From shaking the sand out of your shoes to discovering local boutiques, Manhattan Beach is a mecca for surf, sun, and shopping. And it has everything else you would expect from a California beach scene: volleyball nets, a sunny pier, and surfers riding waves as soon as the sun rises.
In Manhattan Beach, sand is the only thing between the surf and luxurious oceanfront homes. A paved walkway between the two provides an easy oceanfront route for pedestrians and bicyclists to check out the beach scene.
Check out the Manhattan Beach Pier
The red-roofed, hexagonal-shaped building at the end makes the Manhattan Beach Pier one of the prettiest piers on the Santa Monica Bay. It's also home to a small but fun aquarium.
Not surprisingly, given its good looks and location near Hollywood, the Manhattan Beach Pier has appeared in many films. Its cameos include the scene in "Point Break" where Keanu Reeves buys his surfboard, the final shot of "Falling Down" when Michael Douglas' character is reunited with his family, and in the 2004 film "Starsky and Hutch," Starsky stretches underneath the pier.
You'll find the pier at the end of Manhattan Beach Blvd. There are plenty of parking lots and curbside parking meters in the vicinity.
Take a Stroll on the Strand
Many people's favorite Manhattan Beach pleasure is a simple one. Walk down to the beachside sidewalk — commonly called The Strand — and take a stroll. You can walk for miles in either direction and never run out of things to see.
North of the pier, you'll walk along the Manhattan Beach waterfront. If you go south, it's about two miles to the Hermosa Beach Pier and downtown Hermosa Beach.
When you see the super-mansions along The Strand, it's not hard to believe that Fortune magazine rated Manhattan Beach one of the most expensive coastal towns in America.
If you're curious how much a place like these would set you back, take a look at Zillow.com's current estimates. Fortunately, walking and gawking at them is free.
Play Volleyball on the Beach
You'll find lots of volleyball nets on Manhattan Beach, and on weekends, they're quite busy.
In summer, beach volleyball tournaments take place in this area near the pier, including the Manhattan Beach Open, a professional event whose winners are honored with bronze plaques in the "Volleyball Walk of Fame" on the Manhattan Beach Pier.
Go Surfing - Or Just Watch
It's common to find people surfing, boogie-boarding or paddle-surfing near the Manhattan Beach Pier. But it may not be the best place for beginners, with aggressive locals already fighting for position.
The annual International Surf Festival is held here and in the neighboring towns every summer.
If you want to go surfing or learn how, head to the Nikau Kai Waterman Shop on Manhattan Avenue, there you can rent gear or sign up for a lesson. And pick up a super-cute souvenir t-shirt while you're there.
Go Biking, Blading, Running or Skateboarding Beside the Sea
You'll see people biking, running, skating, walking, and using almost any other form of non-motorized locomotion you can think of in Manhattan Beach.
You'll find two separate oceanfront paths, one for the folks on wheels and another for the folks on foot. If you want to rent a bicycle to cruise Manhattan Beach, you'll find several rental shops in nearby Hermosa Beach.
Go Shopping (or Dining) in Downtown Manhattan Beach
When you want to get away from the water for a bite to eat, head to downtown for some local flavor (pun intended). Just a block uphill from the beach is a charming downtown. Its streets are lined with local boutiques and restaurants.
In contrast to other beach towns in the area, Manhattan Beach has an urban vibe that's an excellent complement to the shore. You can check out all the shops and eateries at the downtown Manhattan Beach website.
Check out a Manhattan Beach Walking Street
Walking streets are a charming bit of Manhattan Beach living. In the area sometimes called the Sand Section of town, houses face each other across a wide sidewalk, their garage entries banished to the alleys behind them. It makes for a charming look, especially when the homeowners dress their front yards up with lovely landscaping.
You can find some of these streets running between Manhattan Avenue and the beach, south of the pier.
If you're considering a vacation rental in Manhattan Beach and think this looks like fun, you're right. The magic words you'll see in the listing are "walk street" or "walking street," but not all such streets are close to the ocean. Check a map to be sure you know what you're getting.
Watch a Manhattan Beach Sunset
Colorful sunsets are less frequent than you might think in the summer because the foggy air layer over the ocean swallows the sun's rays long before it reaches the horizon. You're more likely to catch a gorgeous sunset during the winter and early spring.
Manhattan Beach Tips
You'll find public restrooms at several locations along the waterfront.
If you want to be in Manhattan Beach for more than a day, you can use this guide to find your perfect place to stay.
Manhattan Beach is at its most upbeat any time the sun is shining. It can also be mysterious and beautiful in the fog when "June Gloom" keep the coastal area underneath low-lying clouds for days and weeks on end. It doesn't happen just in June but anytime between May and August. Find out about June gloom and how to cope if it does.
Parking in Manhattan Beach
Finding a parking spot in Manhattan Beach can try your patience at best, or at worst make you want to tear your hair out. If parking places are full near the pier, try the parking lot north of Manhattan Beach Blvd. off Highland, which is a bit less-known.
Or you can do what the locals do: Head for the city-owned Lot 8 on Ardmore Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets. It's four blocks from the pier, has no meters and a two-hour time limit.
If you don't mind paying but want to stay more than two hours, level P2 of the Metlox Structure has a ten-hour time limit. You can get into it from Valley Drive or Morningside Drive.
This map from the city of Manhattan Beach may also help.