Laguna Riviera is an oceanfront boutique hotel on Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach, California. This review will share room photos, a tour of the grounds, thoughts on our stay here, how Laguna Riviera compares to nearby properties, its value for money, and whether you should book a stay here.
In terms of background about the hotel, Laguna Riviera opened in 1948 and has been owned by the same family ever since. The resort offers a mix of 41 unique rooms and family suites, set amidst a sprawling space just steps up from the beach. The property also goes by the names Laguna Riviera Hotel and Laguna Riviera Resort on the Beach, and prides itself on “staying true to the spirit of Laguna Beach and its artist community.”
We used to live in Laguna, and now return a few times per year to visit. We’re thus pretty well acquainted with the charming coastal city, its artistic vibe, and highlights. That’s how we first learned of Laguna Riviera, which is viewed lovingly as a “local’s hotel” (to the extent that a hotel can appeal to locals) among residents. Through that lens we’ll review Laguna Riviera Beach Resort, its pros & cons, location, and more…
Let’s start with the location of Laguna Riviera Hotel within Laguna Beach, California. The resort is just south of Main Beach, making it about a 15 minute walk to Heisler Park and downtown dining & shopping, or a 25 minute walk in the other direction to Victoria Beach. (Two of the top 3 in our 10 Best Laguna Beaches List.)
From the hotel, you’re about 10 minutes away from a ton of dining options, including Nick’s Laguna Beach (our favorite) and Mozambique (an underrated rooftop lounge). There are also two grocery stores and a couple of fast food chains only a few minutes away, if that’s more your speed.
You may not think you care about what’s walkable from Laguna Riviera because you’ll have a rental car, but you’ll change your tune pretty quickly after driving PCH through Laguna Beach during summer tourist season or trying to find a parking spot. Having a wealth of options within walking distance is almost essential in Laguna Beach.
While important, this alone is not a huge selling point for this particular hotel. In addition to Laguna Riviera, there are another half-dozen or so hotels that have an equally good location in this general area of Laguna Beach. However, not many are budget properties.
There are true boutique hotels, like La Casa Del Camino, that cost more and don’t offer the same caliber of views or even balconies. There are Laguna Riviera’s closest competitors in style and price, like Capri Laguna, that don’t offer rooms of the same size but might win on other amenities.
One aspect of Laguna Riviera that we really appreciate is its quaintness and charm. The hotel is a reflection of Laguna Beach’s roots as an artist colony, and ongoing legacy of celebrating creativity, arts and culture.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that’s definitely going to be true with Laguna Riviera Resort on the Beach. It has something of a cult following and repeat customers that book the same rooms for the same weeks year after year, but it’s not for everyone.
While Laguna Beach still has an array of public art installations, galleries, world-famous art festivals, etc., it’s also been built up as a luxurious coastal city. Not to the extent of nearby Newport Beach, but its character has certainly “evolved” over the decades.
For better or worse, Laguna Riviera is a vestige of “old Laguna Beach.” If you’re looking for some new and luxurious, look elsewhere. You will not be satisfied with Laguna Riviera. That’s not a value judgment about new v. old Laguna Beach, it just is what it is.
We like luxury hotels, but we also like Laguna Riviera. Each serve different travel goals, fill different roles, and suit a range of budgets. For its part, Laguna Riviera feels authentic to the character of the city it calls home.
There are a lot of other hotels in Laguna Beach that try to evoke similar artistic sensibilities, to varying degrees of success. Many are objectively nicer properties, but have a sense of “trying too hard” or flatly missing the mark when it comes to style.
Using words like “charming” and “authentic” aren’t intended as backhanded complements, to paint a rosy picture of Laguna Riviera, or gloss over its shortcomings. Again, this is not a luxury resort and even calling it a boutique hotel might be overselling it given the connotations of that term.
To be frank, Laguna Riviera is dated and looks like it’s held together with duct tape and a patchwork of updates over the years. There’s no cohesive style to the rooms, and from Pacific Coast Highway it looks like an unremarkable roadside motel from a bygone era.
Gazing out from your balcony and listening to waves crash against the beach, it actually does look like a sun-drenched retreat that’s “part French Riviera, part Mediterranean retreat, and 100% Laguna Beach.”
Hence beauty being in the eye of the beholder with Laguna Riviera. It truly depends upon how much you value ocean v. curb appeal and luxury v. authenticity. Either you’ll love Laguna Rivera, warts and all, or you won’t.
Of course, there’s also the matter of guest rooms.
The rooms at Laguna Riviera Beach Resort are simple, unfussy designs. They’re “good enough” in terms of comfort and style, but we rate them highly from a utilitarian perspective.
This is because most (maybe all) of the rooms have at least kitchenettes, with the larger ones having full kitchens.
Our go-to room at the Laguna Riviera is the Ocean View Suite.
This has a full kitchen, living room, and bedroom.
It also has a private deck that is larger than a traditional balcony (in our experience this has been detached from the back of the room and separated with a walkway, but I’m not positive all of the Ocean View Suites have that layout).
Above is a photo of the deck, which has its own table and four chairs, lounger, and is spacious enough to accommodate 5 adults.
If you want more space to entertain or spread out, Laguna Riviera has a large courtyard in the center of the property with grills and tables that can be used only by hotel guests.
Other amenities at Laguna Riviera Beach Resort include high-speed internet access, fire places, private gated beach access, free continental breakfast, and kitchen supplies (like pots and pans) that you can borrow.
The big one is common areas with stunning ocean views and radiant Catalina Island sunsets.
There’s also an indoor pool, but it’s adjacent to Pacific Coast Highway and totally unremarkable.
Not sure why anyone would bother with that given the ocean on the other side of the resort.
Overall, the Laguna Riviera Beach Resort is not going to be for everyone, but then again, nothing is. We view this as an ideal hotel for families on a budget who are visiting Laguna Beach primarily for the beach, want to be able to prepare their own meals, an authentic experience, and/or some combination of the above.
We love Laguna Riviera. It’s obviously not a posh resort, but the hotel emphasizes the ocean, has a great location, and offers great views of Laguna Beach without breaking the bank. You’ll easily spend triple (or much more) this amount for a comparable view at one of the nearby luxury hotels…and still won’t have as large or nice of a balcony as the private deck offered by the Ocean View Suites at Laguna Riviera.
For more tips, info, and advice, please consult our Laguna Beach, California Planning Guide. If you’re visiting other spots during your California vacation, check out our California category of posts for other things to do. If you enjoyed this post, help spread the word by sharing it via social media. Thanks for reading!
Have you stayed at the Laguna Riviera Beach Resort? What did you think of the hotel? Any other accommodations at which you’ve stayed in Laguna Beach? Have another go-to? If you’re yet to visit Southern California, does this hotel interest you? Any questions? Hearing from readers is half the fun, so please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!