Hermosa Beach. The ‘beautiful’ beach as it translates from Spanish. There’s not many areas in LA I would call beautiful, but Hermosa is definitely one. It’s not a place you will find hordes of backpackers, the majority that come here are of a certain backpacking breed. Surfers. Lots of surfers, which is why a lot of Aussies can be heard sipping cheap happy hour beers around you. It is also why I feel like Hermosa is a place I know and could lay my head for awhile. I understand the surfie vibe, the relaxed persona, the carefree attitude that comes from a life lived around the pulse of the next incoming wave. All that matters is you and the ocean, and the sand that molds around your toes. I don’t surf, but I grew up around many that do, and I understand the pull of the ocean, or in essence, nature itself. A surfer town is a place where many live for the pure joy of the moment, knowing that in two days time the ride of your life may have receded back into the mystery from where it came. There are no questions, no fear, no regrets just an acceptance that this is how life plays out and I’m going to play it as so.
This is all you find in Hermosa. The pretentiousness of nearby LA cannot be found here.There are no silicon implants, or botox faces scrutinizing their worth in passing mirrors, maitre d’s don’t look you up and down before refusing you entry into the latest in-vogue bar, and your worth is not judged before passing strangers decide if they can offer you a simple smile or hello.
Hermosa is laid-back, grungy, and real. Skaters skate around the pedestrian promenade that is flanked by palm trees, surfer shops, bars, and restaurants all sprouting happy hour prices, cheap fish tacos and nightly dinner specials. Down on the beach, friends stand around spiking balls over volleyball nets, some in training for the upcoming local competition, others just kicking back and enjoying another gorgeous sunset. Bikini-clad roller bladers (turning me a pale shade of green) skate by and families on their beach cruisers cycle along the beach side path that runs to Manhattan Beach in one direction and Redondo Beach in the other.
This is our third trip to Hermosa. We stumbled upon it in August 2006. We were looking for a place close to LA to
spend a couple of days while waiting to fly out of the country. We read a couple of sentences about it in the Lonely planet and thought it was worth a look and upon arrival discovered it was so much more than that. Our days were spent running along the beach, swimming, playing volleyball, hanging out in the common room with backpackers, and catching the setting sun with beer specials at any of the numerous outdoor drinking establishments. We skip LA now when we come here and head straight for Hermosa, only a 30 minute trolley ride from the airport. We speak of it to every backpacker we meet going to or in LA. No one has heard of it and none seem to keen to follow our enthusiastic recommendation to head there for a chilled, local LA beach experience.
We now find ourselves sitting in the Watermans bar that is underneath the Surf City Hostel, where we first stayed. Watermans wasn’t here back then, it was instead, Dragon’s, a thumping nightclub that kept us awake till all hours until we learned that the only way to beat them was to join them. The vibe of Watermans is upbeat and causal, and even the blustering wind couldn’t contain the obvious joy that people had in spending time in Hermosa. We spent the morning at Manhattan Beach, and took a leisurely walk down, stopping to push Kalyra on the swings that lay rooted in the sand and talking of how one day we would return to rent one of the gorgeous mansions that sat right on the beach edge, beckoning us to come sit down on the porch with an ice cold corona.
The Watermans only opened in February 2010, and throws off the aura of an owner who has traveled, surfing through many tropical lands. Balinese teak wooden structures, island tiki-house bars, and reggae chilled surfer music that plays in the background helps to create the “Safe House for Surfers” vibe. Dishes have Australian and Asian names, and backpackers sit in groups enjoying their two for one beers. The workers are relaxed, welcoming and friendly, and it was place we felt at home at sitting for an afternoon of sundowners. Endless baskets of chip and spicy salsa arrive at our table with plenty of wheat beer to wash it down with. A lady, from San Francisco sits next to us with her daughter. They are down for the weekend to interview for a sport scholarship for UCLA. She talks to us of her love for Hermosa, which we reciprocate. She comes here often, cycling the trail down from Santa Monica and can think of no better place to have a meal with her child.
We leave with a warm, happy buzz and are followed by the moon, who lights our way back to the bus in Manhattan. A familiar feeling of contentment and gratitude for living this traveling life and getting to know places like this around the world envelops us. Hermosa is a place that has laid permanent roots in me and one day I may find myself doing the same back. In Hermosa, life asks for nothing, except maybe a warm smile to match the sunshine.
How to get there:
Trolleys leave every 30 mins from around the airport area. Cost is $5 return and takes about 30 mins. You have to get off at Manhattan Beach and walk to Hermosa from there.
Things to see and do:
- Hire a bike, roller blades or skateboards and ride up and down the beach side path. You can even walk it.
- Take a volleyball down to the beach for a game.
- Watermans: 22 Pier Ave. Check out the menu for happy hour prices and special nightly dining prices including Taco Tuesdays.
- Hennesey’s Tavern: an upstairs beer garden on the corner of the promenade that gives great sunset views
- Scottys: a small, laid-back restaurant that is nothing to look at but has cheap food and beer. Happy hour early 2-5pm (others close at 7pm) Cheap beer jugs $6.50 $3.50 cocktails. All you can eat spaghetti $6.95