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If you are visiting LA and want to go somewhere beautiful that is a little off the beaten path, don’t miss the South Bay. Here are the best things to do in South Bay to get you started…
During my first couple of visits to Los Angeles, I did the usual tourist stuff: Hollywood Boulevard, Santa Monica, Malibu, Venice Beach, the Getty Center. 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 LA. 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 best things to do in South Bay, Los Angeles.
Best Things To Do in South Bay, Los Angeles
Check out my interactive map for the best things to do in the South Bay of LA.
Hit the Beach!
One of the best and most obvious things to do in South Bay is to enjoy the beautiful beaches, because they are abundant and incredible. My favorite is Manhattan Beach with its gorgeous stretch of white sand beach that screams California, with tall palm trees and iconic lifeguard stations.
Hermosa, Redondo, and the smaller and more remote beaches of the Palos Verdes Peninsula are great choices too. Pack a picnic and make a day of it!
Learn How To Surf at Hermosa Beach
Hermosa Beach is probably the best place to learn how to surf in LA and there are a number of surf schools that offer lessons for beginners of all ages. If you are already an accomplished surfer, you can hire a board and enjoy Hermosa’s waves independently.
Experience Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach is my favorite place in the South Bay of Los Angeles and somewhere I now dream of living one day – if I suddenly become rich, because it is definitely not a cheap place to live.
This beachside city is home to a very pleasant and walkable downtown, filled with colorful buildings housing trendy cafes and health food joints, and a picturesque pier where you can watch the surfers and see seals frolicking in the ocean.
Run down the giant sand dune at Sand Dune Park, shop at the boutiques, wander the pier, swim at the beach – there is so much to do in Manhattan Beach and once you visit, you may never want to leave: The good vibes here are infectious.
Hang Out on Pier Avenue at Hermosa Beach
Hermosa Beach is the slightly grungier sister city to Manhattan Beach and attracts more of a younger crowd than Manhattan Beach. It is home to the palm tree-lined Pier Avenue, which is the bustling heart of Hermosa Beach.
Check out the numerous surf shops and boutiques, do some people-watching at one of the laid-back bars and restaurants, and just enjoy the relaxed surfer vibe. Lively Pier Avenue is also the best place in South Bay if you are looking for a night out.
Bike or Walk From Manhattan Beach to Redondo Beach
There is a beachside path known as The Strand that connects Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach and you can then continue further to Redondo Beach along a biking and walking path.
Biking or walking this 3.6-mile stretch is definitely one of my favorite things to do in the South Bay and is the perfect way to experience the beautiful coastline and beachside communities.
Explore the Redondo Beach Pier
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.
Go on an Adventure on the 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. Here is an excellent post by a local with hikes and trails to do 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.
Visit the Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro
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.
Eat Amazing Seafood
The South Bay is one of the best places to eat delicious seafood in LA and there are a number of excellent seafood restaurants. Two of my favorites are both in Manhattan Beach – Rock’n Fish and Fish Bar which both offer dishes such as halibut, Maine lobster, oysters, crab legs, scampi, and more.
For a more casual seafood meal, grab some fish and chips or something similar from one of the casual restaurants on the pier at Redondo Beach.
These are just a few of the wonderful things to do in 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. Consider getting a charter bus if you are traveling with a group.
Where To Stay in the South Bay
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 and downtown area.
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.
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.
Where to Stay on the Palos Verdes Peninsula
Treat yourself to 5-star luxury at Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, which has awesome sea views and a number of recreational facilities on-site, including a hot tub, private beach, fitness center, sauna, and golf course.
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.
South Bay Vacation Rentals
There are lots of great options for vacation rentals in the South Bay. Here are my picks for the best-rated and most affordable vacation rentals with convenient locations:
- Cozy Beach One Bedroom Guest Suite in Manhattan Beach
- Enchanting Two Bedroom Spanish Duplex With Ocean Views in Manhattan Beach
- Spacious Studio Apartment Close to Beach in Hermosa Beach
- Historic Beach Cottage Close to Beach in Redondo Beach
- Two-Bedroom San Pedro Cottage Two Blocks From the Beach
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