Laguna Beach is one of the coolest places to shoot engagement photos in all of Southern California. Although there are numerous great beaches and parks, I’ve narrowed down a solid list of the 7 best Laguna Beach engagement photo locations. Located in Orange County, with over 9 miles of coastline and 36 beaches, it was tough to break down the absolute best of the best. I’ve spent a great deal of time location scouting this area over the years and wanted to come up with a helpful and subjective breakdown. With thoughtful consideration I used the following criteria below to make my selections and ranking.
Laguna Beach Location Ranking Criteria:
1. Sheer Beauty
2. Variety of Backdrops
Included below is detailed information and images for each of the top 7 locations. Be sure to read through the FAQ that follows, for recommendations, and helpful information about planning an engagement session in Laguna Beach. Also included is a Google map with directions to each location and an aerial overview that showcases the unique topography of Laguna Beach.
This list of the top 7 locations for engagement photos in Laguna Beach can also double as a list for 7 excellent places for a marriage proposal. Choosing the less popular locations below would make for a more intimate and romantic proposal. If you want to create a spectacle, and wow your partner in front of a crowd, you can add Main Beach to the list below as well.
Without further ado, here are the 7 Best Laguna Beach engagement photo locations:
#1. Crescent Bay Beach
Crescent Bay is the most iconic and picturesque Laguna Beach location. What makes it top this list is also having a nice combination of easy access and much less people traffic. Crescent Bay is most known for its giant palm tree grove that sits high upon the peninsula at Twin Points. It makes for an absolutely gorgeous photo backdrop. Crescent Bay Beach is great for both wide & telephoto shots.
Other great features include Seal Rock, tide pools, and its long sandy beach that is great for adventurous couples that are willing to wade out into the water. There is a rock in the middle of the beach that is great for creating silhouette shots too. And if you’re feeling nimble and brave there are some absolutely fantastic shots waiting for you as you safely navigate the south end of the beach near the peninsula.
The best access points to Crescent Bay Beach come on Circle Way and Barranca Street. Neighborhood parking can be tight so your best bet will likely be parking (metered) along the Pacific Coast Highway and walking down to the beach from there.
Bathrooms are located at the bottom of the public stairway and are very nice.
Side Note: You can also get great shots from above the beach at Crescent Bay Point Park. There’s a fun little park up there as well but you cannot access the beach from here.
#2. Victoria Beach
More off the beaten path, Victoria Beach wins the award for the most awe-inspiring location with its truly unique Pirate Tower along the rugged cliffside. It is a landscape photographers dream location. The ocean can get a little more intense here which can make shooting a bit difficult at times. People traffic is usually much less here but there is not as much space to move around as some of the other locations on this list. Make sure everyone who comes along on this photo session has good balance and is okay with navigating the rocky shoreline and making quick adjustments as needed.
There is also a large sandy beach here for walking along the shore but the real drama lies in the area surrounding the Pirate Tower.
You’ll also want to utilize the cool green sea moss covered rocks and the long stairway that opens up to the beach. The opening there makes an excellent silhouette shot near sunset.
Victoria Beach and the Pirate Tower are accessible via both Victoria Drive and Wards Terrace.
#3. Shaw’s Cove
Just south of our #1 location on this best of list is Shaw’s Cove. Sitting right around the bend from Twin Points, it’s a great sandy beach with nice rocky boundaries at each end. The north end of Shaw’s Cove is my favorite for shooting engagement photos. The unique rock formations, hanging vegetation, and all the little nooks and crannies allow for a diverse range of images. Be extra aware of the tide here because when the water is high the beach and rocky areas can be completely submerged.
Depending upon the ocean’s tide, you can access Crescent Beach from here as well, by hiking north around the peninsula. There are some great photo ops along those rocks on your way from Crescent Bay to Shaw’s Cove as seen in the photo above.
Sheer beauty combined with low people traffic and access to other beaches are some fantastic qualities of Shaw’s Cove. You can get your more traditional engagement photos on the beach here and then turn the other direction and create otherworldly scenes depending upon your taste and style. There is something here for everyone, with a lot of room for creativity, at this awesome Laguna Beach spot.
