If you are looking to spend a day soaking up the quintessence of California’s surf culture, then it’s time for a day trip to Manhattan Beach.
A place for big waves, white sandy beaches, pro surfers, and volleyball fanatics, Manhattan Beach is an affluent beachfront city in western Los Angeles County that has remained tied to its grassroots beginning.
According to town lore, developer John Merrill named the beach for his New York hometown after winning a coin toss in 1902. Rumor also has it the Waikiki Beach is made up of white sand shipped over from Manhattan beaches’ precipitous sand dunes.
The centerpiece of the city is the Manhattan Beach Pier, which for nearly a century has stretched 928 feet into the Pacific Ocean the ocean, providing remarkable coastal views unrivaled by any beach in the area.
At the end of the pier is the red-roofed Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, with its 3,500-gallon shark tank holding species native to Santa Monica Bay. The aquarium is open to the public 3 p.m. to sunset on Fridays, and 10 a.m.–sunset Saturday through Sunday.
Admission to the Manhattan Beach pier aquarium is free, but a small donation of a couple of dollars is recommended.
Manhattan Beach has some of the largest waves in the area, drawing die-hard surfers from all over California and beyond.
For those that just like to watch, pack a lunch and grab a front row seat on the sand, or snatch a shady spot under an umbrella at nearby Alfredo’s Beach Club.
During the summer from July 31 to Aug 2, the International Surf Festival rolls into to Manhattan Beach, complete with volleyball tournaments, lifeguard games, soccer, beach runs, and of course, a surfing contest.
Manhattan Beach is one of three major South Bay beach towns, along with neighboring Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach. The Strand–a 20-mile paved path along the beach–connects them all.
Along with this concrete boardwalk, you’ll find a parade of people, pedaling, sprinting, strolling, and rolling passed a star-studded lineup of beachfront dream homes.
However, Manhattan Beach not only offers a vibrant beach scene, but also a charming downtown shopping and dining district, filled with boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants.
While some of the town’s swankier restaurants and clubs may require you to get dressed up, the accepted dress code you’ll find in here is board shorts and flip-flops.
The best time to visit the area is in spring and fall – or even winter if it isn’t raining. Summer days are sometimes inundated with fog, especially in June, as well as an endless sea of tourist.
If you find that one day is just not enough time to enjoy this urban paradise, there is a pair of hotels just a few minutes from the Strand that will let you get a taste of what it’s like to live just steps from the beach.
Getting to Manhattan Beach is an easy hour’s drive from anywhere in the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles. To reach the beach from I-405, exit on Rosecrans Ave. and head west to Highland Ave.