Laguna Beach is one of my favorite places in the world; the aesthetic is unmatched by any other city. The quirky, artsy, yet environmentally pristine ocean landscape is the closest thing I’ve seen to Hawaii on the mainland. I was blessed to live there for about six months, but it wasn’t easy finding a place to stay. Laguna Beach is in high demand; finding an affordable place seemed almost impossible.
I scoured Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist for over a month. The findings were scarce. I visited one listing where I’d have my own room, but share the smallest living room, kitchen, and bathroom with a 70-year-old man. He was nice, but it felt weird. I found another private room near downtown, but my whole arms, legs, and head could barely fit between the four walls.
I was ready to give up when a real estate agent friend called; a 65 yr old woman was looking for a roommate to share her home. I’ve heard that word travels quickly and prominently by mouth in Laguna; by the end of my stay, the best activities came from what locals told me to do, not through Google Search. I’d have a huge room, bathroom, and courtyard to myself; I’d only have to share the rest of the house when she returned home from work at 5 pm. Also, the nightclub Mozambique was right around the corner. It sounded too good to be true; but when I stopped by, it was better than I expected.
A massive deck opened up to Bluebird Canyon; green trees covered the slanting edges which grew so thick that Sheila, the owner, had to trim the foliage back every week. It kept crowding the ocean view, but I’m not sure which one was more beautiful. I’d sit on the deck, in the cool ocean air, and listen to a variety of chirps. Three to four hummingbirds would sweep in, nearly brushing my head. They came and went as they pleased.
As for my new roommate, Sheila, she was the most incredible Laguna local. Although she was born in Los Angeles, she’s lived in Laguna for over 40 years. She knows everything that is and once was Laguna. Sheila, despite her age, also knew about the hottest spots to go: she sent me to the Montage for snorkeling, Brooks Street for surfing, the park for free yoga, and more. Some nights we’d make dinner, drink wine, and talk for hours.
Sheila had countless stories; like me, she’s traveled her whole life. One time, she was backpacking Mexico at fifteen years old with one of her friends when they were robbed of everything. Credit and debit cards hardly existed at that time, let alone in Mexico; her only hope, if she wanted to eat for the following few days, was to travel to the next biggest city to receive a funds transfer. Without any funds or the money to get there. She and her friend went into the streets and begged until they had enough. Locals were kind enough to feed the two young girls on the way. Her stories always gave me hope for the world.
My favorite days consisted of cruising down PCH, wind in my hair, heading to the Blk Dot coffee shop. The Laguna galleries, sculpture art, and gorgeous landscape inspired me to draw more than usual. I’d sip the most perfectly foamed matcha latte—unsweetened, with almond milk—and draw for hours. When all of my creative energy was spent, I’d walk across the street to Heisler Park.
I could walk that trail every day until the end of time. It was paved, smothered in palm trees, and overlooked rocky cliffs and baby blue swirling waters. The trail starts on a boarded beach walk downtown and then heads upstairs, where you can walk for about 20 minutes along the edge of cliffs and stare at the coastline. In the end, the only option for returning was walking the entire path again, in the opposite direction.
It ended very close to Gelato Paradiso, the best gelato I’ve had in the United States. The cones are made fresh daily, and the smell of baking sugar wafts through all of the surrounding alleyways. Even on the rainiest days in the summer, I’d wait in a line of ten people. The best flavors? Mine were a combination of dark chocolate, pistachio, and cookies and cream. No matter how much they scooped, I’d always finish it all. It was too good.
The Stand was also too good—I’d make it there at least once a week. The wooden stand sold vegan breakfasts and lunches; everything was light, healthy, and fresh. While sitting at a tree picnic table, I’d read through horoscope birthday books, vegan stories for kids, and play games. Afterward, I’d do some shopping; some of the best boutiques in Laguna Beach surround The Stand.
Aside from the cultural city-like experience of art and food, Laguna also holds an incredible nature scene. The beaches attract tourists from around the world. Divers come from all around California, and even other states, to experience the kelp forests and garibaldi. I refreshed my professional diving certification with Beach Cities Scuba and saw at least five octopuses and thick swarms of fish. You can also see the swarms with snorkeling one of Laguna’s many spots along the coastline. The scene boasts vibrant colors and creatures and stretches far distances. The water can get rough because of the rocky coastline, so I was always sure to check with lifeguards before jumping in.
When it was time to walk home, I’d take a different route almost every time. I loved taking the back roads; all of the houses were so brightly colored, uniquely structured, and precious. You never know what you’d find around the next corner.
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