Green space meets sea space at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach. Spanning 32 acres, the park meanders with pathways and greenery fanned with palms and a statue of a humpback whale. It’s also one of the best vantages of ocean panoramas. Take it a step further on the southernmost stairs leading to the beach. The sea stack known as Bird Rock is nature’s condo for black-bellied plovers, pelicans, cormorants, and seagulls. Head north and check out the tide pools. These tiny ecosystems teem with life: Hermit crabs, sea anemones, urchins, and kelp keep things lively. Rock hopping gets you to the good stuff, like bright bat stars, violet sea slugs, and—if you’re lucky—the elusive two-spotted octopus. Warning: Don’t touch the sea life! There are a few caves to explore on your way to the northernmost staircase.
SUNSET BONUS: If it’s late afternoon, claim a seat at the gazebo and wait for the sky to melt into a palette of dazzling tangerine, pearly pink, and vibrant purple for one of the best sunset experiences in Southern California.
Here’s a map to the park. Plenty of metered parking available. The park is dog-friendly, but the beach is not. Check the tide chart before heading out.