Beaches offer different vibes for weekend trips

Located in the concrete jungle of Downtown, USC does not boast an optimal vantage point when it comes to scoping out Southern California’s many beaches.

But a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, past the rows and rows of buildings and cement-paved streets, will reveal the legendary sun, sand and surf for which the Golden State is most known.

For those looking for a traditional beach environment, Santa Monica provides enough activity for a weekend getaway. There’s the expansive beach, where locals and tourists alike can swim, surf and play volleyball to their hearts’ content. There’s also the Santa Monica Pier, complete with its own amusement park and promenade, as well as shops and restaurants galore.

The Pier plays host to a number of events throughout the year, including the annual Twilight Concert series, which takes place every Thursday from now until Aug. 30. Parking, unsurprisingly, can be difficult, especially on the weekends. If the parking lot adjacent to the beach is already full, try the Promenade parking structure instead.

If the thought of a family-friendly beach scene seems unpleasant, there is Venice Beach, Santa Monica’s more eccentric neighbor. From Harry Perry, the famous electric guitar-playing man on roller blades, to the brawny men and women pumping iron at the Muscle Beach Gym, there is much to see in Venice Beach. Much of the activity revolves around the Ocean Board Walk, home to a bread pudding stand featured on Food Network, makeshift tables selling jewelry and other wares as well as a charming hodgepodge of street acts. Do keep in mind, however, that Venice Beach is not as safe at night as it is in the daytime, so plan accordingly.

Taking its name from the metropolitan city in New York, Manhattan Beach provides for a more glamorous beach trip. With its seaside restaurants- — along whats known as “The Strand” –— and picturesque pier, the classic day at the beach suddenly takes on a different definition. Though Manhattan Beach encompasses all that beaches have come to represent — salty sea breezes, the crashing of waves, people young and old strolling about — there is a tinge of irony associated with this beach: Be wary of the boundaries, as swimming is prohibited in a good number of areas around the beach.

Not too far from Manhattan Beach is Redondo Beach, easily another must-see beach in Los Angeles. Redondo Beach boasts a smaller and quieter beach town, which residents and visitors as well as television and movie producers have come to love. This star-studded beach was once home to the lifeguard drama Baywatch. But even when no filming is going on, there is no shortage of surfing, volleyball or waves. And as soon as night approaches, the shops and restaurants that dot the boardwalk light up to create a kind of neon wonderland on the beach.

Nevertheless, sometimes the best beaches are not very showy at all. Cabrillo Beach, located near San Pedro, is homey and peaceful and makes for relaxing strolls or pleasant “daycations” with friends and family. Wind surfing lessons are offered for those with a sense of adventure. There is also an aquarium nearby for those interested in interacting with and learning about the marine environment.

But perhaps this sounds all too traditional. For a more hipster-friendly beach, Hermosa Beach could not fit the part better. As a hot spot for beach volleyball and beach parties, Hermosa Beach attracts a young and lively crowd. Whether sorting through vintage clothes at Pier Plaza or laying out on the warm sand, this beach is not too far from paradise.

For a beach that is nothing but Californian, look no further than Malibu. With surfers at every turn, it is not hard to believe the stereotype that all Southern Californians can surf is accurate. And while at Malibu, do not forget to stay for the sunset. As the sun approaches the horizon, the sky turns a deep, fiery orange as the sound of waves ebbing and flowing on the sand create a soundtrack of sorts to accompany this breathtaking sight.

Of course, no beach list is complete without the quintessential beach on which to take long, romantic walks. In this case, seek out El Matador Beach. Known for its cool breezes, clear waters, numerous tide pools and mystifying caves, El Matador is truly the perfect and romantic getaway destination.

From people-watching in Venice to catching the sunset in Malibu, each beach has its own personality to offer those eager to stick their toes in the sand. So when in Southern California, do as the Southern Californians do: Go to the beach.