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 George Bixby reportedly for $1.5 to $2 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.
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. If you're coming from LAX and are limited to public transportation, take MTA bus 232 southbound to Hawthorne Boulevard, and transfer to MTA bus number 334 which runs through the center of Palos Verdes and ends at the coastline with a spectacular view.
Sight seeing in Palos Verdes truly requires driving. The Palos Verdes Peninsula Transit Authority operates PVP Transit with five routes that connect into the Peninsula Center. A special note, when driving at night most of the streets on the peninsula are unlit preserving the rural feel of the community and its nature preserve. Be prepared to drive for miles in total darkness!
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
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.
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 acres 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.
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. Bluff Cove via Shipwreck Trail and the Smuggler's Cove Hike are two good options. 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. 310 567-3582.
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).
The peninsula has five golf courses: "'Terranea Golf Course"', Los Verdes Golf Course (310-377-7888), Palos Verdes Golf Club (310-375-2533), Trump National Golf Course (310-514-3344), and Rolling Hills Country Club (310-326-4343).
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. Stop in at the market for cold drinks and fantastic food. The weekends bring a large flow of cyclists through Malaga Cove.
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.
Terranea Resort, 100 Terranea Way Rancho Palos Verdes, CA 90275. LA's luxury oceanfront resort. The 582-room Mediterranean-inspired resort includes a 360-room hotel with 32 suites, 20 Bungalows, 50 ocean view Casitas and 32 Villas.edit
Redondo Beach - One of California's great beach cities, home to many restaurants as well as a beautiful pier and harbor.
Torrance - The largest city in the South Bay. Home to several popular malls including the historic Del Amo Fashion Center.
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