In the previous post, we’ve been guiding you through the main part of Los Angeles. You’ve seen the highlights, but you haven’t seen all that makes LA one of the best cities in the world; the immense diversity, the closeness to the wilderness and the true Californian Beach Life! In this chapter, we will show you a tour around LA and around the tourists. It’s time to get to know the city in Part II.
Although Main Street Santa Monica is just a few (hundred) steps away from Third Street Promenade it’s definitely less crowded. Main Street Santa Monica is not a huge street with hundreds of stores, but think of it as a street where the locals hang out. With some little shops, coffeehouses and some fine dining. It’s just relaxing and a bit away from the crowds. You’ll also find the Urth Caffe’s Santa Monica location here (open since 2005), a good place to eat some great yet very affordable food. Find more about Urth Caffe at our Where to eat section. And Main Street is just two blocks away from Venice Beach, a bit more crowded but an interesting phenomenon to check out. Here you’ll find dozens of shops, street artists and skaters. Avoid these beaches after dark, a lot of bums come and gather here. Not an immediate danger but still, you’re always an easier target than any local who knows the way around.
When finished checking out Main Street get into your car and start driving towards Ocean Avenue continuing North until you see the Santa Monica Pier coming up to your left. Here you go down (left) onto the Pacific Coast Highway (in short PCH). You drive along the beach until you get into Malibu, with houses to your left (with private beach access) and to your right. In Malibu, many famous people have houses either directly on the beach or in the hills above, both however with astonishing ocean views. Continue driving North on PCH until you ‘hit’ the exit towards Topanga Canyon Road. Take this exit and continue onto Topanga Canyon Road. Why? Because we want you to see the astonishing wilderness just minutes outside of Los Angeles. If you feel like hiking one day, here would be a good starting point.
Continue driving on the Topanga Canyon Road, while enjoying the views, until you drive into the town called Woodland Hills, here you should keep going straight until you find the 101 Freeway access. Take the 101 Hollywood Freeway going South. Continue driving on the 101 Freeway South until you can change to the 405 Freeway South. Take the 405 South towards Long Beach.
Driving on the 405 is driving on one of the busiest Freeway corridors out there. It connects the Valley, UCLA, Santa Monica with Los Angeles International Airport, the South Bay cities and Long Beach. We wouldn’t be surprised if you would be going at a ‘stop & go’ speed. When you’ve passed LAX it should go better though. MapQuest estimates the driving time to the next exit should be 45 minutes.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Continue driving on the 405 South towards Long Beach until the Exit sign shows Hawthorne Blvd. Take this exit and turn right onto Hawthorne Blvd and continue driving. Then turn right onto Via Valmonte. Continue for 1 mile and then turn right onto Palos Verdes Dr. N. Drive up the Palos Verdes Peninsula continuing on Palos Verdes Dr. N. until it bends to the left and it becomes Palos Verdes Dr. W. Keep driving up and you should have the Ocean to your right. Drive further up until you feel you will get a good view. Then look for availability to park your car. You now should have some astonishing views over the Los Angeles Bay Area, unless it is cloudy or the fog has set in (or you’re there at nighttime).
Rancho Palos Verdes as the Peninsula is called is home to people with good fortune but without the desire to show it off. It is a very quiet and tidy neighborhood with very nice panoramic views all around. It is a part of the Los Angeles region most tourists won’t find.
When done here. Drive back the same way you came but instead of taking Palos Verdes Dr. all the way back to Via Valmonte, now take a left onto Palos Verdes Blvd. Keep the Ocean to your left.
Drive down Palos Verdes Blvd until you can turn left onto Catalina Avenue. You will now drive through a nice neighborhood with little shops and wooden houses tucked away in a town called Redondo Beach. Here you’ll also find some places to get a sandwich, a refreshing smoothie or an as-good-as-it-gets French Baguette. Good time for lunch maybe? The next stops will also have plenty of lunch offerings if you’re not hungry yet.
Continue driving on Catalina Avenue, but take a left when possible, towards the beach. Park your car and take some time to enjoy (the view of) the beach below. A beach is known to be very family-friendly and clean. And when you’re in luck you will see dolphins playing in the Ocean. You can also see a bicycle path on the beach that will lead you all the way to Marina del Rey (past the airport) and via a small d-tour around the Marina further north on the beach all the way up to Santa Monica and Malibu. By bike, it would take you about 1,5 hours to reach Santa Monica Pier from here (only half an hour more than by car!).
Continue your way North on Catalina Avenue until you can make a right turn onto Torrance Blvd. Then make a left turn onto Pacific Coast Highway. Continue driving North on the Pacific Coast Highway. You will now see some more of the Beach Community of Redondo Beach.
Last of the true and tranquil California Beach Communities on today’s trip would be Manhattan Beach. When leaving the parking structure in Hermosa Beach continue driving North on Hermosa Avenue (make a left at the traffic light when you exit the parking structure). Taking this road will lead you through the residential areas of Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach. Nice wooded houses facing the Ocean, little streets leading to the Beach. It has the words ‘relax and enjoy your life’ written all over it. We suggest you embrace that motto!
Continue driving on Hermosa Beach Avenue until it ends then drive up and take a left on Manhattan Avenue. Continue driving on Manhattan Avenue until you can make a right turn onto Manhattan Beach Blvd. Take a right onto Manhattan Beach Blvd. Either park your car and enjoy a walk around Manhattan Beach, its shops and its Pier or continue back to Santa Monica.
Getting back to Santa Monica is easy and you have two options. Either you take the 405 Freeway North towards Santa Monica and then switch to the 10 Freeway West towards Santa Monica and exit on 4th/5th Streets or you take the City streets back and it might even save you time.
Continue driving East on Manhattan Beach Blvd until you ‘hit’ Sepulveda/Pacific Coast Highway. If you want to take the Freeway (as described above) continue straight and keep going on Manhattan Beach Blvd until you see the signs for the 405 Freeway North towards Santa Monica.
If you more feel like driving on City streets and you could even save some time whilst getting an extra 45 minutes of sightseeing, take a left onto Sepulveda/Pacific Coast Highway. Continue North on Sepulveda for 45 minutes until you ‘hit’ Santa Monica Blvd. Take a left onto Santa Monica Blvd and drive to the end to get back to the origination point of this tour, the Santa Monica Pier.
The End of Los Angeles Tour 2. When you’re done reading, and ready to travel check out our travel desk. We’ve partnered up with the leading travel agencies in the world to provide you with the best flights, hotel deals, and car-rental companies. The travel desk section also offers a wide range of tours and tickets to a variety of attractions and venues. Our goal is to connect you with providers offering the widest choice as well as a convenient, fast and secure way to make your booking. It’s an extra service to you!