25 Fun Things to Do in South Bay Los Angeles

LA is one of the top tourist destinations in the world but few travelers talk about the South Bay. One of the most underrated areas in Los Angeles County, there are so many things to do in South Bay that make it a must-visit destination.

Home to the best beaches in LA, less touristy areas, and a laid-back lifestyle – exploring the South Bay is worthwhile.

Table of Contents


Things to do in South Bay Los Angeles California

1. Watch the Surfers at El Porto Beach

El Porto beach is located just at the edge of North Manhattan Beach. This is one of the most iconic surfing spots in Los Angeles. You can easily rent a surfboard and join in but if you’re still at a beginner level, you may want to proceed with caution.

Alternatively, grab a coffee and admire the surfers from the comfort of the sand. You’ll find people here surfing at all hours, but sunrise is a particularly popular and magical time.

El Porto Beach
El Porto Beach

2. Enjoy a Brunch At The Iconic Kettle Diner

The Kettle Diner is a Manhattan Beach staple thanks to its unbeatable portions and prices. This diner has been around since 1973 and you’ll always find a crowd here.

I highly recommend coming for brunch but the Kettle is open 24 hours, making it a great late-night stop post bar hopping.

3. Shop Your Way Through Downtown Manhattan Beach

Post brunch, it’s time to shop. If you’re into California beach chic, or in need of a new swimsuit, then you’ll love the boutiques in Manhattan Beach.

You have so many options to choose from along Manhattan Beach Blvd. Personally, this is my favorite area to go shopping in LA.

Redondo Beach
Redondo Beach

4. Bike the Strand

One of my favorite things to do in Manhattan Beach is to go for a bike ride along the Strand. The Strand is essentially a bike path along the beach. It goes from Dockweiler Beach all the way to Hermosa Beach. I highly recommend stopping by one of the many spots for bike rentals and cruising down it.

On your ride, be sure to pull over and enjoy one of the many delicious eateries along the way. Alternatively, pack a picnic and eat on the beach. I would recommend biking during sunrise or sunset for the best views.

5. See a Sunset on Manhattan Beach Pier

Speaking of sunsets, one of my favorite sunset spots in Southern California is from the Manhattan Beach pier. Take a stroll down the pier and soak up the sunset. Afterward, you can walk up to downtown Manhattan Beach for some dinner or drinks.

6. Get Take-Out and Have a Picnic

One of the best things about the South Bay is the number of tranquil parks and gorgeous beaches to hang out in. As such, there are numerous spots to enjoy a picnic.

One of my favorites is the sprawling Polliwog Park, right next to the Manhattan Beach Botanical Garden. If you’re looking for a more relaxed option, stop by the iconic Bruce Beach in Manhattan Beach.

Alternatively, Noble Park, in Hermosa Beach, offers perfect beach views, and lively crowds – especially at sunset.

Manhattan beach
Manhattan Beach

7. Soak Up the Lively Atmosphere of Redondo Beach Pier

As far as beach piers go in the South Bay, the Redondo Beach Pier is definitely the liveliest. Here you’ll find great shopping, bars, restaurants, and crowds at all hours.

Go for dinner or drinks, enjoy the sunset, or stop by the arcade to feel like a kid again.

8. Make Your Own Food Tour

The South Bay is home to a variety of great food from different cuisines and cultures. As such, eating your way through the South Bay is a very fun thing to do.

On the coast, you’ll find some of the best burgers, pub grub, ice cream, and seafood restaurants in Los Angeles.

A particularly unique experience is the San Pedro Fish Market. They’ve won four Guinness World Records and were dubbed one of the most Instagrammed restaurants in the US. All that aside, they are a local favorite and absolutely delicious.

If you go a little inland, however, you’ll find a more diverse variety of cuisine options that are equally delicious.

A must-stop is the Mitsuwa Market in Torrance. This Japanese grocery store meets food hall has some of the best Japanese eats around, from ramen to udon, to mochi donuts.

Manhattan Beach Aerial view
Manhattan Beach aerial view

9. Indulge in Some Wine Tasting

When in Southern California, do as the locals do and the locals drink wine. If you’re in South Bay Los Angeles, it’s worthwhile to stop by a local tasting room.

One of my favorite things about wine tasting throughout the South Bay is how many family-run options there are. There are so many great spots for a glass of wine and some small plates that it’s hard to know where to start.

Thankfully, there’s no wrong choice. I personally love MB Wine Co. in Manhattan Beach, Uncorked in Hermosa Beach, and Restoration in Torrance.

10. Join in for Beach Volleyball

As you may have guessed, most of the things to do in LA’s South Bay involve the beach. If you like beach activities, you need to play some beach volleyball.

Throughout the coast, you’ll see people playing volleyball (or beach tennis). So put on some sunblock and join in!

Hermosa Pier
Hermosa Beach

11. Stroll Down the Hermosa Pier

Hermosa Beach Pier is one of the main attractions in South Bay. It has been the film set of numerous iconic movies and shows. You may recognize it from La La Land, Beverly Hills 90210, or The OC, just to name a few.

