NORTHERN LAGUNA BEACHES: CRESCENT BEACH, PICNIC BEACH, ROCKPILE
The city divides city life-guarded beaches into three sections: northern beaches, central beaches and southern beaches. The county-run Aliso Creek County Park and Thousand Steps Beach are farther south.
In the north, Crescent Beach is a quarter-mile sandy smile overlooking bright blue waters. The beach is popular with skim boarders, body boarders, fishermen and tide poolers and the beach can draw crowds of a few thousand on summer days. Waves break close to the shore here, but can get as high as 15 feet.
Photo Opportunity: Just offshore to the north, be sure to look for Seal Rock, a haven for seals and sea lions (sorry, no humans allowed).
Farther south check out Picnic Beach and Rockpile, below Laguna's Heisler Park. Picnic Beach lives up to its name and is also popular with skin divers, scuba divers and tide poolers.
Rockpile, an isolated cove just south of Picnic Beach, and is one of Laguna's three designated surfing areas, along with the stretch along St. Anns, Oak and Brooks streets, and at Christmas Cove.
As its name implies, the ocean floor here is almost entirely urchin-covered rocks. During wintertime low tides it's one of the best tide pooling spots on the south coast.
CENTRAL BEACHES: MAIN BEACH, ST. ANNS, OAK AND BROOKS STREET BEACHES
In the middle of town, Main Beach starts Laguna's central beach section, where Broadway and Ocean Avenue meet Coast Highway.
Another Photo Opportunity: The large white lifeguard tower is a local landmark.
Main Beach is Laguna's most popular, most visited beach, with a mostly sandy bottom and waves breaking close to shore. A boardwalk meanders past volleyball and basketball courts and provides easy access to both the beach and the downtown restaurant and shopping areas.
Further south, visit the beaches at St. Anns Street, Oak Street and Brooks Street, to watch surfers (mostly locals here) navigate the strong waves while avoiding the strongest rip current in the area.
SOUTHERN BEACHES: PEARL STREET BEACH, VICTORIA BEACH, CHRISTMAS COVE
In Laguna's southern beaches section, be sure to catch the blow hole to the southern end of Pearl Street Beach, or swim, surf or dive at the popular Victoria Beach and Christmas Cove, accessible from an access ramp at
BEACHES EVEN FARTHER SOUTH
Aliso Beach County Park
is beach plus an inland woodland area for hiking and picnics. The beach has pubic restrooms, ample metered parking and a play area for toddlers.
County-run Thousand Step Beach (Oops! There's really only about 230 steps) in the South Laguna area between Ninth and 10th Streets is reachable via a steep access staircase, but for surfers and divers, a pristine pocket beach well worth the climb.