Shaw’s Cove is accessible on its north end via Cliff Drive. There is neighborhood parking but take care not to block off the driveways of local residents. There is available metered parking on the Pacific Coast Highway if no closer spots are available.
#4. Heisler Park
Heisler Park is an amazing spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The park is beautifully landscaped with super unique signs and public art installations. The park has a meditative vibe with playful signs bearing messages like “breathe” and “infinite clearance” and “attention: take note of what it feels like to be alive right now” setting the peaceful tone. You’ll also find large grassy areas, stone-lined walkways, Bird of Paradise flowers, Aloe blooms, Palm Trees, a cool gazebo, and other neat vegetation. Even the bathrooms here look cool from the outside.
You can access Diver’s Cove, Picnic Beach, Monument Point Beach, and Rockpile Beach from Heisler Park too, which makes it a great starting point for any photoshoot.
You can access Heisler Park from Cliff Drive. There is both metered and regular street parking nearby.
#5. Picnic Beach
Picnic Beach sits just below Heisler Park, which makes it a perfect spot to get a great variety of images. Because the two are so close to each other you can quickly shoot photos on the cliffs at Heisler Park and then make your way down to Picnic Beach efficiently. There are some great natural rock boundaries and rugged cliffs at Picnic Cove. The coolest feature is the Palm Trees that jet out from the cliffside above. There’s also some great rock formations and tide pools on this 700 foot long beach. To the south you get great views of the Laguna hills that sit above Main Beach off in the distance. Using the cliff face, with its sprawling vegetation, makes a great backdrop for your engagement photos. Another great feature, if you are feeling adventurous, is the large rocks just off the shore. They are not too difficult to climb and photos with couples sitting high upon the large rocks look really cool.
Picnic Beach is accessible via Cliff Drive and Heisler Park. Parking is both metered and standard.
#6. Treasure Island Beach
Treasure Island Beach is similar to the Heisler Park/Picnic Beach in that there is a beautiful park above and really unique beaches and coves below. Sitting at the foot of the famous Montage Resort, the area above the beach is landscaped immaculately with many public art installations sprinkled throughout. Down near the water there are some great rock formations and small coves that give a variety of awesome looks.
From Treasure Island Beach you can hike the rocks around the point and encounter a natural arch, Middle Man Cove and Goff Cove, making the photo possibilities even more varied in this area. If you head to the south it will turn into our #7 spot below, Aliso Beach.
Treasure Island Beach can be accessed from the southwest side of the Montage Resort via a long concrete ramp that is handicap accessible. There is a parking garage on the west side of Wesley Drive.
#7. Aliso Beach
Aliso Beach rounds out the top 7 list here. It doesn’t have the same dramatic natural backdrops as the beaches above but it is a fantastic and really long stretch of beach. You can encounter some really cool architecture from some of the homes on the beach too. You’ll also find a neat stone bridge where Aliso Creek flows into the ocean. I love this beach for the wide open, bright, and ethereal feeling to the images you can create here looking out towards the Pacific Ocean. Another great feature is getting images of large waves crashing directly on the beach in the background of photos, as the surf can get wild here at times.
Aliso Beach can be accessed via a large parking area right off of the Pacific Coast Highway and offers lots of convenient amenities.
Bonus Location Info: Honorable mentions that just missed the top 7 above, to round out a top 10 engagement session location list:
#8. Wood’s Cove with its unique rock formations, small caves, and hanging cliffside flowers.
#9. Table Rock Beach with its wide variety of rock formations and high cliffs.
#10. Pearl Street Beach with its cool keyhole arch.
Great Non-Beach Locations: If you are looking to get away from the beach, the following 5 locations offer wonderful beauty for your engagement session in Laguna:
- Top of the World which sits high above Laguna offers sweeping views of the area.
- Crystal Cove State Park
- Willow Staging Area
- Laguna Canyon
- Walking along the Pacific Coast Highway amongst the cool art galleries, colorful shops, and boutique hotels.
Fun & Unique Engagement Session Idea: When you need to grab a quick bite to eat, choose a place that can also serve as a super cool or quirky photo location as well. There are so many neat little cafes, restaurants, shops, etc, in this artsy beach town. For example, check out The Stand Natural Foods in Laguna Beach on Thalia Street. Super tasty plant-based grinds and some serious character. They always park their epic red VW Bus outside too. You can thank me for this one later.
