I spent a few days in Southern California mid-June and had the best time. As a native Californian, (I grew up in the Bay Area) the lack of time I’ve spent down south amazes me. It’s almost like an entirely separate state. While San Francisco will always have my heart, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the Los Angeles area as well.
This trip started out in San Clemente where I had a couple of meetings to attend for work. This beach town is full of adorable shops and restaurants, plus beautiful beachfront.
120 Avenida Pico
I highly recommend Ellie’s Table for breakfast. This fabulous cafe is located right next to an event space called the Casino where we had our meetings, so I went two mornings in a row for their heavenly Honey Vanilla Latte. The most difficult thing about your time spent at Ellie’s Table will be choosing from the never ending pastry selection. They have everything from scones and cookies to croissants and macarons – and they all look so good!
South of Nick’s
110 N El Camino Real
Another great spot I tried was South of Nick’s. This Mexican restaurant not only has an extensive list of delicious meal choices, but also has a killer margarita menu. Be sure to save some room for their famous Butter Cake.
Barre3 San Clemente
#C240, 638 Camino De Los Mares
After our meetings commenced, the talented and ever so sweet Amuse Society designer, Mandy, put together a group barre class at the studio she attends to treat the Amuse team. I’d never done barre previously and I was in for a surprise. The class completely kicked my ass. It was painful to walk for the next two days but it burned so good! What a fabulous workout!
Following San Clemente, I got to meet up with an old friend from the University of Hawaii, Michelle. We hadn’t seen each other in almost four years and it was so fun to reconnect and catch up! She’s an LA native so she put together an unreal itinerary including a couple awesome happy hours, a winery, and a few beaches.
1289 S Coast Hwy
Our first stop was the Rooftop Lounge in Laguna Beach. This bar offers excellent ocean views and the happy hour includes half off mojitos! I tried the mixed berry mojito and the strawberry mojito – both were super yummy and strong.
619 Sleepy Hollow Ln
For brunch the next day, we went to Driftwood Kitchen, also in Laguna Beach. We got a super late start (thanks, jetlag) so we actually ended up just having lunch but it did not disappoint. It was also here that I discovered my new all-time favorite cocktail, the Old Blue Chair, which is banana rum, lemon sour, muddled strawberries, and basil.
1000 Steps Beach
Instead of going to the crowded Main Beach after lunch, we opted to get in a workout and trek to Thousand Steps Beach (probably not smart considering how intense barre class was the previous day – ouch!) Well worth the seemingly endless stairs, though, this beach is beautiful!
That night we drove to Long Beach to meet up with Michelle’s friend, Gwen, and explore the nightlife there. My favorite bar was Panama Joes, thanks to the extremely strong jello shots served in syringes. The whole nightlife bar scene in Long Beach actually reminded me a lot of being in downtown Madison – lively, crowded, and a wide variety of different bars to choose from.
The following morning, we packed up our bags, drank water for our headaches, and drove to Malibu for the day.
23000 Pacific Coast Hwy
First stop was Malibu Farm. This locally sourced organic café is located at the end of Malibu Pier. The menu is full of fresh juices, omelets, salads, and sangria. Everything is as good as you might expect. I got the Swedish Mini Pancakes because my sweet tooth made me, but balanced it out with some green juice, (apple-kale) which actually just tasted like apple juice, it was that good.
Afterwards, we took about 1,000 photos on the deck, poked around in the cute souvenir store across the way, and then stopped into Nobu down the road. No Drake sightings, unfortunately.
31740 Mulholland Hwy
Then we drove up into the hills and went to Malibu Wines, the most fun-filled winery ever. This place is like Chuck-E-Cheese for wine-loving adults. It’s just a big lawn with a bunch of tables and spots for people to lie out picnic blankets, complete with several wine counters where customers can either buy wine by the bottle or try wine flights. They also boast live music and so many stylish people that I felt like I had entered into a parallel pinterest universe. BYO-food is encouraged so we brought a week’s supply of cheese, crackers, and strawberries and indulged in an afternoon of snacks and wine.
It was bittersweet heading home to Hawaii but it just makes me that much more excited for my next SoCal trip. Thanks for being the hostess with the mostest, Michelle!
Side note: if a sweet Vietnamese woman ever offers to make you homemade pho, you say yes please. Oh my god, I have never had such delicious pho in my life, made by Michelle’s boyfriend’s mother. I will forever dream about it.
Amuse Society blue floral romper.
**Ellie’s Table and South of Nick’s photos borrowed from their respective Facebook pages.