WHY LAGUNA?

WHY LAGUNA?

Known as much for its amazing landscape as it is for its thriving art scene, Laguna is the perfect blend of low-key, old-school California beach living, mixed with an eccentric artist colony. During the 1920s Laguna was the place to be for screen legends Bette Davis, Mary Pickford and Rudolph Valentino. Most people make a bee-line for Main Beach, but those in the know head for Sleepy Hollow. It's quieter, and surfers know this is where the best waves can be found.

WHERE?

Laguna Beach is south of downtown Los Angeles: go to Long Beach and carry on down the coast for another 20 miles or so. Los Angeles International airport is about 50 miles away, and is the obvious gateway for British visitors, although the John Wayne airport is much closer. British Airways, Virgin, and several American carriers fly into Los Angeles from Britain.

WHEN?

Laguna Beach buzzes during the summer, with the annual Arts Festival taking place during July and August. But it's much more enjoyable off season when the crowds have disappeared. Southern California never gets really cold - and, anyway, a chill in the air adds to the attraction of a long walk along the beach, before settling down in front of a blazing fire.

SEE

In Laguna, there are amazing views from Ruby Street from the bluffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. Attractions in the area include Disneyland in Anaheim: ok, it's not that cool - but no one can deny it's fun, and no one can be cool all the time. The park opens every day, although hours vary according to the time of year.

DO

Go surfing - and if you need a bit of help to get you upright, enrol in the Soul Surfing School and try to hang ten.

SLEEP

For serious luxury, book a room - or, even better, a bungalow - at the Montage Resort & Spa. All the rooms are comfortably equipped with feathertop beds, deep marble baths to allow for a luxurious soak, and balconies with ocean views. Casa Laguna, on a hillside overlooking the Pacific, offers authentic California mission-style architecture and all the rooms have a log fire, so you can really make yourself at home.

PLAY

When it's time to come in from the beach, check out what's playing at the Laguna Playhouse - the oldest theatre company in California. It has an interesting selection of productions, and the play changes every few weeks.

Travel facts

Montage Resort and Spa

South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach (001 866 271 6953; www.montagelagunabeach.com)

Casa Laguna

2510 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach (001 949 494 2996; www.casalaguna.com

Zinc Cafe and Market

350 Ocean Avenue (001 949 494 6302; www.zinccafe.com)

Claes Restaurant

425 South Coast Highway (001 949 376 9283; www.hotellaguna.com)

Laguna Playhouse

Moulton Theatre, 606 Laguna Canyon Road (001 949 497 2787; www.lagunaplayhouse.com)

Disneyland ( www.disneyland.disney.go.com)

Soul Surfing School

(001 949 637 9957; www.soulsurfingschool.com)

British Airways

(0870 850 9850, www.ba.com)

Virgin Atlantic

(0870 380 2007; www.virgin-atlantic.com)

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