To my mind, there are two main "destination" beaches for those visiting Los Angeles:
I'm partial to the latter. Malibu backs against some stark mountains, and the approach from the Eastern passes is mindblowing. However, it's tough to compare the "highway village" of Malibu to the charming, riviera ambience of Laguna.
An artistic oasis in stoic Orange County, Laguna Beach is a laid back - albeit wealthy - community whose village sidewalks run right to the sand. The beaches are clean and gorgeous and the rolling green hills that slope to the sea frame a glamourous panorama. There are famous art festivals, year-round galleries, reasonable restaurants and a wealth of accomodations. It's a great day or overnight trip.
Laguna is only 55miles from Los Angeles International Airport, though traffic can make the trip grueling, at times.
By its amazing coastline, 325 days sunshine yearly, fine sandy beach, the famous Santa Monica Pier, the Third Street Promenade; Santa Monica is one of the most popular resort in the LA area.
The best way to enjoy the Californian sunshine is to take your swim suit and sunglasses for spending time on the beach. The weather is hot enough to enjoy the relatively warm ocean water with such activities as surfing and swimming.
And yet it is not hot enough so you may also be comfortable, just lying in the sun with a good book and a few snacks.
Here you can make sun tanning or even hunting for Holywood celebrities.
I myself, however, have enjoyed only 3 days of these 325 days sunshine. On the other 10 days unfortunately was neither sunshine, nor electric current, but a lot of cold rain!
It is a ways up the coast of Malibu, but the drive up to El Matador State Beach is nice in its own right. El Matador is a quiet small beach with spectacular jutting rocks into the ocean. It is not a great swimming beach due to some of the rocks (the one just south is fine for swimming). It is several miles past Zuma Beach and if you don't look for it, you'll miss the sign. Overall, it is a pristine spot that is not well known and nice for a couple.
A drive, but worth it for a trip to Quality Seafood, one of the best places for fresh seafood on the west coast. Buy pounds of live crabs from around the world, have them steamed, rent some mallets, and get covered in crab juice eating them. Kids love the seals and the glass-bottom boat tour. The best time to visit is actually in the winter. In late November/December (until Christmas), parking is free in the pier lots, and the crowd really thin out. It's much cooler, but this is really the best time to go.
The first weekend I went with a colleague to Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier and Rodeo Drive on saturday and alone to LA National Forest on sunday.
Venice Beach was great to view, all the fortune tellers, the artists, the musicians, etc. Muscle beach gym was empty (it was November). Santa Monica Pier was actually not that big a deal, the shopping street a few blocks down was better. It was my first experience with Fat Burger, where I ate the greasiest burger ever in my life...... Never again. Rodeo Drive was smaller than I expected it to be. It's just a few shops elevated from the rest of the street. The only nice thing was the christmas tree.
Sunday was the best day. Driving to LA National Forest, from sun and 25 degrees plus to minus 5 and snow in 140 miles. The pictures show best.
On Thanksgiving I drove Highway 101 in the direction of SF. This is great, if you are ever near, drive it. Great views, dolphins in the sea, mountains on the other side and the most beautiful sunset I've ever had. Try exit Seacliff coming from LA, straight ahead, left under the highway and an almost deserted spot of beach all for yourself and a few others.
And that was it, I didn't have time to go to San Diego, Las Vegas or San Francisco. That's for next time.
Lets face it, thats what LA is famous for. It doesnt matter if you go to the South Bay beaches like Manhattan Beach or Hermosa... or Orange County Beaches like Huntington or Newport but you should check our beautiful beaches when you come to LA. Malibu Beaches are great also or try to get to Palos Verdes and check out the cliffs and the surfers.
Southern California is where you go to find lots of sand, beautiful surf, and sunny days almost year round.
Best beaches for surfing: Malibu
Best beaches for diving: Catalina Island
Best beaches for shopping: Newport
Best beaches for nightlife: Santa Monica, Hermosa Beach
The view from the cliffs is great!
This beach has nice tide pools to look around and my kids always liked to climb around the rocks. One side of the beach is rocky the other side is sand so there is a mix of things to do. It is less crowded than many of Southern California beaches. It probably isn’t one of the best swimming beaches but there are lifeguards, picnic tables (bring your own food) and restrooms.
5970 Palos Verdes Drive South
Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
Several times a year while driving on Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu I get to see a pelican feeding frenzy. Up to 50 pelicans, plus assorted seagulls hone in on unsuspecting fish doing their fish thing. It is pretty amazing to watch these gangly birds pull up in midair, and then dive bomb on their dinner. This particular day there was a dolphin in the midst of the pelican dive bombers. It was definitely cool!!!
When you are in LA, you can visit places like Beverly Hills, Hollywood, Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach, Malibu beach....here is a picture of Bo Derek, the gorgeous actress of the 70's i was lucky to catch a glimpse of her....she looks good even today !!!!
Venice Beach is the coolest place of the city. I love it. The beach is great, but the beach boulevard is the real attraction of this part of the town. Street artists like painters, musicians and others are always there. I love to take a look at all the fascinating shops in Venice. Stylish clothing, latest fashion, art, tattoo studios and some alternative stores. Great. Of course, the usual tourist stuff, too. And then there are the basketball courts. Streetball at its best. I played on many courts, but the ones at Venice have a pretty high level, probably the highest I´ve seen so far. Some scenes of the movie 'White men can´t jump' were filmed there.
Southern California has some of the best weather in the United States. If you like lots of rain and overcast skies, don't come here because you'll be disappointed. SoCal is also known for its wonderful beaches, and there are still some quiet places left to watch the sunset. Point Mugu, about an hour drive north of Santa Monica along the 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), is a nice place to disappear for the day to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Note: you have to search for the lonely beaches. Some good ones between Malibu are Pt. Mugu are El Matador and El Pescador.
(Photo: the cliffs meet the waves at Pt. Mugu - June 2001)
Leo Carrillo State Beach, north of Los Angeles. Follow the coastal route north and you'll pass it automatically. It has some pretty rock formations and a wide sand beach. More info
Drive along Mullholland Drive above the city. Go to the small beach towns and Marina del Rey to Fisherman's Village. Drive south of the airport to Manhattan Beach and Palos Verdes
On Sundays this place is packed with Harley Bikers hanging out and having beer and fish and chips. The food is so-so but the scene is pretty cool. You can drive up the coast and then just stop off for a bite and a beer. (Don't knock over any bikes unless you are very large, very mean, and have lots of friends with you)
Don't just stay put in LA. Drive away from the city center... to the beach, to the suburbs... further North, South, East or West.... There'd be more scenic attractions for you to discover! LA (on its own) is like a 'concrete' jungle.