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A girls weekend in Laguna Beach

A girls weekend in Laguna Beach

When people picture California, I’m pretty sure Laguna Beach is what they conjure up in their day dreams. The idyllic Orange County town is nestled among white sand beaches and towering palm trees, teeming tide pools and rolling hills. And to be honest, it’s just as good in real life as it is in pictures. Aly Gill, Christine Merrill and Katelyn Downey in Laguna Beach

A couple of years ago, two girlfriends and I opted to catch up in Laguna Beach for a girls weekend; last weekend, we reunited in the same little beach city. We spent some time debating somewhere new to go, but then we figured that Laguna Beach was convenient (right between me in San Diego and Aly in Los Angeles, and easy for Katelyn to fly into Orange County from Sacramento) and easy and basically everything we wanted. And it was just as good as we remembered it! Perhaps even better: the weather was unseasonably warm for January, 80 degrees and sunny. We drank wine, ate tacos, went hiking, read books by the pool, went to bed super early and took sunrise walks along the beach, aka perfect (late 20s/early 30s) girls weekend itinerary. Here are a few highlights from our  trip:

The Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, CaliforniaThe Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, CaliforniaThe Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, CaliforniaThe Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, California The Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, CaliforniaThe Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, California

The beach!

Obviously, the main draw of Laguna Beach: the beach itself! There are a bunch of basketball and sand volleyball courts that are always full (and make great spectator sports), and the tide pools are teeming with sea urchins and anemones. The waves are fairly protected since it’s in a bit of a cove, so it’s ideal for stand-up paddleboarding and swimming. And there’s nothing I love more than a sunrise walk along the beach! Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach, CaliforniaUrth Caffe in Laguna Beach, California

Breakfast at Urth Caffe

One of our great discoveries this trip: an Urth Caffe right across the street from our hotel! There was one down the street from Aly’s old office in LA, and we used to pop there for breakfast/lunch/dinner whenever I would visit her. It’s nothing too crazy or special, but there’s a lot of variety on the menu and all of the food is really good and can be healthy.Hiking at Crystal Cove in Orange County, CaliforniaCrystal Cove State Park in Orange County, California Hiking at Crystal Cove in Orange County, CaliforniaCrystal Cove State Park in Orange County, California

Hiking at Crystal Cove State Park

Although we weren’t up for a super intense activity, all of us love to hike and the weather was peak for outdoor explorations. We popped over to Crystal Cove State Park–barely a 10-minute drive–to try out the El Moro Canyon Loop trail. We made a wrong turn somewhere, so we didn’t end up with the sweeping overlook–but we did end up on a beautiful and mostly deserted beach, which might be even nicer. Note that there are plenty of inclines, so worth bringing hiking poles if you have them!The Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, CaliforniaThe Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, California

Reading by the pool

Obviously, I’m always a big fan of reading by a pool on a sunny day. But I’m also just so grateful for friends a) whom you don’t have to talk to, you can just BE together and b) who also love reading by a pool. I’m almost done with The Likeness, which was the perfect page-turner for this weekend.

Gelato Paradiso in Laguna Beach, California

Gelato in still-warm waffle cones

Gelato Paradiso had me at freshly made waffle cones. You can smell the deliciousness as soon as you walk into the Hogwarts-like corridor that leads to the shop, and you can actually see them making the cones right before they scoop your gelato in. I opted for raspberry sorbet and salted caramel gelato, and I’m still salivating over how decadent it was.Dr Jarts Rubber Masks

Crazy face masks

I’m now totally obsessed with these Dr. Jart masks: they moisturize your skin like crazy, and they’re so hilarious to put on. It was even more fun to do them with my girlfriends, especially after a couple of drinks at dinner!

Going to the movies

We also saw I, Tonya, which was SO good. I don’t really remember the whole Tonya Harding scandal, so it was absolutely wild to realize that it was based on a true story. Margot Robbie is absolutely incredible in it, and the style of the movie is intense and impossible to look away from. I almost never go to the movies, but after seeing  this and Lady Bird in the theater in the past couple of months, I’m considering Movie Pass: any proponents?The Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, CaliforniaThe Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, CaliforniaThe Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, CaliforniaThe Inn at Laguna Beach in Orange County, California

The Inn at Laguna Beach

We stayed at The Inn at Laguna Beach, which is pretty much all you could ask for in a beach hotel. It’s located RIGHT on the beach, but sort of perched up on a hill overlooking the main stretch: it’s both super convenient to get to the water, and you have beautiful panoramic views of the cove. A few of my favorite perks: happy hour on the rooftop that features FREE wine (I love free things!!!) and the sunset over the ocean, a heated pool and chaise lounges to soak up the sunshine without dealing with sand/surf/crowds (but also beach chairs and umbrellas you can use for free), and milk and cookies in the lobby to greet you when you return after dinner. It’s also less than a five-minute walk to the heart of downtown, aka restaurants, bars, cafes and boutiques.

p.s. special thanks to my favorite Aries-es Aly and Katelyn for always being up for an adventure, aka waiting in line for ice cream and letting me plan the itinerary! 

  • Liza in Ann Arbor

    Speaking of Tonya Harding, that happened in my hometown of Detroit and I very distinctly remember seeing it on the news, and replay after replay of Nancy Kerrigan crying “why me?”, that very evening. I’d very much like to see the film, because seeing it happen (almost live) and remembering the aftermath, Tonya and her crew were definitely the “bad guys” at the time. Looks like the film is a different take on the whole matter.

  • Lauren Stephanie

    Moviepass is the best! I had basically stopped going to the movies as an adult because I couldn’t justify the cost. I got the annual plan from Costco and I’ve seen more movies in the past month than I have in years. Since I prepaid it’s nice to always have a now cost-free option for something to do.

  • your photos are SO gorgeous!!! i live in LA but admittedly haven’t made the time to head down to Laguna and i seriously need to! i’ve heard amazing things about crystal cove and all the hikes there. thank you for inspiring me to get this on my travel bucket list for 2018!!

  • camorose

    Mmm I still think that they are the “bad guys” to some extent but the film is pretty honest (I’m assuming!) about her roots and the domestic abuse. It’s a really interesting and layered look at the controversy–highly recommend!

  • camorose

    Ohhh I didn’t realize you could buy it at Costco–totally going to look into that! My only drawback is that it doesn’t count for my favorite movie theater (with recliners!) near my house 🙁

  • camorose

    Yes! You would love it! It’s absolutely idyllic and so easy to get to from LA!

  • Liza in Ann Arbor

    Haha! It didn’t seem that way on the Golden Globes when they were praising her. I’ll have to see the movie for sure. 🙂