WHERE TO STAY
Bay Shores Peninsula Hotel, 1800 W. Balboa Blvd., Newport Beach 92663; (949) 675-3463 or (800) 222-6675, http://www.thebestinn.com. About a block from the beach on Newport Bay. 25 rooms. No pool, but free parking, Wi-Fi, breakfast buffet, video rentals and use of beach equipment. Doubles from $170.
Shorebreak Hotel, 500 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach 92648; (714) 861-4470, http://www.shorebreakhotel.com. A block from the beach, 157 rooms and suites in a building that opened in 2009. Restaurant Zimzala is off the lobby, which is on the second floor. Depending on the room and season, doubles begin at $189.
Aliso Creek Inn, 31106 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach 92651; (949) 499-2271 or (800) 223-3309, http://www.alisocreekinn.com. Far from the beach, set in a canyon alongside a nine-hole golf course, this is the tightwad's place to stay in Laguna. Adult and kid pools and grill/snack bar, but no full-fledged restaurant since Canyon Lodge American Grill closed in early 2010. Sixty studios, one- and two-bedroom suites. Studios $99-$239 a night; larger units $149-$369.
Beachcomber Motel, 533 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente 92672; (949) 492-5457 or (888) 492-5457, http://www.beachcombermotel.com. Twelve studios and one-bedroom units, all with kitchens. Great site and outdoors atmosphere, tired rooms. Rates as low as $125 in the off-season, as high as $375 on summer weekends.
Casa Tropicana Inn, 610 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente 92672; (949) 492-1234 or (800) 492-1245, http://www.casatropicana.com. Across the street from the San Clemente pier. Eight rooms, $285-$375; more for the penthouse and Casa Bahama suite.
Blue Lantern Inn, 34343 Street of the Blue Lantern, Dana Point 92629; (949) 661-1304 or (800) 950-1236, http://www.bluelanterninn.com. A big bed-and-breakfast (29 rooms) with ocean views and a glass-walled elevator. Doubles from $200.
Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, 1 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Dana Point 92629; (949) 240-2000, http://www.ritzcarlton.com. Eighteen acres, 396 rooms. Doubles from $375 plus $35-a-day parking and $25-a-day resort fee.
Montage Laguna Beach, 30801 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach 92651; (949) 715-6000 or (866) 806-2163, http://www.montagelagunabeach.com. 250 rooms on about 15 acres. Doubles from $595, parking $30 a day, no resort fee.
La Casa del Camino, 1289 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach 92651; (949) 497-2446, http://www.casacamino.com. A longtime landmark (36 rooms, built in the 1920s) that had 10 rooms redone as stylish "surf suites" in 2010. Bistro downstairs and rooftop lounge above. Free Wi-Fi, parking and breakfast. No pool and no two-bed rooms but has rollaways and a few pullout couches. Doubles begin at $129; "surf" rooms $229. Dogs OK but incur a $35-a-night charge.
Pacific Edge Hotel, 647 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach 92651; (949) 494-8566, http://www.pacificedgehotel.com. A Midcentury oceanfront motor lodge of 129 rooms, now tuned up and boldly decorated. Doubles from $169.
Surf & Sand Resort, 1555 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach 92651; (877) 349-0352, http://www.surfandsandresort.com. 167 rooms. Rates from $375.
Inn at Laguna Beach, 211 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach 92651; (949) 497-2855, (800) 544-4479, http://www.innatlagunabeach.com. Just north of Main Beach (walk to the sand). Most of the 70 rooms have some ocean views. Rates from $179 plus $20 resort fee. Lots of beige and white.
Crystal Cove Beach Cottages, 35 Crystal Cove, Newport Coast 92657; (800) 444-7275 (reservations), http://www.reserveamerica.com or http://www.crystalcovebeachcottages.com. Twenty-one rental units in 13 cottages. Rates from $33 a night (for a room with no view) to $191 (full cottage with private deck) but are typically snapped up within minutes the day they become available. No TV, no phone, no Internet.
Newport Beach Hotel (formerly Newport Beachwalk Hotel), 2306 W. Oceanfront Blvd., Newport Beach 92663; (949) 673-7030 or (800) 571-8749, http://www.newportbeachwalkhotel.com. Contemporary and sophisticated yet plopped down on the semi-scruffy boardwalk. Fifteen rooms. Rates from $225. $18 parking. Free bikes and beach accessories to borrow.
WHERE TO EAT
La Sirena Grill, 347 Mermaid St., Laguna Beach 92651; (949) 497-8226, http://www.lasirenagrill.com. This four-location chain includes two restaurants in Laguna Beach. It is casual, emphasizing fresh and healthful ingredients and prices that top off at about $12.50. Lunch and dinner. Mermaid Street location offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, closes Sundays.
Raya, Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel Hotel, 1 Ritz-Carlton Drive, Dana Point 92629; (949) 240-2000, http://www.ritzcarlton.com/Lagunaraya. Pan-Latin coastal cuisine with an Asian twist and a seafood emphasis. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Dinner entrees, $20-$45.
True Food Kitchen, 451 Newport Center Drive, Fashion Island, Newport Beach 92660; (949) 644-2400, http://www.truefoodkitchen.com. New chain emphasizes fresh, healthful, global cuisine. Dinner entrees, $13-$25.
Fisherman's Restaurant & Bar, 611 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente 92672; (949) 498-6390, http://www.thefishermansrestaurant.com. Surf and turf on the pier, with plenty of patio seats, an oyster bar on one side, restaurant on the other. Dinner entrees about $17-$40; $9-$20 for smaller menu in oyster bar.
Ramos House Café, 31752 Los Rios St., San Juan Capistrano 92675; (949) 443-1342, http://www.ramoshouse.com. Patio seating. Lunch entrees, $13-$18; weekend brunch, $35 a person. Open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays. No reservations unless you have 12 people or more.
Madison Square & Garden Cafe, 320 N. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach 92651; (949) 494-0137, http://www.madisonsquare.com. Garden accessories, breakfasts and lunches up to $15.95, with a shady patio. Pet-friendly.
Beachcomber Cafe, 15 Crystal Cove, Newport Coast 92657; (949) 376-6900, http://www.thebeachcombercafe.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner entrees, $17.95-$36.95.
Jane's Corn Dogs, 106 McFadden Place, Newport Beach 92663; (949) 675-1770. One of two locations in town. Corn dogs, $2.69.
Wilma's Patio, 203 Marine Ave., Balboa Island, Newport Beach 92662; (949) 675-5542, http://www.wilmaspatio.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner entrees, $9.95-$24.95.
WHAT TO SEE
Ocean Institute, 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point 92629; (949) 496-2274, http://www.ocean-institute.org. Open to the public 10 a.m.-3 p.m. most Saturdays and Sundays. Admission: $6.50 for adults, $4.50 for children 3-12.
Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Drive, Newport Beach 92660; (949) 759-1122, http://www.ocma.net. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Admission: $12 for adults.
Laguna Art Museum, 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach 92651; (949) 494-8971, http://www.lagunaartmuseum.org. Admission: $12 for adults.
International Surfing Museum, 411 Olive Ave., Huntington Beach 92648; (714) 960-3483, http://www.surfingmuseum.org.
Zoomars Petting Zoo, 31791 Los Rios St., San Juan Capistrano 92675; (949) 331-6550, http://www.zoomars.com. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Adults $6; kids, $5.
TO LEARN MORE
Orange County Tourism Council, http://www.visittheoc.com.