The Palos Verdes Peninsula rises above the South Bay of Los Angeles County. It’s an oasis of greenery in a Los Angeles region dominated by concrete and asphalt; it features horse trails, ocean cliffs, tide pools, Eucalyptus trees,and nature walks. The Palos Verdes Peninsula is made up of four cities: Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, and Palos Verdes Estates.

Understand

The Palos Verdes Peninsula was originally part of enormous ranchos owned by Dominguez and Sepulveda. “Palos Verdes” is a Spanish phrase that roughly means “green stalks” or “green wood”. A New York investment syndicate led by banker Frank Vanderlip bought the entire Peninsula sight unseen from a failed developer in the early 1910s for only $1.5 million (the price of a single average home today). For Vanderlip, a man with vision and money, such an enormous piece of undeveloped land along the Pacific, so close to Los Angeles, must have been a “no-brainer”. Development began in the Malaga Cove area in the 1920s. Vanderlip hired the famous Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm (sons of Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Manhattan’s Central Park), to help design and plan the communities. To this day all of the Palos Verdes towns have very strong architecture and development committees that tightly regulate building. The cities’ collective efforts have been exceptionally effective in preserving open space and avoiding overdevelopment.

Get in

From Pacific Coast Highway, take Palos Verdes Boulevard south into the western side of the Peninsula, or Hawthorne Boulevard to the top of the hill and down to the ocean. On the east end of the Peninsula, take Palos Verdes Drive East down to the Portuguese Bend area.

 

Get around

Site seeing in Palos Verdes truly requires driving. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Transit Authority operates PVP Transitwith five routes that connect into the Peninsula Center.

See

The best way to see Palos Verdes is to drive along beautiful Palos Verdes Drive. This is one of the finest drives in the United States and tops the list of things to do. Palos Verdes Drive West and South are the highlights, a seaside “yellow brick road” that traces the cliffs, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island. Palos Verdes Drive(s) (north, west, east, and south) encircle the Peninsula. The “center” of Palos Verdes consists of several upscale residential neighborhoods (only a few of which are gated), and while beautiful, are not exactly a tourist destination.

The best place to start a tour of Palos Verdes is on Palos Verdes Drive West travelling southbound from the intersection with Palos Verdes Drive North. Your first stop: Malaga Cove Plaza.

