The Westside (map) is home to the most famous beaches of LA: Venice Beach (map), with its colorful Boardwalk and Muscle Beach, and the adjacent town of Santa Monica, with its popular pier and amusement park. Both communities share an expansive stretch of sandy beach which gets very crowded in the summer and which have plenty of amusements and facilities available, as well as a very festive scene in Venice that’s fantastic for people watching.
Just south of Venice is the less-crowded Dockweiler State Beach in the aptly-named town of Playa del Rey (map). Further north, where the coastline meets the Santa Monica Mountains, are scenic beaches in Pacific Palisades (map) and Malibu; Pacific Palisades’ Will Rogers State Beach is expansive and quite popular, while Malibu’s narrower Surfrider Beach is famed for its surf breaks.
*South Bay (map) is home to a number of beaches that are also very popular, in particular the Beach Cities of *Manhattan Beach (map), *Hermosa Beach (map), and *Redondo Beach (map), with piers and expansive stretches of sand lined with expensive houses. Hermosa is famed for its festive atmosphere, regularly holding volleyball tournaments and surfing competitions, and all three are popular with families and beach-goers. Also good but less crowded is Torrance Beach (map) further south, which is noted for great surfing, and the very scenic stretch of coastline in Palos Verdes, which holds many rocky coves and tidepools that make for fun exploration.
Off the coast and enormously popular for people taking a day trip out of L.A. are the picturesque beaches of Catalina Island (map). Additionally, the *Beach Cities of nearby Orange County are very popular with locals. For those who are more into boats than sand, Marina del Rey (map) is located just south of Venice and is the world’s largest man-made small-craft harbor, offering plenty of mooring as well as motorized and non-motorized rentals.