We arrived the way most everyone gets to Laguna Beach, on California Rte 133, Canyon Road, the biggest bottleneck here when July and August roll around. I hiked up on top of a mountain next to the ocean here with Doug Oyen, a guide with La Vida Laguna a company that takes people out on various ‘endorphin inducing’ excursions like hikes, bike rides, and paddles in this beautiful area. As we walked up a steep hard packed dirt path, Doug told me that that fire was a huge problem in this 20,000 acre wilderness, that has preserved an entire
canyon for many miles through to Irvine from the ocean. It was a hard-fought battle that ended up providing the developer with $20 million, and the citizens with this vast resource, that is now filled with mountain biking and hiking trails.
Laguna Beach is the kind of place, Doug said, that if you saw a billionaire, a homeless guy and him, you couldn’t tell them apart–people all just mix together and get along. There are,
though, plenty of people here who now that they’re rich and over 70, just want to go to bed at nine and not have any noise. Which causes some clashes with people with ideas about parties, and making noise, and celebrating that they’re spending the weekend in one of California’s premier beach destinations.
I got the sense from Doug and others that developers face a lot of hurdles, and that people are quick to sue and block just about anything. But so far that’s kept this beach town authentic and fun, and it’s still quirky enough to be a big tourist magnet.
I visited several hotels in town, and each truly has their own niche, from the ultra luxe Montage, (rooms $800 a night and up–WAY up) to the Laguna Beach House, a casual and fun beachside hotel (that averages low $200s this time of year). We also walked through the very fun Inn at Laguna Beach ($220-340) with its marvelous upper deck and hallway filled with historic photos from the olden days here.