By STEVE MACNAULL on December 24, 2021.
Somewhere between Emerald Bay and Seal Rock we achieve ocean-kayaking nirvana.
The sun is burning off the morning marine mist and we’re slicing through the smooth Pacific, at one with nature, counting ourselves lucky to be in this surreal Southern California setting.
My son, Alex, and I are on La Vida Laguna’s two-hour Ocean Kayak Eco Tour just off the coast of Laguna Beach.
As such, guide Doug Oygen’s chatter is about the environment, how the sea kelp beneath us is a keystone species that provides nourishment and habitat for myriad sea life and we’re likely to spot sea lions, seals and dolphins.
However, Alex’s and I’s gaze is squarely on the eye-candy that is the ocean, cove after cove of beaches and all those waterfront and cliff top mansions.
Laguna Beach is a quintessential SoCal beach town, taken up a notch, with some of the swankiest and priciest oceanfront real estate on the West Coast.
But we do avert our eyes for the sea lion and seal appearances and witness a pod of dolphins before coming ashore at Diver’s Cove.
Post-kayak we reward ourselves with brunch, and more spectacular views, at cliff top Mexican restaurant Las Brisas.
Alex and I make the most of our three days in Orange County, which those in the know call The OC and uses the tagline ‘forever summer.’
After all, The OC is the swath south of Los Angeles, famous for amusement parks (read: Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm) and classic beach towns.
Since The OC is a tourist destination and business hub in its own right, Air Canada has started to fly between Vancouver and John Wayne Airport (Orange County) in Santa Ana four times weekly with the new, quiet and comfortable Airbus A220 jet.
Yes, the airport is named after John Wayne, the famous Western actor from the golden age of Hollywood, who called Orange Country home.
Since we wanted our home base for the long weekend to be iconically SoCal in Laguna Beach, I searched Booking.com for a boutique hotel right on the Pacific.
Booking.com’s search engine perfectly matched us with the 45-room Capri Laguna on the Beach, a Mediterranean-style, whitewashed hotel built up the cliff at Mountain Road Beach.
It’s located on the southern stretch of Laguna Beach’s downtown in the HIP (historic and interesting places) District full of other resorts, shops, restaurants and art galleries (Laguna Beach started as an artist colony in the 1920s).
As such, it was handy for happy-hour drinks at The Rooftop Lounge and dinner at Comedor in the nearby La Casa del Camino Hotel and dinner at fine-dining Splashes at the Surf & Sand Resort.
Man, especially Canadian man, cannot live by beach alone.
So, we ventured to nearby Anaheim one day to experience the other attractions Orange Country is famous for – theme parks and hockey.
We hit up Knott’s Berry Farm for a roller coaster jag on such aggressive thrill rides as HangTime, Sidewinder, Silver Bullet, Montezuma’s Revenge and GhostRider, the tallest, fastest and longest wooden roller coaster on the West Coast.
And then it’s dinner at Roxy’z, a before-and-after-game favourite of Anaheim Ducks fans, before taking in the end-to-end action of the Ducks-Calgary Flames game at the Honda Centre.
By the way, the Flames win 4-3 on a slick shootout goal by Matt Tkachuk.
All in all, a superb way to wrap up a SoCal long weekend in The OC: Forever Summer.
Check out VisitLagunaBeach.com, VisitAnaheim.com, AirCanada.ca and Booking.com.