Just over a year ago, I moved back to my hometown of Palos Verdes, CA, after almost ten years of a journey that I never expected to end where it started.
Returning to California, I’ve found that I haven’t rediscovered my home so much as discovered it for the first time. As a child, I could not see the gorgeous purple bloom of bougainvillea, the drama of high yellow cliffs over the surf, or the wide, blazing sunsets. I did not marvel at the rolling hills and rocky outcrops of my hometown, or explore coves and winding trails. I wanted to go to the pool, the mall, the movies. But now, I look at where I was born and raised as a frontier in and of itself: a destination just as much as any of the cities or countries I have lived in before.
Over the past months and seasons, I have taken the time to discover my hometown just as I would any other place: by wandering around and noticing the details. Palos Verdes (or PV, as it’s called by locals) is not a cosmopolitan destination. Its significance lies in its gorgeous panoramic views, its quiet away from the city, its untouched acres of land and steep cliffs leading down to untamed beaches. That being said, there are some spots to seek out if you ever make your way down the coast to this coastal community between LA and the OC, far from the freeway and well worth the drive. If you’re coming from LA, take Pacific Coast Highway to Palos Verdes Drive West, and you’ll find the following:
Point Vicente Lighthouse
One of my favorite spots in PV to come alone, especially when I need time to think (which is often). I’ve jogged, sat, and wandered a million times through the parkland surrounding the Point Vicente Lighthouse. To get there, drive down Palos Verdes Drive West along the coast, turn right on Hawthorne into what appears to be a coastal community and park towards the bottom. Take half an hour or so to wind your way around the paths along some of the most gorgeous scenery in Palos Verdes, or if you’re more ambitious, pack a picnic and spend the afternoon.
Terranea Resort is a newer addition to PV, and although it was initially vehemently opposed by locals (myself included), now we can’t get enough of it. I’ll take any excuse to spend a warm, lazy afternoon there, lounging on one of their oversize outdoor couches or enjoying crushing blue views of the California coastline. They have plenty of ritzy places to eat but my favorite is Nelson’s, down by the waterfront. Crisp, golden fish and chips, picnic style seating, and a chance to see gray whales. Also not to be missed: the ridiculously rich dark chocolate chunk cookies at Sea Beans café.
Wayfarer’s Chapel, or the “Glass Chapel” as it’s also known, is just down the way from Terranea Resort and was designed by the son of Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1940’s. It’s well visited by tourists, but not so much by locals- I visited for the first time just recently. I decided this glass chapel encased by another “chapel” of trees would make the most magical wedding venue ever if you had less than 30 people at your wedding (good luck). Engraved on the carillon (chapel bells) sign outside is this beautiful call to stop, listen, and be still at this unique place of worship: Proclaiming the presence of God, the carillon calls all wayfarers along life’s path to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, it says.
If you’re entering Palos Verdes along the coastline from the north, you’ll come right upon Malaga Cove plaza. Malaga Cove is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Palos Verdes, and is full of multi-level Spanish-style homes with red tile roofing, hoards of emerald blue, screeching peacocks (yes, they run wild in PV), and giant, fragrant Eucalyptus trees. Just as I’ve done with many of the more spectacular sights in Palos Verdes, I have often overlooked the majesty of the centerpiece of the Plaza: a statue of Neptune and his sirens, whose breasts spurt water in this European-style fountain. Try coming here on a Saturday morning for the local art fair, and do not miss the crisp, gooey baklava at the Malaga Cove Ranch Market, a local family-run establishment.
Del Cerro Park
Lastly, if you’re looking for a good hike + that epic Instagrammable sunset view, Del Cerro Park is a good bet for easy accessibility and a panoramic view of the coastline. This may be my favorite discovery since moving home, and I’ve often come here alone and with friends to get a little scenic workout in (who needs the gym?). If you’re driving up Palos Verdes Drive West, turn left on Hawthorne, right onto Crest, and then right onto Crenshaw. Come around dusk, take plenty of photos, and pay attention to the parking signs.
I’m still exploring PV, still discovering new hills to ascend, hideaways to sit and listen, and views to take in. This is definitely a non-comprehensive guide, but a definite good start to spending 24 hours of quiet bliss away from the chaos of LA, if that’s what you’re into. Any places I missed? Feel free to share in the comments below!