Manhattan County Beach is classic southern California, with surfers, sunbathers, a pier with a small aquarium at its end, and over 50 volleyball courts along its two-mile stretch. The Marvin Braude Bike Trail (22 miles long), formerly the South Bay Bicycle Trail, runs behind the beach, but as of 2013 only bicycles are allowed on the stretch through Manhattan Beach, and they must be walked for a short stretch by the pier. Pedestrians are restricted to the path known as the Strand, which runs parallel to the bike path but is a few feet farther inland. A leisurely stroll along the Strand is a great way to spend the afternoon. If you just want to hang out at the beach, bring or borrow a beach wheelchair and roll out onto the sand, or sit at one of the tables by the snack shop at the northernmost end.
The hilly topography of the surrounding town of Manhattan Beach reflects the original sand dunes which were bulldozed in many other southern California beach towns. There is one relatively level street, Manhattan Avenue, that is great for window shopping and dining. It's not far from the beach and runs parallel to it, but the cross streets tend to get very steep as they drop down toward the ocean. The beach itself is a level, two-mile stretch of golden sand.
Entry to the trail from Manhattan Beach Blvd. is up a moderately steep slope, but the trail itself is quite level. From the north section of the Strand, a few connections to the Marvin Braude Bike Path are quite steep and have a steep cross-slope.
The best place to access the Strand is from the beach parking lot at the foot of Manhattan Beach Boulevard, at the pier. From here you can head north (for a longer route) or south; we chose to go north first. Along this stretch, about 1.5 miles one way, the connectors to the bike path and the beach beyond are steeper than along the section south of the pier where entry to the bike path is nearly level.
It's easy to see see why locals refer to Manhattan Beach as part of the Hollywood Riviera: Along the trail you will see opulent homes of varying architectural styles, many adorned with whimsical art. I frequently found my eyes drawn to the homes rather than the ocean, and it felt a little voyeuristic to look in through the mostly glass walls of the homes that faced the path. On the opposite side of the trail are compact succulent gardens that appear to be maintained by the homeowners. Benches overlooking the ocean have adjacent clear space for wheelchair users.
Looking north, several smokestacks at the Chevron refinery some two miles upcoast, are an odd juxtaposition to the multimillion-dollar beachfront homes. Between 41st and 42nd streets is a ramp that runs from the El Porto parking lot to the bike trail and beach. Enter here to reach the beachside café and beach wheelchair storage area. Alternatively, you can continue to the end of the Strand at 45th Street and take the driveway into the parking lot.
The section of the Strand south of the pier and Manhattan Beach Boulevard is level with the bike trail, and the homes aren’t as spectacular. In the distance you can see Hermosa Beach Pier. [LINK] At about the half-mile point, at 35th Street, the Strand becomes a bike lane adjacent to a street. Oceanside, stairs connect to the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, which here is not restricted to bicycles because you’re no longer in Manhattan Beach. For an accessible route to Hermosa Beach, [LINK] stay to the right of the bike lane on a parking access lane for about 10 blocks (this lane is adjacent to the street and has very little auto traffic), then turn right at 26th Street to connect to the Marvin Braude Bike Trail.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Beachside lots at the foot of Manhattan Beach Blvd. and the El Porto lot at the foot of 45th St. are free with a disabled placard. For the pier and beach, park in the small lot at Manhattan Beach Blvd.; the El Porto lot is closest to the building where the beach wheelchairs are stored. There is a steep hill between the beach and the other public lots and street-side parking.
Some restrooms along the bike path are accessible, but the routes to them from the Strand are steep and have a cross-slope that can be challenging to navigate. The restrooms at the pier and aquarium are easiest to access from the Strand. The restroom closest to the building where the beach wheelchair is stored is not accessible.
Other Things of Interest
Every August the city hosts the Manhattan Beach Open Volleyball tournament and the International Surf Festival. As you head out onto the pier, look down to see bronze volleyballs imprinted with the names of tournament winners.
Succulent garden along The Strand (Bonnie Lewkowicz)
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