View from balcony at Sunset Cove (credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Here at Best of LA and OC, we bring you the best resources from the area around you. I have lived in various spots around town since 1995, and I am telling you now that a few days at Sunset Cove on Sleepy Hollow Beach in Laguna on a beautiful fall weekend made for the very best, most relaxing, most family-friendly, and most potentially fun and convenient (nightlife-wise) getaway I’ve experienced so far. It’s amazing how many places like this exist right under our noses, and we drive by them all the time in our rush to something else. Take advantage of your nearness to this coastal beauty, because it truly is the best of Orange County, and worth the drive from even the farthest reaches of LA and San Bernardino Counties if you want a beachside vacation. Even in rush hour traffic.

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)


Sunset Cove Villas

683 Sleepy Hollow Lane
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(888) 845-5271
More Info

Sunset Cove is a vacation apartment rental building that houses eight island-themed villas, each of which faces the ocean and is surrounded by the sound of crashing waves 24/7. The villas are fully appointed – all you bring is the food, and you don’t even have to cart that with you, because there is a Ralph’s less than a block away. (Even a Taco Bell in the backyard if you get really desperate.) Beach umbrellas, sand chairs, even sand toys and boogie boards are parked oceanside for guests to use, so no need to pack your car with clunky gear.

The beach here is not miles wide, and lined with rocky pools that are revealed at low tide and offer up tidepool exploration to children and adults alike. The area is a protected marine reserve, so signs at every beach entry warn that collection of shells and other souvenirs is illegal. Hopefully that warning helps a little, because the sea anemones and crabs and mussels and tiny fish are wonderful to behold.

If your idea of vacation heaven is to wake to the sound of the ocean, walk outside and be right there on the sand with easy access to your kitchen (for lunch) and your couch or bed (for a mid-day nap), enjoy the sunset on your balcony or on a rooftop deck with a 360-degree view, and to fall asleep to the lullaby of the waves, Sunset Cove is the place for you. The villas are most often rented by the week or month, with 3-night stays booked during the off-season, and prices from $262 to $862 per night.

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)


The Orange Inn

703 South Coast Highway,
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 494-6085
More Info

While you’ll probably want to make your own meals in your beautiful temporary kitchen (which does have a stocked coffee nook – very important), some mornings just beg for someone else to cook you breakfast. The Orange Inn is a 30-second stroll from Sunset Cove, right on the corner of Cleo and PCH. Situated in a tiny house festooned with surfboards and maps and stickers and other beach-cool memorabilia, the Orange Inn serves up bakery items, coffee drinks (though I would venture to say the coffee I brewed at the villa reviled theirs for “the best coffee in town” as the sign on the window boasts), fresh juices, and a full breakfast and lunch menu. Our meals were fresh and delicious and totally Instagram-worthy. On our visit we also discovered that the window seat at the Orange Inn is a great place to spot exotic cars cruising PCH – perfect for the young car enthusiast in your family.

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)


Sawdust Art Festival

935 Laguna Canyon Road
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 494-3030
More Info

This area of Laguna Beach is home to Sawdust Arts Festival and the Pageant of the Masters, both just a 5-minute drive from Sunset Cove on Laguna Canyon, which is most likely the way you came into town. During their off-seasons, Sawdust offers hands-on art classes taught by their resident artists. My 7-year-old son and I decided to try our hands at something completely new – the pottery wheel. Instructor Mark Winner deftly guided us through the process of turning a lump of clay into things like goblets, bowls, and vases. We worked alongside a young married couple who were taking the class together – for the first time – just to shake things up a little.

After the pottery class Winner will fire your creations and glaze them for you, and your pieces are yours to pick up at a later date and keep for your use or proud display. Other classes on offer include jewelry-making, glass-blowing, and painting. Our 2-hour class went by in a flash, so focused we were on mastering the pottery technique.

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)


Main Beach

Broadway at PCH
Laguna Beach, 92651
More Info

Exit Sunset Cove on the beach side and turn right, and just a short walk north you will wind up at Main Beach, where the volleyball courts near the street are full and the children’s play area is a hot spot. We walked across the street and bought ice cream cones from Chantilly (a $25 tab for a family of four) and then settled down at the park to watch the volleyball action.

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Brown’s Park

551 S Coast Hwy
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
More Info

Nothing delights me more than stumbling upon a random hidden gem while I am traveling, and so my family was obliged to follow me into Brown’s Park, a tiny little pathway from PCH to an overlook on the Pacific Ocean fenced in with Wright-style ironwork that is also verse. There is a bronze “sculpture” of two chairs and a table and plaques installed in the beautifully haphazard brick wall that offer up more poetry, and best of all, a beautiful spot to gaze out over the ocean.

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)


Cotton Place

215 Forest Ave.
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
More Info

There are countless places to shop for clothing, art, and souvenirs in downtown Laguna Beach, so a stroll along PCH or Broadway will open up many opportunities for you to trade your money for a memento (or ten). But for our family, all we wanted was a t-shirt or two. Cotton Place on Forest, right next to the ice cream shop, was manned by salesman Beto, who was very instrumental in helping our children pick out their hoodie and skull bracelet and get in and out of the shop in a decent amount of time, and with reasonable expense.

(credit: Kim Tracy Prince)

Eat More

Ocean View Bar at Hotel Laguna

425 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
More Info

While the new hot spot The Deck and its neighbor The Beach House were packed to overflowing and promised 45-minute waits for a table for four, a short stroll down PCH to the Hotel Laguna gave us a table overlooking the ocean with no wait at all. On the decks of this grand, venerable old hotel, reached through the main hall past a piano man playing on a baby grand, the Ocean View Bar and Grill served up the most delicious filet mignon and seafood stew we could have asked for at that moment when we were super hungry after our busy day at the beach. The kids devoured their surprisingly gourmet-ish burger and chicken tenders, and there was plenty of room for them to fidget without disturbing other guests.

Kim Tracy Prince is a writer in Los Angeles. She blogs about parenting, travel, and other misadventures at House of Prince, where you can see more photos from her stay at Sunset Cove.


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