Laguna Beach Spotlight – Beyond the Tourism and Cliches

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Here’s a fairly common description of Laguna Beach in coastal Orange County, CA:

Laguna Beach is Southern California’s premier coastal destination, nestled between seven miles of hidden coves and majestic canyons. A year-round retreat for art lovers, outdoor adventurers, beachgoers, families and romantics, we know you’ll enjoy all we have to offer.”

Laguna Beach has a renowned artist colony, which is said to be “one of Orange County’s hidden gems.” It’s a coastal town with “seven miles of coves and beaches where visitors can explore sea caves, tide pools, ocean side bluffs, natural tide pools and of course, sandy beaches, all within city limits.” It also has “the most beachfront lodging options in all of California.”

“Beyond the beach, the city is home to more than 20,000 beautiful acres of protected wilderness, making it an optimal location for adventurous exploration. From world-renowned mountain biking trails for all levels of expertise, hundreds of miles of hiking, dramatic vistas, verdant hills and marine sanctuaries, there’s no limit of new places to discover.”

And, of course, it was the subject of the eponymous MTV reality show Laguna Beach.

All that definitely sounds great and makes Laguna Beach seem a wonderful place to visit. But what is it like to live there?

Laguna Beach at a Glance

Living in Laguna Beach

Located approximately halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, Laguna Beach has a population of just about 23,000. It is considered “one of the best places to live in California” and “offers residents a sparse suburban feel.” Restaurants, coffee shops, and parks abound.

A large portion of the residents are conservative-leaning retirees, and most residents own their own homes. In addition, Laguna Beach’s public schools are highly rated.

The Appeal

“T]he appeal of Laguna Beach is that it feels like an escape . . . The private beach coves, lush hillsides, oceanfront parks, and coastline hiking trails make you feel like you are getting away – even if you’ve lived here for decades. In addition to myriad outdoor activities . . . you can also expect summer art festivals, great restaurants, cafes, art galleries, and boutiques. The people . . . appreciate culture and have a great sense of community, and there is a real underlying artsy vibe throughout.

Here’s how one resident describes it: “It’s a special place . . . And everyone who lives here appreciates the beauty that surrounds us. It also doesn’t hurt that the average temperature is 72 degrees!”

Housing Costs

Of course, because the town sits along a stretch of gorgeous coastline, home prices are high, being driven by proximity to the beach and the breathtaking ocean views. Add to that walkability of the community, and it’s easy to understand why prices are what they are.

“On the lower end, you can find a small cottage or ocean-view condo for $700,000 to just under a million . . . [H]omes further up in the hills tend to run upwards of $2 million, while oceanfront estates can go for over $50 million. Depending on the neighborhood you settle on, prices can vary drastically.”

But the median home value, according to Niche, is $1,771,600.


Laguna Beach is often described as “a town that’s basically one big community made up of small neighborhoods that pan out from the downtown area.” Each neighborhood is unique, and “they can feel like private communities with their own characteristics.” So let’s take a look at a few of those neighborhoods . . .

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  • Three Arch Bay – Located in South Laguna, this is an affluent neighborhood, being a 29-acre gated community. “Three Arch Bay has a mix of homes either with ocean views or smack right on the oceanfront. It’s one of the older communities in town and houses here don’t come on the market often because once people move in they tend to stay put.”
  • Emerald Bay – Situated in North Laguna, “Emerald Bay is another very sought-after gated community neighborhood. It’s also one of the most expensive areas in Laguna Beach with median prices hovering just below $7 million.” Home styles range from cottage style to sprawling estates.
  • Temple Hills – “Laguna contains several hillsides which are dotted with architectural marvels and cliff-hangers built into the bluffs that rise up from the downtown area.” This is what you’ll find in Temple Hills – “homes . . . nestled along the streets that wind up to the Top of the World, . . . a hilltop park with stunning 2.4-mile-high views over the Laguna coastline out to Catalina Island.”
  • The Village – Living in The Village, one of the more walkable areas, puts you close to the action. “This area includes the bustle of downtown and its shops, cafes, boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. Homes here are pretty varied in terms of style and offer a decent entry point for anyone looking to get a slice of the Laguna lifestyle without shelling out many millions.”
  • Tree Streets – +Located in North Laguna, the Tree Streets neighborhood is known for – you guessed it – its high number of trees. . . . [T]his area expands east from Ocean Front Heisler Park, fanning out until it hits High Drive. The streets are lined with their namesake trees: Holly, Jasmine, Myrtle, Aster, et cetera . . . The lots here tend to be deep and the impressive traditional houses or large cottage homes are surrounded by lovely gardens.”


Public schools in Laguna Beach are highly rated (although there are differences). For example, “El Morro Elementary School and Top of the World Elementary School both rank in the Top 100 elementary schools in California, while Thurston Middle School ranks in the state’s top 50 for middle schools.”

Benefits of Living in Laguna Beach

Although housing prices are high in Laguna Beach, there are benefits that more than offset that . . .

Personality and Architectural Options

Laguna Beach is somewhat pleasantly eccentric with a laid-back casual feel. This is, of course, what you’d expect in a vibrant art community.

In addition, you have a wide variety of home options owing to the varied architecture. The choices range from cozy (and often historic) beach cottages to modern luxury homes.


Laguna Beach has, especially at the neighborhood level, a definite sense of community. The many community organizations are evidence of this, organizations like the Laguna Canyon Foundation.

Natural Beauty

It is said that Laguna Beach offers stunning views you can’t find anywhere else. The beaches, the varied landscape, the surrounding hills and greenspace – these all conspire to offer residents unparalleled opportunities to enjoy nature.

Small-town Living

Southern California is, of course, home to some of the largest and fastest-growing cities in the country, but you can still enjoy the feel of small-town living in Laguna Beach. It has a population of only 23,000 and is comfortably tucked away from the hustle and bustle of big-city life, but still close enough to meet your needs.

Laguna Beach Property Taxes

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As should be plain by now, housing is far from cheap. But it gets far more affordable when you factor in property taxes.

In Orange County overall the average effective property tax rate is “0.69%, while the median annual property tax bill is $4,499” – below both the state and the national average.

Here are some averages for a home with an assessed value of $250,000 . . .

  • Nationwide Average – 1.070% of assessed home value, $2,675
  • California – 0.730% of assessed home value, $1,825
  • Orange County – 0.690% of assessed home value, $1,725

Here’s what we find for Laguna Beach with respect to median home value, median annual property tax payment, and average effective property tax rate:

  • Median home value – $1,700,400
  • Median annual property tax – $7,880
  • Average effective property tax rate – 0.46%

Not too bad, especially with respect to effective property tax rate, which is lower than that for Orange County and the state.

A Great Place to Live

So, yes, all things taken together, Laguna Beach is a great place to live. And even though a home may cost you, the benefits of living there and the low property tax rate make it worth it.

To discover more, contact an agent who specializes in coastal Orange County properties.