Which is the best beach in Los Angeles?
July 7, 2010 10:35 AM   Subscribe

Which is the best beach in Los Angeles?

I'll be in Los Angeles tomorrow through Saturday and would like to spend some time relaxing on the beach. I've never been to LA before and am a little overwhelmed by the options that I'm finding online. Please hope me narrow the field down by suggesting places that are not too crowded and easy for an out-of-towner to find (or are those criteria mutually exclusive?). Also, do the beaches get significantly more crowded on the weekend? Would it be better to go on Friday than Saturday?

Possibly pertinent details: We are two single 30-ish women, will be staying in Hollywood and will have a rental car.
posted by donajo to Travel & Transportation around Los Angeles, CA (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, the beaches do get significantly more crowded on weekends. The question is, though, what sort of beach experience are you looking for? Walking along the sand? Swimming in the water? Sunbathing? People-watching?

Personally, I like Venice Beach, because it's funky and full of weirdos; it sort of seems like the quintessential "Los Angeles" beach to me, and has lots of little street stalls, interesting restaurants, street performers, etc. Then again, I'm from Orange County (just south of Los Angeles) so if I'm just looking for a swim in the ocean or a place with a view to hike through, I have lots more local options.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:38 AM on July 7, 2010

Well, L.A. beaches don't get "crowded" in the sense that beaches on the east coast do, where there is sometimes literally not room to sit down.

Santa Monica (by the pier) would be the default choice- very easy to find. There will be a lot of people, but you can still find several hundred square feet of sand to call your own.

If you want something cleaner, less full of people, and a greater chance of seeing dolphins, head out to Zuma in Malibu. It's about an hour's drive or so, but well worth it in my opinion.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:41 AM on July 7, 2010

infinitywaltz is right, Venice is slightly funky but good for the very "L.A." experience- characters on the boardwalk, skate park, etc.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:42 AM on July 7, 2010

My ideal beach experience would be lying in the sun and reading, possibly swimming. Not so much people watching or walking/hiking.
posted by donajo at 10:47 AM on July 7, 2010

It sounds like you want just a quiet place. In that case, I'd head up to Zuma as drjimmy said. Of course it is currently drizzling and overcast, so hopefully by the weekend, you'll have some clearer skies though the forecast doesn't look promising...It looks like a high of 71 F.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:48 AM on July 7, 2010

I would go to Manhattan Beach. It's a bit farther away from Hollywood than, say, Santa Monica, and doesn't have that funky je ne sais quoi of Venice. It's also a far, far ritzier and wealthier area than both. But I like it.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:53 AM on July 7, 2010

As Sophie1 says, be prepared for not very summery weather -- L.A.'s annual June Gloom arrived late this year.
posted by scody at 11:04 AM on July 7, 2010

Hermosa is where I was born and raised. It is a bit less snooty than Manhattan, but the same idea, generally. This webcam is good for checking out the weather on the beach in Santa Monica Bay in general.
posted by Danf at 11:10 AM on July 7, 2010

Zuma is a great beach, if a bit of a drive. My family used to go camping all the time at Leo Carillo beach, which is just a bit further up the road. Lots of terrific memories of that beach, although more along the lines of "awesome cave to explore and play with my brother in" than "lying in the sun reading." Topanga beach is also out near Malibu, and is closer to LA as I recall.
posted by lex mercatoria at 12:55 PM on July 7, 2010

Zuma is pretty great, a bit of a drive, but probably worth it. If it's a nice day, it will get pretty crowded, if you're already ok with a drive, I'd suggest Point Dume instead.

Other options for less crowded in similar areas -- instead of the beach by the Santa Monica Pier, try Will Rogers State Beach. Venice beach is fun and great but it can get pretty dirty, there is a lot going on and it can be hard to relax.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:25 PM on July 7, 2010

Friday will be quieter than Saturday.
Avoid driving between 5-7pm.
The gloom usually burns off around noon.
Go to Santa Monica beach if you want a nice tidy and huge beach.
Go to Point Dume or Zuma or El Matador if you want smaller more wild and rugged beaches with starfish and seaweed and the like.
Point Dume has the added advantage that you can climb up to the Point, and enjoy mega-views.
posted by Conductor71 at 2:11 PM on July 7, 2010

I've always liked Will Rogers, out of the Santa Monica beaches. The beaches along PCH on the way up to Malibu can be OK too (like Topanga.) Zuma is nice too.

If you're in the OC, Newport Beach can be nice. Note that it's a rather upscale area, and more conservative than your average affluent LA neighborhood (although perhaps not when considering just the OC.)

Note that some beaches do occasionally get crowded enough that it's difficult to find a place to sit, such as the beaches near Newport, but not on the Lido itself (for example.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:28 PM on July 7, 2010

Thanks to everyone. We went to the Santa Monica pier, because it was convenient. It was not crowded at all, perhaps because it was 68* and gray skies. I got some sun, though, and had a very relaxed afternoon.
posted by donajo at 7:31 AM on July 10, 2010

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