  • Malaga Cove (on Palos Verdes Drive West) is home to a charming shopping plaza and library that feature beautiful Spanish Renaissance architecture. The plaza, library, and original homes were built starting in the late 1920s. Park in the Plaza. The fountain statue of Neptune is a copy of a famous statue in Bologna, Italy. The library is one block uphill behind the plaza’s south side. Resume your trip by turning left (south) on Palos Verdes Drive West. The road takes you through beautiful Mediterranean style homes that cling to steep cliffs.
  • The Neighborhood Church Make sure while you are in the Malaga Cove area that you stop by and see the stunning Neighborhood Church. It has a fascinating history and the grounds are stunning. It was built by J. J. Haggarty, a wealthy merchant businessman, in 1927 to be his summer home. Built on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the house was built by one of the finest Italian architects. The cost to built his summer home was $750,000. The completed home had the finest marbles, frescos, fireplaces, and gardens. Eventually J. J. Haggarty’s business started to fall apart and the house exchanged hands multiple times. In 1949, it went on the real estate market initially for $250,000. The current church congregation placed a bid for the grounds for $60,000. The bid was accepted and the Neighborhood Church was born. Many of the frescos are still viewable and the actual church sanctuary is stunning with open beamed ceilings still showing the initials of JJH. It’s a lovely place to get married with many picturesque backdrops and is right around the corner from the center of this quaint village.
  • Lunada Bay is the next village (not a formal city) in Palos Verdes Estates. Lunada Bay also boasts a lovely fountain and a tiny, charming commercial district. The next attraction is the famous Point Vicente Lighthouse.
  • Point Vicente Lighthouse (on PV Drive South) is perched on spectacular cliffs that face Catalina Island. The grounds and lighthouse are normally closed to the public. However, the tower and a small museum are open the second Saturday of month between the hours of 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. Admission is free. For recorded information, call (310) 541-0334. There are well-kept trails near the lighthouse that offer great views. These trails are accessed by turning right (go south) at the intersection of Palos Verdes Drive West and Hawthorne. You will drive through a large tract of recently built $3-$6 million dollar homes. Drive down to the cliffs and park. This area has good public access and parking, which the city provided as part of the plan to develop this area. The trails are wide and easy to walk, offering great views of the lighthouse. You can hike a steep trail down to tidepools from an unmarked spot near the parking lot. The visitor center next to the light house has information about grey whales which migrate off shore on their annual reproductive voyage from the Arctic Circle to Baja California. Next turn right on Palos Verdes Drive South and continue your journey.
  • Long Point on your right is the former site of Marineland of the Pacific. Though probably not worth a stop, the site is used for filming (such as the TV show The OC). Adventurers can wander through the few overgrown remains of the Marineland theme park. Sea World bought and closed the park in 1986 to obtain the breeding pair of Orcas (Killer Whales), Orky and Corky, who were moved to San Diego. There are now plans for a $250-million Spa resort on the site.
  • Abalone Cove on your right is a lovely, remote, uncrowded beach. Trails lead from the beach to Portuguese Bend to the left and Inspiration Point, which is further to the left (south). Parking is $5. Portuguese Bend is named after shore whalers whose station was in this cove in from 1874 to 1877. Abalone cove is named after the Abalone shells, once found along the beach, that were a mainstay of the whalers’ diet.
  • Wayfarer’s Chapel (on the left hand side of Palos Verdes Drive South) is the jewel of the tour– a stunningly beautiful little chapel – unique in all of the world. The chapel is virtualy all glass, surrounded by beautiful trees, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The gardens are also impeccable. A lot of people are married here. Located on a knoll overlooking Portuguese Bend, the “glass church” was designed by Lloyd Wright, architect and son of Frank Lloyd Wright. Built as a memorial to philosopher and religious reformer Emanuel Swedenborg, it was designed to serve as a chapel for meditation and prayer for wayfarers. Like his father, Lloyd Wright practiced an organic architecture and he said the inspiration for the church came from his spiritual feelings visiting a Redwood Forest, surrounded by the majesty of the giant trees. The chapel is constructed of redwood, glass and local stone. Note the use of the triangle throughout the chapel. Words or photos can not do the chapel justice. Continue southward on Palos Verdes Drive West.
  • Portuguese Bend has been suffering massive land slippage. You will notice the bumpy road which is repaved every few weeks. The land in this area has moved more than 400 feet seaward, and continues to creep toward the ocean. A building moratorium exists in many areas. Several homes in the worst lanslide areas continue to be occupied, with the homeowners leveling their homes by the use of hydraulic jacks. A great blessing from the land movement has been the preservation of more than 1,000 acre as as open space. This area is one of the largest natrual spaces along the Ocean in Southern California and offers fabulous hiking and biking trails with spectacular Ocean Views. The Palos Verdes Land Conservancy, a volunteer group of local residents, has worked tirelessly to fund raise and make arrangements to acquire much of this acreage.
  • Ocean Trails/Trump Golf Course is next on your right. Before Donald Trump bought the course, the 18th hole fell into the ocean. “The Donald” reportedly spent $27 million to buy the Ocean Trails property in 2002 and then plowed an additional $61 million into the tricky and complicated engineering work required to re-stabilize the land under the 18th hole. In spite of all this some local geologists still predict a repeat. With his typical and comical grandiosity, the self-promoter declares the course even better than Pebble Beach. Nonetheless, the course is lovely, has hosted an LPGA tournament, has an ocean view from every hole, and offers a great Sunday brunch. It also holds the distinction of being the only US club in the Trump chain that’s open to the public.
  • Hiking and Equestrian Trails – there are many great nature trails around PV. The geology and plants are similar to the Channel Islands.
Do
  • Tidepools along the cliffs are fun to walk along. There’s even a rusting wreck of an old ship at the North Point of Lunada Bay. In 1961, a Greek freighter carrying grain (the “Dominator”) ran aground. The water that poured in through the torn hull swelled the grain, and it split the boat in half. Coordinates are 33°46′26″N, 118°25′42″W.
  • Parks: Chandler Park, Ernie Howlett Park, Hesse Park, Highridge Park, Point Vicente Interpretive Center, Rancho Palos Verdes Park, and South Coast Botanic Gardens (Water-wise Garden, Herb Garden, English Rose Garden, and Garden of the Senses are some popular theme gardens here. There is easy access to all of its 87 acres.
  • Hiking along the many nature trails, and along the Pacific Ocean is fun. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy conducts nature walks every month (310-373-0202).
  • Horseback riding along the many horse trails. Facilities in Palos Verdes: Chandler Park, Dapplegray Park, Empty Saddle Club, Palos Verdes Stables, Portuguese Bend Riding Club, and Rolling Hills Estates Stables.
  • Tennis in Palos Verdes: Ernie Howlett Park (310-541-4585), Jack Kramer Club (310-326-4404), Palos Verdes Tennis Club (310-373-6326), and Peninsula Racquet Club (310-541-2523).
  • There’s an infamous surfing spot at Lunada Bay. It’s been mentioned in many surfing magazines as a sad example of localism in action. Outsiders get harassed and threatened, their cars get keyed, tires slashed, etc.
  • The peninsula has four golf courses: Los Verdes Country Club (310-377-7888), Palos Verdes Golf Course (310-375-2533), Trump National Golf Course(310-514-3344), and Rolling Hills Country Club(310-326-4343).

