I hit a milestone this year when Visit Laguna Beach reached out and asked me if I would be interested in taking a trip to Laguna Beach, California to experience all things wellness. I mean talk about my dream job. I think I found it!
Visit Laguna Beach is the official destination marketing organization for the city of Laguna Beach and they also operate the Official Laguna Beach Visitors Center. They offer complimentary concierge services for hotel, restaurant and shopping activities in Laguna Beach AND most recently they have developed the ‘Pathway To Zen.’
The ‘Pathway to Zen’ highlights the diverse array of soulful and mindful activities throughout the town, including several local shops, activities and services that are centered around health and wellness. So if you are anything like me and go *Google crazy* when you get to a city to scope out the best places to eat, drink, walk, shop, etc., Visit Laguna has done all the work for you and you can simply pick and choose to assemble your customized experience as you wish.
The ‘Pathway to Zen’ is not a guided tour or an experience that requires a reservation per se. It’s 12 (initial) hand-picked suggestions on what to do in and around Laguna Beach that center around, and celebrate, wellness. All experiences are offered year-round and vary from free in cost, up to five-star opportunities.
I’ve been to Laguna Beach once before and my exploring stopped at the 30 beaches and coves that make up the 7 miles of Laguna’s shoreline. I totally missed all these hidden gems. Consider this a locals inside scoop if you will. Here are some raw video clips from my Instagram Stories – otherwise keep scrolling for more on what we did…
The Ranch at Laguna Beach
Visit Laguna Beach hosted me to two nights at The Ranch at Laguna Beach – an Orange County hotel and spa nestled between the sea-kissing Aliso and Wood Canyons. I decided to ante up and fly in a night early just so I could make the whole experience last a wee bit longer. All the moms out there know what I’m talking about.
A couple things about The Ranch I want to highlight:
1.This resort is a member of National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World (the only one in California and one of 6 in the US) boasting exceptional guest experience and sustainable practices.
2. It’s home to Harvest, a restaurant that marries the bounty of the season and local flavor with respect to sustainability and organics. They even have a 1/2 acre dedicated to organic gardening that the restaurant uses in its fare.
3. The Ranch is the first hospitality entity in North America to operate the GLSand glass-bottle crusher where every glass bottle on property is crushed into sand and sifted to be repurposed to fill bunkers on their golf course, etc.
4. The Ranch is committed to reducing single use plastic. Each room is stocked with Mountain Valley Spring Water which is real spring water in glass. I rarely see this offered and access to clean drinking water while traveling is always a thorn in my side. LOVED this touch! They are also committed to paper straws and have subbed out plastic room keys for wooden and bamboo biodegradable fobs.
This resort checked my top three boxes: A short walk to the beach. The service was top notch and the pillows were comfy.
If you book a stay at The Ranch through this link or using the code WELLNESS you will also get access to:
- The best available room rate.
- Waived resort fee.
- A day pass to Sycamore Spa and/or a free extended 30 minutes to any treatment at Sycamore Spa.
- A Laguna Beach swag bag with all locally-made wellness products curated by Visit Laguna.
Plein Air Paint Class
So to be brutally honest, I had no idea what plein air painting was and I thought the ladies were saying “plain air” for the first hour of this activity. I know, I’m so cultured.
In fact, Laguna Beach was founded by artists that painted in “plein air” – a French term meaning “open air” or “outdoors”. It’s the art of standing outdoors and meditating and capturing what you see.
We were led by a Laguna Beach plein air artist Amy, who also exhibits at the Sawdust Art Festival, to paint The Ranch’s unique vista sandwiched in between two canyons where you look past their golf course and the abutting mountains to catch the Pacific Ocean peeking back at you.
I have this painting hanging in my kitchen now!
Guided Meditation at The Ranch
On the first night, we headed to a part of The Ranch called Scout Camp for some earthing and guided meditation.
We were led by Jessica Cable of Root and Reach who had the most calming voice, which danced in harmony with the setting sun, birds settling in for the evening and the cool breeze that reminded us it was October.
Tarot Card Reading at the Chakra Spa
Full disclosure, I’ve only gotten quack Tarot Card readings in the past. Like to the point where I have asked for my money back they were so bad. So needless to say, I was really excited for an opportunity to visit a pro.
