This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through an affiliate link, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for your support.
Also, we are living in strange and unsettling times so please make sure to check local guidelines before traveling to this destination, as I haven't updated individual posts with current travel information because this changes so often.
During my first couple of visits to Los Angeles I did the usual tourist stuff: Hollywood Boulevard, Santa Monica, Malibu, Venice Beach, the Getty Museum. It was fun, but I didn’t fall in love with the city.
Both times I left feeling like I didn’t get a feeling for LA as a liveable city. With traffic-choked highways, smoggy air, average beaches, and too many strip malls, it felt lackluster and disjointed to me, and I was generally underwhelmed.
But then on my last visit, I finally made it to the South Bay of LA and everything changed.
Gorgeous beaches, windswept cliffs with magnificent views, walkable streets lined with delicious restaurants and cozy cafes, boardwalks and surf shops, and friendly, laid-back locals.
The South Bay of Los Angeles just blew me away and suddenly, I loved LA.
Find out what else you should do in LA with this three day LA Itinerary!
For the first time, I could actually picture myself living in Los Angeles. Who knew?!
The South Bay is a southern region of the Los Angeles Metropolitan area and stretches south from LAX Airport to Long Beach along Santa Monica Bay.
It includes fifteen cities as well as portions of the City of Los Angeles, and it is one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the U.S. Oh, and if you haven’t gathered already, it’s awesome.
I have partnered with Expedia.com.au to bring you my South Bay highlights – the reasons why you shouldn’t miss the South Bay, Los Angeles:
Why You Shouldn’t Miss the South Bay of Los Angeles
Manhattan Beach is my favorite place in the South Bay of Los Angeles and somewhere I now dream of living one day.
This beachside city is home to a very pleasant and walkable downtown, filled with colorful buildings housing trendy cafes and health food joints, a picturesque pier, and a gorgeous stretch of white sand beach that screams California, with tall palm trees and iconic lifeguard stations.
Once you visit Manhattan Beach, you may never want to leave: The good vibes here are infectious.
Where to Stay in Manhattan Beach: Stay at the retro Seahorse Inn, which is very affordable for the area, has a lovely pool, and is within walking distance to the beach.
Hermosa Beach is the slightly grungier sister city to Manhattan Beach, and is home to the palm tree-lined Pier Avenue, lots of surf shops, and laid-back bars and restaurants.
Hermosa Beach attracts more of a younger crowd, and is the place to watch surfers doing their thing, or have a big night out on lively Pier Avenue.
The beachside path that is known as The Strand connects Hermosa Beach to Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, and is the perfect place for a beachfront bike ride. Hermosa Beach is a lively and fun spot in the South Bay of LA.
Where to Stay in Hermosa Beach: Stay at The Beach House at Hermosa right on the beach, in one of their airy suites with kitchenettes.
For a more affordable option, stay in a dorm or private room at Surf City Hostel, which is right on the beach and within walking distance to the best bars and restaurants on Pier Avenue.
Redondo Beach is another beautiful beach city in the South Bay of LA. The beach at Redondo is backed by tall sand dunes covered in plants, giving it a more rugged and natural feel than the beaches at Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach.
Redondo Beach is also an excellent spot to grab a drink and some fresh seafood at the iconic Redondo Beach Pier, which is like a city on stilts over the water, with many options for dining, shopping, and entertainment.
Where to Stay on Redondo Beach: Stay at the Shade Hotel Redondo Beach, a luxury boutique hotel that has a relaxation pool, an onsite spa, and a beachside grab-and-go breakfast every morning.
Palos Verdes Peninsula
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is a green oasis in the South Bay of Los Angeles, with a stunning cliffside drive that is regularly voted as one of the best in America.
You can hike to secret beaches, explore a haunted lighthouse, wander tide pools and even ride horses on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
The best way to enjoy the natural attractions of the Palos Verdes Peninsula is with your own set of wheels – that way you can take your time and stop off at the myriad viewpoints that look out over the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island.
You will feel like you are a world away from the busy streets of LA.
Where to Stay on the Palos Verdes Peninsula: Treat yourself to 5-star luxury at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Terranea has awesome sea views and a number of recreational facilities on-site, including a hot tub, private beach, fitness center, sauna, and golf course.
San Pedro is the southern boundary of the South Bay, and is home to the Port of Los Angeles, the busiest cargo terminal in the United States.
The local Cabrillo beach is popular with families, and there are numerous museums located in San Pedro including the Los Angeles Maritime Museum and the Fort MacArthur Museum which are both worth a look.
But the highlight of San Pedro is the Korean Bell of Friendship and its stunning setting, with gorgeous views from the clifftops out to sea – especially at sunset.
Where to Stay in San Pedro: Stay at the relaxed Double Tree by Hilton San Pedro and enjoy the onsite pool, hot tub, and tennis courts.
If hostels are more up your alley, you can’t go past the HI Los Angeles – South Bay. I stayed in this friendly but chilled hostel right on the clifftops by the Korean Bell of Friendship, and it is one of the best hostels I have ever stayed in.
You can cook in the communal kitchen, watch a movie in the TV room, and watch incredible sunsets over the ocean.
These are just a few of the wonderful places that make up the South Bay of Los Angeles, go check them out for yourself and I’m sure you will love the South Bay as much as I do.
And if you have the time, head even further south to Long Beach and even San Diego, and it is definitely worth adding more places to your LA Itinerary, like Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu to the north.
If you liked this post, check out my other US content:
- The Perfect 3 Days in Denver Itinerary
- 25 Best Things About the United States of America
- 10 Best Hidden Gems in Colorado
- Ultimate Travel Guide to Big Bear Lake in Summer
- Best Things to do in Memphis if you Only Have One Day
- Ultimate Colorado Itinerary for an Epic Road Trip
- Telluride: The Best Mountain Town in Colorado
- Juneau, in the Rain
- Finally Falling for Seattle
- How to Escape the Crowds in Waikiki
- How to Spend 2 Days in Boston
- The Best Small Towns in Massachusetts