How to Have an Adventurous Beach Weekend in L.A.

Manhattan Beach Pier.
Manhattan Beach Pier. Jacob Repko
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Wheels down at LAX. Three days to spend on the beach, and the clock is ticking. Before you’re even through baggage claim you’re already imagining yourself on a perfectly sunny beach. Most people will immediately think Malibu, Santa Monica, or Venice,  but not you. As an adventurous traveler in the know, you’re onto the fact that some of the best beach spots are a little more hidden — think Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo.

Here’s the best way to enjoy a fun-packed weekend at SoCal’s beautiful beaches.


DAY 1 - 8am – Two Guns Espresso

With a local, down to earth vibe, Two Guns Espresso is just the place to go for a quick, light, and delicious wake up call. From their Frozen Bullet to a simple Americano, these caffeinated beverages are made with a whole ‘latte’ care by baristas who are fun, friendly, and knowledgeable about the area. Once adequately fueled for the day with caffeine and food, you can head to the beach and start your adventure.

DAY 1 - 9am – Sport Fishing on Redondo Beach Pier – King Harbor

Located inside King Harbor is a relatively small and unassuming, 250-foot pier that stretches into the water. Its small stature belies the big fun, and even bigger fish, that can be caught here. Just off shore sits the Redondo Canyon, which drops 2,000 feet, and produces an upwelling in the ocean that drives fish towards the pier. Swing by Redondo Beach Sportfishing to pick up a permit, bait, and tackle.

DAY 1 - 12pm – Polly’s on the Pier

After a few hours of fishing you’ll have worked up an appetite. Head around the corner to Polly’s on the Pier. Open 6am-2pm, Polly’s offers traditional American fare with fantastically fast service. Heaping portions will keep you full for hours of adventure afterwards. Enjoy the ocean view during your lunch or breakfast, which is served all day.

DAY 1 - 2pm – Redondo Fun Factory

While you wait for your food to settle, head over to the Redondo Fun Factory. This arcade is straight out of the 70s with fun, coin-operated games that will bring out your inner child. Skeet ball? Got it. Water Gun Horse Race? Yep! The spot is tucked downstairs, facing away from the ocean. It’s such a hidden gem that many locals are not even aware of its existence.

DAY 1 - 3pm – Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Hit the waves and see L.A. from a different perspective from atop a SUP.
Hit the waves and see L.A. from a different perspective from atop a SUP. Marika Bortolami

Now that you’ve walked off your food coma, it’s time to hop in that ocean you’ve been staring at all day. Or rather, stand on it. Whether it’s finding an instructor to guide your adventure, or simply to rent out a board, stores like Tarsan Stand Up Paddle and Olympus Board Shop are great places to get what you need. Both stores carry 12-foot, soft, stand-up paddleboards and offer lessons for beginners. Most importantly, they make the experience fun. If you’re lucky, you might also find yourself paddling around with some dolphins near the break wall.

DAY 1 - 6pm – Palmilla Cocina y Tequila

Once you’ve successfully (and enjoyably) conquered the the ocean on your SUP, and are ready to be rewarded with beverages and food, check out Palmilla Cocina y Tequila for some classic margaritas, tacos, and plantain chips. Decorated in Bohemian chic, the place has a down-to-earth vibe with economical prices and generous portions.

DAY 1 - 9pm – The Belamar Hotel

The Belamar Hotel has a relaxed atmosphere and a unique design aesthetic of California casual with pops of mid-century modern. With reasonable rates in a great location, this hotel lets visitors kick off their flip flops and enjoy a good night’s rest after a long day of outdoor activities. There is a beautiful courtyard replete with an outdoor pool and spa. On-site restaurants, a full bar, and room service mean you might never want to leave the hotel grounds. But the beaches are calling, so get a good night sleep because you’ll be up bright and early in the morning.


Day 2 - 9am – The Original Pancake House

Founded in Portland, OR and transplanted onto a beach in L.A., the Original Pancake House (not to be confused with its international cousin) offers an unique menu that has garnered national acclaim. Their signature item is the Apple Pancake, a single, albeit massive, pancake covered in sautéed apples and sugar, which creates a mouth watering cinnamon-sugar glaze.

After breakfast head south towards Long Beach. If you have the time, opt for the slightly longer route along Palos Verdes Drive West. This drive will treat you to stunning views of the famous Palos Verdes cliffs, and unmatched views of the ocean. Keep your windows rolled down and listen for the distinct call of peacocks. Yes, peacocks. The birds, once kept as pets by a resident of Palos Verdes, escaped years ago and now freely roam the hillsides.

Day 2 - 12pm – Whale Watching

There's a good chance that you will see whales and dolphins on your whale watch out of L.A.
There's a good chance that you will see whales and dolphins on your whale watch out of L.A. Alessandro Valli

Harbor Breeze Cruises is considered the premier whale watching company in Los Angeles county. These three-hour cruises sail directly out of the port of Los Angeles in Long Beach and into the open ocean. Depending on the season, you can see blue whales, gray whales, fin whales, or even humpbacks. Many of these whales use the deep waters off the California coast as migration paths. Regardless of the season visitors will almost always be treated to dolphin sightings. If you’re in need of refreshment, all boats are equipped with a snack and drink cabin.

