Watch the sunset into the glittering Pacific Ocean from the Santa Monica Beach. (Photo: Tetra Images)
Planning a trip to the City of Angels? If thoughts of Los Angeles bring giddy Beach Boys tunes to mind, and visions of swaying palm trees and sparkling waves dance through your head, hightail it to the city’s beaches. LA’s perfect perch along the Pacific Ocean’s coastline means it’s home to dozens of beaches and sun-soaked neighborhoods where the vibe is decidedly laid back. Grab your shades and a beach towel, it’s time to soak in the sun at LA’s best beaches.
Watch Sunset in Santa Monica
You’ll find a little bit of everything — and everyone — in Santa Monica. There a heady mix skate rats, surfer dudes, punk rockers, celebrity chefs, studio execs, and an increasing number of tech start-up scenesters. The medley makes Santa Monica one of the most accessible beach neighborhoods in Los Angeles.
Of course, the most iconic sight around these parts is the Santa Monica Pier, a glorious stretch of wooden beams that houses an amusement park, restaurants, and scores of crowds snapping sunset photos. Arrive in the evening and plan to ride the iconic Ferris wheel for some of the best views of the beach and coastline.
Get Funky in Venice Beach
At a glance, Los Angeles can seem just a little too shiny with so many perfect-looking people in well-heeled clothes, dining at celebrity-filled restaurants. Thankfully, Venice Beach is there to remind you that the city’s quirky, hippied-out vibe is alive and well.
The Venice Beach Boardwalk has long been a gathering spot for creatives and kooks, looking to play music, sell their art, and even work out on the sand. The expanse of beach is wide and glorious here, but you’ll want to spend more of your time strolling the boardwalk, people watching, and soaking in the new age vibes. Still, Venice was named after the Italian city for a reason: there’s a lovely canal network not far from the boardwalk’s chaos. Make your way to the Venice Canal Walk, where you’ll meander over bridges and quiet waterways, past unique homes.
Seek Solace on Zuma Beach, Malibu
It’s no secret Malibu is a monied town, but there’s no need to feel priced out of its exceptional stretch of beaches. You’ll find the best of the bunch at Zuma Beach, home to exquisite views of the Pacific and wide swaths of sand. This is Los Angeles’s largest beach park and has been recognized as one of the county’s healthiest beaches for clean water.
The beach still feels like an untouched slice of coast, hard to imagine at times in Malibu where stunning homes are built with abandon along the shoreline. But here at Zuma, you’ll find no homes of buildings between the beach and the Pacific Coast Highway, leaving a serene impression. Bring a picnic lunch or dinner to the sands, grab friends for a game of beach volleyball, or simply lounge in the sun admiring the view.
Hang 10 in Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach is quintessential California. This beach town is most definitely upscale (just check the local real estate listings), but clings to a peaced-out, surfer-chic vibe. First check out the beach. Like many beaches in the area, you’re faced with an enormous expanse of sand, dotted with volleyball courts, and filled with families and other beachgoers splashing in the Pacific or just chilling on the sand. The Manhattan Beach Pier juts into the sea, and is a gathering spot for local fishermen and tourists. It’s also a prime spot to stand and overlook the hardcore surfers riding waves below.
Rent a bike or take a stroll along the South Bay Bicycle Trail and pedestrian walkway. You can scope out sunbathers or ogle the mansions that line the waterfront. Later, head into the heart of town, where boutique shops and trendy restaurants dot the main drag.