The 4-Hour Rule: Laguna Beach

Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series, The Four-Hour Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.

the ranch at laguna (2 images)

STAY: The Ranch at Laguna Beach
The Ranch at Laguna Beach sits on 87 acres in the Aliso and Wood Canyons, where the walls are completely protected, providing a stunning green backdrop to the ranch-style buildings that blend into the earth all around. A recently renovated nine-hole golf course dates back to the ‘40s (when it was the Laguna Beach Country Club) and the Sanctuary spa has massages that are great after 18 holes or a day of paddleboarding. Rooms face either the course or the creek; all are very quiet.

EAT: Harvest, Ben Brown’s Pantry and The Stand
You’ll hit Ben Brown’s pantry for snacks, like a homemade granola bar encased in dark chocolate and rich coffee. Bigger meals are taken at the open-air restaurant Harvest, one the region’s best new spots. At breakfast, the chilaquiles feature a fried egg that, when broken, perfectly blends with the queso-covered chips. The roasted chicken is succulent and served on a bed of sautéed chard and French lentils — the perfect conclusion to a day outdoors, especially when paired with a glass of crisp Salta.

Laguna is home to countless coves that can be tough to access from land. So you’re gonna admire them from the water, ideally on a stand-up paddleboard. Doug Oyen has run La Vida Laguna for over a decade and knows the best coves to explore. You’ll meet him in a hidden cove where the water is always calm, making launch-and-land an exercise in child’s play. He’s a great instructor for the beginner, and his buoyant boards are easy to navigate around the massive kelp farms. You’ll see tons of fish, dolphins and maybe even a whale.

EAT: The Stand
The Stand is Laguna’s hippy stalwart, plating vegetarian food since the days when Timothy Leary and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love were dropping tabs in beach town. You’ll find the hummus and guacamole sandwich and a lage watermelon juice highly satisfying after a morning on the waves.