“You don’t go to Los Angeles to go to the beach.”
Outside of entertainment, one of the reasons I was curious about the Left Coast was the beaches. LA, I thought, was a city where you could go to work all day and be on the beach at night. While that is possible, I found that the traffic in LA is so horrendous that it’s more difficult than most people would like to do on a daily basis. After work hours, it would be a little under an hour of traffic to go from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica Beach (the closest). Oh, and did I mention it’s only eight miles? Yeah, that’s not fun to do on a daily basis.
That’s why everyone tells you, “You don’t go to LA for the beaches.” I get it now.
So LA isn’t exactly known for its beaches but as a visitor, there’s lots to do at the beach.
One of my first stops was Manhattan Beach, a slightly more upscale beach town with higher priced restaurants and shops right along The Strand (bike path). It was much less crowded than Venice Beach and Santa Monica Beach to its north. But being Southern California, there was still a litter of surfers, bikers and sunbathers enjoying the always perfect, 72 degree weather. This is one of the more expensive beach towns.
It’s also a great spot to play paddle ball. Although my friend Bobby will tell you I’m not very good.
The sunsets at any of the beaches in LA are a must see. I’d say 8 times out of 10, you will see a gorgeous, bright pink and orange sunset. Kind of like this, from Hermosa Beach.
That was in October! Pretty impressive.
Santa Monica is definitely the most touristy and crowded of the beaches in Los Angeles. This seems to be because it’s the closest to Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the other tourist destinations in LA. The famous Santa Monica pier probably has something to do with it, too. On the pier you’ll find rides, restaurants and t-shirt shops. But expect to pay HIGH prices. It is a tourist trap after all. You can get an unlimited pass for all day rides for $27.95. Most of the rides are $5-$10 so if you’re looking to make an afternoon of it, the unlimited ride could be worth it to you.
There is a huge playground in Santa Monica as well as a Muscle Beach. Each time I go to Santa Monica Beach there always seems to be something new going on. Whether it’s a huge dance party on the beach or a mass of tight rope walkers practicing and teaching each other new tricks, there’s always something to stop and watch on the beach.
If you know anything about LA, you’ve probably heard of the Venice Beach boardwalk. It is….a sight to be seen. There are tons of street performers, t-shirt shops, food stands and weed doctors. If you don’t know what a weed doctor is, it’s a doctor who can give you a marijuana card. Marijuana is legal in California so basically anyone can go to one of these doctors, say their ailment and get a card. From what I’ve heard, it’s pretty easy. I met someone who has a weed card for asthma. California, you are a weird place. Expect to find lots of stoned people at Venice Beach.
The boardwalk also has a freakshow which Bobby says is very entertaining, but I haven’t made it there yet. He tells me of bearded ladies and five-legged dogs so I think one day soon I’ll have to see if he’s telling the truth.
The Venice Beach boardwalk is also a popular spot for skateboarders due to the massive skate park there. Pretty much any time of day you can see a mix of experienced and beginner skaters there (and a massive crowd). It’s definitely an activity not to be missed.
There’s also a rollerskating area where people do tricks or just have a massive rollerskating dance which was awesome to watch! The skaters were really into it.
A couple streets down from the beach in Venice is the famous Venice Canals. If you’ve seen the movie “Valentine’s Day” starring Ashton Kutcher, this is where he lives in the movie. Remember when he runs outside onto the little bridge to announce, “She said yes!” Yeah, that’s the Venice Canals. A very welcomed quiet, peaceful area in LA.
Outside of just going to the beach, another great way to enjoy them is to bike along The Strand. This is a bike path that goes all the way from Santa Monica to just past Redondo Beach, a total of about 40 miles roundtrip.
I paid $18/bike for the day and made it almost all the way to Manhattan Beach, a total of about 24 miles round trip. I was pretty exhausted by the end but it was a great way to see each of the beach towns. Pro tip: Don’t rent bikes ON the Santa Monica Pier. They’re much more expensive! Try to find a place just off the pier and away from the touristy areas.
A post bike ride sneaker selfie:
If you want a shorter bike ride, the most popular route is from Santa Monica Beach to the next beach south, Venice (or vice versa). There are tons of places to rent bikes around this area as it’s where most tourists are.
My friend Bobby (an LA native) and I rented a tandem bike one Sunday afternoon and did the ride from Venice to Santa Monica where we stopped on the beach for sunset before heading back. It was my first time on a tandem bike and it was a little scary! But it was also kind of nice because Bobby did most of the pedaling and I got to sit back and enjoy my surroundings!
I haven’t made it up to Malibu yet which is northwest of Los Angeles. It takes a bit longer to get to so it’s more difficult.