Los Angeles Vacations

Santa Monica Pier photo
Beachgoers near the Santa Monica Pier (Richard Carroll)

Los Angeles Beach Travel Tips

  • Each beach city in the Los Angeles area has its own flavor, from the surfer bliss of Malibu to the off-the-wall antics (not to mention bodybuilders and disco roller skaters) of Venice Beach.
  • You can experience the extent of L.A.'s beach scene by renting a beach-cruiser bike and taking it along The Strand, which runs 22 miles from Santa Monica to Torrance. The stretch from Venice Beach to Hermosa Beach provides a great slice of summer culture.
  • Summer thrills come in many forms in Santa Monica, where you can sign up for a surf lesson or ride a seaside roller coaster at the Santa Monica Pier.
  • You don't have to take it with you: Many of L.A.'s beaches have concession stands that rent everything from beach umbrellas to boogie boards.
  • Along with beaches for sunbathing and celebrating (Malibu's Zuma Beach comes to mind), you'll also find ones that are havens for nature lovers, like Point Dume and those along the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
  • If you come seeking California summer sunshine, you may have to wait a bit. "June Gloom" (which can extend to other summer months) brings fog to the coast. Often, it burns off by afternoon, but don't forget the sunscreen even on gray days.

If you've ever seen a movie (or watched TV or, heck, surfed the Internet), you probably know a little bit about Los Angeles. From the Hollywood sign to Sunset Boulevard, whether it's the rich and famous shopping on Rodeo Drive or performers dressed up like Elvis and Mickey Mouse outside Grauman's Chinese Theater on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the images of the silver screen come to life here in Tinsel Town.

And America's second-largest city can be at the same time thrilling and overwhelming. Thinking of the Los Angeles area as a series of neighborhoods, each with its own flavor, can help. The tony west side—which includes Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, and Brentwood—is home to the rich and famous. Along with being a hub of business, downtown L.A. has galleries, the Jewelry District, and international enclaves like Little Tokyo and Olvera Street. Inland is "The Valley," loved as much as its hated, with movie studios, super-malls, and that old-school standby for shopping and dining, Ventura Boulevard. The coast supports iconic cities-by-the-sea: Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, Hermosa Beach, and more. And then, of course, there's Hollywood itself, with plenty of super-sized excitement—from the rides of Universal Studios Hollywood to the colorful exuberance of the Venice Ocean Front Walk. But there are smaller neighborhood destinations, too, where you'll find a spot that fits your fancy. Creative types haunt the bookstores, cafes, and classic theaters of Los Feliz; design buffs can visit architectural gems in Silver Lake. If Rodeo Drive couture isn't your style, try the bohemian chic of Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

Along with great shopping and eating in the city and its neighborhoods, there are also places to ditch the concrete. The Santa Monica Mountains have miles of trails; the coast offers waves for riding and beaches for strolling; and Griffith Park offers horseback riding, camping, hiking, and more in one of the nation's largest urban parks (think Central Park, but more rugged).

So forget what you've seen on-screen and recognize that Los Angeles extends beyond Hollywood stereotypes (and stereotypes of Hollywood). It's a place where you can find, do, and be almost anything. Just like in the movies.

Published: 17 Jun 2010 | Last Updated: 28 Jun 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



Sign up to Away's Travel Insider

Preview newsletter »