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Venice Beach vs Manhattan Beach – Which One Should You Visit?

I recently spent a week exploring Los Angeles for the first time and I loved spending time in both Venice Beach and Manhattan Beach.

I know a lot of people struggle to pick between these two areas of LA so I thought I’d put together this guide comparing them!

This post will look at the differences to help you decide where to visit on your next trip! It covers hotels, activities, atmosphere, nightlife, beaches and more!

Summary – Venice Beach vs Manhattan Beach

Venice BeachManhattan Beach
Edgy & artsyRelaxed &
Street performers,
surfing, murals
Volleyball, surfing,
Lots of activitiesLess activities
Vibrant nightlifeLimited nightlife
Hotels close to
the beach
Hotels away from
Venice Beach

I found that Manhattan Beach wass cleaner, quieter and less touristy than Venice Beach which was way more commercial and had lots of vendors, tourists and a lot of character.

Venice Beach has an edgy and artsy vibe whereas Manhattan Beach has a laid-back and relaxed feel to it. The two couldn’t be more different if they tried!

Venice Beach is essentially a buzzing beach town known for its funky shops, street performers and colorful murals. It’s a foodie hotspot and also has tons of stylish boutiques. 

Manhattan Beach is more of a laid-back beach city with an expansive beach lined with volleyball nets. It’s also super popular with surfers. 

The main thing I noticed was that Manhattan Beach was much quieter than Venice Beach and had less activities. You’ll mainly just find a long, quiet beach that isn’t crowded at all. Venice Beach was much more busy and always had lots going on.

I also found that Manhattan Beach had more of a small town feel compared to Venice Beach which felt a lot more urban.

I loved both places but, even though it was super busy, I definitely personally preferred Venice Beach over Manhattan Beach. There was just so much life to it!

I really liked the laid-back feel in Manhattan Beach but it did come across as way more residential.

Which Is Bigger?

Venice Beach is slightly smaller than Manhattan Beach in terms of area as it covers 8km2 compared with Manhattan Beach which covers 10.2km2.

Venice Beach is also usually way more crowded and busy as it has a slightly higher population of 40,000 people. Manhattan Beach has a population of 35,500.

Which Has Better Activities?

Venice Beach

As I said, I found that Venice Beach had way more things to do compared to Manhattan Beach which had far fewer options.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to do in Manhattan Beach, there is! I still managed to fill an entire day with fun activities.

Activities In Venice Beach

Venice Beach is a very arty and trendy area with a wide range of activities to keep you occupied. 

Top activities in Venice Beach:

  • Oceanfront boardwalk
  • Shopping on Abbot Kinney Boulevard
  • Venice Beach Skatepark
  • Venice Canals
  • Mosaic Tile House

I loved just walking down the mile-long Abbot Kinney Boulevard as it’s packed with tons of high-end restaurants, galleries, stylish boutiques and more. This area is a hotspot for foodies!

The beach itself is a vibrant mix – head to Muscle Beach to see all the bodybuilders working out on the sand or head over to the skatepark to see some epic tricks. 

Venice Beach is also a popular surfing spot. If you’ve not surfed before, get yourself a surfing lesson and learn from the best. 

I also just loved watching the street performers and artists who line the oceanfront boardwalk which runs parallel to the beach itself. They’re extremely talented!

You can also join this electric bike tour like I did and cycle through these famous streets seeing all of Venice’s best sights including the boardwalk, the skatepark, the canals and the beach itself. 

Activities In Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach

Whilst Manhattan Beach doesn’t have as many things to do as Venice Beach, there are still a small range of activities to keep you occupied.

Top Activities In Manhattan Beach: 

  • Surfing
  • Volleyball
  • Manhattan Beach Pier
  • Roundhouse Aquarium 
  • Marvin Braude Bike Trail

Most people spend their time in Manhattan Beach doing some shopping or relaxing on the beach. I enjoyed taking a bike ride along the bike trail which runs parallel to the beach. 

Surfing is a super popular activity in Manhattan Beach so put on your wetsuit, grab your surfboard and catch some waves.

Slightly inland, Downtown Manhattan Beach is the bustling city center where you’ll find high-end boutiques, shops, bars and lots of restaurants.

