If I asked you to name one beach in the LA area you’d probably reply, Santa Monica or Malibu. I bet you’ve never heard of Manhattan Beach or Hermosa and Redondo beaches. The three beach cities of southern Los Angeles County are easy day-trips from LA. They all have that envious mellow beach vibe that is the quintessential California of our day dreams.
The beaches are located in the southern end of Santa Monica Bay and stretch several miles to the northern side of the Palos Verde Peninsula. Leaving Santa Monica, you come across Manhattan Beach first followed in quick succession by Hermosa and Redondo.
Winter temperatures in the beach cities average about 55 degrees (12 Celsius) and 70 degrees (21 Celsius) in summer thanks to westerly winds that also help keep the smog away.
Along the eastern border of the beaches lies the Strand, a concrete bike path that starts in Redondo Beach and leads all the way to Will Rodgers State Beach north of Santa Monica.
Unfortunately, the Pacific Coast Highway cuts the beach cities into east and west neighbourhoods. The west-ends are all about the beach.
Manhattan Beach is 21 miles (34 km) south of LA on the Pacific Coast Highway and a world away from the carnival atmosphere of Santa Monica. Its clean, wide beach attracts visitors from around the world.
Along the Manhattan Beach Strand are multi-million-dollar homes that will make you want to run out and buy lottery tickets. Thirty-six thousand residents call this city home.
Manhattan Beach is most famous for beach volleyball and is home to the annual Manhattan Beach Volleyball Open held in July.
Manhattan Beach Pier is located at the end of Manhattan Beach Blvd. and juts out almost 1000 feet into the ocean and is home to the Roundhouse Aquarium.
Lights, camera, action
Manhattan Beach is home to the Manhattan Beach Studios, a film and TV production facility where America’s Funniest Home Videos was recorded and Marvel Movies like Iron Man 2 were filmed.
Things to do in Manhattan Beach
Beach volleyball, swimming, surfing, body-surfing, cycling, shopping, Roundhouse Aquarium.
Just 1.7 miles (3 km) south of Manhattan Beach lies Hermosa City Beach. Hermosa’s claim to fame is surfing. In January, when we were here, surfers in wet suits braved the waves while families tobogganed down a sand dune on surfboards. This unofficial beach sport brought a smile to my face as I had only ever seen people slide down snow-covered hills.
The city is the smallest of the three beach cities. It has a population of about 20,000 and spans 15 blocks from east to west and about 40 blocks from north to south. But within its border, you’ll find many bars and restaurants as well as shops.
The Hermosa Beach Pier is at the end of Pier Avenue, which is a hub of bars, restaurants and shops. At the start of the pier is the Surfer’s Walk of Fame. There’s a statue of a local surf hero and bronze plaques engraved with the names of surfing luminaries.
The restaurant and bar scene seems more alive here than in Manhattan beach.
Things to do in Hermosa Beach
Surfing, swimming, paddle boarding, fishing off the pier, beach volleyball, cycling, shopping, dining and partying.
Just one-and-half miles south of Hermosa, Redondo has triple the population of Hermosa and a Mediterranean vibe that is unique among the three beach cities. Palm trees line the Strand and a concrete wall protects the promenade, much like the towns that line the Italian Riviera. Million-dollar homes line the east side of the Strand and the beachfront is quieter than Hermosa’s.
The wide and flat beach is ideal for playing volleyball and permanent nets are maintained by the city year-round just like on the other two beaches.
Things to do in Redondo Beach
The Redondo Beach Pier also juts 1000 feet out into the Pacific Ocean, but unlike Manhattan’s pier, on Redondo’s, you can shop, dine and enjoy amusement games.
Other typical activities include surfing, swimming, beach volleyball, fishing, shopping and dining.
All in a day
We visited the three beach cities in a single afternoon. I wish we had a full day. That’s what you need to experience the laid-back California beach lifestyle far from the maddening crowd.