Small Town Adventures: Hermosa Beach

The Pacific is calling

Illustration by Paul Rogers


There’s no use pretending that Hermosa Beach is a dainty seaside hamlet. At night the area may well have one of the higher alcohol consumption rates of any 1.3-square-mile town in Los Angeles County. You can stagger from the Shore to the Poop Deck, stopping at a fistful of watering holes in between. Which isn’t a bad thing. But during the day, when the sands fill with beachgoers and the sunlight trembles on the Pacific, Hermosa becomes that rare thing in hurly-burly L.A.: a beachy village that despite the multimillion-dollar real estate feels open to all. Get here early, and you may even be able to snag a spot in the parking structure on 13th Street.

Surf Rat
A little in from the coast, Dennis Jarvis’s Spyder Boards (2461 Pacific Coast Hwy.) has built a reputation for crafting masterful surfboards to spec. Closer to the waves is the hallowed Becker Surfboards (301 Pier Ave.). Or forget the equipment and make like a local at Los Muchachos (118 Pier Ave.), which cooks up a serviceable burrito. Serious volleyball players usually snatch up the courts north of the Hermosa Beach Pier by 9. If you don’t want people trying to vibe you off, stick to the ones to the south.

Land Shark
You can rent a cruiser at Hermosa Cyclery (20 13th St.) and ride the Strand, aka the South Bay Bicycle Trail, which extends 22 miles from Torrance through Hermosa to Pacific Palisades. If you like vintage menswear, including Members Only jackets, Lopalopa (1409 Hermosa Ave.) warrants a look. The Hermosa Beach Historical Museum (710 Pier Ave.) features exhibits on local life, including a recent show on the history of punk rock in Hermosa Beach (Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, and Pennywise came out of the Hermosa punk scene).

Sun Bunny
After a spell of beach reading, pop in to browse the cards and knickknacks at Curious… (128 Pier Ave.), then wander over to the Gum Tree (238 Pier Ave.).  Along with offering a selection of homey goods—soaps, dinnerware, baby toys—the 1911 Craftsman bungalow is a nice spot to ramp up with a cappuccino or a roasted beet salad. For a more elaborate spread, La Sosta Enoteca (2700 Manhattan Ave.), a Northern Italian restaurant, is a mile from the pier.

Water Baby
(1034 Hermosa Ave.) serves an absurd number of gelato flavors, from black olive to Guinness to child-friendly chocolate. There are plenty of low-fat water-based options, too, for parents who are already having trouble fitting into their bathing suits. A mile and a half up the Strand, the Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab and Aquarium on the Manhattan Beach Pier enlightens while it entertains with touch tanks.