Hidden Gems in the Beach Cities of Los Angeles

Wayfarers Chapel interior during the day
Photo: Wayfarers Chapel

The South Bay’s sister Beach CitiesHermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach offer a singular L.A. coastal culture that has to be experienced firsthand. Even if you can’t afford some of the most expensive real estate on Earth, there’s plenty to enjoy as a visitor, from beautiful beaches and bustling piers to the countless pubs and eateries of the seafront Strand biking/walking trail.

And there’s much more to the Beach Cities that may not be obvious at first glance.

Here are some hidden gems to enhance your trip to this cultured coastal paradise.

Bruce's Beach

Originally a resort owned by Charles and Willa Bruce for the benefit of the Black community at a time when racial segregation barred them from other area beaches, Bruce’s Beach was seized by the City of Manhattan Beach in 1924 for development as a public park. But only in the 1960s was it even partially developed as such. Under public pressure, the land was returned to the Bruce family in 2021, and a plaque there acknowledges that the City’s actions a century ago were racially motivated and wrong. The Bruce family sold the site back to L.A. County in January 2023 for $20 million.

The Comedy & Magic Club

The Comedy & Magic Club

Famed for former Tonight Show host Jay Leno’s regular Sunday night performances, The Comedy & Magic Club also hosts similarly household-name comedians as well as its $25 “10 Comics” nights showcasing up-and-comers. This is a strictly 18 and over club where many shows sell out, so purchase tickets well in advance to avoid disappointment.
There’s a two-item minimum per guest, but plenty of food and beverage options. Food is served before and during the performances, so arrive early, grab good seats, have a terrific dinner, and enjoy a hilarious show.

ET Surf

ET Surf is an OG fave for surfers, skaters, and snowboarders alike, offering an
impressive selection of local and world-class boards, suits, accessories, and apparel since 1972. In a region where you can famously surf in the morning and enjoy snow sports the same afternoon, with almost year-round skateboarding weather, ET is the place for wetsuits, shortboards, longboards, skate decks, snowboards, and snowboard boots, plus an apparel selection hip to the fast-moving related subcultures. ET Surf may date back to an era of surfers living in VW vans and making their own boards, but this legendary outlet remains top of its game.

Dungeness crab, shrimp, and oysters at Fishing With Dynamite | Photo by Esther Tseng

Fishing With Dynamite

Chef David Lefevre's cozy Manhattan Beach seafood shack, Fishing With Dynamite serves an excellent raw bar selection but also a mean clam chowder and an array of other stellar coastal dishes including Peruvian scallops, crab cakes, sashimi, swordfish, and black bass. Open daily for lunch and dinner with only 35 seats spread out over tables, a raw bar, and a cocktail bar, Fishing With Dynamite is best visited during off-peak times. If it all feels like seafood sensory overload, handwritten notes from Lefevre on the constantly evolving menu offer on-point advice from the man himself.

Queen Anne Cottage at Heritage Court | Photo courtesy of Redondo Beach Historical Society, Facebook

Heritage Court

Heritage Court comprises the 1904 Queen Anne Cottage and 1906 Morrell House, relocated from elsewhere in the city to Redondo Beach’s Dominguez Park in the 1980s. Extended with an architecturally compatible addition in 1994, this unique property now serves as the city’s museum, housing artifacts, memorabilia, photographs, and historical documents. Heritage Court’s Victorian-style courtyard features a tranquil rose garden, fountain, and shady arbor that transport visitors a world away from the urban bustle without. At the time of this writing, the Historical Museum in the Queen Anne Cottage is closed (opening dates and times will be posted here).

Photo courtesy of Hudson House, Facebook

Hudson House

Located on Pacific Coast Highway in Redondo Beach, Hudson House serves SoCal-meets-Southern fare in a surf shack vibe. This beloved South Bay staple, which changed owners in late 2020, creates comfort food favorites with fresh twists and even fresher California ingredients. Start off with a grilled romaine salad before indulging in marinated skirt steak, a spicy pulled pork sandwich, or the shrimp & lobster roll on a split-top brioche bun.
For first timers, Hudson House’s Happy Hour (Wed. & Thu. 5-6 p.m.; Fri. 3-6 p.m.; and Sat. 12-3 p.m.) is an opportunity to sample what’ll likely become your new Beach Cities go-to hang.

