This casual, yet lively Southern California seaside town is the perfect spot to kick back and relax or go at high speed in pursuit of adrenaline boosting adventures.
An additional perk is the warm welcome you’ll get from the locals that’ll make you feel right at home.
For Seattleites, Redondo Beach makes a convenient getaway of its own merit or it can easily be used as an extension to an L.A./Disneyland trip. June’s gray weather gave me every reason to escape the Puget Sound for some fun in the sun.
And having never been to Redondo, I jumped at the chance to explore it. The contemporary, nautical-themed Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club served as home base during my stay.
As the only hotel located directly on the Pacific Ocean, this property provides impressive views that have an almost hypnotic effect on guests.
The waves, the steady parade of boats big and small and of course the stars of the scene, the sea lions, all conspire to keep you mesmerized (and entertained) for hours.
It’s easy to while away your time sitting on your private deck overlooking the water or in the hotel’s cozy lobby with its floor-to-ceiling windows and be soothed into a state of utter bliss. And for some, that’s plenty.
Being the activity junkie I am though, I headed outside to take in my surroundings by foot, bike and boat. What’s great about Redondo Beach is that most of the town’s sights are concentrated in its pedestrian friendly central core.
One of the most notable attractions is the Redondo Beach Pier and King Harbor. The 70,000-square-foot structure, which was originally constructed in 1889 and subsequently rebuilt several times due to storms and fire, is one of the handsomest piers in the country because of its horseshoe shape and expansive walkway.
The marina area with its International Boardwalk offers a mix of ocean view cafes and restaurants, local watering holes, eclectic shops that sell everything from custom toe rings and kites to pick-your-own oyster pearls, an amusement arcade and a variety of water sports. You can rent kayaks and paddleboats, take a nature cruise or even a romantic gondola ride.
And then there’s the looking glass boat – a semi-submarine that offers tours of the sea life with its underwater picture windows. Cruising the harbor with Captain Lloyd, you’ll see sting rays, local fish such as calico bass and opal eyes, as well as pelicans and cormorants diving for their dinner.
The highlight is the sea lion sanctuary with its up close and personal views of these playful creatures as they frolic, lounge on the rocks and emit their distinct barking noises.
Along the way, you’ll also see scores of fishermen lining the docks or in their boats, plying the waters for the catch of the day.
It’s a colorful scene full of sensory delights, from the pungent smells of fresh fish right off the boat to the sweet aromas of homemade fudge and cotton candy.
South of the pier you’ll find a broad walkway through a beautiful stretch of beach, with an unobstructed view of the ocean and an area known as the Hollywood Riviera. Called "The Esplanade," it is frequented by all types of fitness fans and those who come to check out the surfers and their flashy moves or try and spot whales that migrate through the area in the winter months.
Just a few blocks away is Riviera Village, a charming shopping area that is the site of the Riviera Village Summer Festival each summer.
As luck would have it, the festival was going on during my stay and I was able to spend a few hours perusing a fine selection of locally made arts and crafts.
Bikes are everywhere in Redondo Beach and I couldn’t wait to hop on one and ride the Strand, a fabulous pathway that begins just south of Redondo Beach and runs along the coast for miles. You can actually take it all the way up to Santa Monica (approximately 20 miles north) if you’re so inclined.
Be aware that you’ll be sharing this popular scenic trail with walkers, joggers, in-line skaters and fellow cyclists, and that it can get quite crowded particularly on weekends.
It’s a great place to people watch, get your dose of eye candy and drool over the array of decidedly distinct homes that line the path, while dreaming of owning one of your own.
When you get hungry, just stop off at one of the many outdoor cafes in any of the several neighboring beach towns along the way.
For a special treat, try the gelato at Paciugo in Hermosa Beach.
With unique flavors like sea salt caramel, raspberry lavender chocolate chip and green tea cookies ‘n milk, you’ll want to return to this popular gelaterie more than once.
Finding good food is not a problem in Redondo Beach and its environs.
There’s everything from casual eateries, such as Kincaid’s Restaurant and the iconic Old Tony’s, to fine dining experiences.
One of the most memorable meals I had was at BALEEN, the Portofino’s renowned New American restaurant specializing in gourmet comfort food with a seafood focus.
Breakfast at Polly’s on the Pier is a must for hearty down home grub or opt for the all-you-can-eat buffet at Splash, Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach’s signature restaurant .
There’s also Joe’s Crab Shack, a fun eatery where the servers periodically break out in song and dance, while you chow down on buckets of fresh crab and shrimp.
And for tasty south-of-the border fare, make sure you try Ortega 120.
Aim to get there on a Tuesday evening when the restaurant holds its famous Tequila University to introduce patrons to the art of tequila tasting.
At night, the live music scene draws both locals and tourists to the pier, where you’ll hear everything from reggae to vintage rock ‘n roll.
For something a bit different, there’s the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center, which offers light opera, musical theater and a distinguished speaker series. But, the best entertainment of all, in my opinion, is watching a picture-perfect California sunset over the beautiful, blue, glistening ocean.
If you go:
• Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau: www.redondochamber.org
• Best bet for accommodations: Portofino Hotel and Yacht Club: www.hotelportofino.com or Crowne Plaza Redondo Beach: www.cpredondobeachhotel.com