May in Los Angeles: Weather, What to Pack, and What to See

Locals know it's May in LA when the jacaranda trees bloom.

Chris Eason / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In May, you'll find lots of things to do in Los Angeles. During the period between the end of winter rains and the onset of June Gloom at the beaches, the kids are still in school, and the tourist attractions are less busy than they will be next month. The purple-flowered Jacaranda trees that line many city streets also bloom in LA in May, giving the entire city a tint of color.

During May, you can join Angelenos as they celebrate Cinco de Mayo (May 5) and take Mom out for a day she will love. On the last Monday of the month, summer kicks off with the three-day Memorial Day weekend.

May Weather in Los Angeles

May begins the drier part of the year, with lots of sunshine and little rain. You'll have plenty of daylight per day to explore, too.

If you're wondering how hot LA is in May, or what the weather is like, these are the average temperatures and other conditions:

  • Average High Temperature: 73 F (23 C)
  • Average Low Temperature: 57 F (14 C)
  • Water Temperature: 61 F (16 C)
  • Rain: 0.25 in (0.6 cm) 
  • Sunshine: 75 percent
  • Daylight: 13.5 to 14 hours

No matter what the numbers say, nothing is ever exactly average in Los Angeles, and the weather is no exception. You can plan based on this climate info, but you also need to check the short-range forecast before you go. Otherwise, you could be standing at the beach shivering in those cute little shorts, or just the opposite — feeling so hot in those ankle-length winter pants that you're looking for a pair of scissors to perform an emergency wardrobe alteration.

If you want to compare these weather conditions to what Los Angeles is like the rest of the year, you can find that all in one place in the guide to typical Los Angeles weather.

What to Pack

People who don't live in the area sometimes think LA is perpetually 72 degrees and sunny. Sometimes it is, but nights can become rapidly chilly, especially in the beach cities. The tired old advice about packing layers is still the best thing to do for your Los Angeles vacation.

Pack a mid-weight jacket, especially for evenings near the water. Bring short-sleeved shirts and lightweight pants, with a warmer layer. You may want shorts on the warmest days.

Pack your swimsuit if you like, but after you take a look at the water temperature above, you might change your mind. Unless you plan to wear it while lounging around the pool at your hotel.

If you’re going to the beach, you may want to wiggle those ten fine toes in the sand. But getting that sand off your feet and out of everything else you own can be hard. To make it easier, pack a little bit of baby powder or cornstarch to put into your day pack. Sprinkle it on your skin and the sand will brush off much easier.

Holidays in May

Cinco de Mayo (May 5): The holiday celebrates a Mexican military victory, and many locales have festivals and activities, which may happen on the weekend nearest to the actual date.

In the United States, Mother's Day is the second Sunday of May. To find some ideas Mom is sure to love, use the California Mother's Day guide.

The first big summer holiday, Memorial Day happens on the last Monday of May. Get some ideas for things to do.

May Events in Los Angeles

  • Cinespia's Summer Film Series kicks off in May at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. As improbable as watching movies in a cemetery sounds, at their screenings you'll find crowds jostling for spots to watch cult flicks and classics projected on a mausoleum wall.
  • Amgen Tour of California: The multi-day bicycle race is much like the Tour de France, and it usually ends in the Los Angeles area where you can watch the contestants cross the finish line.
  • Los Angeles Open Day: If you love flowers and rare plants, Open Days offer a once a year chance to get a look at some of the city's most beautiful private gardens.
  • Running Universal: You only have to run 3 miles (5 kilometers) to get a chance to see Universal on foot. The route includes parts of the Universal Backlot and those iconic film sets you've only seen from the tram.

Things to Do in May

  • March through August is time for something uniquely Southern California, the annual grunion run. Thousands of tiny, silver-colored fish spawn on the sand during the full moon (or the new one). See the schedule. At some Los Angeles beaches, "Grunion Greeters" are on hand to explain and help you get the most out of being there.
  • In LA, you can also see whales nearly year round: gray whales in winter and blue whales during the summer months. Find the best places to see them and when in the guides to Los Angeles whale watching and Orange County whale watching.

May Travel Tips

  • No matter how much you may want to visit a sunny LA beach under brilliant sunshine, Mother Nature may have different ideas. Gray fog sometimes shrouds the entire coastline that can linger all day. While it's called June Gloom, it can sometimes start in late May. Be prepared in case it happens to you with these tips for coping with June Gloom.
  • Any time of year. you can use these tips to be a smarter Los Angeles visitor who has more fun and puts up with fewer annoyances.
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