Day 2 - 4pm – Shipwreck Hike

On your way back north from Long Beach swing around the horn of Palos Verdes and stop for a hike out to the shipwreck of the Greek freight ship, the SS Dominator. Leave your flip flops in the car and don some decent hiking shoes. Although the hike is only two-miles round trip with 150 feet of elevation loss, the terrain is consistently uneven, and the shoreline rocky. Along the way to the wreck, stop to look in the tide pools that line the beach in this area – you’re sure to find an abundance of colorful sea life.

Day 2 - 6pm – Abigaile Restaurant

There isn’t a much better place than Abigaile Restaurant to wrap up your day — tapas, house-brewed beer, and a patio that overlooks downtown Hermosa. The kitchen at Abigaile prides itself on its ever-changing menu, which adapts to seasonal offerings and the creative whim of executive chef Tin Vuong. While you sample the array of small plates from the kitchen, keep an eye out for beer pairing suggestions located on the menu. Brewmaster Paul Papantonio prides himself on his mastery of California-style beers.

Day 2 - 8pm – The Underground/Chelsea

If it’s too early for you to call it a night, head over to Chelsea Pub and Lounge for a nightcap, a nice local craft beer selection, and of course, dancing. If you’re looking for more of a sports bar feel, head through the back to the connected Underground Pub and Grill. By this point you should have noticed the overt British theme shared by the two establishments. True to this nature, Underground is a great place to catch a football (or soccer) game, or play a round of darts.

Day 2 - 10pm – Beach House Hotel

Located in the heart of Hermosa Beach with quintessential ocean side décor, amazing ocean views right on The Strand, a pedestrian path by the water, is the Beach House. They have a range of amenities, from a relaxing spa to a bustling bar. The cozy rooms and attentive staff lure visitors back time and time again.


Day 3 - 8am – North End Caffe

North End Caffe is a gem nestled right in the heart of the laid back Manhattan Beach neighborhood. It offers excellent breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Visitors rave about the huevos divorciados among other delicious delights like short rib tacos and beignets.

Day 3 - 10am – Surfing with Westin LAX

Surfing in L.A. is one adventure during your weekend that you don't want to miss.
Surfing in L.A. is one adventure during your weekend that you don't want to miss. ndgoat2003

Head north towards the airport and book yourself into the Westin LAX’s Surf Package. The package includes a 90-minute personalized surf lesson with Westin’s own surf concierge. From the hotel you’ll head down to El Porto, one of L.A.’s most famous surf beaches. The hotel will even organize your board and wetsuit rental, so all you need to worry about is catching those waves.

Day 3 – 12pm – Simmzy’s Pub

Started in Manhattan Beach, Simmzy’s Pub is a local favorite for the American classic: a burger and a beer. Founder Mike Simm prides himself on a deep knowledge of the food world, all of which he brings to the table in his creative burger selection. Simmzy’s partners with Breadbar, a local artisanal bakery which supplies all their bread products. Did we mention that there are over 20 local beers on tap? Between the incredible food and the open air seating, Simmzy’s provides a real taste of California beach life.

Day 3 – 2pm – Beach Path Bicycle Ride

Hopping on a bike and pedaling around is a great way to take in the beautiful ocean views.
Hopping on a bike and pedaling around is a great way to take in the beautiful ocean views. Parker Knight

Water adventures aren’t the only options at the beach — try exploring the beaches on two wheels instead. Unlike the bicycle trails connecting Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu beaches, the ones further south in Manhattan, Hermosa, and Redondo beaches are hillier and less crowded. They offer great scenery and a workout along the way.

There are a number of cycling trails in Manhattan Beach, and cyclists can plan out their routes beforehand using Mapmyride. Bike paths are well-kept and removed from walking paths, which makes it easy for bikers to navigate and ride a bit faster without having to weave in and out of pedestrian traffic.

If you’re starting from the north in Manhattan Beach and going south toward Redondo Beach, try renting a bicycle from Helen’s Cycles. Stacked with bicycles, parts, shoes, helmets, and car racks, you will find everything you need to embark on a comfortable ride. Rent a bike for a day or an entire week—with rentals starting from $65, you can ride far without the stress of checking the time for rental hour limits.

Day 3 – 4pm – Manhattan Beach Creamery

After all that sun, surf, and cycling, it’s time to cool down with some local ice cream. Manhattan Beach Creamery prides itself on being a nostalgic ice cream shop. Showcasing 28 flavors daily, hand-made from locally sourced ingredients, this stop will be sure to have a little something for everyone.

Day 3 – 7pm – Manhattan Beach Post

After a day of adventures on the beach, relax over a leisurely dinner. Manhattan Beach Post’sgeneral manager, Jerry Garbus, designed the establishment to reflect the area’s communal feel: a beach community distilled into a restaurant. Order dishes family style, and sample a handcrafted cocktail. The restaurant’s warm interior and expertly crafted food will quickly put you in a California state of mind as the night drifts by.

Day 3 – 9pm – Westin LAX

Whew, what a whirlwind the last 72 hours have been. Return to the Westin LAX and sink into their signature beds – expertly designed for a restorative night’s sleep. The hotel also features an on-premise gym, pool, spa, and did we mention that the hotel is pet friendly too? In the morning you’re just a short shuttle ride from the airport.

Originally written for Discover Los Angeles.

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