On a recent visit to the Point Vicente Interpretative Center, I proceeded to sign the guest book. That day there were visitors from France, Germany, Canada, Korea and many places within the United States.
Since this place is located a few minutes away from my house, I may have deemed it ordinary. In reality, there is nothing ordinary about this place. In fact, it has visitors from all over the world.
Well, that incident pushed me to write this article. I want to encourage you to visit the Palos Verdes Peninsula. If you are in the Los Angeles area and looking to do something completely out of the ordinary, this is the place for you!
Table of Contents
About Point Vicente
The area known as Pont Vicente extends from the coast as a small tongue formed by land. For years, it has been noticed by those sailing the waters of the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
This protuberance on the coast was originally named in 1790 by Captain George Vancouver (Vancouver, Washington, and Vancouver, British Columbia are named after him).
Vancouver explored the Pacific coast, for England, in his ship Discovery. He named the point after his good friend Friar Vicente of the Mission Buenaventura (he named Point Dume and Point Fermin in a similar way).
Nowadays, the area has been designated a park and reserve by the City of Rancho Palos Verdes.
Point Vicente Interpretative Center
The heart of this recreational complex is the Point Vicente Interpretative Center, opened in 1984 and expanded in 2006. Occupying an area of 10,000 foot, the center is dedicated to teaching visitors about the natural and cultural history of the Peninsula.
Exhibits tell you everything about the fauna and flora that can be found in the nearby hills. Plus, you can learn about the famous kelp forests (underwater) of Southern California. These are responsible for the rich wildlife found in our coasts.
History buffs will find interesting the exhibitions about the now defunct Marineland of the Pacific. This oceanarium occupied the grounds where the Terranea Resort is located. Photos, movie clips and artifacts take you back to the days when this tourist attraction was operating.
In addition, the Point Vicente Interpretative Center does a great job educating the public about the gray whale and its annual migration. While swimming from Alaska to Baja California, in order to give birth in the warm and shallow Mexican lagoons, the whales pass by this area. Exhibitions explain the details behind this migration and why it is important to protect these magnificent creatures.
From November to April, the Los Angeles Chapter of the American Cetacean Society monitors the gray whale migration from this point. They keep count of the whales passing by and are willing to answer questions from the public.
Keep your eyes open because you can see the whales in front of the coast with the naked eye. Sometimes, the members of the cetaceans society will lend you binoculars to take a closer look at the water.
Note: Whale watching boats depart, in season, from the Redondo Beach Pier, located 9 miles north of Point Vicente. I highly recommend this activity. If you are interested in learning more about the gray whale, consider making a trip to Guerrero Negro (Baja California). You can check this post for more info.
The Interpretative Center has other features such as gift shops, benches, picnic tables, parking, restrooms, and water fountains. It is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and the ground are open until dusk.
The Interpretative Center is only a fraction of what you can do in this area. Keep reading to find out more about the things to do in the surrounding grounds.
Point Vicente Lighthouse
Point Vicente is a pretty spectacular place but the presence of a lighthouse makes it even more special (and romantic).
The lighthouse was built in 1926 to provide safe passage to ships navigating the channel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland. The lighthouse was manned until 1971 when it was automated by a remote electronic aids-to-navigation monitoring system.
The beam can be seen for 29 miles or 47 kilometers (which I think is outstanding). During low visibility times, the lighthouse produces a sound to warn ships about the dangers in the coast. On 1979, Point Vicente Lighthouse was added to the National Registry of Historic Sites.
The lighthouse can be visited on the second Saturday of each month from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. If you are in the area during other times, do not worry. You will still be able to take wonderful pictures.
Vicente Bluffs Reserve
Once in the area, it makes total sense to walk the Seascape Trail in the Vicente Bluffs Reserve.
This trail offers some of the most panoramic views of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Moreover, you will be able to spot pelicans, seal, butterflies and other local creatures. I take my out-town visitor here all the time and they thank me profusely for showing them this amazing place.
From the Point Vicente Interpretative Center, keep walking north (away from the lighthouse) and signs will point you to the reserve’s boundary. The entire trail goes for about a mile (one way) and you can extend your walking time by connecting to other trails.
The good thing is that this trail is flat and very easy to accomplish. You do not have to worry if you are not in the best of physical shapes. Also, you can do as much of the trail as you want. It is always easy to turn back to the starting point.
Keep in mind all services are at the interpretive center.
The Seascape Trail connects with the Golden Cove Trail. You can keep walking to keep bumping into beautiful views.
Note: If you want to take a look at Golden Cove without walking from Point Vicente, drive to the parking lot at Calle Entradero. There is a viewing area meter away from the lot.
If you still in exploring mode, you can leave your car parked at Point Vicente and walk south to the Pelican Cove area. This is yet another beautiful coastal spot that deserves a visit. You can hike all the way to the beach an take a look at the tide pools. Do not forget to climb to the promontory next to the cove to witness fantastic views.
Pelican Cove has its own parking lot. So, another option is to drive your car here. The lot is not that big and can fill quickly (especially during the weekends). That is why walking from Point Vicente might be a good idea.
I have a detailed article about Pelican Cove. Read in here.
Other Nearby Attractions
Wait! There is even more!
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is an outdoors paradise. There are enough activities and sights to plan an entire day of fun.
I have a detailed article on the best Palos Verdes Hikes and Trails. Now, many of the hikes discussed in the article are short, easy and scenic. I recommend checking out that article to plan out your day even if you are not a hiking or activity fan.
Close to Point Vicente, you will find the following places:
- Terranea Resort and several hiking trails
- Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
- Wayfarers Chapel
- Ocean Trails Reserve
Where to Eat
The Palos Verdes Peninsula is a natural heaven. We love it in here because it is not heavily commercialized.
That means you are not going to find restaurants, eateries or cafes at every corner. The option is somewhat limited. However, that is a small price to pay in order to be in contact with so much beauty.
If you are feeling a bit hungry, your best bet is the Golden Cove Shopping Center. This compact area has several restaurants, a coffee shop, a supermarket, and a convenience store. It is located less than a mile from Point Vicente.
In the peninsula, you can also stop by the Lunada Bay Plaza (2 miles), the Malaga Cove Plaza (5 miles) or the Peninsula Shopping Center (5 miles)
Or, if you prefer, you can opt to eat at one of the fabulous restaurants located at the Terranea Resort. There offer a fine dining experience in conjunction with magnificent ocean views.
If the eating options in the Palos Verdes Peninsula are not appealing enough, consider choosing a restaurant at one of the beach cities (Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach). The options are more varied there.
Point Vicente is located 16 miles from the Los Angeles International Airport, 32 miles from Downtown Los Angeles, 38 miles from Santa Monica and 36 miles from Venice Beach.
The park is much closer to the beach cities in Los Angeles County. We are talking about 10 to 12 miles.
This is a good option for those who have visited the Los Angeles area more than once or for residents looking for a beautiful day trip.
More of the South Bay
if you want to explore more of the South Bay (and I highly recommend this), you can check Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance. Below, I am placing links to my in-depth guides to these cities.
- Things to Do in Manhattan Beach
- Redondo Beach Pier: What to Do, See and Eat
- Terrific Things to Do in Torrance
- Hermosa Beach Restaurants
- Hermosa Beach: Things to Do, See and Eat
More of Los Angeles
Oh, and Los Angeles is cool too!
More of Southern California
Hope you have enjoyed this area!
Have you been to the Point Vicente Interpretative Center?
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