Southern California Beach Cities Guide

Today’s city guide comes from Manhattan Beach resident and Beach City Lifestyle blogger, Teri Roughen. Teri grew up spending summers camping and sunning on the beaches up and down the Southern California coast, and today she shares some of the many gems in these SoCal beach cities (El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach). Thanks for this wonderful guide, Teri! — Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump . . .

These South Bay-area beaches start a few miles south of LAX and are among the most beautiful and accessible beaches you’ll find anywhere in the world. Home to the first pro-beach volleyball tournaments, as well as the first surf beaches, these cities have a small-town feel with the advantage of big city attractions, such as movie studios, Lakers training facilities, a 150-acre harbor, the Skechers USA headquarters and some of the most expensive housing in the country. You can take in all its beauty while riding your strand cruiser along the 22-mile stretch of paved path that borders the sea and sand. Residents have the luxury of living in a resort-like setting while enjoying access to all that Los Angeles has to offer.

These individual cities have their own charm and character. The great part is that you can walk from one to the next without taking your eyes off the ocean or Catalina Island in the distance. The preferable mode of transportation is a car, which can make parking in the beach cities a trying experience. Weekends see far more taxis today than in years past, as the nightlife is still vibrant. Summer holiday beach-going, most notably the Fourth of July, is a scene not to be missed, as the strand is littered with red, white and blue bikinis; strand house parties; and revelers taking over what is usually a sedate beach community.

The small-town feel is apparent at the Manhattan Beach Home Town Fair, Fiesta Hermosa and Redondo Beach Super Bowl 10K, yearly events where generations come together and out-of-towners come home.

The usual 70-degree temperature is another reason most residents never want to live elsewhere.

Check out the Google Map of all the listings below.

EL SEGUNDO

The city of El Segundo is home to the endangered Blue Butterfly and has a history with space and engineering facilities, as well as refined oil. A little known fact is that El Segundo has the largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies on the West Coast. None of its residential properties sit oceanfront, but the beach is about a 10-minute bike ride away. This city has a Mayberry-esque quality to it and is remote from the rest of the South Bay.

Eat

La Sirena Grill — In the fairly new El Segundo Plaza (east of the Sepulveda), this is a nice place to stop for a margarita and chips and salsa in between checking out the shops around the plaza.

Schat’s Bakery — Family-owned from a long line of bakers. This recently remodeled full-service restaurant is where you can get anything from a coffee and pastry to a full-course meal. Lots of variety here.

Good Stuff — This café has its roots in the South Bay, with restaurants in both Redondo and Hermosa. A beach-city classic that’s always good, especially for breakfast. Their coffee is excellent, and their portions are hearty.

Chef Hannes — Very quaint European-style dining. This is where the locals go. Great pasta and fish dishes. Very reasonable prices for what you get.

Blue Butterfly Coffee Company — Named after the beloved El Segundo Blue Butterfly, this coffee shop is quintessential El Segundo. You’ll probably want to stop in, say hello and have a cup of coffee while watching who comes and goes.

Rock and Brews — Completely remodeled and set to open in March 2012. Rock and Brews features, of course, rock music, a great menu of pizzas, burgers and more, plus beer and more beer. Designed with a beautiful outdoor patio, grab a coffee and newspaper in the mornings and listen to some music before work. A great addition to the neighborhood.

 

Shop

Studio Antiques — An amazing place to browse and discover. Disorderly, but in the best possible way. You have to do some digging, but you can find everything from furniture to vintage photos here. The super delightful owner has lots of stories to tell.

Plaza El Segundo — Only two years old, this plaza (which is east of Sepulveda), is a great new addition to the area with some bigger retail chain shops like Anthropologie, J.Crew, MAC, H&M, Banana Republic, Pinkberry, Yoga Works and Whole Foods Market. The local farmers’ market stops here every Tuesday.

See/Do

Automobile Driving Museum — Something fun for car enthusiasts. The volunteers are knowledgeable car lovers, the museum hosts swing band dances and Sunday’s visitors are taken for a ride in one of the lovely vintage cars.

Windsports Hang Gliding — From the low cliffs of Dockweiler Beach, Windsports offers lessons for your hang-gliding experience at the beach. Call to make an appointment: 818-367-2430.

