Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local’s Guide to Manhattan Beach, California
Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Hit the Waves at One of LA's Top Surfing Spots
With its prime beachfront location and consistent waves, Manhattan Beach is widely considered one of the top surf spots in Los Angeles County. For surfers of all levels, hitting the waves here is an iconic SoCal experience not to be missed.
The surf break off Manhattan Beach Pier is a favorite for its accessibility and fun, ridable waves. The north side of the pier sees more beginner-friendly waves, while the south side can churn out more advanced peaks up to 8 feet on big swell days. With its status as one of LA's most popular breaks, it can get crowded, but the friendly vibe and stellar views make it worth jockeying for a spot in the lineup.
Just south of the pier, you'll find another beloved surf spot dubbed "El Porto." Translating to "The Port" in Spanish, this beach break is named for its location next to the southern terminus of the Strand. With multiple shifting peaks, fast hollow walls, and a sandy bottom, El Porto appeals to shortboarders looking for a thrilling ride. It also hosts several pro surf contests throughout the year. Arrive at dawn to beat the crowds and score the best waves.
For a more low-key surf session, head down the beach to 42nd or 36th Street. These mellow beach breaks pick up smaller swells and are ideal spots for longboarding, catching a few gentle waves, and avoiding the chaos of the pier area. The chill atmosphere also makes these breaks good for beginner surf lessons.
No matter your surfing skill level, Manhattan Beach serves up an awesome SoCal surfing experience. With board and wetsuit in tow, paddle out and enjoy these quintessential LA breaks. Catching that first wave while the sun rises over the sea is a special moment you'll always treasure from your Manhattan Beach getaway.
After an early morning surf session, refuel with a hearty breakfast burrito at Ercoles or savory breakfast sandwich from The Kettle. Nothing tastes better after a few hours of surfing than a hot meal and coffee to get you going for the rest of your beach day.
For an easy way to rent a board and wetsuit, visit Beach Cities Scuba or Dive N' Surf by the pier. Expert surf instructors can also help you safely learn proper techniques before paddling out at some of Manhattan's most iconic surf spots.
What else is in this post?
- Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Hit the Waves at One of LA's Top Surfing Spots
- Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Stroll the Strand for Endless Beachfront Views
- Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Fuel Up on Fresh Seafood at The Strand House
- Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Wander Through Downtown MB's Walkable Shopping & Dining
- Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Relax at Polliwog Park's Family-Friendly Green Space
- Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Marvel at Extravagant Homes on Millionaire's Row
- Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Take in Sweeping Ocean Views from the Manhattan Beach Pier
- Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Check Out the Volleyball Scene at Legendary Manhattan Beach
Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Stroll the Strand for Endless Beachfront Views
One of the top attractions in Manhattan Beach is the Strand - a scenic oceanfront walkway and bike path stretching along the coast. Perfect for leisurely strolls, jogs, or bike rides, the Strand provides endless beachfront views and an up-close perspective of the Pacific.
Running parallel to Ocean Drive, the Strand stretches over 3 miles from 45th Street down to Rosecrans Avenue. One of the best ways to experience it is to start near the Manhattan Beach Pier and head south along the waterfront. As you stroll the wide paved path, you'll pass mansions, beach cottages, greenery-filled parks, and plenty of cafes and shops steps from the sand.
Look out over the water and you'll see surfers catching waves, stand-up paddleboarders gliding by, and sailboats cruising across the glittering sea. Inland, fitness enthusiasts will be running and cycling on the path as families push strollers, friends walk dogs, and locals take their daily promenade. The bustling Strand embodies the laidback yet active SoCal lifestyle.
One highlight along the way is theTexts and historical plaques installed beneath the palm trees, detailing facts about the early 20th century bathhouse culture that made Manhattan Beach a tourist destination. Other points of interest include the Colorful Strand mural at 36th Place and a psychedelic art piece adorning Shade Hotel.
As you continue south, the path becomes more peaceful and expansive. By Rosecrans, high cliffs tower above and provide shade on hot afternoons. This is a nice spot to pause and watch the surf crash against the rocks below.
