Los Angeles comprises a huge geographical area. There is a lot to see, do, explore and eat in this mega-metropolis.
If you are a local or regular visitor, you may be interested in going beyond the touristic sights. If you want to do that, let me recommend you visit my home, the South Bay.
This region located in the southwestern part of Los Angeles County has plenty of beaches, sporting facilities, natural sights, interesting activities, and fine-dining restaurants to keep you entertained for a long time.
Without further ado, here is my complete list of things to do in the South Bay!
Table of Contents
Things to Do in the South Bay, Los Angeles
Before we start going through the list, let me give you a more precise idea of what encompasses the South Bay.
The region includes the following cities: El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrance, Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Harbor City, San Pedro, Wilmington, Inglewood, Hawthorne, Gardena, Lawndale, Lomita, Carson, and several unincorporated areas.
This article focuses on the cities mentioned above.
Walk or Bike The Strand
The Strand (officially, Marvin Braude Trail) is a 22-mile paved path extending from Pacific Palisades (close to Santa Monica) to Torrance. Most of this trail hugs the coast of Los Angeles County. The section within the South Bay is approximately 9 miles long.
Now, that is a lot to walk in one sitting. I recommend exploring the path by areas. Here are some of my favorite sections to walk:
- Manhattan Beach Pier to Hermosa Beach Pier (4 miles roundtrip)
- Manhattan Beach Pier to El Porto (3 miles roundtrip)
- Hermosa Beach Pier to Redondo Beach Pier (5 miles roundtrip)
- Redondo Beach Pier to End of Trail (4 or 5 miles roundtrip)
If you prefer to bike and do not have your own wheels, you can rent at the Hermosa Beach Cyclery, Marina Bay Rentals or Pedego Electric Bikes Redondo Beach.
Spending some time at The Strand is one of the classic things to do in the South Bay. This is a highly recommended activity.
Stroll the Piers
Here in the South Bay, we love our piers. They are an integral part of our communities. Therefore, if you are around, make some time to take in the ocean views from one of the piers.
You can visit the Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach or Cabrillo (San Pedro) piers. Remember that fishing from a pier, without a license, is allowed.
Enjoy the Beaches
Ok, this is an obvious one. The South Bay would not be as nearly attractive if it weren’t for the beaches.
You are spoiled for choice in here. You can choose among the following:
- El Segundo Beach
- El Porto Beach
- Manhattan County Beach
- Hermosa City Beach
- Redondo County Beach
- Torrance County Beach
- Abalone Cove Shoreline Park
- White Point Beach
- Cabrillo Beach
- Many coves and hidden beaches in the Palos Verdes Peninsula
Most of these beaches offer services such as restrooms, showers, water fountains and parking. In addition, they are located in areas where food establishments are plenty.
The beaches get packed during summer. As a general rule, the areas closer to the piers see the largest conglomeration of people. If you are into peace and quietness, chose a spot a bit away from the piers.
Make a Bonfire
After spending a day at the beach, it feels great to go home after lighting up a bonfire (and making some smores!)
The only two beaches in Los Angeles County with fire pits are Dockweiler and Cabrillo. During high season, somebody in your party has to go early to grab a pit. However, it is worth the effort since it is one of those moments cherished among friends and family.
Take into consideration the beach gets very cold once the sun goes down (even during summer). You need to be ready with jackets, sweaters and/or blankets for bonfire time.
Note: Dockweiler is not technically located in the South Bay (it is part of the city of Los Angeles) but a lot of locals see it as part of El Segundo. I thought it was located in El Segundo until I started to research this article.
Sharpen your Volleyball Skills
Manhattan Beach has hosted the Manhattan Beach Open for more than 50 years. The tournament has defined the beach volleyball sport. Winners of the tournament are memorialized with bronze volleyball-shaped plaques in the “Volleyball Walk of Fame” which spans the length of the pier.
Since the city has become synonym with volleyball, you can imagine there are plenty of nets awaiting sports lovers. Even if you do not play, it is fun to watch tournaments (which are common during the warm months) or regular folks playing a set or two.
Hermosa Beach and Torrance County Beach have plenty of nets too.
