How about a longer stopover?
Here is what I did for a twelve hour stopover from Long Beach California.
Long Beach Airport is convenient for visiting downtown Los Angeles, Orange County (including Disneyland), and beaches (like Huntington Beach and Seal Beach).
When I had a 12 hour layover opportunity at Long Beach Airport my first thought was to visit one of my favorite places: the Palos Verdes peninsula. Palos Verdes is clear when Los Angeles and Orange County are smoggy. Palos Verdes has lots of room to hike, bike, and explore.
My flight arrived around 10am and I immediately went to the rental car area. Long Beach Airport is fun because it is small and you can walk to everything (baggage claim, rental cars, ground transportation, and even the planes)—no buses, trains, or shuttles.
McCool Travel tip: For another trip to Long Beach California, I saved about 50% by renting a car from a downtown Long Beach location. Bonus was that I was still able to return it to the airport.
Once in my rental car, I drive straight to water. I head south on Lakewood Blvd. until I reach PCH, turn right, and turn left on Cherry Avenue. Cherry ends at Ocean Avenue. I cannot blame you one bit for finding a parking spot and walking through Bixby Park to the beach. Go ahead and touch the water, catch some rays, explore the Farmer’s Market, or visit the Queen Mary. When you are ready to continue, I will be here.
At Ocean Ave, drive west, across the big bridges of the Seaside Freeway (especially fun at night) into San Pedro. If I was not tempted by El Pollo Loco, Roscoe’s, etc., in Long Beach, I love to get doughnuts and/or tacos in San Pedro. Any non-chain place will do but I like Pina’s Mexican and Kenny’s Donuts.
At the southern end of San Pedro are some wonderful attractions: Cabrillo Beach, Point Fermin Lighthouse, and the Korean Friendship Bell in Angels Gate Park. No matter how much time I spend in San Pedro, I next head west on Paseo Del Mar to Palos Verdes.¹
Just before the intersection with Western Avenue is one of my favorite baseball fields. Mary Star High School’s Fromhold Field is on a spit of land jutting into the Pacific Ocean, high atop some cliffs. Amazing views, to say the least.
Heading west (now on 25th St. to Palos Verdes Dr.), you will enter Portuguese Bend and see one of my favorite signs in the world.
Soon after driving very slowly over the bumpy, constantly repaved roads of Portuguese Bend, pay attention for signs for Wayfarer’s Chapel, the masterpiece glass chapel designed by Lloyd Wright (Frank Lloyd Wright’s son). Wayfarer’s Chapel is a worldwide favorite for weddings and the landscaping is magnificent.
Continuing the drive on Palos Verdes Drive, you will pass countless coves and trails. The Blufftop Trail is a favorite. Most parking is free along the Palos Verdes coastline.
Just before Palos Verdes Drive W intersects with Palos Verdes Drive N is the scenic small community of Malaga Cove (within Palos Verdes Estates)—where I was fortunate to once live!
Almost every time I have walked or driven behind Malaga Cove Plaza I have encountered wild peacocks. The Neighborhood Church is magnificent and Malaga Cove is flush with Spanish and Italian influence and natural scenic beauty. The Malaga Cove area is also the last chance on this trip, unless you reverse course, to visit a cove and bluff trail.
Leaving Malaga Cove, we have some choices. Depending on time, we can
- continue up the coast to Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, Marina Del Rey, Venice Beach, and Santa Monica. With the allotted short time, doing all of this is possible but not recommended. One could just drive through all these gorgeous areas but not really visit anything. Even better is to spend time walking or biking the beach trail.
- however, if you planned your return flight from LAX airport, then continuing north to El Segundo makes perfect sense.
- visit Redondo Beach and turn back to Long Beach. Leaving Palos Verdes Drive W, turn left at the intersection with Palos Verdes Drive N. Turn left at Paseo De La Playa and take that to Esplanade. Now you are right along some gorgeous beach. At least one stop is encouraged. Continue as far north as The Pier (shopping, dining, fun) and then return south via PCH.
- return to Long Beach Airport via PCH. The quickest route might be to turn left at intersection, turn right at Calle Mayor, turn right at PCH, and drive on PCH to Long Beach Airport. Another route is through Rolling Hills Estates (see below).
- explore more of Palos Verdes Peninsula.
There are multiple options for exploring more of Palos Verdes.
If you have just a little extra time (than the above #4 PCH option), follow Palos Verdes Drive N through Rolling Hills Estates (RHE). The focus of this section of Palos Verdes is horses. RHE is an equestrian wonderland but you can also find cool roadside produce stands, quaint craft shops, and more. Palos Verdes Drive N ends in Harbor City. Turn left on Vermont Avenue and turn right on PCH. Follow PCH back into Long Beach and to the airport.
You can, of course, retrace your route from Malaga Cove and spend more time along the ocean. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that plan.
There are also several turns from Palos Verdes Drive N (heading toward RHE), such as Silver Spur, Hawthorne, Crenshaw, Rolling Hills, and Portuguese Bend—all right turns when driving east on Palos Verdes Drive N. All of these roads will allow you to explore the interior of the Palos Verdes peninsula (some developed, much is still natural) and end up along the southern coast (where we visited Wayfarer’s Chapel). Continue east to Western Avenue, turn left, and turn right on PCH (or retrace our route in through San Pedro, the bridges, and Long Beach).
For this trip, I returned the rental car around 9:30pm to catch my flight from Long Beach. It is often difficult to perfectly time everything, especially with traffic in Southern California.
Most likely I would be in Long Beach closer to 8:30pm and get a quick bite before going to the airport. In addition to previously mentioned places, I would find a small taco stand or a local popular local burger chain, such as Tommy’s, In-n-Out, or Fatburger.