There is always one spot that I instantly suggest when friends and family come to visit Los Angeles – Manhattan Beach. This cozy yet bustling town was the first day trip I took after moving to LA, and it has been my favorite ever since. It is here that I’ve experienced a multitude of afternoons in the sunshine and evenings enveloped in the most awe-inspiring sunsets (photographic proof at the end of this post!).
I can’t get enough of this small beachside city. I’m hesitant to even write this post because I don’t think I can do it justice, but here are my reasons why Manhattan Beach tops my list of must-see Los Angeles spots time and time again.
Overall Rating: ★★★★ ½
The city that flanks the shore of Manhattan Beach is my #1 reason for loving the area. The small town is nearly pristine, with gorgeous mansions, manicured gardens, adorable shops, and fantastic restaurants. You’ll be in luck for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, as the town is overflowing with dining experiences ranging from homestyle breakfasts to luxurious dinners and everything in-between (including curbside pizza). Manhattan Beach is also filled with abundant clothing stores. And the best part? It’s all walkable! As long as you don’t mind getting some serious exercise while you walk. Part of Manhattan Beach’s charm is how the entire city slopes down a large hillside. It makes the various levels of homes visible from the shore, but also means your legs will be burning as you ascend back into town from the water.
Manhattan Beach has a shoreline that is beautiful whether it’s under clouds or sun. The sand is always inviting, and pending the time of year that you visit, may be riddled with volleyball nets. This small town is known to hold some of the most prestigious beach volleyball competitions. Names of many past Olympians who have participated in the events span the walkway of the Manhattan Beach Pier.
However, just before reaching the sandy shores and pier entrance, you’ll find pedestrian walkways and bike paths. These paths trail between the incredible homes and sandy shores, making them the perfect place for a mid-day bike or sunset stroll. You can gaze out into the massive expanse of the Pacific Ocean or wonder at the unique homes, each vibrantly different than the next. The seemingly neverending pathways will guide you to the next beaches on either side of Manhattan, so feel free to explore as far as your legs can take you! Just make sure to save enough energy to get up Manhattan’s hill when you get back.
As many times as I’ve visited, I’ve never gone swimming at Manhattan Beach. Instead of going in the water, I prefer to be on the water, walking the expanse of the pier. This picturesque pier is the perfect spot to watch surfers attack the waves below. The water around the pier seems to be a consistent hotspot for surfers, which makes me think it may not be ideal for a leisurely swim. Instead, I gaze from above while making my way to the end of the pier. Once you reach the end, you’ll find an adorable structure that houses a café on one side and an aquarium on the other. Sipping coffee while staring at massive lobsters and mini jellyfish always seems like the perfect thing to do.
Parking can be a struggle in Manhattan Beach. Street parking is definitely difficult to find, and is generally limited to 2 hours. There is a multitude of parking structures sprinkled throughout the city, but the majority also have a 2 hour limit. Look for the parking structures marked “All Day.” Those are generally located on the upper levels of above-ground structures and the lowest levels of underground structures. However, everything tends to fill up, especially in the summer and on weekends. My suggestion? Either arrive before 10am or park in the neighborhoods just outside of the main city area and walk! Chances are, if you’re visiting Manhattan Beach, you were ready to stroll the town or Oceanside anyways, so may as well kick off your day with free parking and a welcome walk.
Access to the city and beach is easy peasy. With quick freeway access, a city built on a mostly square grid of streets, and sidewalks that lead directly to the sand, you’ll have no problem navigating. It will be easy to arrive and get where you want to go. And, with tons of cell service, unlike the more secluded beaches, you can feel free to pull out your maps app and search your next walkable destination.
Wildlife in Manhattan Beach has been a little limited in my experience. I’ve seen a couple dolphins traveling through the water, but they seem to be few and far between. Birds on the shore consist of your general seagulls and sandpipers. However, the adorable aquarium at the end of the pier makes up for any sea creatures you’re otherwise missing at this fantastic beach.
And now, as promised, a few of the outstanding sunsets…
If you’ve been to Manhattan Beach beach, or have suggestions for more beaches to visit in SoCal, let me know in the comments below ↡