MANHATTAN BEACH

Manhattan Beach is made up of three areas: the west or ocean side of Sepulveda Blvd., which consists of the south and north ends, and east of Sepulveda Blvd. Manhattan Beach is home to the Manhattan Open Volleyball Tournament, the volleyball equivalent of golf’s Masters Tournament. Summer weekends are filled with volleyball, surf and sun. Just north and south of the pier are the spots where crowds gather, and conveniently, you can walk up Manhattan Beach Blvd. to a number of restaurants, ice cream shops and bars for a respite from the sun. The oceanfront properties along the strand start in the $6 million range. This is the city’s centennial year, and you can visit the historical society located in the “little red house” in Polliwog Park to see how this area has developed over the last 100 years. What started as a small beach-town getaway is now home to many pro-athletes, actors, producers and IT-industry moguls, as well as second, third, and fourth generation natives who wouldn’t consider living anywhere else.

MANHATTAN BEACH — SOUTH END

Stay

Shade Hotel — Opened in 2004, this luxury boutique hotel designed by Christopher Lowell was a long time in the making. It sits on what was formerly the famous (and collectible) Metlox Pottery factory site. You can lounge at the Zinc bar, or walk to any number of bars and restaurants just down the street, plus the entire Pacific Ocean is only steps away. It’s also right next door to the fabulous Trilogy Spa.

Eat

Beckers Bakery and Deli — For cookies, pies and cakes, this is the place to visit when you’re in Manhattan Beach. It’s also a great deli that’s open for lunch; be sure to get their specialty squaw bread, which is to die for! All within a few steps from the beach.

The Kettle — The staple of Manhattan Beach, The Kettle is open 24 hours and located in the heart of downtown. The Kettle has the best soups and salads, and their breakfast menu is hearty and delicious. On sunny days, sitting outside on the patio is the perfect vantage point from which to view the city’s beach life.

El Sombrero — Great Mexican-style food to fill up on after a sunny day at the beach. They have two locations in Manhattan Beach; one is steps from the sand and the other is east of Sepulveda. Nothing fancy, just great beach-style Mexican food.

Simmzy’s — Beer flights galore! Right in the heart of downtown with an outdoor-like ambience that’s always bustling. So much better than your average pub food; hamburgers, fish tacos and chicken sandwiches are served in a fun and lively setting.

Petros — Classic Greek cuisine perfect for a business lunch or meeting friends for a catch-up. Located in the Metlox Plaza next to the Shade Hotel. A must-have dessert is their Loukoumas, Greek doughnuts drizzled with honey and served with vanilla ice cream. Fabulous!

MB Post — A recent addition to the downtown area in the same location as the original post office, so the vibe is nostalgic with an infusion of hip. MB Post features communal dining and small plates. Everything is delicious and brought to your table straight from the kitchen. The bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits are a must-have. Start with the meat and cheese board that is fun to share and so good; the skirt steak and scallops are also a favorite, and all the vegetables are cooked to perfection. Great flavors, and the service is always helpful and gracious. Open for dinner at 5pm. Sunday brunch hours vary, so call ahead.

Shop

Ava+Aliria — The most stylish shop in the area with a mix of contemporary and vintage items. Always a great place to find that sought-after vintage jewelry piece or handbag. Owners Marissa and Consuelo have a keen eye for trends and unique, one-of-a-kind items.

Bella Beach and Bella Beach-Kids — Owned and operated by a beach-city native, these two shops are next door to one another. You’ll find exquisite jewelry and handbags made by other locals, plus great brands like Gypsy05, Goddis and Lily Pulitzer, to name a few. Plus, the kids’ store is filled with super cute clothing, toys and must-haves for the little ones.

Katwalk — Great go-to store if you need something to wear for a last-minute date or night out. Affordable trends and a great turnover of new items.

A Summer Place — They carry beachy decor and gift items. This is not a cheesy souvenir shop, but you’ll find great things to take home with you!

Magpie — A one-stop shop for gifts, jewelry, tableware and glassware. This is where the locals do their gift shopping.

Indian Pink — Newly opened, but they’ve been making their pillows for a few years and selling through other boutiques. Décor pillows and throws, plus upholstered pieces made with textiles from around the world.

Blvd. — Men’s and women’s clothes that are perfect for SoCal beach living. If you lost your luggage, you could find everything you need here!

Pages Bookstore — Opened in 2010, this store is just what the beach cities needed. They carry all the new reads, hold book author signings, feature a game night and have the cutest children’s area with a weekly story time.

See/Do

Manhattan Open Volleyball Tournament — A yearly tournament where all the big names in volleyball turn out in the hopes of being immortalized on the pier. It was at one time a locals-only spectator sport but has become sponsor driven with grandstands and network television coverage.

Hometown Fair — This yearly fair usually takes place the first weekend of October. Offers food, games, a 10K, a beer garden and arts and crafts sold by local artisans. Lots of fun for all.

