The trio of towns along the southern end of the Santa Monica Bay in California which area locals call "South Bay" offers plenty of options for a weekend getaway. If you didn't see the city limit signs or notice that the street signs change colors, you might think Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach are all one continuous town, but each of these independent cities has a different personality. It's only about five miles from one end to the other, so you'll have time to explore all three.
Plan your South Bay day trip or weekend getaway using the resources below.
Choosing Where to Go
- Manhattan Beach is the northernmost and most upscale of the three, with the fanciest beachfront homes, lots of shopping near the pier, plenty of coffee shops and clubs, and lively energy.
- Hermosa Beach is the most "beachy" of the three, with a nice, pedestrian-only street leading inland from the pier and interesting local boutiques nearby.
- Redondo Beach has the most developed pier, a marina, a nice beach with calm water and few surfers and a nice shopping area in the "Riviera" section at the south end.
Best Time to Go
South Bay weather is best in spring and fall. In summer, the Los Angeles coastline can be shrouded in foggy "June gloom" for much of the month, sometimes lingering into "No Sky July". On a clear winter day just after a rain, the views are stellar.
If you've only got a day in the South Bay, take a walk along the Strand (oceanfront sidewalk) between Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach, to see how people live and play.
5 More Great Things to Do
- Redondo Beach Pier: One of Southern California's most-developed Piers offers dining, shopping (think tourist geegaws), and people-watching.
- Shopping: Try Redondo's Hollywood Riviera area along Catalina Avenue between Avenue I and Palos Verdes Blvd or downtown Manhattan Beach along Manhattan Avenue (at Manhattan Beach Blvd). Funkier Hermosa Beach offers some interesting shops along Pier Avenue near the beach.
- Watch the sunset: Miles of ocean-facing sand offer plenty of places to sit and watch the sunset, but you'll find few places to do it indoors with your favorite beverage in hand. Your best bet for that is a leisurely dinner (or just drinks and appetizers) at Kincaid's on the Redondo Beach Pier, nursing a cocktail before ordering.
- Sports fishing: Half-day and longer deep-sea fishing trips leave daily from the Redondo Marina. No pole? No problem. The tackle shop on the same pier rents everything you need. Catches here include halibut, mackerel, bonita, sand bass, yellowtail, and more.
- Comedy and Magic Club, Hermosa Beach Locals know this, but few outsiders realize that Jay Leno performs here regularly on Sunday nights, trying out new material.
- International Surf Festival, takes place in late July or early August
- Watch the Grunion Run No; this isn't a 5K or a 10K. Instead, it's the mating spectacle of small, silvery fish that spawn en masse on Southern California beaches at high tide shortly after a full moon. The peak spawning period is late March through early June.
Tips for Visiting
- Go to the beaches early if you're looking for solitude. They're livelier in the late afternoon and evening and packed on warm weekends.
- You won't get stuck looking for a place to "go" along the beach or at the piers (each town has its own), where you'll find plenty of public restrooms.
- The kids will enjoy the beach, especially if you bring along something they can play in the sand with (which can be as simple as plastic drink cups, bowls, and utensils).
- The water is colder than you might think, too cold to stay in for very long, but the sand is warm. Don't expect to spend too much time swimming.
- Your dog can strut his stuff along the Strand but is not allowed on the beach.
A weekend getaway is a great time to enjoy a leisurely brunch. Locals stand in long lines at Uncle Bill's Pancake House in Manhattan Beach, or for a more upscale brunch, try Kincaid's on the Redondo Beach Pier.
Martha's 22nd Street Grill is located a little bit away from the busy part of Hermosa Beach but serves great food in a relaxed atmosphere. Any time of day, The 24-Hour Kettle in downtown Manhattan Beach is a safe bet for variety and reasonable prices.
Where to Stay
You can easily stay in any of the three cities while visiting them all.
Downtown Manhattan Beach is 122 miles from San Diego or Bakersfield, 66 miles from Riverside, and 230 miles from Fresno.
The nearest airport is LAX.