California’s low desert, where both Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley are located, continues to enjoy a resurgence in popularity it hasn’t seen since the 1940s and ‘50s, when the area became the getaway destination for Hollywood’s elite. Today, the crowds drawn to Palm Springs are still of a glamorous, upscale nature, but there’s a new ‘it’ destination in the area drawing a hipster crowd away from the low desert and out to the high.

Three-and-a-half hours north of Los Angeles, the Happiest City in America — dubbed so by The Oprah Winfrey Show in January 2011 — is tucked away on California’s Central Coast, with sprawling Pacific coastline to the south and rolling green hills to the north. This eclectic town, with a population just under 50,000, is made up of a variation of folks, including long-time locals, families, retirees, young professionals and Cal Poly SLO and Cuesta college students.

In need of a vacation? Or how about just a mental break? While many might be quick to associate Laguna Beach with MTV’s reality (or was it scripted … ) show of the same name, in actual reality Laguna Beach is a shorefront California gem that’s sure to top any explorer’s short list.

It’s a town worthy of everything from a road-trip pitstop to a week-long getaway, and recently Darling had the opportunity to spend a few days south of LA discovering Laguna’s Surf & Sand Resort, one of the few hotels in the entire state that’s technically situated right on the beach. 

So, how to know if this place is for you?