Palos Verdes, CA: Hiking and Other Highlights

palos verdes tide pool
by Anisa // 38 Comments

Those of you that regularly read our blog know that I enjoy hiking, so during my last trip to LA, I wanted to do more.  Given that I was staying with my friend Kat in Redondo Beach, we figured we should try something in the South Bay.  We settled on the Oceanside Abalone Cove Hiking Trail in Palos Verdes.  My cousin, Jonathan, joined us for our day in Palos Verdes.

In addition to hiking in Palos Verdes, we figured we could check out the Glass Church (also known as the Wayfarer’s Chapel) and then afterward relax and listen to some live music at the Terranea Resort.  It may be a bit out of the way, but Palos Verdes is worth visiting.

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Anisa with her cousin Jonathan
Anisa with her cousin Jonathan

About Palas Verdes

Palos Verdes is actually made up of few cities (Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills, and Rolling Hills Estates) in the South Bay area of Los Angeles about 17 miles south of LAX.  It is known for its dramatic views, distinguished schools, vast horse and hiking trails, and expensive homes.

The area was originally home to the Tongva-Gabrieliño Native Americans.  In 1771, the Spanish Mission Gabriel Arcángel was founded in the area with help of the native Gabrielinos.  In 1784, a retired Spanish soldier, Juan José Domínguez was awarded the first private land concession in Southern California, the Rancho San Pedro.

Throughout the next 150 years, the area now known as Rancho Palos Verdes played host to early land tycoons,  farmers, and sea voyagers.  By the early 1900s, much of the area was still unoccupied and mainly used for livestock.

Japanese families were offered patches of rented land on which to grow crops, and infrastructure slowly began to develop.  Unfortunately, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, these families were sent to internment camps.  After the war, only a few of these families returned to the area.

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Our Day in Palos Verdes

We only had a day to explore the area, so I knew we would only be able to see some of the highlights.  Our plan was to visit the Glass Church, go hiking, then relax at the Terranea Resort.  It would be a mix of culture, exercise, and entertainment with a very low price tag.  We just had to pay for parking (during our hike) and the food and drinks we consumed.

Glass Church in Palos Verdes

The Glass Church is basically a church with walls and ceiling that are mostly glass.  It is set on the top of a beautifully landscaped hill with stunning views of the Palos Verdes coast.

The church has appeared on several tv shows like the OC, 90210, and Revenge.  Season nine Bachelorette Desiree Hartsock and new husband Chris Siegfried got married here.

Lloyd Wright, who is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s sons, was the architect of the glass chapel, and his son Eric Lloyd Wright designed the Visitor’s center.  You should check out the Visitor Center before heading up to see the church.

Inside the Glass Church
The inside of the Glass Church

So after a few minutes in the Visitor’s Center, we headed up to the church.  Unfortunately, they would not let us into the glass chapel because there was a wedding going on.  Security gave us a couple of 30-minute windows when we could come back later to go inside the chapel.  To avoid this, I would recommend calling ahead as it is a popular Palos Verdes wedding venue.

The inside of the church is beautiful and definitely worth seeing, I wish the altar faced the ocean though.  Still, it’s a great spot for photos, just like these other instagrammable spots in LA.

The views from the Glass Church in Palos Verdes are stunning!
The views from the Glass Church are stunning!

Palos Verdes Hiking

So then we headed to Abalone Cove, which is not too far from the Glass Church.  The cliffs and hills of Palos Verdes make it a popular area for hikers.  The parking lot by the trail was full when we arrived, but luckily, we quickly spotted someone leaving their spot.  We paid $5 for 2 hours of parking, which is enough time for this hike.   

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Kat looks down on the beach in Palos Verdes
Kat looks down on the beach.

The hiking trail starts right by the parking lot.  We weren’t expecting a super difficult hike.  (If you are looking for something a bit more intense, check out these challenging hikes in California.) We all wore tennis shoes but made sure to bring along water.

The first part of the trail going down to the beach is pretty steep but not stairs.  I took it pretty slowly to make sure I didn’t slip.  The views from here are beautiful.  At one point there will be the option to turn right to go relax on the sandy Palos Verdes beach.  We kept to the left, which leads to the tide pools.

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Walk along the rocky beach and then you will reach the tide pools.
Walk along the rocky beach and then you will reach the tide pools.