Laguna Beach Chakra Spa owner and psychic, Stacy, comes from a long line of family psychics. My friend Sarah from Whoorl got a reading last time she was in Laguna Beach and Stacy knew things about Sarah that no one else knew. So when I say I was excited, I mean I was also scared crapless, too…can you see it in my eyes here? I’m like, Please tell me I’m not going to die!
Here’s some things she read about me that were pretty spot on:
- My throat chakra is stuck. I have a lot to say, but I don’t, and it’s been this way since I was little.
- I need a spiritual awakening because I am off. Stressed. My spirit is white and light and beautiful, but my aura (environment) is charcoal black.
- My husband is my soul mate.
- My boys are old souls. They know when I am happy and when I am sad before I even speak.
- There is a little girl, maybe my guardian angel, maybe she has been in my life or maybe she is yet to come.
- My Dad was meant to die, but he is so strong and it was not his time.
So basically I need a throat chakra adjustment, I’m with the man of my dreams, I’m lucky my Dad is alive, the boys can read my mind and I’m probably going to have a baby girl at some point. Sounds about right. I left this reading with tears of joy in my eyes and a new appreciation for what I have.
Chakra Shack Aura Reading
The Chakra Shack was also on the itinerary for an aura reading. According to the Chakra Shack, “Every living organism is surrounded by an electromagnetic energy field called an aura. This field vibrates at different frequencies and reflects a person’s state of mind, body and inner being.”
I got my aura scanned via an Aura Video Station that used biofeedback sensors to measure, analyze and process my energetic and activity levels.
I’ve never gotten one before and the scan didn’t feel like much at all. But I ended bawling my eyes out when Liz, the woman who interpreted my scan told me my sacral chakra or my inner child was spilling over into my root chakra and I may be experiencing feelings of being unsafe.
Which is EXACTLY WHAT I HAVE BEEN FEELING LATELY. Long story short I am having major PTSD from a major home invasion that happened two years ago. At this point in time we were a couple weeks away from moving into our new house here in Atlanta and I was feeling all of this all over again.
She gave me some beautiful coping tools like seeking out nature’s innate supports like spending time in the water. Reassuring my inner child by telling her we are safe. Or practicing visualization; Taking a bath and allowing the water to nourish my thoughts of safety while telling the water everything I’m scared of and then letting the water take all my fears down the drain with it.
I also left this reading feeling emotionally overwhelmed. It’s so out of the norm for me to view wellness through this lens, it made me realize how much more I can do to take care of myself.
Bright and early one morning we headed to Laughter Yoga or Laughter Yoga Club. Via the Laughter Yoga Institute, Laughter Yoga Club is a group of people gathering to practice laughter as a form of exercise. LY Institute explains, “EVERYONE CAN LAUGH and you don’t need to ‘feel good’ first to do it. You don’t need to be happy. There is no need for comedy or jokes. You don’t even need a sense of humor. The reasoning being, laughter improves mood by creating the chemistry of happiness and in turn delivering many health benefits.”
I learned that morning that the Laughter Club started first in Bombay, India and now there are thousands of laughter clubs around the world. Our facilitator quoted about 1/3 million people regularly use laughter as exercise. AND Laguna is the only club in the western world that meets 7 days a week (and has for 14 years!).
This was….how do I put this….AWKWARD. But I promised myself I wouldn’t let myself get in the way of myself so I went all-in. Essentially, Laughter Yoga is a mix of improv, affirmations and a willingness to live in the moment.
My chemical composition changed FOR SURE. The club ended with a shavasana and it was incredible. I wasn’t ready for this gift. Laying on the beach, face to the sun, toes in the sand and coming down off a laughter fest – my body felt so light and all of a sudden I noticed I was smiling. And my heart was smiling too. I’ve never smiled during a shavasana before. For that, it was worth every awkward moment and suppressed inhibition to get there.
Yoga in Treasure Island Park
Carl Brown is a registered Yoga Alliance instructor that offers free donation-based yoga 5 days a week at Treasure Island Park. These classes are 1 hour to 1.5 hours incorporating static and flow movements….and the best “yoga studio” in town.
