Sunset views from the rooftop at Hotel Erwin — Photo courtesy of Jillian Dara
The Los Angeles beach vibe is contagious. Sure, downtown La La Land has long appealed to artists, actors and athletes as an epicenter of opportunity, but its beach cities have an appeal of their own.
From Hermosa Beach's sporty side to Malibu's surf, Manhattan Beach's eateries and Santa Monica's infamous pier, you could devote weeks to exploring L.A.'s beach cities, but if you're pressed for time, you can still experience the best of L.A.'s beach culture in a weekend.
From playing beach volleyball with a pro and rock climbing in Malibu, to rooftop cocktails at sunset and artisanal ice cream as an afternoon treat, this is the foodie, fit weekend you didn't know you needed.
Jump, set, spike with a pro
Mark Burik of VolleyCamp Hermosa — Photo courtesy of Jillian Dara
Prepare to get sandy! Sure it's easy to join a friendly match at any of the public nets lining Hermosa, Manhattan or Santa Monica beach. But for the curious newcomer, you may want to take an afternoon to learn how to jump-set-spike with a pro.
Coach Mark Burik moved to Los Angeles to pursue his volleyball career. Since making that dream a reality, he's dedicated his time off from international tournaments to teaching at his own VolleyCamp Hermosa. Burik and his team coach 45-minute to 1-hour lessons that include a proper warm-up routine, before focus sessions on setting, spiking and serving.
You can even play a proper match with the pros, but be warned, they won't go easy on you just because you're new!
Enjoy a rooftop sunset
High Rooftop at Hotel Erwin — Photo courtesy of Hotel Erwin
A palm tree silhouette framed by golden hour is arguably one of the most iconic postcard views of L.A. Capture the moment, then put the camera down to experience the postcard view for yourself on Hotel Erwin's rooftop. Slightly tucked back from the Venice Beach boardwalk, the artsy retro hotel is a popular spot with locals and guests alike.
Serving up drink specials such as the Spicy Mango Tree (tequila, jalapeño, mango puree) and Lazy Sunbather (gin, Cointreau, Aperol and grapefruit), with nibbles like crab dip and street tacos, you can settle in for sunset or stay through dinner.
Once the food is cleared, High Rooftop buzzes with a live DJ as a line forms at reception for entrance into the only rooftop in the Venice area.
Scale one of Malibu's beachside cliffs
Climbing the cliffs of Malibu — Photo courtesy of Rock N Rope Adventures
While views of the Pacific Ocean may tantalize from the comfort of your towel on the toasty sand, the ocean is even more spectacular when viewed from above.
In Malibu, Rock N Rope Adventures offers an adrenaline-inducing way to enjoy the vista – one you won't forget for awhile. Don't worry if you haven't belayed before, as no past rock climbing experience is required. Spend four hours learning about the sport, harnessing in and scaling the rugged cliffside with a professional.
Experience Santa Monica from above
Santa Monica Beach — Photo courtesy of Jillian Dara
It isn't a proper beach weekend until you visit Santa Monica Pier. Standing tall above the beige sands and moody waters, it's a perfect afternoon of arcades and entertainment complemented by wafts of fried dough blending into the salty air.
A rite of passage to meander through the herds of pier-goers with the same idea as you – a ride on the Ferris wheel – circle around instead. Escape the crowds and enjoy the bustling energy of the pier with a frose atop Seaside on the Pier.
The restaurant's rooftop offers the perfect view and setting to take in the warm sun and beach vibes, without the crowded hassle.
Explore the beachside trails
The trails at Point Dume — Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism
Lace up your shoes for a light hike along the cliffs of Malibu. Peer down at the cerulean waters and if you're lucky, you may be able to spot seals basking on the rocky shores. The paths at Point Dume State Beach are ideal for a casual stroll, or for those up to a challenge, a run along the rocky terrain.
Either way, don't forget to stop and admire the views at each lookout point. From watching surfers expertly carving up waves to lavish cliffside villas reflecting the sunset in their golden windows, this is true California dreaming.
10 of the best places to eat in Palm Springs
10 of the best places to eat in Palm Springs
Dine at Manhattan Beach Post
MB Post's warm, wooden exterior draws you in — Photo courtesy of Manhattan Beach Post
Though not directly on the beach, you must dine at chef David LeFevre's M.B. Post. The casual eatery offers a menu curated by chef LeFevre's travel highlights. That includes Cabecero de Iberico hunted from an acorn-foraging, black-hooved hog in Spain and Sbrinz cheese from Switzerland. It's perfect for a group of friends to order and share, treating your taste buds to an international trip.
Don't skip on the cocktails; their specialty drinks include a mezcal sour (El Fuerte) and tarragon mojito (Delonix Regia).
Unplug and unwind at the beach
There's nothing like a beach day in L.A. — Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism
Perhaps the most simple activity is the most neglected. First-timers and return visitors want to experience all L.A. has to offer, but a lazy afternoon at the beach may be your most treasured moment. Appreciate the beach with all your senses; feel the sand between your toes, breathe in the fresh, ocean air, listen to the 'gulls and crash of the surf, and admire the simple joy the beach brings to others around you.
Treat yourself to a cone
Wanderlust Creamery's crunch butter crepes cone — Photo courtesy of Wanderlust Creamery
No beach vacation would be complete without the classic sweet treat that brings anyone back to childhood. Just off the beach, amidst the idyllic canals of Venice, is Wanderlust Creamery. Established by food scientist, Adrienne Borlongan, you're guaranteed scoops of distinct flavors you won't find elsewhere.
These include artisanal and seasonal combinations like Ube Malted Crunch, Honey Lavender or Matcha White Chocolate bars. There's a special inspiration story behind each flavor.
Grab a board
Paddle board in the harbor around Marina Del Rey — Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism
For years, surfing was a staple for any L.A. visitor, often attracting tourists just for its stellar waves. Then stand up paddle boarding entered the ring; there's nothing more enjoyable than calm harbor waters and seals curiously peeking their heads up at you.
Pro SUP Shop provides this tranquil setting as they have you start on the beach, then bring you out around the Marina del Rey Harbor, allowing you to paddle at leisure with a guide in tow.
Pedal (and eat) your way down the boardwalk
Don't miss out on the bike culture along the boardwalk — Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Tourism
Providing the best of both foodie and fit worlds, Bikes and Hikes L.A. offers a variety of customized tours for a ride along the beach boardwalk, with stops at L.A. cafes and hot spots to fuel your journey. The South Bay Beach Cities Bikes and Bites tour is a 10- to 12-mile journey, broken up by stops for authentic deli bites, fresh seafood, local pastries and The Original Farmers Market.
Alternatively, you can individualize your experience to hone in on any cuisine (or route) you're craving.