Beach hopping in L.A.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Navigating L.A.'s South Bay beach scene

“What can I get for you?” My face, wide-eyed in excitement, scanned the curved glass display, eyes widening with each treat I scanned over. “Sir, can I help you?” Chocolate-covered marshmallow pops, cake pops, chocolate-covered frozen bananas, and Nutella ice cream lined the case. I was a kid in a candy shop, or rather, a kid in an ice cream shop. “Sir, excuse me, but customers are waiting behind you if you’d like to order something,” the sweet young teenager patiently asked, this time getting my attention, since I had previously been in something of a dessert daze, as drool was likely running down my chin. “Why yes, thank you, I’ll take the vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between homemade chocolate chip cookies and dipped in milk chocolate.” It was a mouthful, literally and figuratively, but by the time I had finished it, sitting atop the Manhattan Beach Pier, there was nothing left, except for the drops of melted ice cream that hadn’t quite made it onto my mouth, but rather onto my seersucker shorts. 

My stop into Manhattan Beach Creamery was my first of several stops on a beach-themed weekend in Los Angeles, California. However, there wouldn’t be any stops in Malibu, Santa Monica, or Venice Beach, where many travelers likely find themselves on a beach trip to L.A., but rather some of the beaches that are further south, and actually more convenient to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). My trip would begin in Manhattan Beach, just south of LAX five miles, before continuing on to Hermosa and Redondo beaches, located directly south from Manhattan Beach.

Manhattan Beach

At times, Manhattan Beach has the feel of a charming east coast beach town, where boutique shops and open-air restaurants dot the boulevards, while beautiful homes and a walking and bicycling path line the waterfront. However, with its proximity to LAX and the likes of Venice Beach and Santa Monica, it doesn’t exactly qualify as offbeat, since you’ll find the streets and beaches lined with tourists and families getting their California dreaming fix. The beach itself is something of a mashup of iconic California things to do, including surfing, a string of beach volleyball courts, a fishing pier, and The Strand, which is a paved path that connects L.A.’s beaches. Families can appreciate more of a casual ambiance once the sun goes down, as compared to some of the more popular beaches, like Santa Monica or Venice Beach.

Hermosa Beach

Viewfinder Tip: No bigger than Hermosa is, leave the car keys behind for a night of painting the town by foot.

As I walked down the streets of Hermosa Beach, I donned my vintage Cali t-shirt with pride, tempted to throw up the shaka sign or bump some fists, but refraining in fear that I’d get ID’d or that my southern drawl would give me away. Hermosa Beach starts to have more of that local feel that you’d want from a California beach, but often have to escape the city limits to find. Surfer or not, hit up the Hermosa Beach Pier, where you’ll find the Surfer’s Walk of Fame. Unlike Manhattan Beach, Hermosa livens up once the sun goes down and unlike most of L.A., a car isn’t required for a night of bar hopping. Hermosa has a little bit of everything from numerous dive bars, such as Barnacles, to live entertainment at Comedy & Magic Club.

Redondo Beach

Redondo is the third and last of the South Bay’s beach cities and the farthest south you can go on Highway 1 before it cuts back inland. The Redondo Pier, often referred to as the “Endless Pier,” since it’s the largest endless pier in California, is much more of an attraction than the piers in Hermosa and Manhattan Beach, home to over 50 dining, shopping, and entertainment establishments. Unique to Redondo Beach are the whale watching excursions that leave out of here. The Voyager departs from the Redondo Beach Marina, from April to December, for three-hour excursions in search of gray whales. They also do daily scenic nature tours during the summer months. The combination of this coupled with the pier makes Redondo Beach ideal for families. 

What’s the first thing you do when arriving at the beach?

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Spencer Spellman

Spencer Spellman served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Expedia Viewfinder blog until October 2014. Flying for the first time at age five and by himself for the first time at age seven, he's never been able to kick the travel habit. Getting his start in the travel industry a few years ago as a writer and editor for a travel guide publisher, the last three years has seen Spencer out on his own, gallivanting around the world and sharing his experiences for outlets that have included the National Geographic Intelligent Travel blog, 7x7 Magazine, Drink Me Magazine, AOL Travel, and Travel + Escape, just to name a few.

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