. And, in general, just use common sense when it comes to parking in Laguna Beach (e.g. don’t block driveways or walkways to residents’ homes). Sometimes it’s a waiting game to find that perfect spot. If you take a couple of laps around the neighborhood, you’ll likely find someone leaving…eventually.
- Look at the tide charts before you go – I never knew how important it was to check the tide charts before visiting a beach until I moved to Orange County. To be honest, growing up in the midwest, tide charts were things I heard about in science class and had no idea what it all meant. There are two high tides and two low tides in California every day. Here is why you need to check tide charts before you visit any beach in Laguna Beach:
- High tides can make it very challenging (and dangerous) to visit certain beaches. It’s important to know when high tide is coming in so you can plan your day accordingly. In some spots, there may not even be much of a sandy area to walk on during high tide.
- Dog-friendly beaches in Laguna Beach – If you want to enjoy Laguna Beach with your fur baby, you’ll need to be strategic about your timing. Dogs are allowed on city beaches before 9 am and after 6 pm between June 15th – September 10th and during regular beach hours from September 11th – June 14th. Just note that dogs must be on a six-foot or shorter leash at all times.
Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rosie Queen is a travel blogger and creative writer who grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Since moving to Huntington Beach in 2019, she has been exploring every nook of Southern California and beyond with her adventure-seeking husband and adorable Golden Doodle, Indy. She’s obsessed with her dogs, color guard/marching band, national parks, and road trips.
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