The Palos Verdes Peninsula rises 1,450 feet 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, a lighthouse, ocean cliffs, tidepools, 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.
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 over-development.
Sightseeing in Palos Verdes truly requires driving. The drive along Palos Verdes Drive 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. 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. Special Notes: 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! You might even see wild peacocks walking in the road in some places!
Hawthorne Boulevard is also County Route 7 from the base of the hill to the ocean at Point Vicente.
NOTE: A portion of Paseo Del Mar just east of White Point collapsed into the ocean during a landfall. Also, Palos Verdes Dr through Portugese Bend is almost constantly shifting, will likely be very bumpy, and there is a risk of rockfalls onto the road.
Malaga Cove is home to a charming shopping plaza and library that features 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.
The Neighborhood Church 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.
Point Vicente Lighthouse
Point Vicente Lighthouse, 31550 Palos Verdes Drive West, ☎ +1 310 541-0334, . 10:00am-3:00pm on the 2nd Sat of the month. Haunted historic lighthouse built in 1926. 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 10:00am and 3:00pm. Admission is free. There are well-kept trails near the lighthouse that offer great views. The "Lady of the Light," its famous ghost, can be seen on foggy nights. 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.edit
Abalone Cove Trails lead from the beach to Portuguese Bend to the left and Inspiration Point, which is further to the 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) The beautiful all-glass chapel overlooking the Pacific Ocean is surrounded by tall trees and gardens. So many people want to marry at this picturesque location that the queue is two years long! This "glass church" was designed by the famous 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.
Portuguese Bend is beautiful and largely unspoiled land facing the sea. The area is infamous for suffering massive land slippage and 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. However "Zone 2" enjoys a level of stability that courts have determined are sufficient to allow for new construction. 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 natural 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. Portuguese Bend and Inspiration Point are two gorgeous cliffs, just Southeast of Abalone cove. The cliffs are beautiful, but the shore and caves below can be extremely dangerous due to a combination of sharp rocks, uneven footing, powerful surf, fast moving tides, and unpredictable undertows.
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.
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 (☎ +1 310 373-0202).
Horseback riding Rolling Hills and Rolling Hills Estates has over 25 miles of equestrian trails.. Facilities in Palos Verdes: Chandler Park, Dapplegray Park, Empty Saddle Club, Palos Verdes Stables, Portuguese Bend Riding Club, and Rolling Hills Estates Stables. ☎ +1 310 567-3582.
Surfing Hawaiian Lion surf school gives surfing lessons in the birthplace of surfing for Los Angelites and tourists. Pack a lunch and enjoy a pristine surf adventure down to the famous "cove" of Palos Verdes. (+1 808 372-0940).
South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd, ☎ +1 310 544-6815, . 9am-5pm every day. Built on a former landfill there is a 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.edit
Trump National Golf Course, 1 Ocean Trails Drive, ☎ +1 310 265-5000, . 18-hole par 71 golf course right on the water. 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. $250-350. edit
Old General Store at the corner of Palos Verdes Drive North and Rolling Hills Road. Built in the early 1930s, the classic ranch building seems misplaced as if from the pages of a Norman Rockwell painting. The building houses an excellent sandwich shop (Kelly's Corner), an equestrian supply store, and a one man post office stop right out of the old west.
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. A five-star, 360 room Mediterranean inspired resort right on the ocean with 32 suites, 20 Bungalows, 50 ocean view Casitas and 32 Villas. It has all the amenities, including spa, fine dining, access to the beach, horseback riding, and an 18-hole golf course.edit
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