While many of our friends skipped off to the mountains during the holidays, besides themselves that there was finally snow, we headed down south for some beach time. Manhattan Beach time to be precise. En route we checked out Hearst Castle, and stopped for about 30 minutes in San Luis Obispo to visit our friend’s cheese store.
Manhattan Beach is slightly south of LA proper, close enough to LAX for it to be convenient, but far enough away so it’s not a nuisance. It’s also close to a rather ugly power station, but that all becomes moot once you land in the bosom of Manhattan’s Beach seaside chic. An upscale community with a pristine beach and miles of paved trails along the coast, it’s a great place to chill, shop and eat.
1. Rent an AirBnB and live like a local
“Places” and “Streets” alternate and run perpendicular to the beach. E.g. there’s a 19th Street—narrow, with little room for parking, and a 19th Place—a pedestrian walkway down to the beach. Houses tend to have an entrance on the street and a nice little front garden on the ‘place’. If you want to experience living like a local, rent a room or guesthouse as close to the beach as possible. We loved ours. With a rooftop patio, one block from the beach and about 10 blocks to shopping and restaurants, it was perfect.
2. Ride bikes along the coast
Beach cruisers are the way to get around and luckily you can rent them by the hour. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the spot where we picked up Monkey’s bike, but there are plenty of options around Highland and Manhattan Ave. You can either ride south— it’s about 3.5 miles to the rather cheesy Redondo Beach pier—or you could ride north towards Venice Beach (about 10 miles), or even Santa Monica if you have the whole day ahead of you.
3. Go surfing or paddle-boarding
The ocean here is a glorious turquoise – clear and sparkly in the sunshine. We visited in winter, so one day it was calm and no waves, the next the surf really picked up. Google will tell you where to rent boards and wetsuits.
4. Eat a lot. Or don’t
In this body-beautiful enclave, there are not one, not two, but three, juice bars, so if it’s a cleanse you’re after, you’re in luck. But if you’re starving after all that cycling, surfing and yoga, then you won’t be disappointed. We had a great meal at Little Sister, an Asian fusion joint which serves rather large portions. The pork belly with with leek fondue was just as rich as it sounds. The imperial rolls were HUGE and almost a meal in themselves. The beef with rice noodles was good, but rather overwhelmed by the noodles.
We also ate at Manhattan Beach Post a large, casually rustic eatery. The menu is built around share plates from cheese and charcuterie, to vegetables—we had the broccoflower with parmesan and lemon juice ($13)—seafood and meat dishes. The waiter insisted we start with the cheddar, bacon buttermilk biscuits with maple butter ($6), and he was right. They were warm, flaky and savory, with the hint of sweetness from the butter. Real comfort food.
We also opted for an albacore tuna tataki with grilled pineapple ($16)—fair, but not memorable—and grilled skirt steak ($19) which was cooked exactly how we wanted. And I mustn’t omit to mention the world’s largest fries: at almost one inch square and six inches long, you’ll eat a whole potato in just a couple of fries!
5. Do yoga overlooking the ocean
If the sun is shining, why not just throw down a towel on the beach and do yoga right there and then? Doing yoga on the sand is a great place to practice inversions – the sand cradles your head and helps you anchor into the ground, and if you fall it really doesn’t matter. If you prefer a more structured practice, then head on down to Yoga Loft on Ocean, which offers a variety of different types of yoga, and even has a view of the Pacific from the studio.