Belly Up

From the happiest hours to most happening hangouts, Laguna serves up some of the best spots by the Pacific.

By Jackie Adams

OceanView 1

OceanView Bar & Grill lives up to its name with a seaside setting.

Some combinations are simply irresistible—baseball and hot dogs, summer and barbecues, bacon and . . . just about anything. And then there’s an all-time favorite—beach bars and summer cocktails. There’s something that’s just so right about sipping on an ice-cold drink, heels kicked up, watching the waves crash around you while beautiful people flutter by.

Laguna has some top-notch spots to gather with friends and nosh far enough from the sand to avoid getting gritty, but close enough to still taste the salt in the breeze. On top of cliffs, through village boutiques, and right at the sand, this is your summer guide to all the best spots in Laguna to get your beach-side eat and drink on.

Mariachi Nights 

Las Brisas curls around the top of the cliff overlooking Main Beach, offering mouthwatering Mexican with a California twist and killer margaritas. Their signature drink is the Ultimate Margarita with Herradura Tequila, Patron Citronge and sweet and sour. They don’t have a happy hour, but they do have Wednesday night mariachi all summer long. (lasbrisaslagunabeach.com)

Vintage Appeal 

The landmark Hotel Laguna offers some of the best views in town. Past the hallway lined with historic photos and a guest book signed in the 1930s, you’ll find indoor and outdoor seating at OceanView in a beach-casual atmosphere. Waiters and waitresses don Hawaiian-print shirts, sunglasses and smiles while serving people under brightly colored umbrellas, but after 5:30 p.m., things get more refined with the sunset dinner menu, which offers upscale dining options like poached lobster tail and truffle mac and cheese. Feeling nostalgic? Ask for a Claesic Martini, made with Grey Goose La Poire, Cointreau, orange juice and star anise.  (ovbarandgrill.com)

Cliff Top Cocktails 

The Cliff combines dining and drinking with another great thing: shopping. Mosey through the studio shops of Laguna Village and find yourself face to face with a fabulous ocean view. This multilevel patio has happy hour Monday through Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m., with selected half-price appetizers and $2 off all alcoholic beverages. Try the signature Cliffhanger, made with mango rum, orange liquor and strawberry puree. (thecliffrestaurant.com)

Heated Passion

Sunset Sips 

The Rooftop Lounge at La Casa del Camino doesn’t have obvious signs pointing you in the right direction, but find the staircase and keep heading up. Like most great things in life, it’s worth the trek. The Rooftop boasts one of the best views in Laguna; on a clear day you can see Catalina Island. Imbibe in half-priced mojitos, beer and well drinks during happy hour, Monday through Friday from 3 to 5 p.m. When the sun sets and the temperature dips, the always considerate staff will bring a throw blanket for guests. (rooftoplagunabeach.com)

Unwind in Style 

The Surf & Sand Resort houses the rooftop 15FiftyFive cocktail lounge, perfect for relaxing in plush seating beside a fire pit while watching the sun disappear on the horizon. Throughout the summer, enjoy $9 cocktails on Thursdays and $9 craft beer flights on Fridays. Downstairs at Splashes Bar, where the waves crash just feet from your table, find a fresh raw bar Monday through Thursday for happy hour. (surfandsandresort.com)

Sandy Toes 

It doesn’t get any closer to the sand than The Deck on Laguna Beach at Pacific Edge Hotel, which is newly opened after a makeover. Watch the tides roll in and out as you sip cocktails and dine on a wide selection of tasty fresh fish, barbecue and small plates from the new menu. The expansive, open-air deck sits right above the sand for the ultimate beach bar experience. (deckonlaguna.com) LBM

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