I also really liked wandering down the Manhattan Beach Pier to get epic views of the beachside mansions and surfers.

Activities In Los Angeles

Both Venice Beach and Manhattan Beach are close to central Los Angeles so you can easily enjoy the wide range of activities there including visiting the famous Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills and more. 

You could book yourself onto a Los Angeles tour so you can see all of LA’s top sights in one day.

Which Has Better Accommodation?

Manhattan Beach

Both Manhattan Beach and Venice Beach have some great places to stay, however the hotels in Venice Beach are better located, closer to the beach and main town area.

I stayed at Hotel Erwin in Venice Beach and adored it! My room came with a balcony that overlooked the city. I could even see the beach and ocean.

I actually didn’t stay overnight in Manhattan Beach, instead I drove back up to central Los Angeles at the end of the day.

Accommodation In Venice Beach

Venice Beach has a good range of hotels. They are all modern, clean and comfortable and perfectly located close to all the hustle and bustle.

Best Hotels In Venice Beach:

Accommodation In Manhattan Beach

In Manhattan Beach, there are not many hotels close to the main beach area. Most of the hotels are on Sepulveda Boulevard which is a long walk from the shops, restaurants and the beach. 

Be prepared to get an Uber or Lyft every day to and from the beach if you plan on staying here. 

Best Hotels In Manhattan Beach:

The Sea View Inn At The Beach is one of the best places to stay in Manhattan Beach as this is the closest hotel to the beach. It’s also one of the only hotels by the beach in the area.

Which Has Better Beaches?

Manhattan Beach

Both Manhattan Beach and Venice Beach have really great beaches. I found that Manhattan Beach was much more relaxed and laid back compared to Venice Beach though. 

Venice Beach is a very busy area with lots going on from rappers performing on the boardwalk to skateboarders skating around on the Skate Park so the beach always tends to be busy. 

I noticed that Manhattan Beach doesn’t get anywhere near as busy and the atmosphere felt much more relaxed and less touristy.

Venice Beach

Venice Beach is home to 3 miles of sandy coastline. The beaches are popular with swimmers, surfers and sunbathers. 

Venice Beach also has an oceanfront boardwalk where you’ll often find street performers, artists and vendors. This was one of my favorite places to hang out as there was always so much going on.

The street performers are really good, you’ll find a mix of different performances from mimes and juggling to musicians. 

You can enjoy a day on the beach, take a stroll down the boardwalk or even join a workout session on Muscle Beach.

Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach’s biggest draw is it’s beach. This flawless beach has ultra-smooth sand and is dotted with volleyball nets. It’s also a hotspot for surfing!

Manhattan Beach features a small shopping area with local shops and restaurants right next to the beach itself. 

I really loved how close together these were as it was so nice to be able to grab a snack without having to go far.

I also really liked taking a walk along the scenic boardwalk which runs parallel to the beach or along the Manhattan Beach Pier where Manhattan Beach meets the Pacific Ocean. 

You can take a nice relaxing stroll up here to enjoy the breathtaking views of the expensive beachside homes that line the beach. 

Which Is Better for Nightlife?

Venice Beach has a much more exciting and vibrant nightlife than Manhattan Beach.

Nightlife In Venice Beach

I found that Venice Beach has a really vibrant nightlife scene. There was a really good selection of bars along Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Main Street. 

Many of the bars do awesome happy hour deals too so you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time. 

My favorite bar was the High Rooftop Lounge which has an amazing bird’s eye view of the area and swanky cocktails.

Nightlife In Manhattan Beach

Manhattan Beach has a range of bars to choose from as well as upmarket and exclusive clubs. 

Head over to The Strand House for unforgettable ocean views and speciality cocktails. 

Which Is More Affordable?

Anywhere you visit in or around Los Angeles is going to be pricey. 

I found that there was little difference between prices in the two locations as both are close to central Los Angeles and both are major tourist spots.

And that’s it!

Thanks for reading my guide comparing Venice Beach and Manhattan Beach. I hope you’ve now made a decision on where to go.

If you’re still struggling to decide then you may find these guides helpful:


Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir, who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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