Manhattan Beach

Best Girl-Watching Beach, August 2006
For those whose childhoods were landlocked, there’s a set of indelible images associated with Southern California: longboards, bikinis, and saltwater-bleached hair, all viewed through a sun-flared lens. Inevitably, we look for beaches that live up to the ideal. Manhattan Beach is not that ideal: It’s just a beach—no Ferris wheel, no kiddie rides, no fire-eating country singers. There’s only a little café and a halfhearted aquarium at the end of the pier, but the bars and shops of Manhattan Beach Boulevard aren’t too far out of reach. It’s a good spot for watching the girls because it’s casual. The atmosphere doesn’t end at the bicycle path. Bathing suits are just as acceptable in the Shellback Tavern as they are on the sand. Young women stroll the boulevard after throwing on a linen blouse or a little pair of shorts over an Emilio Pucci two-piece. Manhattan Beach is more than just a mating ritual with the pace of a rugby match. Everyone checks out everyone else, but no one gets hassled.