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One of the best things about living in Fresno, is that you are always within a tank of gas to majestic mountain destinations or beautiful, sandy beaches. Every now and then, I like to suggest destinations that my family has found to be particularly worth our vacation time and money. I hope that our FresYes readers find these posts helpful in their own vacation planning, and also recognize that I LOVE Fresno, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to visit the beach sometimes, too!
When I tell someone my family is going to Manhattan Beach, one of two reactions typically occur. I either get a quizzical stare followed by a nod that says, “I have no clue where this place is that you’re talking about, but I’ll play along…” or a question, “You’re going all the way to New York?” Back when I was first getting to know my husband’s family, about 15 years ago, that was my reaction, too. However now, after spending at least a weekend there almost every summer since, I can’t imagine not knowing about this amazing beach city just a tank of gas away from Fresno. And though it almost scares me to share this treasure of a destination with others, for fear it will become crowded, I feel like it would be equally bad for me to hold out on you, dear FresYes readers, on what I believe to be California’s very best beach.
Yes, I know – I just made an incredibly bold statement. However, I plan to back it up!
Manhattan Beach is located just 10 minutes south of LAX in Los Angeles County. Typically, it takes us 4 hours give or take to get there, with a short stop to eat off of Laval Road just before ascending the Grapevine. (There are some new outlets at that exit now, too, for those of you who love outlet shopping!)
Though its distance from other Los Angeles beaches like Venice or Santa Monica isn’t much, Manhattan Beach feels far removed from its neighboring beaches to the north. Nestled just below El Segundo Beach and just above Hermosa and Redondo Beaches, Manhattan Beach offers some of the most pristine and beautiful beach neighborhoods, each home unique, well-kept and boasting its own unique style from craftsman bungalows to ultra-modern cylindrical homes with curved windows that offer over 180 degrees of ocean view to residents and guests. The gardens and trees in each yard are as gorgeous as the homes themselves, and lend themselves to a truly lush and succulent-filled landscape. The beach neighborhoods come to an end on Strand Avenue, directly facing the ocean, and looking out over the shore and the miles of pedestrian and cyclist foot paths that also run along Strand.
If you love long walks by the beach, walking “the Strand” is beyond therapeutic (and doesn’t require the intense workout walking in sand does), and if you love a great cycling working or a leisurely bicycle ride, the strand also has a separate, comfortably wide path just for you. These paths connect all of the beaches that neighbor one another, but the view of the gorgeous homes and the pristine and wide expanse of sand and sparkling water make the Manhattan Beach section the biggest feast for the eyes.
Speaking of the sand, there’s plenty of space for families to enjoy hours of beach play without feeling overcrowded on the shore. With the exception of a few weekends a year when major events are going on (there’s a bike race, a volleyball tournament and a surfing competition that happen each summer in Manhattan Beach, so check the City calendar before you plan a trip if you’re looking to avoid a crowd) the beach is typically uncrowded and allows plenty of room for each group to lay out their towels with a good distance between themselves and the next closest group.
The weather in Manhattan Beach is typically sunny and warm, and less cloudy than Central California’s Morro Bay, Avila and Pismo Beaches. I don’t think the high has even been under 70 or above 80 when I’ve been there in August (though I’d imagine it is still possible). The water is also warmer than it is in the Central Coast, making the beach good for surfing, boogie boarding and swimming. Lifeguards also oversee swimming areas, which are well-marked.
The pier on Manhattan Beach Boulevard is the longest concrete pier on the West Coast, and at the end of it sits the Roundhouse Aquarium which is open to the public and donation-supported. Manhattan Beach Boulevard is lined with boutiques, home décor stores, spas, yoga studios and tasty restaurants. The Kettle, a popular diner, has fantastic breakfasts, which they serve until late in the day. If you’re a coffee lover, both Starbucks and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf are also available for your sipping pleasure just up the street from the pier.
If you love a good nightlife and bar scene, neighboring Hermosa Beach is known for being a great place to hang out, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. The Redondo Beach Harbor also offers great restaurants and a full boardwalk with tasty treats (read: ice cream, cotton candy, fried food galore) and fun shops.
Throughout the years, we’ve stayed at several different hotels in the area, though this past weekend, we stayed at what we imagine will now be our forever favorite: The Sea View Inn at the Beach. The Sea View is made up of multiple buildings, each offering different sizes of rooms. You can reserve a standard room with a single queen bed for $175/night, on up to a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment for $375 a night, even during peak season. (There’s a pullout couch in the apartment as well, making it possible to split the cost between 2-3 couples or families, too!) The Sea View also offers a great view of the ocean and close enough to the beach that once you park (and parking is free, yay!) you can walk or ride bikes (provided, free!) for the rest of your trip if you’d like.
Despite its immaculate, upscale appearance and movie-scene like beach, one of my favorite things about the city is that it doesn’t come across as uppity or snooty. Everyone we encounter smiles, holds doors and is for the most part – downright pleasant. I suppose being in a place like Manhattan Beach does that to a person though! If you’re thinking of where to plan your next beach vacation, I strongly suggest you consider a visit to Manhattan Beach. I’m positive you won’t be disappointed!