No trip along the Strand is complete without stopping for a snack or drink at one of the cute cafes dotting Ocean Drive. Top picks include Ercoles, Cafe Pierre, Panchos Restaurant, The Kettle, and Uncle Bill's Pancake House. Fuel up on coffee, tacos, acai bowls, or pancakes at these breezy spots with prime outdoor seating.
Among the Strand's highlights are the periodic volleyball nets set up on the sand for friendly pickup games. Manhattan Beach is famous for its pro volleyball scene, and you might get to witness some impressive spikes and digs on an impromptu court.
As sunset approaches, find a nice patch of sand near the path and take in the golden hour views. Watch the glowing sun dip below the horizon as the waves light up in dazzling shades of orange and pink. End your evening with a relaxing beachfront dinner at FISH or MB Post.
Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Fuel Up on Fresh Seafood at The Strand House
After working up an appetite strolling along the Strand or catching waves, one of the top spots in Manhattan Beach to refuel is The Strand House. This upscale yet laidback restaurant right on the oceanfront esplanade dishes up fresh, inventive seafood and stunning sunset views.
The draw of The Strand House is its beachfront location with panoramic views of the Pacific. Situated right on the Strand bike path, the sprawling patio is footsteps from the sand for an immersive dining experience. You'll feel like you're eating on the beach as you gaze out at surfers bobbing in the waves and families frolicking by the shoreline.
Of course, the star of the show is the seafood, curated daily from the Santa Monica Pier and prepared with bold flavors and contemporary flair. Start your meal with their famous lobster tempura fries, featuring succulent lobster meat fried in a light tempura batter with pepper and chives. Other appetizers like ahi tuna tartare, crab cakes, and coconut shrimp offer a taste of the ocean in every bite.
For the main course, opt for their signature herb crusted sea bass if available, seared to perfection with a bright lemon caper butter sauce. The restaurant's prix fixe menu also offers creative dishes like miso glazed salmon and roasted branzino with tomato vinaigrette and olive tapenade. Don't shy away from the daily specials either, where you may find delicacies like sea scallops or Maine lobster tail sourced straight from the docks that morning.
Beyond seafood, The Strand House offers salads, flatbreads, and sandwiches for lighter beachside fare. Their extensive wine list provides the perfect pairing for whichever ocean-inspired dish you select. Add a bottle of crisp sauvignon blanc or local California chardonnay to complement the briny seafood.
While dinner takes center stage, The Strand House also shines at Sunday brunch. Sitting on the lively patio sipping Bloody Marys, noshing on fluffy lemon ricotta pancakes, and gazing out at the waves makes for an ideal laidback California Sunday. Brunch also showcases delicious seafood options like a half lobster omelette, fried oyster Benedict, and a raw bar with fresh shucked oysters.
Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Wander Through Downtown MB's Walkable Shopping & Dining
Beyond the beach, downtown Manhattan Beach offers visitors a delightful area to wander on foot while shopping and dining. Centered around Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Valley Drive, downtown MB has a quaint small-town feel with pedestrian-friendly streets dotted with boutiques, galleries, cafes, and eateries.
Strolling down Manhattan Beach Blvd, you'll discover blocks of charming low-rise buildings housing independent shops selling apparel, home goods, gifts and more. Bright murals liven up the sides of several stores, lending to the beach town artistry. For upscale coastal designs, duck into Tommy Bahama's and Badgley Mischka. Find bohemian dresses and accessories at Johnny Was or cute children's clothes at June & January. Those seeking vintage treasures will love Redondo Beach Boulevard and its cluster of secondhand and consignment shops.
Art aficionados can browse the fine art photography at Stephen Cohen Gallery or colorful prints at Urban Cottage. For unique gifts, Ambiance has shelves stacked with pretty home decor, while ZJ Boarding House offers skate decks and surf-inspired goods. Seek out Manhattan Beach's best selection of books at Pages: A Book Store, then cozy up with your new read on a patio nearby.
When hunger strikes, downtown Manhattan Beach offers coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants to please every palate. For third-wave coffee drinks, light fare, and ample outdoor seating, head to The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf or Starbucks on Manhattan Beach Blvd. North End Caffe cooks up hearty breakfasts and sandwiches, while Ercoles crafts drool-worthy sandwiches and homemade gelato.