Roundhouse Aquarium — A fun place to take the kids; they do parties and are dedicated to educating children about our oceans and its preservation. Check schedule for hours.

Fun Bunns — Strand cruisers are a necessity if you want to get around along the strand path. These rentals are reasonably priced ($7–$9 per hour). You can ride from Manhattan Beach to Santa Monica and take in the best ocean views along the way. Located at 1116 Manhattan Ave. (310-372-8500).

MANHATTAN BEACH — NORTH END

Eat

North End Caffe — Featured on the Food Network’s show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It’s a great locals’ spot with some outdoor seating. Just steps to the beach and very busy on the weekends. Open all day with an extensive menu.

Four Daughters Kitchen — Beach eatery open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Stocked bar, kid-friendly and an easy stop if you’re killing time before a flight.

Fish Bar — Open all day. A great seafood menu at great prices. Clam chowder is a must. Bring the whole family!

OB’s Pub & Grill — A neighborhood staple since 1985. A sports bar and authentic beach hang out. Open every day from 9am to 2am.

MANHATTAN BEACH — EAST

Stay

Marriott Hotel — Although this is not a boutique hotel, if you are traveling to the area and want to see all of what Los Angeles has to offer, this hotel offers tours and transportation for small and large groups. It’s budget friendly, and you can still take advantage of the beach cities while venturing outside the area if your stay permits.

Eat

Tin Roof Bistro — Lunch or dinner you won’t be disappointed with. Pizzas and their flavorful Brussels spouts are a must. The burgers are great, too, and they have a turkey and brie sandwich served with fries that is a favorite. Nice bar area and outdoor patio, or you can sit outside and play Bocce Ball while you’re eating!

Manhattan Bread & Bagel — A fun neighborhood spot serving the best bagels around, as well as fresh-baked breads, coffee, salads and sandwiches.

Shop

GROW Market — If you need to pack a lunch or picnic basket, this shop has it all. Locally supplied, so the food is fresh and the market is well stocked. Very community-oriented, and the owners are knowledgeable and super friendly.

See/Do

Concerts in the Park — Sunday nights in late June through Labor Day, bring your picnic, listen to music and sit under the stars at Polliwog Park. There is an amphitheater setting and a pond in the middle of this pretty large park. No dogs allowed, but children will love it here!

HERMOSA BEACH

Hermosa Beach has been known as a kind of hippie surf town. However, recent improvements and renovations to the downtown area have morphed it into a place of shopping and socializing. Every first Thursday of the month, local businesses and shops are open late so everyone can stroll and mingle while taking advantage of all the downtown area has to offer. While surfing and volleyball remain a big part of this city, community improvements and local businesses are making it a destination city, as well.

Stay

Beach House — Beachfront boutique hotel located right on the strand at the heart of where all the action is. Book ahead of time for summer months. Continental breakfasts offered, and it’s a quick walk to restaurants, shopping and nightlife

Eat

Ocean Diner — Located east of the highway, this retro ’40s-decor-style diner is a neighborhood favorite and popular weekend and breakfast spot. Save room for the fresh-baked goods made in house. “Mom’s meatloaf” and potpies are the favorite dinner picks.

Java Man — This coffee house is the oldest in Hermosa Beach. Set in a 1920s bungalow, they have desserts and many flavored coffee choices. An excellent spot to relax, people watch, read the paper and socialize.

Hibachi — Open for dinner only, they have the best teriyaki dishes around, served with rice and a salad and finished off with tea and almond cookies.

Chef Melba’s Bistro — A little gem at the beach. Chef Melba herself is in the kitchen. She offers California fusion cuisine, with seafood being her specialty. Casual but with a hint of sophistication.

La Sosta — The perfect date night spot. Italian cuisine with a twist, this restaurant is small, quaint and romantic. Their antipasti are a great place to start, and it gets better from there.

Martha’s — Outdoor seating just steps away from the sand. A popular spot on weekends. This little diner by the ocean is also open for breakfast and lunch.

Palmilla — Opened in 2011, their specialty is the made-to-order flour tortillas served warm and fresh to your table, as well as their wide selection of tequilas. Great ambience, and located where all the nightlife action is. Food is fresh and delicious!

Abigaile — Opened in 2012. House-brewed draft beers and handcrafted cocktails are a unique plus. They feature a small plates menu made from local, fresh food. Abigaile’s varied menu offers everything from burgers and pork sliders to ahi tuna and lamb ossobuco. Individual tables and communal dining available. You’ll feel an electric ambience here!

