Enshrined in MTV pop culture, Laguna Beach gets all the attention. But just south of the main colony—moving away from the tourist bustle—the rugged coastline becomes a series of coves offering beautiful water and tranquility. Shaw’s Cove is worth checking out for its dramatic setting and relative privacy: surrounding cliffs dive directly into the sea at the outer points, forming reefs, and the 500-foot soft-sand beach typically sees only a smattering of sunbathers. Access, tucked between two oceanfront homes, is discreet, and the available free parking on residential streets is several hundred feet away. The sense of discovery here extends below the waterline: conditions for diving and snorkeling are optimal for beginners (the cove’s position relative to Catalina Island many miles off the coast helps shield it from dangerous surf). An immersive peek into this world reveals why creatures like eels, garibaldi, lobsters, rays, and sea urchins find it as habitable as you are likely to find it enchanting.
TIP: For snorkeling and spearfishing gear, stop in at Laguna Sea Sports on Pacific Coast Highway one block south of Fairview Street.
Take Pacific Coast Highway to Fairview St. in Laguna Beach and turn west. At Cliff Dr., you’ll be right in front of the access stairs. If parking in the immediate vicinity is unavailable, drive two blocks north on Cliff Dr. toward Crescent Bay. Lifeguards monitor the area. No dogs.