It’s definitely worth a stop if you’re in the area, especially at sunset. Afterward, head up to Hermosa Avenue and enjoy some of the great restaurants and bars lining this street.

12. Admire the Famous Architecture of the Wayfarer Chapel

The Wayfarer Chapel, or “the Glass Church,” is one of the biggest attractions in Rancho Palos Verdes. While visiting a chapel isn’t your typical tourist activity, this chapel is famous for its gorgeous architecture.

Designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, the chapel has sweeping views of the pacific ocean and lovely grounds to explore.

Wayfarer Chapel
Photo © Bruceb Boehner Wiki Commons

13. Visit the South Coast Botanic Garden

If you’re a fan of plants, then the South Bay is the spot for you. One of my favorite things to do is to visit the South Coast Botanic Garden.

This picturesque garden spans 87 acres in Palos Verdes Estates. Just be sure to make your reservations in advance in order to access the gardens.

South Coast Botanic Garden

14. Go Whale Watching

If you’ve always wanted to go whale watching, I’d recommend a trip to San Pedro between January and April. You can take boat trips or cruises from the San Pedro Harbor and enjoy an awesome day on the water with whales.

If you’d rather stay on the land, head to Point Vicente Interpretive Center in Rancho Palos Verdes. It’s one of the popular whale watching spots in the world where you can spot Pacific Gray whales migrating between December through April

While you’re there, be sure to stop by the iconic Point Vicente Lighthouse.

15. Explore Abalone Cove Shoreline Park

One of the prettiest places in Rancho Palos Verdes is Abalone Cove. Here you can enjoy the tide pools, soak up the sun on the beach, or go on a hike along the bluffs. It’s one of the prettiest beaches and natural areas in the South Bay.

Abalone Cove Shoreline Park Sunset
Abalone Cove Shoreline Park Sunset

16. Enjoy the Views at Terranea Resort

If staying the night at this luxe resort is within your budget, then I highly recommend doing so. If that’s not exactly within your price range, you can still enjoy an afternoon or evening at Terranea resort.

Located in Palos Verdes, this five-star resort is set atop the bluffs with sweeping ocean views. You can purchase a day pass to use their spa, play at their golf course, or dine at one of their fantastic restaurants.

Terranea Resort Overview
Photo © Terranea Resort Overview

17. Have a Beach Day

This sounds like a no-brainer in the South Bay, but a beach day is one of the best things to do while in the area.

I’ve listed many of my favorite beaches throughout this article but if you’re looking for a beach with little to no crowds, stop by Torrance County Beach.

It’s technically part of Torrance, but the beach stretches between Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes. With over 40 acres, Torrance Beach boasts ample space and clean facilities. It’s a great place to take surf lessons or sprawl out on the sand.

Plus, if you’re looking for easy access to parking lots, then you’ll definitely love Torrance Beach.

Manhattan Beach front

18. Do the Shipwreck Hike in Palos Verdes Estates

The Palos Verdes Peninsula is well worth exploring. Home to numerous hikes, secret beaches, and stunning nature, it’s filled with fun stops to make. One of my favorite things to do here is the Shipwreck Hike.

Roughly 2-3 miles long, this hike goes along the coast and eventually across the beach. It ends at the sight of a shipwreck from 1961. You’ll see numerous pieces of the ship buried in the rocks and sand.

It’s a very unique thing to see and the hike itself is lovely. Just be sure to wear good shoes – most of the terrain is rocky and uneven.

19. Learn Some History at the Korean Bell of Friendship

This beautiful bell is worth a stop if you’re in the San Pedro area. It’s one of the largest bells in the world and was given to the US by South Korea as a symbol of friendship in 1976. You’ll find it inside a pagoda with unbeatable views of the Los Angeles Harbor.

If you happen to be there on the first Saturday of the month, you’ll probably hear them ring the bell thirteen times at 11:30 am.

20. Play in the Sand at Sand Dune Park

Who knew there were Sand Dunes in Manhattan Beach? This iconic 100-foot high sand dune is a local favorite. You’ll find adults and kids alike rolling down the sand dune during the day. There are several trails throughout where you’ll see fitness fanatics running as well as a play area nearby.

In order to preserve the dunes, the city does require reservations to access it. You can make a reservation easily online.

Manhattan beach at sunset


Things to do in South Bay Los Angeles at night

21. Create Your Own Beach Bar Crawl

Most of the things to do at night in the South Bay area involve going to a bar. Unlike in LA city, these bars have an entirely different laid-back vibe and crowd.

In each coastal town, you’ll find numerous beach bars packed with people at all hours. Most will start at happy hour and continue until the evening.

I’d recommend creating your own beach bar crawl to get a feel for the area. My personal favorite beach bar is the Shellback Tavern in Manhattan Beach.

Redondo beach pier

Also read: The 17 best places to visit in California in December for a solo female traveler

22. Enjoy Some Live Music

One of my favorite things about the South Bay area is the number of places that have live music. Most beach bars have bands playing at least one night a week.