Shop

Gum Tree — Located in an old Craftsman bungalow, which is the perfect setting for this collection of stationery, books, décor, jewelry, baby items and so much more.  The super cute shop is a credit to the owner’s great eye for merchandising. There’s also a little café attached that is worth checking out.

Becker — Becker started out shaping surfboards 25 years ago. Since that time, they’ve added a retail shop outfitted with everything for the beach-city lifestyle. Becker carries brands like Roxy, Hurley, Volcom, Billabong, O’Neill and much more. You’ll find all you need to dress and play at the beach. Many of the friendly staff members have worked at Becker since its inception.

Maison Luxe — Gorgeous home store. Everything you need to create a beautiful space, from beds to luxury candles. Take a peek and get inspired by all the pretty things.

Stars Antique Market — Get lost in this big space filled with individual vendors’ flea market finds.

Uncorked — A great neighborhood wine store offering 350+ wines from all over the world, wine tastings and a craft beer selection.

See/Do

St. Rocke — Live music venue that offers a great lineup of entertainment with a kitchen serving really great food. There aren’t many places like this around anymore.

Comedy Magic Club — Jay Leno appears here every Sunday trying out his Tonight Show material. Other big names have passed through here, as well, making it a fun spot for a night out with friends. Reservations suggested, but usually you can buy tickets on the same day. Check their schedule.

Fiesta Hermosa — An annual fair on Memorial Day weekend where artisans show their wares. There’s also food and live entertainment, and it’s free and fun for the entire family!

International Surf Festival — Annual event held July 31 through August 5 (changes yearly). See competitions of different beach sports, including volleyball, soccer, surfing, rowing and lifeguard competitions. Check their schedule for when different events are held.

Hermosa Cyclery — Rent strand cruisers, bikes with kid seats, skates and helmets — everything you need to spend a day seeing the area from the best vantage point. Check out their very comprehensive website for rates.

REDONDO BEACH

The Hotel Redondo was built in 1890. At that time, Redondo Harbor was the port of Los Angeles. Since then, the hotel has been torn down, and the pier that stands today has weathered fire and storms but remains a destination spot for many. At the south end of Redondo’s beaches is a cove-like area called Hollywood Riviera, which was originally developed to be the Hollywood at the beach. It never really caught on, but the quaint Riviera Village is left instead, with its great shopping and dining.

Stay

Portofino Hotel — On the water in the middle of King Harbor, the Portofino offers ocean and harbor views. You can find great dining on site or walk to restaurants, nearby shops or the pier.

Eat

Catalina Coffee Co. — Perfect neighborhood spot. Cozy “living room-like” setting with lots of chairs and sofas. Serving great coffees, breakfast, lunch and dinner. The sandwich portions are large, and the dessert case is tempting. Sit and read or work while you sip and eat.

Blue Water Grill — Seafood right on the water. This unique spot on the harbor is a great setting for a wonderful seafood dining experience.

Captain Kidd’s — Located in the harbor area, an awesome place for fish ‘n’ chips on the patio. Their fish market is a local favorite.

Tony’s — Known as “Old Tony’s,” this restaurant has been on the pier since 1952. Famous for their Mai Tais and the great views in the upstairs bar. This is a famous beach-city landmark.

The Green Temple — Vegetarian dining in the Riviera Village. Organic and fresh fare with a completely vegetarian menu. Open for lunch and dinner. Closed Mondays.

Zazou — Provencale and Tuscan cuisine. Located in the Riviera Village, serving classic dishes and seasonal fare. White tablecloths with a casual vibe.

Shop

Dive N’ Surf — Since 1958, Dive N’ Surf has been in this location. The Meistrell brothers revolutionized wetsuits to make them user-friendly for surfers. This place is truly iconic. All of your diving needs are met here. Shop for t-shirts, trunks, swimsuits and more. They carry all the beach/surf brands.

Return Engagement — A consignment shop with lots to browse. The helpful staff will guide you to what you may be searching for. Occasionally, high-end labels can be spotted here.

Lollipop — Super cute children’s boutique in the Riviera Village. Lots of color and specialty items for the little ones.

Fringe — Sister store to the Fringe in Manhattan Beach. This Riviera Village location is larger but has the same coastal/beach flair. Offering furniture and décor, this is an excellent spot to find gifts for beach and ocean lovers.

See/Do

Redondo Pier — Enjoy beautiful scenic views from the pier. Shop, dine, fish and walk along the historic Redondo Beach Pier.