Scene from "La La Land" at The Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach
Photo courtesy @filmtourismus

La La Land Locations

Smash hit 2016 rom-com musical La La Land cast Los Angeles in a starring role, using more than 60 filming locations in and around the city. In the Beach Cities, these included The Lighthouse Café on Pier Avenue in Hermosa Beach, a real-life jazz venue where genre luminaries including Miles Davis and Chet Baker once performed. After visiting the café, La La Land’s lead characters, played by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, stroll on nearby Hermosa Beach Pier, where Gosling croons the movie’s Oscar-winning “City of Stars” theme song. For our guide to more La La Land locations in LA, go here.

Photo courtesy of Naja’s Place, Facebook

Naja's Place

Beer geeks and sports fans alike love Naja's Place, not to mention folks who just enjoy its open-air atmosphere and primo view of the Redondo Beach marina. This lively, kid-and dog-friendly dockside hangout boasts a vast draft brew selection, multiple flat-screen TVs, and live music. Keep an eye on Naja’s calendar for specials, tap takeovers, weekend restaurant pop-ups, parties, and sporting events on their HDTVs. Since April of 2022, Naja’s has also featured a full-time kitchen serving classic appetizers, unique “smashed” burgers by Park Burger, and a delectable beer float dessert.

Pisces Sushi Chirashi Bowl
Chirashi bowl at Pisces Sush  |  Photo: Clarissa Wei

Pisces Sushi

Even in a sushi stronghold like Manhattan Beach, Pisces Sushi & Teriyaki is a charming standout that has its priorities straight. This mom-and-pop local favorite is essentially a take-out joint, with just four bar seats and a table for two on the sidewalk outside, but it’s the food itself (and low prices) that keeps folks coming back. All the traditional sushi bar staples are here, plus Pisces’ popular chirashi sashimi bowls, tempura, eel teriyaki, and fried pork dumplings. Note that your food will typically take 45 minutes to prep and is served on a first-come basis (no reservations), so time your sushi craving accordingly!

Photo courtesy of Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium, Facebook

Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium

Perched at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier, the distinctive Roundhouse Aquarium Teaching Center is dedicated to engaging and educating the public about the oceans, marine life, and the environment. This family-oriented facility was revitalized by a $4 million renovation four years ago and has since been educating and inspiring more than 300,000 visitors annually. More than 100 marine animals native to SoCal waters live at the aquarium, with immersive exhibits including moon jellies, sharks, octopus, California sheephead fish, moray eels, lobsters, and more, plus a touch tank with sea stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and sea snails. Admission is free, with suggested donations of $2 per person or $5 per family.

Seaside Lagoon

Seaside Lagoon

Redondo Beach's saltwater Seaside Lagoon is a popular summer destination for pool lovers and sun seekers. As well as the expansive artificial lagoon itself, there's a sand area for sunbathing, a kids’ play gym, volleyball courts, a grassy area, and a luau shelter. The seasonal, lifeguard-supervised Seaside Lagoon is also a marvel of engineering, comprising water chlorinated as it enters from the other side of the ocean breakwater via subterranean pipes, then de-chlorinated before returning to the harbor. But the lagoon is not heated, so expect natural ocean temps! From May to September, Seaside Lagoon is open daily from 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m

The Strand House 3

The Strand House

This family-owned fine dining establishment in downtown Manhattan Beach is a destination like no other, with sweeping 180-degree Pacific Ocean views and
unforgettable California coastal cuisine. The Strand's Culinary Masters Series attracts guest chefs from all over the world for one-off, unforgettable dinners that consistently sell out (stay updated with The Strand’s mailing list and call ahead for reservations). During regular service, owner Michael Zislis and chef Austin Craig Hopson offer menus that highlight the bounty of Southern California produce complimented by curated cocktail and wine programs in a casual atmosphere atypical for such an upscale venue.

Wayfarers Chapel interior during the day
Photo: Wayfarers Chapel

Wayfarers Chapel

Rancho Palos Verdes’ stunning Wayfarers Chapel (aka “The Glass Church”) nestles clifftop above the Pacific Ocean. Architect Lloyd Wright, son of the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright, envisioned a natural “tree chapel” sanctuary and his design epitomizes “organic architecture,” which emphasizes harmony between human habitation and nature. Dedicated in 1951, the Wayfarers Chapel was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. A popular wedding venue due to its spectacular design and location, the Wayfarers Chapel has featured in many movies, TV shows, and music videos, including The Bachelorette and Beverly Hills 90210.