Strolling down Hermosa Beach’s Pier Ave on a summer weekend, you’re immediately struck by two things: everybody’s wearing flip-flops, tiny tees and a tan, and they all seem to be having way too much fun. The short, car-free strip is party central in a small town (within a big town) that’s always lived the easy life.

Once home to long-haired hippies and underground punk bands such as Black Flag, it’s now solidly ruled by USC frat boys and sorority girls, financially challenged, hormone-crazed surfers and the beautiful people who love them all. Rents are lower here than in Manhattan Beach, and the scene trashier, but that’s part of the charm.

Hermosa's beach is indeed muy hermosa (Spanish for ‘beautiful’) – long, flat and dotted with permanent volleyball nets. Go to 16th St to see local pros bump, set and spike in preparation for the AVP Hermosa Open in August. And if you prefer a cool, casual distance from the Pier Ave fracas, just belly up to one of the town’s epic dives.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

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