Manhattan Beach Guide: Insider Tips, Where to Go and What to Avoid

Manhattan Beach Getty H 2016
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Zooey Deschanel, Vince Vaughn, Maria Sharapova and Mia Hamm are among the stars and athletes who call the family-friendly South Bay beach town home, with hockey players living to the north, and further south, a Hollywood history that includes Quentin Tarantino, John Wayne and Miles Davis.

Southwest of Los Angeles, three miles south of LAX, on the southerly end of Santa Monica Bay lies the tiny, prototypical beach town of Manhattan Beach. Even with its small footprint — just 2.1 miles of pristine beachfront — it’s become a sought-after address. “Manhattan Beach does, I think, have a little flashy scene — you see the athletes living there,” says The Agency partner David Solomon. Training facilities for the Lakers, Kings and Clippers are nearby in El Segundo. Zooey Deschanel, Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Ticketmaster president Jared Smith and Mad Men writers Andre and Maria Jacquemetton are a few of the Hollywood types who call the South Bay’s affluent, family-friendly neighborhood home. Athletes include tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Victoria Azarenka, Mia Hamm, basketball player Steve Nash and the Kings’ Dustin Brown. Despite a few beachfront properties on the market asking astronomical numbers of $7,000 per square foot ($12 million to $14 million total), The Agency director Michael Grady, a native, says the homes on the Manhattan Strand are currently running between $3,000 and $4,000 per square foot, while those on the 100 block with views run in the $2,000 to $2,500 range.

HISTORY Manhattan Beach was founded in 1912, and was mostly made up of sand dunes used by Hollywood studios in the ‘20s and ‘30s to film desert scenes. Around the same time, excess sand was sold and shipped to Waikiki to improve the Hawaiian island’s rocky beaches. In the ‘30s, Errol Flynn owned a home in the quiet South Bay beach town. Together with Hermosa and Redondo Beaches, which lie directly to the south, Showtime vp entertainment relations Frank Marchesini says: “There is a certain camaraderie you have with the people who have to make the commute up to work, especially if you work in the entertainment business. You feel like you get out of the Hollywood bubble.” A lot of the Kings' hockey players live on the north side, he says, but down south in Hermosa, Quentin Tarantino once worked at a video store, John Wayne had a place, and Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck and Chet Baker all played at the Lighthouse Cafe, which is still open on Pier Avenue.

DO CHECK OUT High-end dinner destinations Manhattan Beach Post (1142 Manhattan Ave.), Fishing with Dynamite (1148 Manhattan Ave.) and Strand House (a go-to sunset viewing spot; 117 Manhattan Beach Blvd.) have opened in recent years along with the boutique Shade Hotel (1221 N. Valley Dr.; there’s another opening soon in Redondo).

INSIDER TIPS If you don’t live locally, park your car and walk or ride bikes along the Strand, says CBS senior vp communications Phil Gonzales, who also advises kayaking off the beach in Redondo to spot dolphins and whales. Manhattan Beach is also frequently the host of volleyball tournaments, and surfers put on a show, day in and day out. With all the fit bods around, exercise is important. Heather Phillips, senior vp publicity at 20th Century Fox, says the local SoulCycle is very friendly, and you can always find parking (820 S. Sepulveda Blvd.). To avoid leaving the bubble, Zeel Massage on Demand therapists will come to you, even on the beach, for a rubdown (Kim Kardashian and Gina Rodriguez have used the service). Manhattan Beach is also home to some of the best little bars in LA. Beloved dives include Shellback Tavern near the pier, with its prime sunset views (116 Manhattan Beach Blvd.), and Ercoles 1101, which has been open since 1927 and makes “bar none, the best hamburger in all of Los Angeles,” says Marchesini. “They get the meat from the butcher right next door— it’s phenomenal” (1101 Manhattan Ave.). The almost-20-year South Bay resident is well versed in the area’s best little joints. “I call it the moveable feast — if I have a free weekend and I’m out with my friends, we’re bopping around from one place to the next,” he says. One of the perks of Manhattan Beach, says makeup artist and beach devotee Jenn Streicher, is that the sand is so close to the main drag. “I don’t normally pack anything, which I love — we lay out and play in the water and then walk up and get chicken tacos with the best chips and salsa from El Tarasco. It only has about 10 counter bar seats, so it’s best to just take it to the beach and eat” (316 Rosecrans Ave.). On a hot day, locals head to Manhattan Beach’s SunLife Organics (451 Manhattan Beach Blvd.) for smoothies, says Phillips, or follow Pretty Little Liars’ Shay Mitchell’s lead and get a Cream’wich at Manhattan Beach Creamery — she’s Instagrammed the mouthwatering ice cream treats (1120 Manhattan Ave.). A bit further south, “The Hermosa Beach Fish Shop is awesome,” says Marchesini. “They have a great ahi dish and it’s one of the few places in the South Bay where you can come in with flip-flops and get a beer, pick a nice piece of fish and sit outside. It’s dog friendly, and my friend, the KTLA weather girl Vera Jimenez, is one of the owners.” Yet another local recommendation: “Darren’s Restaurant (1141 Manhattan Ave.) has great drinks and a good energy in the bar area,” says Gonzales, plus “a good mix of locals, entertainment and sports exec types and pro athletes.”

AVOID Manhattan Beach’s shores are fairly exemplary, earning A's and A+'s year-round except in wet weather, when the area around the 28th Street drain, especially, is a zone to avoid like the plague.