It can be easy to forget that L.A. is an oceanside city. Brutal traffic and busy schedules prevent regular visits to the coast. But having a destination in mind makes the Pacific more accessible — and when that destination also features a happy hour discounting wine, cocktails, beer and the occasional appetizer, your excuses for staying inland get swept out to sea. The waves crash, the seagulls squawk, the sun sets and the salt air dances with an aromatic mai tai or pale ale. What's not to love?
Also captivating: the chance to observe a rare breed of beachgoer, to be found only in its natural habitat. Whether you're watching a theater of absurdities on the Venice Boardwalk or taking in the lofty Pacific view from a hotel bar, the following happy hours by the beach marry deeply discounted drinks with the sublime vastness of the sea and some truly interesting people watching.
When you venture to Malibu, it's not usually to find the cheapest drinks in town. Yet even this affluent beachfront community has something close to working-class booze prices at Duke's, at least during Aloha Hour at its Barefoot Bar. There's plenty of dated kitsch at this Hawaiian-themed mainstay, but you'll hardly notice it when you're spellbound by the crashing waves and setting sun. Few places in town have such amazing proximity to the water — from certain seats in the bar area (both outdoor and in), you could swear you were on a boat. Look for specials ranging from $3 beers to $5 mai tais, depending on the day, and $5 Bloody Marys at Sunday brunch. There are plenty of bar snacks to pull you from your rum-induced stupor and prepare you for the long drive home — especially the fish tacos. Happy hour Mon., 3 p.m.-close, Tues.-Fri., 4-6 p.m. 21150 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu; 310-317-0777.
Rowdy drinking is the status quo for the second-floor patio at the Venice Whaler Bar & Grill, perched where Washington Boulevard meets the Boardwalk. A true dive bar, the Whaler looks like Venice and feels like Venice, even if it's technically in neighboring Marina del Rey: Maxi dresses abound and no guy's look is complete without Oakleys on the top of his head. Not only can you see the little fishing pier extending out to sea, but you can also spy all the way up the boardwalk, where life plays out like a grungy soap opera stuck in the mid-'90s. Sip on $6 house wine and spirits and $4 draft beers — look out for Lagunitas and Venice Beach Beer. Better yet, buy a pitcher for $15. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m.; Mon.-Thurs., 10 p.m.-mid. 10 W. Washington Blvd., Marina del Rey; 310-821-8737.
To access the Penthouse at the Huntley, enter the hotel and take the elevator to your immediate right. Enjoy the views from the express glass elevator, but prepare for a broader, sustained panorama as you step into the hotel bar. The bar/restaurant is tastefully decorated in white with touches that are simultaneously beaux arts and minimalist. But no matter how lovely, nothing could compete with the incredibly extensive view. From Malibu to Marina del Rey, the ocean to the Hollywood Sign, you'll be surprised that this is the city you've been living in all along. The Penthouse is a great spot for an afterwork date, though most other diners are in business attire and charging their drinks to their rooms. The Sunset Hour menu, as the Penthouse describes it, is available at the bar, cabanas and lounge area, and features $6 wines by the glass and $7 cocktails — the Veev Acai is especially good — with an underwhelming beer list of standard imports available for $4. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 4-7 p.m. 1111 Second St., Santa Monica; 310-393-8080.
2. Belmont Brewing Co.:
This casual, beachside brewery in Long Beach predates most craft breweries making headlines today. Since 1990, Belmont Brewing Co. has served in-house brews to sunburnt visitors and beach-bum regulars alike. It's far enough from the area's hotels to ward off most tourists, but it's a great place for families looking for a drink with lunch. Views from any part of the brewery and restaurant start at the bike path and stretch beyond barges to Catalina Island. At Belmont, no beer snobs will scoff when you ask about the difference between pale ale and India pale ale — the welcoming bartenders will start you out with a flight featuring the popular Strawberry Blonde and Top Sail amber ale. Come during happy hour and enjoy discounted beer and wine, along with substantial bar fare like fish tacos and pizza (food discounted weekdays only). Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 4:30-6:30 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., 2-5 p.m.; nightly, 8:30-10:30 p.m. 25 39th Place, Long Beach; 562-433-3891.
The patio at Mediterraneo Kitchen + Bar offers ample people watching stretching from Pier Avenue, with its vast cast of characters, to the Hermosa Beach Pier itself. It is one of the finest happy hours in quality, selection and price that comes with a beach view. Upscale enough for a date night yet buoyant with casual charm, Mediterraneo's weeknight happy hour offers half-off house wines and 30 beers on tap, plus three nitro. The commendably long list features a smattering of local brews and casked beers, along with unusual enough selections to please even the most seasoned beer geek. Select tapas are two-for-one, including deviled eggs, chicken skewers and meatballs. Happy hour Mon.-Fri., 5-7 p.m.; all day Tuesday; sangria half-price all day Sunday. 73 Pier Ave., Hermosa Beach; 310-318-2666.
Be sure to pick up our new Happy Hour guide, which hits the streets April 18 in our weekly Thursday paper.
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