When it comes to hitting the beaches of Los Angeles, many first-timers head straight to Santa Monica or Venice. But for those who want a more laid-back vibe, Manhattan Beach is the perfect coastal enclave.
Situated conveniently close to LAX in L.A.’s South Bay region, Manhattan Beach’s biggest draw is, of course, the beach. The sand and surf here are the real deal, and the scene can sometimes look straight out of an updated version of Baywatch. The ultra-smooth sand is perpetually dotted with volleyball nets and is home to the annual Manhattan Beach Open, the pro beach volleyball summer tournament. And, of course, it’s a hot spot for surfing. The International Surf Festival is also a big draw to MB (as the locals call it) every summer.
The Manhattan Beach Pier, where Manhattan Beach Boulevard meets the Pacific, offers a relaxing stroll with breathtaking views of L.A.’s most expensive beachside homes and the scenic Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south. Winners of past Manhattan Beach Opens are commemorated along the 928-foot pier, and the end houses the quaint, free Roundhouse Aquarium. Inside, there are viewing pools and touch tanks for close encounters with starfish and other invertebrates. Fun fact: Roundhouse was the location of the surf shop where Keanu Reeves’ character in Point Break bought his surfboard.
Along the beach is a nicely paved path known as The Strand, popular with cyclists, runners, and casual walkers taking in the idyllic scenery. Hermosa Beach is just a couple of miles south and makes for a good scenic route.
Further inland, Downtown Manhattan Beach is the bustling center of the city, loaded with high-end boutiques, retailers, hotels, bars, and many popular casual and fine-dining restaurants. The Strand House offers unparalleled ocean views along with its top-rated farm-to-table and specialty cocktail menus. M.B. Post has a Michelin-starred chef. There are also plenty of low-key spots like the open-air pub Simmzy’s, perfect for a quick bite after spending the day shopping or surfing. Among the many accommodations is Shade Manhattan Beach, a sustainability-minded luxury hotel with a rooftop pool that plants a tree for every guest who forgoes housekeeping during their stay.
Insider tips: Check the Downtown Manhattan Beach events calendar for upcoming farmers markets, live music, and events. If you’re visiting by car, you can look up parking lots in advance; there are also over 300 metered spots around the city.