California Coastal Trail

Laguna Beach: Where Art and Nature Thrive

Before south Orange County saw a housing boom, Laguna Beach was a small, isolated artist colony tucked between the ocean and coastal hills. It was a place so quiet that even restaurants would close after the weekend crowds left.

Things are different today. Orange County hosts some three million residents and over 30 cities. Millions of tourists flock its beaches. It's home to a handful of Fortune 500 businesses.

Yet Laguna has resisted many modern temptations.

It's opted to retain a greenbelt instead of razing all hillsides for homes. Businesses, hardly any of which are chains, must keep the town character by having a wooden sign. And that artist colony feel? You can still get it with plenty of galleries, its festivals like the Sawdust and Pageant of the Masters, and the occasional painter drawing inspiration from a sidewalk perched above the coast.

Not all of Laguna's sandy beach is part of the California Coastal Trail, but with for a city so rich with history, all parts -- beach and commercial arteries -- are equally pleasing afoot.