Surf (or Take Classes)
Surfing is another sport that is ingrained in the South Bay culture. Manhattan and Redondo Beach are mentioned in the Beach Boys song “Surfin’ USA.” By the way, a historic landmark commemorating the childhood home of the Beach Boys is located in Hawthorne.
Most popular surfing spots include the piers (Manhattan, Redondo, Hermosa), El Porto and coves in the Palos Verdes Peninsula (for example, Lunada Bay).
For surfing rentals or gear, you can visit the following stores:
- Tyler Surfboards (El Segundo)
- Haydenshapes Surfboards (El Segundo)
- Nikau Kai Waterman Shop (Manhattan Beach)
- Spyder Surfboards (Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach)
- El Porto Surfboards (Manhattan Beach)
- T. Surfboards (Hermosa Beach, this shop has achieved legend status in the area)
- Dive N’ Surf (Redondo Beach)
- San Pedro Surf & Sport
The following businesses offer surf lessons:
- One Wave Surf School
- Soul Surf Lessons
- Surf School Manhattan Beach
- Dive N’ Surf
Play a Round or Two of Golf
Yes, we have golf too!
The most scenic, challenging and complete courses are located in the Palos Verdes Peninsula. You can choose from The Links at Terranea, Los Verdes Golf Course and Trump National Golf Club.
There plenty of options in other areas of the South Bay. For example, you can visit The Links at Victoria Golf Course (Carson), South Bay Tennis Center (Torrance), Alondra Golf Course (Lawndale) and Lakes at El Segundo.
Go Whale Watching
The South Bay is in the migrating path of the gray whale. Every year, from November to December, our waters host hundreds of whales.
A whale watching trip will give you the opportunity to get close to these mammals and learn about them (members of the American Cetacean Society board the ships). Seeing a whale up close is a fantastic experience. This is something you have to do if you are visiting California.
Many cities in Southern California offer whale watching trips but, in my opinion, the trips departing Redondo Beach are the most scenic because they navigate next to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Therefore, you have two main attractions: the beautiful cliffs of the peninsula and the whales. On the South Bay area, whale watching boats depart from San Pedro too.
Let me mention boats depart Redondo Beach and San Pedro all year round. Dolphins, pelicans, and cormorants can be observed at any season.
Drive a Porsche (For Real!)
I am not sure if you have watched the Carpool Karaoke episode where James Corden and Adam Levine do a racing cars competition. Well, part of that episode was filmed at the Porsche Experience Center in Carson.
The opportunity to drive a Porsche is available to the public at this facility. You start by selecting a model and then are be behind the wheel for 90 minutes. You will be able to test the power of these vehicles since you are accompanied by a driving coach.
This experience comes at a price, but it is ideal for celebrations or special occasions.
Catch a Glimpse of the Blimp
If you have spent some time in the Los Angeles area, you have probably seen the Goodyear Blimp flying around. If you want to see it up close, you can stop by its Carson base. Through the company’s website, you can request a visit. I do not have details on what it is included in the visit or how much it costs.
Get Lost in a Botanical Garden
Botanical gardens are usually peaceful oases in the middle of an urban sprawl. If you are interested in escaping the crowds and spending some time surrounded by nature, you have several options.
The South Coast Botanical Garden is an 87-acre garden with more than 2500 different species. Due to its size, there is always something in bloom. I have visited many times to take pictures and relax in the open spaces. Entrance fee is $9.
The Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden features native trees, sages, succulents, wildflowers, grasses, butterfly habitat, children’s garden of discovery, meditation garden, interpretative signs and much more. Admission to the garden is free and tours can be arranged (Friday mornings).
The Madrona Marsh (Torrance) showcases the marshland that used to cover the coastal plains of Southern California. Most of these areas were drained in order to develop living and businesses complexes. Therefore, this marsh is a rare example of how things used to be.
Explore the Lighthouses
Let me tell you, there are a lot of people obsessed with lighthouses. In my opinion, they add a touch of charm to any coastal scene.
Even if you are not a fan of lighthouses, I am sure you will not be able to resist the ones located in the South Bay.
The Point Vicente Lighthouse was built in 1926 to provide safe passage to ships navigating the channel between Santa Catalina Island and the mainland. 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.
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.
