Recs for California weekend getaway beach town location?

August 28, 2019

Hi! My husband and I are planning a short (3-4 night) California vacation in early October, for some relaxing time in the sun. We're looking for a charming, walkable beach town accessible by Lyft (we'd prefer not to rent a car) from any airport.

We're open to anything, except for this visit we've ruled out Santa Barbara and La Jolla. Thanks!

Comments (21)

  • sushipup1

    Only Southern CA?

    I'm more familiar with the Central Coast. Morro Bay, Cambria, Pacific Grove, Monterey, Carmel, Aptos, Santa Cruz.

  • Fun2BHere

    In southern Orange County California, most of the beach towns are accessible through Uber/Lyft from John Wayne Santa Ana (SNA) airport. The towns with easy-to-access beaches are Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Dana Point and San Clemente. Huntington Beach has several large hotel properties right across Coast Highway from the ocean. Laguna Beach has hotels on the beach. I'm less familiar with hotels in DP and San Clemente, but each town has either a walkable downtown or harbor with shops and restaurants. The towns have free trolley service in the summer, but not in the winter. Laguna's free trolley does run on weekends in October, but not weekdays.

  • cawaps

    The best beach towns in Northern California and the Central Coast are not convenient to airports. Plus the water's colder. Hanging out at the beach in Pacific Grove can be downright chilly (though I love the town and frequently recommend it as a destination).

    San Diego has Coronado Island and Mission Beach. I'm not sure why you ruled out La Jolla, unless you've been there, done that. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are nice beaches, and the town is cute.

  • chispa

    It can be chilly by the ocean in So CA, specially after the sun sets. The water is cold too. Laguna Beach is decent for a long weekend, but you will just miss the big art shows they have every summer.

  • mrrogerscardigan

    Thanks for the suggestions! This will give us some good directions to pursue. Cawaps, that's correct. We've visited SB and La Jolla, so we're looking for something new.

  • Rory

    My parents live in Huntington Beach. It's very walkable and it's also easy to get to the other near by beach towns via uber or lyft. Balboa is a great little town to visit while you are in So Cal. Lauguna Beach is also super cool. There are lovely resorts in HB and LB.

  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!

    Is Del Mar too San Diego?

  • 4kids4us

    My BIL and his family live in Redondo Beach-we love visiting the cute beach town as well as its neighbor Hermosa Beach. Both are about 20 minutes south of LAX. BIL had an amazing Air B&B cottage behind his house that was always fully booked due to Redondo/Hermosa being such a desirable place to visit (my niece and her kids are now living in it). We stayed in the cottage while visiting and rode bikes along The Strand to Hermosa Beach where we walked around the town, shopped and had lunch. Our kids didn’t want to come home!

  • czarinalex

    If you don't have a car, Dana Point and San Clemente are not good choices. Dana Point has a nice harbor and some really nice($$$) hotels, but really doesn't have a nice downtown area. San Clemente has a nice shopping/restaurant street, but it's a hike from the beaches. SC also has a pier, the beaches are nice, but I wouldn't want to be there without a car.

    Laguna Beach is probably the best choice of the three if you don't have a car. The Main Beach area has a cute downtown with lots of shops & restaurants, and a few hotels.

    It can still be pretty warm in Orange County in October and the summer crowds are gone. The ocean is chilly.

    If you want to visit coastal Orange County, I'd strongly reconsider not renting a car. With a car, you can visit San Clemente, have lunch on the pier & walk around the shops on Del Mar Street. There is also an outlet shopping center, if you like that kind of thing. Drive to Dana Point harbor, get the best ice cream(Lapperts) and walk around looking at all the boats. You can also take a ferry to Catalina Island from here. You can visit Laguna Beach. Park at the Montage Hotel, walk the grounds and hang out at my favorite beach(Treasure Island). Drive up the coast to Newport, have lunch at the Beachcomber restaurant in Crystal Cove State Park and walk up and down the beautiful beach there. Visit Fashion Island shopping center, an outside mall with a great ocean view. You can also ferry to Catalina from Newport harbor. While in Newport, visit Balboa Island and walk around the perimeter, enjoying the cute houses and boats. Visit the shops and restaurants along Marine Avenue.

    There are a lot of fun things to do along the coast and you'd be limiting yourself if you are car less.

  • olliesmom

    My favorite is Laguna Beach, although because we have a teenage son and his friends come along also, we stay at Newport Beach for the convenience of staying on the beach and the great waves for the boys. We go at least once a year, if not more.