Brickwalk Shopping in Palos Verdes

Buy
  • There’s an upscale mall called the Promenade on the Peninsula off Silver Spur Road.
  • Malaga Cove Plaza is a small, charming shopping plaza near the intersection of Palos Verdes Drive West and Palos Verdes Drive North. Malaga Cove’s Italian architecture is quite beautiful, having been used as a setting for many commercials, since the tile roofs, fountains, and greenery have a remarkable Mediterranean feel. The large Neptune statue in the fountain is imported from Italy.
  • A Farmers’ Market operates each Sunday from 9:00am – 1:00pm, in the Peninsula Center Shopping Center off Silver Spur Road near the intersection with Hawthorne Blvd.
Eat
  • Admiral Risty (Steak & Seafood), 31250 Palos Verdes Dr. West, Rancho Palos Verdes, 310-377-0050.
  • Asaka Japanese Cuisine(Japanese/Sushi), 31208 Palos Verdes Dr. West, Rancho Palos Verdes, 310-377-5999.
  • Chez Allez (Cafe/Deli/Gourmet Shop), 36 Malaga Cove Plaza, Palos Verdes Estates, 310-378-5664. Affiliated with Chez Melange in Redondo Beach.
  • Fu Yuan Low (Chinese/Mandarin), 26-F Peninsula Center (Indian Peak Road), Rolling Hills, 310-541-0803.
  • La Rive Gauche (French), 320 Tejon Pl., Palos Verdes Estates, 310-378-0267. Located in Malaga Cove Plaza.
  • Original Red Onion(Mexican/Sonoran), 736 Silver Spur Rd., Rolling Hills Estates, 310-541-5936. Restaurant features a small but quaint Mexican-style bar. Located near Peninsula Center.
  • Rafaello’s Pizza, 720 Yarmouth Rd., Palos Verdes Estates, 310-541-6545. More commonly referred to as Borrelli’s by a majority of locals.
  • Restaurant Christine(Mediterranean/Fusion), 24530 Hawthorne Blvd., Torrance, 310-373-1952. Located at the bottom of the hill in the Hillside Village shopping center.
  • Saluzzi Ristorante (Italian), 31206 Palos Verdes Dr. West, Rancho Palos Verdes, (310) 377-7200.
  • Trump National Golf Club, 1 Ocean Trails Drive, Rancho Palos Verdes, 310-303-3260. Full Restaurant and Bar (walk-ins welcome). Sunday Brunch (10:00am and 1:00pm, 2 Seatings). Restaurant is adjacent to a nice public park with beach access from dawn to dusk. The Sunday Brunch is becoming a favorite among the locals, especially the ones who want to impress visiting friends and relatives.
  • Frascati (Italian Northern), 550 Deep Valley Dr. (Crossfield Dr.) Rolling Hills, CA 90274, 310-541-8800. Located in the Promenade near Crossfield Drive.
Drink
  • Admiral Risty – A long-time watering hole for PV locals, located in the Golden Cove shopping center.
  • Trump National Golf Club – The view is to die for at what was once the gorgeous Ocean Trails Club House and has been refurbished in typical Trump fashion.
Sleep

As proof of its no growth, suburban paradise status, there are currently no hotels in Palos Verdes. A resort called Terranea will become the the first true Palos Verdes Hotel and is under construction on the old Marineland site, after more than a decade of haggling about the project. The closest tourist hotels outside PV are in Redondo Beach or San Pedro.

  • Palos Verdes Inn, 1700 Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, 800-421-9241. For Palos Verdes travel, this is the closest property to the Peninsula. Excellent restaurant.
  • Best Western Redondo Beach Inn, 1850 South Pacific Coast Highway, Redondo Beach, 310-540-3700. Right next to the Palos Verdes Inn, the only “budget” hotel accessible to PV. Also convenient to the Hollywood Riviera restaurants and shops and to the Torrance malls.
Get out
  • San Pedro – A drive down Palos Verdes Drive South to 25th St. will take you into San Pedro. From there you can hop a ferry to Catalina Island or continue on to the Harbor Area and Long Beach.
  • Redondo Beach – One of California’s great beach cities, home to many restaurants as well as a beautiful pierand harbor.
  • Torrance – The largest city in the South Bay. Home to several popular malls including the historic Del Amo Fashion Center

 

  • Photos on this page by Norma Toering.

Page Copyright 2009 – Norma Toering