Read More: Point Vicente Lighthouse at Dusk
The Point Fermin Lighthouse was built in 1874 in a Victorian architectural style. The spot can be visited Tuesday to Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Guided tours are offered at 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Do not forget to check out the wonderful views and take a picture of the whale mural.
And, we cannot finish talking about lighthouses without mentioning the Angels Gate, the lighthouse that has been marking the entrance to the port of Los Angeles since 1913. You will probably see this lighthouse from afar. The best place to observe it is Cabrillo Beach.
Visit the Point Vicente Interpretative Center
Since we are discussing lighthouses, it is a good time to mention the Point Vicente Interpretative Center, a place where 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 center is located across the Point Vicente Lighthouse. Therefore, you can hit multiple sites in one visit.
Learn About the Local Sea Life
There are even more places where you can learn more about the local sea life. These places teach the value of our marine species and how we can help to keep their ecosystem pristine. These are excellent places to visit with kids. Here are some choices:
The RoundHouse Aquarium – This place has the objective of teaching visitors about the oceans, marine life and the environment. They have several tanks with local fish and mollusks, interpretative signs and staff willing to explain what is on display. Some creatures can be touched on the open tank.
The Sea Lab – This place, operated by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps, is a hands-on science center dedicated to marine conservation and education programs.
Cabrillo Aquarium – Frank Gehry designed aquarium with a large collection of Southern California marine life. This aquarium operates on a $5 suggested donation.
Marvel at the Wayfarers Chapel
This is a sight you do not want to miss! The Wayfarers Chapel (or as it is known locally, “The Glass Church”) was designed by Lloyd Wright, the son of the famous Franklin Lloyd Wright.
Because of its unique architectural features, this place is very popular for weddings. You will not be able to enter the chapel if a wedding is taking place. Otherwise, you are free to tour the grounds.
Road Trip the Palos Verdes Peninsula
A lot of people visiting Los Angeles rent a car and drive around Malibu. I get it. Malibu is a gorgeous place that deserves lots of attention.
However, let me tell you something. We have another natural wonder in the southwestern part of the Los Angeles County. Some people believe the coastal views in here are far superior to the ones in Malibu. That place is called the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
There is an easy, well-maintained road that hugs the curves and cliffs of the Peninsula. Your jaw will drop when you see what is waiting for you in here. What is best, this place is desolated when compared to Malibu. So, this is one of my top recommendation on things to do in the South Bay!
I have an entire article discussing the best coastal hikes in the Palos Verdes Peninsula. You can use the article to set a route (with stops) along the Peninsula. It is very easy to spend a day around.
Indulge in Wine Tasting
The South Bay is not wine country but that doesn’t mean wine tasting is not present the area. Right at Downtown Manhattan Beach can stop by Bacchus, a shop offering tastings in a friendly atmosphere.
The other option is Barsha, a store that serves wine and beer flights, cheese, charcuterie, and small plates. Locals love this place! This place is a bit away from Manhattan Beach. However, it is worth the effort because this is a great place to visit with friends after a day at the beach.
Uncorked Hermosa is located in Downtown Hermosa Beach and Friends of the Vine in the Riviera Village (Redondo Beach). Off the Vine is the best option in San Pedro.
Go Brewery Hoping
The South Bay is one of the leaders of the craft beer movement in Los Angeles (with the city of Torrance being the leader in the area)
These breweries are usually located in an industrial zone and facilities are warehouse style. Most places are “bring your own food” (or snacks). Sometimes, a food truck makes a stop or a taquero is serving delicious morsels.
I am not a beer drinker, so I cannot really tell you which place is better. You will need to find out for yourself. But, let me tell you that the places I am mentioning below are alive, thriving and expanding. Therefore, they must be good.
Smog City Brewing, Monkish Brewing, Cosmic Brewery, The Dudes’ Brewing, The Strand Brewing, Red Car Restaurant & Brewery, Yorkshire Square Brewery, Absolution Brewing Company, Scholb Premium Ales and Hop Saint are located in Torrance. The four first breweries on this list are located within a one-mile radius.
Other breweries in the area include Abigaile Restaurant and Brewery (Hermosa Beach), Brouwerij West (San Pedro), El Segundo Brewing Company, King Harbor (3 tasting rooms in Redondo Beach), Phantom Carriage (Carson) and Three Weavers (Inglewood).