    If it were just hubby and I, hands down, Laguna Beach. In Laguna, you can ride the free trolley up and down through the town and stay at a nice hotel overlooking the ocean. Great restaurants too. I love looking at all the quirky stores and tons of art to see.

    I am always going between Huntington, Newport and Laguna when we go. Another favorite is Corona Del Mar, tucked right in there.

    We always fly into John Wayne airport and rent a car-too many places to go shop and eat and see.

  • Lv_r_Golden

    Carlsbad and Encinitas are big tourist draws and there is surfing, nice beaches, cute downtown areas, very walkable, restaurants, shopping etc.....definitely more casual and beachy than some areas north.....

  • aprilneverends

    I also vote Laguna Beach

    when my relatives from East Coast were coming and planned their trip(they declined our offer to stay with us)-that what I recommended and they followed my advice and loved staying there.

    To all the nice places one can visit that were mentioned(to all I say yes yes and yes)-I'd add Mission of San Juan Capistrano. Beautiful grounds..a bit of California history..and very cute little downtown right nearby. Will demand a car of course-unless one uses Uber or something

  • Sara

    We did a VRBO in Balboa last year and it was fabulous. House was on a canal, had kayaks we could use and bikes for the bike paths. Area is charming and very walkable.

  • czarinalex

    Another area you might consider is the Monterey/Carmel peninsula. We haven't been there in years but it's very picturesque with walkable downtowns. You'd have to check where the closest airport is and cost to uber.

  • 1929Spanish-GW

    I grew up in Laguna, so I'm partial. However, depending on what you like to do - it might be too small. October can be fire season because it's often still hot and we often get windy with Santa Ana's. Two examples - the 1993 fire that burned >400 homes was in early October and I went to Disneyland once on my birthday in late Oct. and it was 95! Of course that's why we pay so much to live here.

    That being said, I agree that coming down without a car can be a mixed blessing. Of course you can Uber around, but you lose some flexibility and freedom. Local bus service is on an hourly schedule, if I recall.

    In terms of where to stay, The Montage in South Laguna (where you would definitely need a car) is supposed to be fantastic. If you want to be more central, try the Inn at Laguna Beach - but be sure to request an ocean view room. Village view will be right on PCH and probably loud.

  • cawaps

    I just realized there is a scheduled shuttle from San Jose airport to Monterey, which makes it feasible without a car rental.

    I really adore the Monterey area. I've been to a number of conferences at Asilomar Conference Grounds in adjacent Pacific Grove. It has a large campus with multiple buildings, a central social hall, and a central dining hall. It is separated from Asilomar State Beach by sand dunes that have a boardwalk. There are always deer and great birdwatching. The beach is not great for swimming, but is popular with surfers and for tidepooling. It's outside Monterey Bay on a promontory, so it is usually a bit cold and windy, so not a great beach for laying out. Lover's Point at the other end of Pacific Grove inside Monterey Bay has a sheltered cove that is better for swimming. Pacific Grove is a cute town with some really great restaurants (Passionfish and Red House are favorites). Monterey has a world-class aquarium, Cannery Row, an a state historic park.

  • sushipup1

    And Monterey has a nice airport! I've done the shuttle bus many times, from both San Francisco and San Jose.

  • mrrogerscardigan

    I so appreciate all these suggestions. All of the options sound enticing. For this trip, we've decided on Laguna Beach. We booked a beachfront stay at the Capri Laguna; it's a bit out of town, but hopefully not too bad. We are excited. Thank you!

  • Fun2BHere

    Restaurant recommendations for Laguna Beach - Watermarc, Nick's Laguna Beach, Las Brisas and 230 Forest. I hope you reserved an ocean front room, not an ocean view room.

  • aprilneverends

    Watermarc is my favorite!

    230 Forest.

    and I love K'ya for the great setting, cocktails, tapas, and their Rooftop (the bar lounge on well, roof top). Both K'ya and Rooftop are in a small hotel called La Casa Del Camino

    for great casual breakfast-Orange Tree cafe

    I hope you have a great stay!

    btw they might have this Plein Air in Laguna Beach festival..I don't remember whether it's usually in October, and what are the dates.

    The artists stay for a week, and have a new location each day, and public can watch them working (and later, to buy the works if one is interested-they're being auctioned).

  • mrrogerscardigan

    Thank you! I'll look into all of these suggestions. Fun2BHere, yes, it's an ocean front room with balcony. 100% view of the ocean, they say.

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