A First-timer’s Guide to Los Angeles

Can't decide between city or beach? LA has both for sun lovers

Credit: Gerilee McBride


From the requisite tourist spots to coastal California’s hidden gems, here’s what to see and do in sunny LA

Los Angeles is the perfect destination for both an urban getaway and a beach vacation. A short trip will leave you wanting more and a longer vacation will make you wish you lived there.

The people are friendly, the beaches are fine and the sunshine is plentiful. Consider the following a sample road map on your way to experiencing what the City of Angels has to offer.

Credit: Gerilee McBride

West Hollywood

Centrally located and in the middle of all the action (adjacent neighbourhoods are Melrose, Beverly Hills and Hollywood), West Hollywood, or WeHo, offers accommodation ranging from the cheap and cheerful Banana Bungalow hostel chain to the retrofit Farmer’s Daughter boutique hotel.

Just a short walk away is The Grove, an outdoor shopping area made famous by its celebrity clientele, and The Original Farmers Market, which has been an institution in the area since 1934 and has everything from fresh fruit and veg to a store dedicated entirely to hot sauces.

Credit: Gerilee McBride

Hollywood Boulevard

As a tourist you cannot miss a visit to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as a peek at all the interesting people who inhabit the area. Find your favourite film, TV, music or theatre celebs’ stars inlaid in pink terrazzo and brass along the approximately two kilometre-long walk.

The Chinese Theatre is also located on the boulevard and is a good spot to score free tickets to shows or to hop on one of the many bus tours that stop along the boulevard. Negotiating for discounted bus tour rates is easier when you have more people in your group.

Credit: Gerilee McBride

The J. Paul Getty Museum

Tucked away in the hills north of West Hollywood, The Getty Centre is free museum (parking is $15) that features a collection of European and American art from the Middle Ages to the present. A tram takes you from the base of the parking lot to the top of a hill where the museum is located alongside some of the city’s best views. Check thewebsite for the latest daily tours, talks and exhibits.

Credit: Gerilee McBride

Santa Monica Pier & Venice Beach

Just a 45-minute, air-conditioned bus ride (or 20-minute drive) from West Hollywood is the seaside city of Santa Monica. Go in the morning and experience the mist rising from the buildings as a cool breeze entices you toward the water.

The almost 100-year-old Pier features an arcade, a carousel and an outdoor concert series during the summer. From the Pier, take the promenade (about a 30-minute walk) to Venice Beach and catch some waves at the local surf spot. The two-kilometre boardwalk is a great place to people watch or to get a tattoo.

Credit: Gerilee McBride

Huntington Beach (Surf City, USA)

When you’ve had enough of the hot streets of LA, head 45 minutes along the I-5 to Huntington Beach where you’ll find a relaxed surfer’s paradise. Beach culture is rampant here as Main Street is dotted with shops like Rip Curl and Jack’s Surfboards and leads to one of the longest public piers on the West Coast.

When you’ve had enough surf and sand, head off the beaten path to Pete’s Mexican Café on 5th, a small eatery with big flavour. Or, if you happen to be at Huntington Beach on a Tuesday, enjoy homemade tamales from one of the street vendors that set up for the weekly farmer’s market on Main Street. Go for the fresh produce and stay for the live music as it quickly turns into a street party that even the locals come out for.