Experience Cider Tasting
Is cider tasting a thing? Well, yes!
The Honest Abe offers cider and mead (also known as honey wine) tastings at their Gardena facility. They use natural ingredients (no preservatives) in all their products. This is an interesting concept to try if you are in the area.
Tour a Distillery
R6 Distillery has been in business for several years. They offer tours of their facilities on request. In addition, they have a tasting room offering beer flights, spirits flights, and cocktails. This is yet another place that seems to be a hidden gem but highly rated by visitors.
Visit a Museum
Museums in the South Bay are focused on a wide range of topic. You will find institutions dedicated to art, history, aviation, cars and more. Here is a more detailed list of the places you can visit:
El Segundo Museum of Art (ESMoA) – this space described itself as an art laboratory and aims to spark creativity through the visual arts
Automobile Driving Museum – antique cars are on display. The museum is known for its old-school ice cream parlor
The Manhattan Beach Historical Society – located at Polliwog Park. This museum is located inside a beach cottage and features photographs and artifacts showing the evolution of the city along 100 years. It is open Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Hermosa Beach Museum – showcases memorabilia and other objects pertaining to the history of the City of Hermosa Beach. In this museum, you can learn how the city has been involved in surf culture, the jazz movement in the South Bay and the punk music phenomenon
Redondo Beach Historical Museum – located in a Queen Anne house, it exhibits local artifacts, photos, and documents.
Torrance Art Museum – focuses on the contemporary art of Southern California. Admission is free.
California Museum of Fine Art – museum and gallery showcasing works of global artists. Opened from Wednesday to Saturday (afternoons)
Torrance Historical Society – offers local exhibits and archives. Open from Wednesday to Saturday (afternoons).
Western Museum of Flight – aviation museum located at Torrance’s Municipal Airport. Opened Tuesday to Sunday. Admission is $5.
Chen Art Gallery – houses one of the most important Chinese art collections in the United States. Opened Tuesday to Friday. Admission is free.
International Printing Museum – this place has one of the largest collections of antique printing presses in the United States
Hawthorne Historical Society – several exhibitions related to the City of Hawthorne
Los Angeles Maritime Museum – a museum dedicated to the history of the Los Angeles harbor and port
Take the Family to the Sand Dune Park
This park features a 100-foot high sand dune, trails, play area, picnic tables, restrooms, and drinking fountains.
It is a favorite among families with small children and those training for athletic events. To ensure the health of this ecosystem (plants, birds, small mammals) the park usage is kept under control using a reservation system and time slots. You can make reservations in here.
Go on a Shopping Spree
The variety of shopping options in the South Bay is beyond the scope of this article. With such a large population, you can imagine the number of malls, shopping centers, and independent businesses is huge.
I encourage my readers to support small businesses. You will find locally owned stores in Downtown Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach (Pier Avenue), The Riviera Village (Redondo Beach), Old Town Torrance and Old San Pedro.
The most notorious shopping complex in the area is Del Amo Fashion Center. The centerpiece of the complex is a mall with 2,600,00 sq ft of retail space (that makes it one of the largest malls in the US). It has about 250 stores, a food court, restaurants, and a movie theater.
Other malls include the Manhattan Village, South Bay Galleria (Redondo Beach) and South Bay Pavilion (Carson)
In addition, there are other centers such as Plaza El Segundo, The Point (El Segundo), Promenade on the Peninsula, Peninsula Shopping Center, Torrance Crossroads Shopping Center, Plaza Mayor Shopping Center, Torrance Promenade and Torrance Towne Center.
More of the South Bay
I have tried to present as many details as possible about things to do in the South Bay but my individual city articles go even deeper.
I recommend taking a look at the following:
- Things to Do in Manhattan Beach
- Redondo Beach Pier: What to Do, See and Eat
- Redondo Beach Pier Restaurants
- 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!
- Los Angeles Ultimate Bucket List
- One Day in LA: Itinerary for First-Time Visitors
- Things to Do, See and Eat in Venice Beach
More of South Bay
What are your recommendations for things to do in the South Bay, Los Angeles?
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