Just a 10-minute drive from LAX — take Lincoln south to Imperial west to Vista Del Mar south — is the biggest and cleanest beach with the most reliable surf break around, thanks to an underwater canyon that creates fine waves. El Porto Beach looks like what out-of-towners envision when they dream of California beach life: endless white sand, blue skies and a never-ending supply of crashing, pounding waves. Everybody simply ignores the Chevron oil refinery and the Hyperion Water Treatment facility looming in the background. Add in a snack shack, outdoor shower, volleyball courts and a bike path overlooking the beach, and you have surf heaven. Culturally, El Porto was home to the cocaine explosion in the 1970s and '80s, as documented in the Johnny Depp feature film Blow. Five years ago the Manhattan Beach City Council tried to erase its druggy, Bohemian image by officially renaming it “North Manhattan Beach,” a widely ignored municipal makeover. El Porto has a huge metered parking lot that backs up on the hottest days of the summer. Be patient and you'll get a spot. Intersection of Vista Del Mar and 45th St., Manhattan Beach. (310) 372-2166, https://www.rockcitynews.com/pages/california/labeaches/elporto.html.

—Paul Teetor

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