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As part of a new series, Travel + Leisure is exploring America one three-day weekend at a time. Here’s what to do on a short trip to the South Bay in Los Angeles County.

Amy Schellenbaum

If you’re looking for a weekend getaway in L.A. that doesn’t involve long afternoons stranded on the 405, look southwest of Downtown to a slice of paradise known as the South Bay. In Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach, the vibes are mellow, the lifestyle is active, and, most importantly, everything is accessible by a beachside walk or short cab ride.

Not sure how to spend three days on L.A. County’s low-key beaches? Here’s an ideal itinerary:

Day One

If you’re arriving in the afternoon via LAX airport, you’ll be happy to know that Manhattan Beach’s moody boutique Shade Hotel is just $12 to $15 away by Uber. Drop off your bags and head outside, through the Metlox town square, and take a right onto Manhattan Beach Boulevard. This is the main vein of the city’s downtown, where bars, restaurants, and coffee shops line the walkway to the beach.

Head all the way down to the pier—you can’t miss it, it’s practically an extension of MB Boulevard—and walk to the end of it for a can’t-miss sunset over the Pacific. Afterward, head back up to Rock’n Fish for coconut-crusted Mahi sliders, Cajun corn on the cob, and a slice of Kona pie.

If you want to go out, you have several options nearby: the Strand House (sexy design, incredible views), Shellback Tavern (cheap drinks, a bit divier), or your hotel’s Skydeck (an “open-air poolside retreat” that turns into a cocktail party at night).

Day Two

What the South Bay lacks in museums and club life it more than makes up for in miles of white sand and near-perfect weather pretty much every day of the year. As much as you may want to hit the beach first thing in the morning, you’ll gain a lot by pacing yourself.

First, hit up Uncle Bill’s Pancake House, a circa-1961 A-frame structure that’s arguably the heart of Manhattan Beach’s old-school side. Get the Expo ’73 omelette, corned beef hash and eggs, or banana buckwheat pancakes.

If you’re not a lazy-Saturday-morning type (what’s that like?), try a power vinyasa class at the Green Yogi and one of six green juices on offer at Pressed Juicery.

Spend the rest of your day at the beach. The sand is notably amazing; in fact, from the 1920s to the 1970s, Hawaii’s Waikiki imported a lot of its sand from Manhattan Beach.

If you want a lively nighttime scene, head to one of the bars abutting the Hermosa Beach Pier, about two miles from downtown Manhattan Beach. Hermosa’s Comedy and Magic Club draws in names like Jay Leno and Gabriel Iglesias. Baja Sharkeez, meanwhile, is beachy and a bit wild, with a great happy hour and even better fish tacos.

Day Three

Bright and early, take a cab to Redondo Beach and go on a whale/dolphin watching tour from King Harbor Marina. On a 10 a.m. tour, you can see dolphins, seals, and sea lions, as well as sperm and humpback whales.

Afterward, grab lunch at Kincaid’s Bay House (they also have an excellent happy hour), which is walking distance from King Harbor. From there, you can walk back to your hotel (four miles along “the Strand,” or boardwalk) or hop in a cab and head further south to Palos Verdes, a well-heeled town on the bluffs. The scenery is incredible and there are several gorgeous (and sometimes strenuous) hiking trails to explore.

At the end of the day, head to Hermosa’s Fritto Misto for delicious, unfussy Italian food. If you want to be closer to the hotel, you should try Manhattan Beach’s the Kettle, a beloved mainstay that’s open 24 hours a day, every day except Christmas.

For more long-weekend itineraries in America's best vacation destinations, click here.

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