I decided to end my week in the “City of Angels” by going off the beaten path to remind myself that Los Angeles is indeed a coastal city. I don’t think I am alone in easily forgetting that L.A. borders the ocean. Am I?
Instead of heading to the obvious – Santa Monica – I journeyed further south to Redondo Beach, a relatively unknown California coastal delight. Redondo is actually a quick, straight shot south from LAX, which makes getting to the airport a hassle-free 20-minute experience, even during rush hour. In addition, this coastal area is a great spot for observing marine mammals.
Though Redondo lacks a five-star property, the Portofino Hotel & Yacht Club (www.hotelportofino.com, 310.379-8481) is the next best thing (and they did recently add five new luxury suites as part of their 11 million dollar makeover). The Portofino (above) is cozy, comfortable, and fits in perfectly with this seaside village and marina. The service is impeccable, the vibe totally relaxed. Half of the rooms face the rocky Pacific waterfront, inhabited by a gregarious colony of wild California sea lions. The hotel’s ocean-inspired lobby is modern and whimsical, continuing the maritime theme of surrounding King Harbor and the gorgeous yachts lining the marina.
As in most beach towns, the best part of Redondo Beach is old-fashioned fun in the sun. The Portofino provides complimentary bicycles to cycle along the beachfront and to enjoy the Strand Bike Path, which runs from Redondo Beach all the way to the Pacific Palisades. If you bike north, you’ll run into this Hermosa and Manhattan beaches, respectively, two of California’s surfing hotspots.
My day of physical fitness didn’t end after my 20-mile bike ride. I also ventured south to do a bit of hiking in the Palos Verdes Peninsula, reaching the majestic tidal pools of Malaga Cove. Next up was a quick visit to the 18 hole, par 71 Trump National Golf Course (www.trumpnationallosangeles.com) to round out my day of sports rapture! By late afternoon I was back in Redondo for a whale-watching excursion to witness the Gray Whale migration. This was no doubt the total antithesis of my 1.5 days of R & R at the Ritz …
I spent my final L.A. hours at the Portofino’s restaurant, BALEEN Los Angeles (www.hotelportofino.com, 877-BaleenLA). Nationally renown for its seafood-centric menu and its mesmerizing waterfront views, BALEEN (above) attracts sizeable crowds from the greater L.A. area for an evening of seaside escapism. My entree, the “Cane Sugar-Seared Ahi Tuna” with coconut rice, spicy papaya salad, avocado/wasabi mousse, was nothing short of spectacular.
As I savored my last bite of tuna and took my last sip of wine, I gazed at the marina and reflected on my fabulous week – all I had seen, all I had experienced. L.A. is so many eclectic identities clumped under one heading. The city’s larger than life personality had once again captivated and fascinated me, and I could not wait to return to my west coast “Evergreen” next year.