Sport Fishing — Half-day or three-quarter-day fishing trips. Located at the end of the pier, you can rent fishing poles and spend a day on the water off the Pacific Coast. Whale-watching excursions take off from this same location.

Marina Bike Rentals — Find this little shop between the pier and King Harbor. A must-do if you are spending a sunny day in town. Hours vary so call ahead. (505 N. Harbor Dr. 310-318-2453)

Sea Lab — Hands-on marine science center. Visit and learn all about the ocean and sea life. They cater to children and groups. Check their schedule for hours.

Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center — This is a beautiful 1,457-seat theatre that hosts the Distinguished Speaker Series, as well as the Los Angeles Ballet. Tickets for both are generally sold out. This theatre is well loved and much visited by the community. Check schedule for upcoming events.

Some of the notables who live or have lived in the beach cities at one time or another: Tiger Woods, Maria Sharapova, Shaquille O’Neal, Leroy Grannis, Eric Fonoimoana, Misty May Treanor, Kerri Walsh, Mia Hamm, Nomar Garciaparra, Eric Karros, Teri Polo, Adrianne Curry, Chris Knight, Roseanne Barr, George Brett, members of Black Flag, Ron Kovic, Rachel Hunter, Rob Blake, Ozzy and Harriet Nelson, Kurt Rambis, Luke Walton

kalanicut

This is great. I live near this area and have been venturing around wanting to get to know it better. This will make it much easier. Thanks!

Jill

What, no love for Long Beach? A rather vibrant community as well and still LA county!

Camilla

Cool. I live in Orange County but have never been to those beaches. Looking forward to exploring the area with this guide!

Danielle

In the El Segundo Plaza Active Ride Shop has the best customer service I’ve ever received! Definitely a place worth visiting!

kelly

i am from the torrance/redondo/pv area and it is a gem. my friend’s mom owns Fringe, which is mentioned above, and it is so worth a stop. the riviera village in redondo beach has such a soft spot in my heart, as i worked there for many years and LOVE the small town feel your contributor talks about. if you visit LA, spend at least a day going off the beaten path to see the unequaled beauty of the south bay!

Janaye

I am from Torrance/ Redondo beach and am SO excited to see the Beach Cities on Design*Sponge!

Kim

Fantastic post! I am from the area, and have many place to visit now! Thank you!

Christine

Great to see the South Bay represented on Design Sponge. As a former resident of Hermosa and Redondo and current resident of Torrance I find it odd that so many Los Angelenos think the South Bay is “so far away” and never make it down to the Beach Cities. A few places in to add to the list: The Rockefeller on Pier Ave. in Hermosa, a really tasty gastropub, Mediterraneo on the Hermosa Pier, a tapas bar with lots of outdoor seating, a great happy hour and an really good beer selection and Naja’s Place on the Redondo Pier with an incredible 88 beers on tap.

margy

Redondo = home sweet home. Other restaurants include the Brewery in the Village and W’s on PCH. And the gelato around here is tops. I’m watching the sun set over the ocean right now. :)

Kaitlin

These are great! @jill- I definitely think Long Beach needs its own City Guide!!

annie

Teri’s blog is brilliant, I never tire of the photos of palm trees and sunsets and it makes a nice change from grey London. Brilliant post!

Lois

Thanks for the great beach guide to a great southern cal area but in Manhatten Beach you missed the best of the best stores, Lulu’s! The buyer Kathy Rodarte fills the store non stop with the most beautiful lingerie, body and bath products from around the world to a women’s great loves of shoes and bags not to leave out gifts, confections and many other goodies not found anywhere! I moved from Southern California to the East Coast and Lulu’s is still my favorite place to shop.

Theresa

I can’t think of a better beach city tour guide than Teri. Her blog is always full of great tips and recommendations on what to do and see in Southern California. Great post, Teri!

Jennifer

Awesome guide and awesome guest blogger. Thank you Teri and thank you Design Sponge! P.S. – Totally agree with the other ladies – Long Beach would need its own guide – for a city with over a half a million people, we have such a wealth of great shops, restaurants and of course, some of the best beach activities in So Cal!

susan

Fell in love in Manhattan Beach, got married there and lived at the beach for 9 years. Oh how I miss it!

Eva @ Sycamore Street Press

I had so much fun reading this! I lived in Redondo Beach and nearby towns for the first 12 years of my life… so many wonderful memories. I’d love to go back again and explore.

Jennifer Beaudet

I grew up in Redondo Beach and now have some of my paintings at Fringe! It’s great to see this feature of all of the wonderful beach cities I call my home.

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