Use the helpful FAQ below for great recommendations and other important things to know when planning your engagement session in Laguna Beach.
Laguna Beach Engagement Session FAQ:
Do you need a photography or film permit to shoot in Laguna Beach?
Yes. You must obtain a two-hour $100 photo permit from the city of Laguna Beach HERE.
When is the best time to shoot your engagement photos?
Shoot near sunrise for both absolutely gorgeous light and the chance to have the beach all to yourselves.
Weekdays will be much less busy than weekends. Fall, winter, and spring will also give you much less crowds than the busy summer season.
More specifically, and ideally, I’d recommend shooting your engagement session at multiple times throughout the day. Start with a sunrise session immediately followed by some beach action while the light is still soft and low in the sky. Switch to a new location for the golden hour and shoot just beyond sunset when the light is at its most magical. Not everyone has the budget for this lengthy of a session so if you had to pick just one time slot sunrise will typically get you the best results. Now, if you or your photographer are not morning people this can be an easy problem to solve. Sunset is equally as beautiful. The only downside is that your chance to have the beach to yourself during sunset is quite rare comparatively. It’s nothing a good photographer can’t work around though. And luckily, in Laguna Beach, there is beauty every which way you turn.
If you are traveling to Laguna Beach like many of my Minnesota clients it’s always a good idea to have a backup shoot date ready. You’re better safe than sorry when dealing with the added variables of travel.
What should I bring?
Don’t bring too much stuff. Do make sure to bring separate shoes for getting around comfortably and safely. To get the most unique shots you will definitely want to adventure a little.
Having a good friend or family member come along can be great too, as long as you are comfortable taking photos in front of them. If you’re bringing multiple outfits, dogs, or props, it can be helpful to have someone keep track of, and carry your things so you can stay in the moment with your photographer.
How many outfits?
Ultimately this is up to you but I’d recommend limiting your outfits to no more than 3 changes. 1-2 would be ideal as you’ll be navigating some rocky beach areas and you’ll have to carry everything around with you.
Can I bring my dog or pets?
Yes. Laguna Beach is mostly all dog-friendly. There’s only a couple places that don’t allow dogs. You can find those finer details HERE.
How do I check the conditions of the ocean and localized weather reports?
Also recommended are the Accuweather and Tides Near Me apps for both iPhone & Android.
Is there free parking or metered parking?
Arrive early as parking can be very limited and you may need to walk further than you expected. You will find some free parking but plan on mostly metered parking spots.
Do all the beaches have a public access?
All the beaches on the list here have public access. However, other beaches like Irvine Cove, Emerald Bay, and Three Arch Bay are private access only from land.
Do all the beaches have public restrooms and are they handicap accessible?
Not all the beaches on this list have public restrooms, nor are they handicap accessible. Check the Laguna Beach city website for the most up-to-date detailed information, or reference the screenshot of their provided PDF below for quick access to the helpful table.
Google Map & Aerial View of the 7 best Laguna Beach engagement photo locations:
Note to photographers and their couples:
There’s been an explosion of photographers and Instagrammers pushing the limits of many pristine and beautiful locations like Laguna Beach. It’s understandable being so excited to create amongst all the natural beauty, and tempting to want to bend some rules during these exciting times of being newly engaged. Please do your best to tread lightly on these gorgeous natural areas and leave no trace. Leave nothing but footprints in fact. Much appreciation for helping preserve this wonderful area for future generations to come.
Thank you for reading my careful analysis of the 7 best Laguna Beach engagement photo locations. I hope this has been helpful and informative. Laguna Beach is a special place to me and hopefully I’ll get to see you there some day too.
Cheers, and all the best!
Jackson Tyler Eddy, of A Frame Forward Photography, is an awarding-winning Minneapolis wedding photographer who has been traveling to shoot at destinations worldwide for the last decade. California remains his home away from home and is one of his favorite places in the world. Feel free to reach out to Jackson directly to plan your own Laguna Beach engagement photo session or with any questions, thoughts, or ideas. Hop on over to his Blog for more things weddings & engagements.