Order a ginger-mint margarita or cantaloupe martini at Sapphire Laguna then stroll the sand.
Laguna Beach locator
Laguna Beach is 50 miles south of Los Angeles and 75 miles north of San Diego; John Wayne-Orange County Airport is 15 miles away. For more area info, contact the Laguna Beach visitors bureau (800/877-1115).
3 ROMANTIC STAYS
Casa Laguna Inn & Spa Historical inn with suites and rooms, most with fireplaces. To make it extra romantic: The Togetherness spa treatment (from $250) includes side-by-side massages, a soak in the ocean-view garden tub, and a bottle of bubbly with souvenir flutes. INFO: Rooms from $250, including breakfast, wine, and cheese; 800/233-0449.
Montage Laguna Beach Five-star digs in Craftsman-style buildings with stunning ocean views. To make it extra romantic: The Montage excels at sparking romance. Food of Love (from $150 per person) is a four-course candlelit dinner staged in a poolside cabana, and there are couples' plein air painting sessions (from $200 per person). But we like the Sunrise Surfing for two (from $200), which comes with a private beach butler and the option of matching surfboards or bodyboards that you can keep. INFO: Rooms from $695; 888/715-6700.
Surf & Sand Resort On the water and close to downtown shops and restaurants. Splashes restaurant ($$$$; 1555 S. Coast Hwy.; 949/376-2779) is a local favorite in winter for enjoying storm surf. To make it extra romantic: Splurge on having the room decorated with rose petals and white tea lights (from $150). INFO: Rooms from $275; 888/869-7569.
WHERE TO EAT
Sapphire Laguna Delicious homemade-chorizo huevos rancheros and eclectic dishes like kalua pulled-pork quesadilla; brunch Sat-Sun. INFO: $$$; 1200 S. Coast Hwy.; 949/715-9888.
Studio California-French cuisine showcasing seasonal ingredients. INFO: $$$$; closed Mon; in Montage Laguna Beach resort, 30801 S. Coast Hwy.; 949/715-6420.
Zinc Cafe & Market Tasty pastries and generous portions of breakfast and lunch offerings. INFO: $; 350 Ocean Ave.; 949/494-6302.
WHAT TO DO
Laguna Art Museum If the dozens of local art galleries overwhelm you, spend an afternoon at this museum. Its focus on California art is a good primer for further discovery. INFO: $10; 307 Cliff Dr.; 949/494-8971.
Laguna Village Beach- and art-themed kiosks. INFO: On S. Coast Hwy. near Legion St.
Pure Light Make candles (from $14) any day, or sign up for a workshop (from $10) and create holiday cards or ornaments. INFO: 821 Laguna Canyon Rd.; 949/376-7200.
Sawdust Art Festival Art galore, from handmade ornaments to handblown glass. INFO: Nov 17-18 and 23-25, Dec 1-2 and 8-9; $5.75; 935 Laguna Canyon Rd.; 949/494-3030.
See sea lions Despite its name, Seal Rock (free; Crescent Bay Beach, N. Coast Hwy. at Cliff Dr.) is the place to observe Laguna Beach's sea lion colony; they're here year-round. Or you can go to Pacific Marine Mammal Center (free but donations welcome; 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd.; 949/494-3050), where injured and ill sea lions are rehabilitated. Proceeds from the gift shop help care for the mammals.
Treasure Island Crescent-shaped beach with fishing and tidepools. INFO: Free; down a ramp at the southwest edge of Montage Laguna Beach resort.
Victoria Beach Beautiful pocket beach near Casa Laguna Inn & Spa. INFO: Free; down the narrow staircase (watch for other beachgoers) off
Victoria Dr. at Sunset Terrace St.