Your Guide to Los Angeles Beaches 2011

los-angeles-beach-guideHitting the beach in Los Angeles this summer? We have your guide to the best Los Angeles beaches. Surfs up! 

The sun is sizzling, and the suit, shades and sandals are on—it’s time to hit the sand. But with more than 25 spectacular Los Angeles beaches from Malibu to Long Beach, each with a distinct vibe and unique set of attractions, L.A. County’s coastline offers enough options to freeze any beach-goer with indecision. Don’t let precious sunlight hours slip away—let us guide you through your perfect beach day, from picking the premier locale to plotting your coastal adventures.

by Suzanne Ennis; Photos by Ashok Sinha


Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carrillo was best known for playing Pancho, the Cisco Kid’s sidekick in the early 1950s television series, but he was also an influential preservationist and conservationist. Today his namesake park in northern Malibu offers two sections of beach, plus campgrounds, hiking trails and a small visitor center. If you shun crowds and seek unspoiled nature, this is the spot for you.

PARK The easiest access to hiking paths and the beach is from the $12 parking lot on the east side of Pacific Coast Highway. You can reach the beach from free parking along PCH, but this requires some scrambling.

DO Landlubbers can pack a lunch and explore the park’s miles of trails, many with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and, on a clear day, nearby islands. Experienced seafarers can partake in diving, wind surfing, kite surfing and plain ol’ surfing along the beach.

TRY Explore the rocky shoreline’s tide pools and coves for sea anemones, crabs and other creatures, and try to find the secret passage between the south and north beaches before the tide comes in. On weekdays, you and your main squeeze may even find a cove all for yourselves, perfect for a romantic picnic.

EAT South on PCH, brave the lines at Malibu Seafood and jostle for a picnic table in full view of the ocean. Watch the sunset while feasting on fresh fish tacos, white clam chowder, and locally made, organic Beachy Cream ice cream sandwiches. Duke’s Malibu and Gladstone’s are also popular.

Santa Monica State Beach

A mile and a half north of Santa Monica’s tourist-packed pier, a swanky private estate-turned-public facility offers visitors an exclusive beach-club feel without actually being exclusive. The Annenberg Community Beach House is our pick for budget-minded beach-goers looking for a taste of the storied Gold Coast life.

PARK Parking at the beach house is available for $4 per hour or $10 per day. The complex is also accessible on foot or bike from the beachfront bike path.

DO Between its historic Marion Davies Guest House, pristine restored pool, sand athletic courts, fitness center, cultural events, splash pad and oceanfront setting (whew!), the beach house will delight visitors of every age and inclination. The site is open to all, and activities are free or low-cost, with limited prepaid reservations available up to three days in advance for parking, pool passes and athletic courts.

TRY Beach tennis, anyone? Try your fancy footwork on a challenging surface. (Courts are free on a first-come, first-served basis or by reservation for $5.) The ball never hits the ground in this hot new doubles game, which looks like a volleyball, tennis and badminton mash-up. Equipment rentals are available on-site.

EAT Back on the Beach Café at the beach house is an unpretentious spot to grab a burger or Sunday brunch while digging your toes into the sand. For a bit more glamour, some chichi cocktails and an equally stunning ocean view, try Coast at Shutters on the Beach a few miles south.

Venice Beach

If Santa Monica offers a taste of old Hollywood glamour, Venice Beach is a big slice of the counterculture, with tattoo parlors, street vendors and muscle contests competing for attention along Ocean Front Walk. This popular stretch is also replete with amenities and opportunities to get moving along the bike path and boardwalk. If you like a little funky in your fun, and your wheels are usually the human-powered variety, you’ll fit right in in Venice.

PARK Pay $6 and up for all-day parking at the Rose Avenue and Ocean Front Walk lot, or seek scarce but free two-hour street parking.

DO Venice is people-watching central; stroll or roller-blade along Ocean Front Walk for an eyeful of buskers, weight lifters and other local color.

TRY Rent a StreetStrider (starting at $20 per hour), a fantastically fun and easy-to-ride elliptical machine/bike hybrid, from the StreetStrider L.A. Fitness & Demo Center. Fitness fanatics get a total-body, low-impact workout, and families will find it a fun group activity. (Kid-size StreetStriders and trailers are also available.) Count on lots of appreciative looks as you “stride” along the bike path.

EAT Refuel with an ahi burger and a cold brew at the Venice Ale House, conveniently located on Ocean Front Walk next to the StreetStrider center. For a more upscale experience (no beach duds allowed), Piccolo Ristorante is a fine Italian restaurant mere steps from the sand.


The South Bay city of Manhattan Beach is the quintessential beach town: charming, upscale boutiques and flip-flop-friendly restaurants line the oceanfront downtown, while surfers, volleyball players, body boarders and young families populate the sand and waves.

PARK Score five-hour metered parking at the base of Manhattan Beach Pier. You can also try the surfer-packed El Porto Beach lot accessible from 45th Street ($1.50 per hour, credit cards accepted).

DO Sand-castle sculpting, sunbathing, body surfing, beach volleyball: Name a beach activity, and you can do it here on one of the prettiest beaches in L.A. Off the sand, scoop up some handmade ice cream at Manhattan Beach Creamery, then stroll to the end of the pier to watch dolphins and visit the Roundhouse Marine Lab & Aquarium’s creature-filled touch tanks.