Roots The Beauty Underground
Say hello to Laguna’s clean beauty mecca, Roots The Beauty Underground. Founder Laura Linsenmayer spent over 20 years in the cosmetic industry where she learned about the health compromising ingredients in conventional beauty and then opened Roots in 2012.
Laura took the time to create a custom shade for each of us. For me, I was looking for my perfect J.LO nude and she recommended RMS’s Wild With Desire Lipstick in Magic Hour, finished with Vapour Beauty’s Elixir Lip Gloss in Beguile.
I’ve been to almost every clean beauty store in the US and this is THE ONLY ONE I’ve ever seen that offers hair color treatments. Like, it’s like a hair salon, too! Laura stocks OWAY for her color line.
Spa Sycamore at The Ranch Laguna Beach
With an outdoor sauna and shower, this spa blurs the lines between indoor and outdoor and is a lovely place to rejuvenate and relax.
I was so excited to get a 30 minute massage here with my friend Kimberly Fe’Lix from Fe’Lix Inside & Out. For what it’s worth, I also took advantage of the outdoor shower – no photo included.
Top Of The World Hike
Top Of The World’s official name is Alta Laguna Park but everyone refers to it as the former and for good reason. It boasts 355 degree views of Orange County from the Pacific Ocean to the mountains, canyons and more. The dirt path’s are wide and enjoyed by walkers and mountain bikers. And the view. Swoon.
Harley Laguna Beach
At Harley, I was feeling like a total rockstar. Harley is closed on Mondays but the chef and his crew love opening up the restaurant to private parties and events and our small group of 8 had the entire place to ourselves, a preset specialty menu and free flowing bubbly.
Harley is named after Chef Gred Daniels’ grandfather Harley. Harley aims to deliver hospitality, delicious seasonal fare, Chef’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookies – all while being approachable, warm and fun.
Some highlights? Um, marinated Frescatrano olives (by far the BEST olives I’ve ever had), 2 day marinated jammy eggs, GF hash fries, FLAMING (as in “on fire”) Halloumi cheese and Creekstone Farms Tomahawk with mint chimichurri….I could actually go on and list everything that Chef brought to the table – everything was SO GOOD!
Harvest at The Ranch Laguna Beach
Local ingredients, organic wine, sustainability focused and most importantly; DELISH!!!
Harvest has a robust organic and biodynamic wine selection that they can offer at exceptional prices through some exclusive partnerships. If you are unsure of what to order, ask to speak to the som!
This was my first time trying Umi which Harvest sources locally and ethically. It was really mild and soft. I got it with scrambled eggs on toast. Have you tried Umi?
Opened in 1988, Zinc has been a favorite among locals for over 28 years. Zinc was inspired by the quality food movement initiated by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. It’s fast casual so you order at the counter and sit at a table on the covered patio to enjoy.
I got a cheese and veggie sandwich on GF bread with a side of chili and a Prosecco and all was right in the world.
The Loft at Montage Resort
A five-star favorite of guests and locals, this restaurant offers creative American cuisine and the most beautiful panoramic views. There is also an awesome spa here, too. They also just completed a major renovation.
How to get to Laguna Beach….
You can fly into LAX and make the 1-1.5 hour drive to Laguna (depending on traffic) or, maybe you are lucky enough to live by an airport like Hartsfield-Jackson that flies direct to John Wayne, Orange County (SNA), which is 16 miles (less than a 30 minute drive) to Laguna Beach. You can grab an Uber while you are there, but I would recommend getting a rental car so you can enjoy everything the coastline has to offer and more.
For more, be sure to follow along with these ladies who were also on the trip with me:
- Sarah from Whoorl
- Diane Mizota
- Kimberly from Fe’Lix Inside & Out
- Tinger from Dash of Ting
- Kelly Mi Li
And a special shout out to Greer who took all the professional photos you see here. Everything that was not captured by my iPhone was captured by this beauty!
Have you been to Laguna? What’s your top three for things to do and see in Laguna?
Kristen ConnellyNovember 4, 2019
I just went out there a few weeks ago by myself as I’m grieving my husband’s passing. I wish I had known about this! I will have to go back!
LisaNovember 5, 2019
I’m so sorry to hear about your husband Kristen. Yes, a trip back would be amazing. xo, Lisa