For baked goods, nothing beats a stop at Manhattan Beach Creamery. Their displays burst with cookies, cupcakes, macarons, and freshly baked breads. Around lunchtime, you'll find lines out the door at savory cafes like Uncle Bill's Pancake House and North End Caffe. The Kettle dishes out classic diner fare, while Pancho's offers big burritos and tacos.
Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Relax at Polliwog Park's Family-Friendly Green Space
Tucked away just a few blocks from the beach, Polliwog Park offers families a grassy green escape with plenty of amenities to keep kids entertained. Its proximity to downtown Manhattan Beach makes it easy to incorporate a visit to this lively community park into a day of shopping and dining in the area.
With its name referencing the pollywog tadpoles that likely inhabited its land before development, Polliwog Park spans over seven acres filled with recreational facilities. Kids can burn off energy at the large playground, complete with a rope climbing tower, twisty slides, swings, and classic monkey bars. Test your skills on the four-square and hopscotch courts painted on the blacktop. Basketball hoops, tennis courts, and a baseball field provide space for shooting hoops, bumping tennis balls, and playing casual pickup games.
On Sundays, the upper field transforms into an active bazaar with arts, crafts, produce, and prepared foods sold by local vendors. Peruse handmade jewelry or scope out the fresh fruits and veggies while kids enjoy pony rides, face painting, and live music. The weekly farmer's market embodies Polliwog Park as a lively community hub.
For special events throughout the year, the park hosts concerts on its central lawn and an annual Easter egg hunt around the playground and grassy areas. On summer evenings, bring a blanket and picnic dinner to enjoy free outdoor movies projected onto an inflatable screen. Kids can wear pajamas, lounge on comfy pillows, and take in family-friendly flicks under the stars.
When you need a break from the action, stroll through the serene Japanese garden dotted with koi ponds, stone lanterns, and a traditional teahouse. Let kids connect with nature by feeding the ducks and birds that flock to the ponds. Take a peaceful wander across the arched wooden moon bridge while fish swim lazily below the water's surface.
Adjacent to the zen garden, The Learning Garden provides hands-on opportunities for kids to get their hands dirty planting fruits and vegetables alongside mentors. Educational programs teach children about sustainable gardening, nutrition, and nature while allowing them to nurture their own plants.
With ample shade from soaring palms and eucalyptus trees, parents can also simply relax on benches and enjoy picnics while watching their youngsters enjoy the park's many amenities. Leashed dogs are welcome in certain areas, allowing furry friends to join in on the fun.
Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Marvel at Extravagant Homes on Millionaire's Row
Beyond the sand lies an enclave of lavish homes that has earned Manhattan Beach the nickname “Millionaire’s Row.” Spanning along The Strand from 40th to 28th Street, these sprawling beachfront mansions provide a glimpse into how LA’s elite live a life of luxury by the sea. Meandering past the colossal contemporary homes feels like peeking into an architectural digest, marveling at the extravagant details that make these residences shine.
While each mansion has its own character, most share common traits like soaring ceilings, walls of glass windows, and sprawling footprints that stretch from the sidewalk to the sand. Many incorporate beachy elements like weathered driftwood, reclaimed barn wood paneling and seashell driveway accents. Homes closer to the shoreline flaunt infinity pools that blend into the ocean horizon and offer front-row views of surfers riding waves.
Don’t be surprised to see ultra-modern geometric designs juxtaposed next to Mediterranean villas and colonial Cape Cod-style homes. Various architectural influences collide, but all the homes seamlessly exude high-end luxury against a glittering ocean backdrop.
Perhaps the most famous home isDeck House, a sight to behold with its massive teak decks jutting over the sand and waves lapping below its pilings. Nearby on The Strand, the Tucker House stands out for its stark white facade and elongated shape spanning over 100 feet.
While you won’t glimpse the interiors, it’s fun to imagine what dazzling features they hold. We’re talking private home theaters, wine cellars stocked with rare vintages, designer chef’s kitchens with pizza ovens and sub zero fridges. Floor-to-ceiling walls of glass frame unobstructed views that million-dollar listings boast. Many residences likely have rooftop lounges, game rooms, and zen spa spaces for at-home pampering.
