Laguna Beach, Calif.--If you don't know your beaches in Laguna Beach, that's OK. There are over 20 of them to get to know and even locals hardly can keep track of the names. In fact, they have their own names for them and those names may vary from other popular assignments.
Needless to say the tourist primarily wants to know where to find a beach when driving the California Coast. And most tourists planning to stay also want to know which hotels are on the sand--and if they hotel they select is going to be on the sand, the beach or overlooking a busy street. Usually the hotel will tell you it is on or near a beach.
Laguna Beach beaches are unique among the beaches along the coast. There's hardly any other spot between Los Angeles and San Diego where you can dive, and find decent tidepool experiences (with the exception of neighboring Corona del Mar, part of Newport Beach.)
One of our favorite places to tidepool also happens to have public parking near Montage Resort. Bring coins and dollars to buy time on the meters. Goff Cove and Treasure Island at Wesley Drive are the south end and the beach where you usually will find great tidepools--actually between Christmas Cove and Goff Cove. Docents are often around to answer questions, but the general rule is not to touch any of the animal and plant life in the rocks, and be careful. We've seen a few people fall.
As for beaches, parking is the great eliminator of beach traffic at the 20 some Laguna Beach beaches. The parking is limited and you must often walk across Coast Highway to access the beach. Locals know the good spots and the hidden gems, and the rest of us get lucky once in a while.
Surfing is popular at a few beaches such as Thalia. In fact, an entire culture is based on the Thalia Street surfing, surf shop, and people who frequent this beach.
There's a lot to see at Laguna Beach beaches, and you need a few days to cover them in depth. Most start with Main Beach and the famous lifeguard tower in the center of town. There's a small boardwalk, volleyball nets and basketball courts. This is the central meeting point for many people. Work your way out north or south to explore other beaches and you'll learn a few things such as no 2 beaches are the same.