TRY Campsurf offers surfing camps near the pier and private lessons at El Porto, at the north end of Manhattan Beach. Call ahead for reservations. The school’s highly experienced instructors cater to singles and groups of all ages, meaning you can bond with family while catching sweet waves. Private lessons include boards and wet suits and range from $60 to $90 per person.

EAT In Manhattan Beach’s quieter north end, North End Caffe serves up the South Bay’s best espresso drinks and Kahlua Pig Monte Cristo egg rolls. Close to the pier, BrewCo offers a plethora of microbrews on tap and burgers.


Fun-loving fitness fanatics and nightlife seekers dig this South Bay town, where a pedestrian plaza surrounded by restaurants and bars spills onto a wide sandy beach with sand volleyball nets as far as the eye can see. If you’re looking for a pickup game, or a pickup scene, head to Hermosa.

PARK Nab a spot in the parking structure between Hermosa Avenue and 13th Street ($1.25 per hour, prepaid).

DO Volleyball is king in the South Bay. Rent a ball at Hermosa Cyclery and hit the beach early to start a pickup game, or watch supernaturally toned amateur and pro athletes compete in tournaments and workshops north and south of the pier. Hermosa Cyclery also rents a variety of bikes including cruisers and tandems as well as in-line and quad skates, so you can take advantage of the 22-mile-long beachfront bike path.

TRY Whether you’re perfecting your serve, or picking up a ball for the first time, you’ll benefit from a class with former AAA player and Master’s National Champion Dennis Collins of Beach Volley Training. On Wednesday evenings (6 pm to sunset) and Sunday mornings (9:30 to 11 am), stop by the courts in front of Scotty’s on the Strand to chat with Collins or one of his assistants about how you can get in on the action.

EAT Enjoy a pre-beach brunch by the sand at Scotty’s or Martha’s 22nd Street Grill. Then, as the sun sets, get a bird’s-eye view of the nightlife scene on Pier Plaza from the lively rooftop patio at Hennessey’s Tavern.


San Pedro’s Cabrillo Beach is actually two beaches: a flat-water beach inside the breakwater, and a beach with ocean surf outside. Are you eager to meet some marine creatures or try a windsurfing lesson? The inner beach is for you. Thrill seekers meet their match at the outer section, one of Southern California’s top windsurfing spots.

PARK The lot at Stephen White Drive is free for the first 20 minutes and then $1 per hour to a maximum of $9 per day.

DO The Frank Gehry-designed Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is a great first stop to learn about the local sea life before heading out to the north part of the beach at low tide to go tide pooling. Check the aquarium’s calendar to find out when you can witness the grunion runs, a famous spectacle during which thousands of the tiny silver fish come ashore to spawn under the full moon.

TRY Windsurfers from beginner to advanced can take a lesson at Cabrillo with Captain Kirk’s ($115 per person). The wind picks up as the day goes on, so beginners should plan to take a lesson on the harbor side before 2 pm. Call ahead to make your reservation, and stop by the shop on your way to the beach.

EAT Arrive early and with a packed cooler to claim one of the barbecue pits at Cabrillo, a rare amenity at L.A. beaches. Or tuck into a heaping tray of shrimp at the San Pedro Fish Market, one of several seafood restaurants at Ports O’ Call Village, on the other side of the marina.




Cabrillo Marine Aquarium 3720 Stephen M. White Drive, San Pedro, 310.548.7562
Captain Kirk’s 525 N. Harbor Blvd., San Pedro, 310.833.3397
San Pedro Fish Market 1190 Nagoya Way, San Pedro, 310.832.4251


Beach Volley Training 310.678.4451,
Hennessey’s Tavern 8 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach, 310.372.5759
Hermosa Cyclery 20 13th St., Hermosa Beach, 310.374.7816
Martha’s 22nd Street Grill 25 22nd St., Hermosa Beach, 310.376.7786
Scotty’s on the Strand 1100 The Strand, Hermosa Beach, 310.318.7152


Leo Carrillo State Park 35000 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 818.880.0363
Malibu Seafood 25653 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, 310.456.3430


BrewCo 124 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach, 310.798.2744
Campsurf 310.766.7234,
Manhattan Beach Creamery 1120 Manhattan Ave., Manhattan Beach, 310.372.1155
North End Caffe 3421 Highland Ave., Manhattan Beach, 310.546.4782
Roundhouse Marine Lab & Aquarium 2 Manhattan Beach Blvd., Manhattan Beach, 310.379.8117


Annenberg Community Beach House 415 Pacific Coast Hwy., Santa Monica, 310.458.4904
Back on the Beach Café 445 Pacific Coast Hwy., Santa Monica, 310.393.8282
Coast 1 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.587.1707


Piccolo Ristorante 5 Dudley Ave., Venice, 310.314.3222
StreetStrider L.A. Fitness & Demo Center 215 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, 310.491.7975
Venice Ale House 2 Rose Ave., Venice, 310.314.8253


Things to do Los Angeles

We update our list of the best things to do in Los Angeles every week. Find out about the best food, music and fun from the WHERE Magazine Weekend Roundup. Subscribe to our RSS feed to get the freshest L0s Angeles events delivered where and when you want ’em! Check it: things to do Los Angeles.



Enhanced by Zemanta

Sign up for FREE to receive our exclusive Weekend Roundup!

Get the best things to do in our favorite SoCal spots delivered to your inbox every week

Los Angeles

Orange County

San Diego