Of course, home prices in the tens of millions afford prime beachfront locations where owners can fall asleep to the sound of waves. But more than the hefty price tags, what makes these homes extraordinary are the details that money can buy at the highest echelon of luxury living.
Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Take in Sweeping Ocean Views from the Manhattan Beach Pier
Of the many scenic spots along the Manhattan Beach coastline, the Manhattan Beach Pier stands out for its sweeping panoramas and an unbeatable vantage point to soak in the sea. Extending 928 feet out over the Pacific Ocean, the pier gives you a front-row seat to experience the ocean's vastness, observe surfers riding waves, and watch boats dotting the horizon. Its ideal location makes it one of the top spots in Manhattan Beach for admiring spectacular coastal views.
As you stroll down the wooden planks of the pier, the sounds of the bustling beachfront fade away and all you hear is the peaceful roll of waves and cries of wheeling seagulls. Looking south, the pier reaches far out over the sea, giving you the feeling of standing directly atop the water. To the north, you’ll take in panoramic views of the entire 2-mile stretch of golden sand that makes up Manhattan county beach.
Gaze back at the beachside homes that make up Millionaire's Row and the greenery of Polliwog Park - sights that look pint-sized and picturesque from this elevated pier perspective. A favorite activity is watching surfers ride the swells around the pier pilings. Get a front-row view of their wave riding skills and camaraderie as they cheer each other on.
Near the pier, you may spot pods of dolphins leaping from the water and pelicans flying in formation just above the surface. Especially around sunset, the lighting illuminates the textures of the water in dazzling ways. As day turns to dusk, the sun melts into the sea in a ball of flaming orange and pink hues that dance across the waves. These panoramic sunsets over the Pacific exemplify the beauty of the California coastline.
At the very end of the pier, walk all the way out to the narrow tip jutting farthest into the ocean. Here, you’ll find unobstructed 360 degree views that make you feel like you're standing at the intersection of the sea and sky. On clear days, you can see the earth curve at this prime spot. For the most memorable views, time your pier visit for these magical sunrise and sunset moments.
Sun, Sand and Surf: A Local's Guide to Manhattan Beach, California - Check Out the Volleyball Scene at Legendary Manhattan Beach
Spikes, digs, and bumps, oh my! Manhattan Beach is renowned as the volleyball capital of the U.S., with pros and amateurs alike hitting the sandy courts to bump, set and spike. Even if you've never watched a volleyball match, you'll still get swept up in the electric atmosphere. This is a scene that begs to be experienced.
The mere mention of Manhattan Beach elicits images of tanned, toned players diving for digs as crowds cheer dramatic match-winning points. It's the birthplace of beach volleyball as we know it today. Back in the 1920's, the Manhattan Beach Open kickstarted competitive play on the beaches here. The world's best players now flock annually to battle it out in the prestigious tournament.
The scene centers around the volleyball courts lining the southern stretch of the Strand. Just strolling past, you'll find courts filled with intense pickup games of doubles and passionate lovers of the sport bonding over their shared enthusiasm. Knee pads, visors and sunglasses abound as players sprint and leap across the sand.
In 2018, Misty May-Treanor Beach Volleyball Courts opened as an Olympic standard site dedicated to amateur play and competitions. Named after the renowned Olympic gold medalist who grew up playing on Manhattan Beach, the complex has 10 lighted courts for both day and nighttime tournaments. Even on a casual weekend, you might catch semi-pros practicing for upcoming contests as diehard fans look on from the bleachers.
The Manhattan Beach Pier south to 18th street is known as "the circus" for its lively scene of players, games and clinics. All ages and ability levels mingle here in the sport's hallowed grounds. Take a stroll on warm summer days and you'll likely spot little kids giggling as they master the basics all the way up to chiseled athletes diving for every ball, their competitive passion on full display even in friendly matches.
Amid the chaos of activity, join the crowds who gather just to take in the infectious spirit of the scene. Chat with players on the sidelines about their volleyball journeys and love for the game. Soak up the sunshine, sea breeze and good vibes that permeate the beachside courts. Watch and learn as players explain strategy between sets or cheer on a winning shot.