Once you get to the beach, it is pretty rocky.  Keep walking south and you will come to the tide pools.  I had read that you can see starfish, sea anemones, crabs, and even abalone.  Unfortunately, when we went most of the area was closed because there had been issues with falling rocks from the cliffs.  Hopefully, that issue gets resolved soon.  It would have been nice to explore the Palos Verdes tide pools to see if we could spot any wildlife, but we decided not to risk it.

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We got lucky with a perfect day for a hike!
We got lucky with a perfect day for a hike!

Then we took the Olmstead Trail up to see the view at Portuguese Point.  From here, you can see Catalina Island and also the Glass Church.  Then, instead of going back the way we came, we decided to walk back along the road.  There is actually a path that goes along it that is relatively flat.  The whole Palos Verdes hike took about 90 minutes.

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If you want to do more hiking in Palos Verdes, some of the best hikes in Palos Verdes are Lunada Canyon Trail, Seascape Trail, Quarry Loop, Deane Dana Friendship Park, and the White Point Nature Reserve.  The Seascape Trail goes right by the Point Vicente Lighthouse.

We walked back along the road in Palos Verdes, still very scenic.
We walked back along the road, still very scenic.

Terranea Oceanfront Resort in Palos Verdes

After our hike, we headed to Terranea, which is a luxurious resort overlooking the ocean.  Parking can be an issue here, so if you see an open spot grab it.  After exploring the resort, we headed to the outdoor area by one of Terranea restaurants, Nelson’s, where there is a band some weekend nights (check the website for dates).

We ordered some drinks and got some water at the bar, then grabbed a picnic table by the water.  In addition to drinks, they have a limited food menu, so we ordered a giant pretzel and burgers from our waitress.  The water is self-service though, so we had to get our own refills.

The view from Terranea in Palos Verdes
The view from Terranea.

The night we went to Nelson’s a one-man band, Mahi was playing, and he was wonderful.  He played a great selection of songs and added his own touch.  Unfortunately, he had to take a long break for a wedding that was happening close by.

Even without the music, Nelson’s at Terranea was a great place to enjoy the view and the sunset in Palos Verdes.  We also even had a random flyover of some military planes. I have heard if you are there at the right time of year, you might even be able to see some whales!

Terranea is a beautiful resort overlooking the ocean.
Terranea is a beautiful resort overlooking the ocean.

Nelson’s is just one of eight restaurants and bars at Terranea.  In addition to all the food, there are plenty of other things to do at Terranea to keep you entertained for a weekend stay.  They also have a 9-hole par 3 golf course, the award-winning oceanfront Spa at Terranea, and four ocean-view pools.  To me, it sounds like paradise and definitely worth the splurge.  (Click here to check prices and availability for Terranea)

Another beautiful view from Terranea.
Another beautiful view from Terranea.

More Things to Do in Palos Verdes

All in all, we had a fun day in Palos Verdes.  It is a pretty area to explore.  With limited time, we weren’t able to see everything in Palos Verdes, so I hope to make it back.  These are a few of the things on my list for next time:

  • More hiking!
  • Visit the Point Vicente Lighthouse (Note that the lighthouse and small museum are only open one day a month – get more details here)
  • Relax on the beach.  In addition to the one we saw at Abalone Cove, I want to check out Cabrillo Beach and White Point Park.
  • Spend a weekend at Terranea Resort and try the Spa at Terranea
  • Bird and Whale watching

Have you been Palos Verdes?


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view from wayfarer's church in palos verdes

Expert Tips for Visiting Palos Verdes

  • The hours of the Wayfarer’s Chapel vary each day depending on weddings, so either call ahead (310-377-1650) or be flexible.
  • Check out some of the beautiful Palos Verdes hiking trails, the views are spectacular.
  • Be careful to stay away from the areas in Abalone Cove where there is the risk of falling rocks!
  • It’s best to drive if you want to visit Palos Verdes.  There are not many public transportation options and rideshares are not as frequently available as in other parts of Los Angeles.
  • If you enjoy hiking, you may want to check out our hiking board on Pinterest.

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Last Updated on February 22, 2021

About the Author

Anisa is an experienced international traveler with extra pages in her passport and stamps from 41 different countries across 5 continents (and counting). She was born and raised in Texas. After a 13 year stint in NYC, she moved to England to live with her husband.