Manhattan Beach Pier

Summer Getaway: L.A. Beach Cities

A plane hop and a cab ride away

BYBob Cooper
Beach Boys songs and countless movies and TV shows have made the Los Angeles beach scene part of the American story. But which L.A. beach cities are best to visit? Some, like Malibu, are expensive and can seem pretentious. Others, like Long Beach and Venice, are overcrowded. The best, and arguably the most authentic, are the trio of towns conveniently found only a few miles south of LAX: Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Manhattan Beach.
 
Generations of inland L.A. County residents have flocked to these towns on weekends for the beaches, restaurants, and bars, but visitors from outside Southern California drive right past on their way to Disneyland. They’re missing out.
 
Fun at the Pier
Any story about the Beach Cities, as they’re known to locals, begins at King Harbor and adjacent Redondo Pier. Along the horseshoe-shaped pier you can find an open-air fish market, live-music venues, numerous restaurants, and a huge vintage-games arcade. Thursday and Saturday free summer concerts on the pier also are a hit.
 
From Redondo Pier, you can take all sorts of boat rides. Looking Glass Tours’ “semi-submarine” ride brings you eye-to-eye with sea lions from the deck and schools of garibaldis, perch, and señorita fish from the glass-bottom hull. You also can rent a kayak, pedal boat, or standup paddleboard in the harbor, or head out to sea aboard the Voyager, a 140-passenger boat that departs hourly in the summer and offers whale-watching excursions in the winter. A deep, fish-filled trench just outside the harbor ensures that from any boat you’ll see plenty of seabirds, harbor seals, sea lions, and perhaps dolphins.
 
Manhattan and Hermosa
The best Beach Cities getaway plan is to skip the rental car. That’s because you can walk everywhere from your Redondo Beach hotel — to the beach, the pier, and the restaurants — and visit Manhattan and Hermosa by bike. After a cab ride from nearby LAX to your Redondo hotel, you can be car-free.
 
Beach cruiser bikes are how locals get around along the beach. Rent one and spend a glorious day cruising The Strand — the flat, paved path that threads between the wide beach and the colorful beach houses that face it. The roundtrip from Redondo to the Hermosa and Manhattan piers is only 7 miles, but it can take all day because you’ll want to stop to watch beach volleyball games (countless nets spike the beach), admire surfers from the piers, or visit Redondo’s SEA Lab or Manhattan’s Roundhouse Aquarium. Both boast live sea creatures and hands-on exhibits for a modest $2 suggested donation per person.
 
The next day, you can do it again, because life is a beach.
BOB COOPER is a California-based writer who has run and biked many miles on L.A. Beach Cities’ beaches.
Volleyball at Hermosa Beach
Volleyball at Hermosa Beach
If You Go
When to visit: Average highs are in the 60s and 70s year round, so visit any time — ideally on weekdays when crowds and prices are reduced.
 
Redondo restaurants: Seafood is king at most of Redondo’s King Harbor restaurants. Tony’s on the Pier is a 1952 classic with a harbor view from every table and fishnets overhead (check out Top o’ Tony’s, the circular bar upstairs). A more sophisticated spot is Baleen Kitchen at the Portofino Hotel, where you’ll choose from a Mediterranean menu and extensive wine list at your window or patio table. 
 
Hermosa and Manhattan eats: Stop mid-bike-ride for lunch on The Strand at any of the dozens of restaurants clustered around the Hermosa or Manhattan Pier. Hennessey’s Tavern (Irish pub food at Hermosa Beach), The Strand House, and Rock’n Fish (seafood and creative cuisine at Manhattan Beach) offer the best beach views and good grub.
 
Learn More
Interested in booking a trip like this? Call your local AAA Travel agent toll-free at 1-888-870-9392 or visit AAA.com.
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