First time visitors may be forgiven for thinking that all the sand stretches close to Los Angeles are inundated with boarders or budding wave riders. This is, after all the very birthplace of surfing. But if there’s any city in America that oozes summer all year round, it’s L.A., abundant with coastal gems worked into the fabric of coves, bays and beaches, from Malibu in the north all the way to Palos Verdes in the south. There’s something guaranteed here for everyone, no matter what they’re after.
Consider these top five beaches of Los Angeles County, all located within easy reach of the city center. Granted some are for the surf-hungry swell riders, but others offer romance, recreation or relaxation, not to mention the cultural panache of Los Angeles in a nutshell.
For many travellers coming to LA, Venice Beach is synonymous with the pomp, pride and proudly flamboyant character of the city as a whole. Since its establishment in the early 1900s as an out-of-town resort destination for fun-lovers and fairground-grazing families on the east coast, it’s continued to be one of Los Angeles’ most-visited destinations, now famed for its multicultural character, underground artistic subculture and as the birthplace of the psychedelic rock band The Doors. Consequently, the beachfront is alive with action day and night, with surfers riding the iconic Breakwater swells and quirky entertainers peppering the promenade.
Crowned by the oscillating ridges of the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance, this three-mile stretch of sand, which runs from Palisades Park in the north to the iconic Venice Beach close to central LA, has long been one of the staples of metropolitan recreation. From morning to night local patrons can be seen exercising and socializing on the sand, while most visitors head straight for the famous Ocean Front Walk or the fun-filled Santa Monica pier. Of course, there’s surfing too and budding riders can enlist the help of officially-approved instructors right up and down the beachfront.
With some of the best point-break surf swells in the whole world, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Malibu Lagoon State Beach is now recognized as one of the birthplaces of the global sport, where some of the earliest pioneers first tried to conquer the curling rights of the Pacific. Accordingly it’s now a spot of hallowed ground for boarders the globe over, hailed as the "Surfrider Beach" and still one of the undisputed kingpins of surfing in all of Los Angeles.
Cruise west out of LA Central on the eye-wateringly beautiful Pacific Coast Highway and you’ll eventually stumble across the rugged coves and rocky inlets of the El Matador State Beach. Given its relative obscurity from the nearby metropolitan centre, this one tends to be a little quieter and more popular among honeymooners and romantic holiday makers looking for something of a more secluded spot out of town. Don’t expect any of the amenities of Santa Monica or Venice here though - bodyboarders and surfers in search of the year-round swells should be extra careful in the rocky waters of the shore.
Affluent and attractive Manhattan Beach is another of the sporting kingpins of Los Angeles County. While a city in its own right, the wide sand stretches and unforgiving Atlantic swells that can be found here are what’s really put the destination on the map; the former as the playing grounds of the Open Volleyball Tournament, the latter because of the town’s yearly International Surf Festival. What’s more, visitors can beachcomb and bike their way northwards all the way to Santa Monica, while Manhattan offers some of the best swimming conditions south of LA Central.