I recommend stopping by the Bull Pen in Redondo Beach, Hennessey’s Tavern in Manhattan Beach, or The Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach.

You also have a variety of theaters to see a concert at. I would recommend checking out the historic Old Town Music Hall for awesome shows and silent movies.

23. Have A Beach Bonfire

In LA city, beach bonfires aren’t allowed. Once you get to the South Bay, however, you can have a bonfire on most beaches.

One of the most popular areas, filled with fire pits, is Dockweiler Beach. You’ll find people here every night enjoying a beach bonfire and I highly recommend you do the same.

24. See a Movie

If you’re looking for a quiet night out, why not see a movie? You have a lot of options for movie theaters within the South Bay.

My top two recommendations would be to check out the South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach or The South Bay Pavilion in Carson. Both of these malls are filled with awesome shops and have great theaters to enjoy.


Where to stay in the South Bay Los Angeles

Budget: Surf City Hostel, Hermosa Beach

Surf city hostel
Photo © Surf city hostel

If you’re on a tighter budget, then the Surf City Hostel is the best deal you’ll get in the South Bay. Staying at a hostel is a wonderful way to make friends while solo traveling and to save money.

Located right on Pier Avenue, this beachfront hostel has both privates and dorm rooms plus access to laundry and great common areas.

Mid-Range: Seaview Inn at the Beach, Manhattan Beach

If you’re looking for a beachfront hotel, the Seaview Inn is one of the best deals you’ll get in Los Angeles county.

Unlike the hotels along Santa Monica beach, here you can enjoy beach views at a quarter of the price and with far fewer tourists around. Plus, you’re only steps from downtown Manhattan beach.

Boujie: The Portofino Hotel, Redondo Beach

portofino hotel and Marina
Photo ©  The Portofino Hotel Redondo Beach

Just before the famous Redondo Beach pier, in the King Harbor, is the swanky Portofino Hotel. If you want to treat yourself, or you’re looking for a little getaway, this is a great choice.

Private, upscale, with a fabulous onsight restaurant and amenities, a stay at the Portofino is worthwhile.


Best time to visit LA’s South Bay

There’s not a bad time to visit LA’s South Bay, due to its great year-round weather. I would however suggest avoiding June, known as “June Gloom,” thanks to the daily coastal fog.

The fog puts a damper on beach days. Plus, you won’t be able to enjoy the gorgeous sunsets and coastal views this area is known for.

If warm, sunny days are what you’re after, the best time to visit is between July and November or April through May. Just keep in mind that these times are peak season for tourists and there will be crowds.

Hermosa Beach sunset


How to get to South Bay Los Angeles

Good news – LAX is located in the South Bay, in El Segundo. The most popular beach towns in the South Bay can easily be reached by an Uber, less than 5 kilometers from LAX.

To get to the rest of the South Bay, I would recommend renting a car to explore. It will take roughly an hour to drive through the entirety of the South Bay coastline from LAX, depending on traffic. If you’re interested in getting to the inland cities, you’ll need to double that time at least.

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Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!


Brief History About LA’s South Bay

LA’s South Bay is home to several historic and famous coastal towns, as well as a rich and diverse inland community. This area is called the South Bay due to its location which stretches across the southern coast of Los Angeles.

What makes the South Bay so popular is that it has all the perks of living in LA with less traffic, a tighter community, and a more relaxed vibe.

Manhattan beach sunrise - things to do in South Bay Los Angeles
Manhattan Beach

The South Bay area begins at Westchester, right before El Segundo, and ends at San Pedro. Some of the most popular South Bay towns for tourists and residents include El Segundo, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach, and the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

While the coastal cities are the most well-known, the South Bay area does include over twenty different cities, both coastal and inland.

Hermosa Beach sunset
Hermosa Beach sunset

What is South Bay LA Most Known For?

The South Bay area is known for its various industries including oil, automotive, and most notably, the aerospace industry.

The area is home to some of the best surfing spots, and surfers, in the state. In fact, Redondo Beach is largely considered the birthplace of surfing.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that the South Bay is also home to the Beach Boys. This iconic rock band is an integral part of Southern California surf culture.

The South Bay is also a very popular filming location. Whenever you see beaches pictured on famous TV shows in California, it’s a safe bet that it was filmed in the South Bay.

If you have already visited Los Angeles, or you’re interested in getting off the tourist track, then you’ll absolutely want to check out South Bay LA.

El segundo Beach south Bay
El Segundo Beach South Bay

How to move around in South Bay Los Angeles

The most popular beach towns of the South Bay – Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach – are roughly one mile apart. You can easily walk around these beach towns and bike between them.

For the remainder of the South Bay, I would suggest renting a car. If you’re exploring El Segundo, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, San Pedro, or inland South Bay, you’ll need a car.

Ubers are quite costly in Los Angeles. Plus, the nature throughout Palos Verdes and San Pedro is stunning and it’s much easier to explore these areas with your own transportation.