By Greg Aragon
Southern California has so many great beach towns that it is sometimes hard to choose one to visit. While most are beautiful and perfect destinations, some are more crowded and touristy than others. One of my favorite, quieter beach towns is Redondo Beach, where charming hotels and a historic pier set the stage for relaxing near the water, dining and strolls along the ocean.
A friend and I recently snuck away to the city for an exciting and rejuvenating mid-week getaway. Our adventure began at the luxurious, water-front Portofino Hotel & Marina, located at King Harbor, between a private marina and the Pacific Ocean.
The hotel recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation and guests now enjoy a new ocean-inspired theme for the lobby, upgraded guest rooms and baths in contemporary nautical style. In addition to incredible ocean views, the resort offers luxury accommodations, a fitness facility, high-speed wireless Internet and a 24-hour business center.
Our 700 square-foot suite overlooked the water and a long rock jetty. It was highlighted by a bedroom with a four-post wrought iron bed, and separate living room with sleeper sofa. There was a double-sided fireplace opening into the living room and bedroom, large plasma TV, office area with glass desk, full marble bath with deep-soaking bath tub and glass shower, and a large ocean view balcony.
From the room we watched an endless parade of beautiful boats drift past. I spotted sails of every color, million-dollar motor yachts, fishing boats, coast guard cutters, a yellow glass bottom tourist craft, and kayakers — all close enough to share a smile or a wave.
But boaters aren’t the only creatures that pass by; there is also a colony of California sea lions the live here and frolic along the jetty. They regularly swim by the hotel, barking and looking for food.
When not watching the water show, we were experiencing other Portofino amenities. The hotel offers guests free use of bicycles, so the next morning we went on a ride along the beach. The local oceanfront bike path in Redondo is flat and runs for more than 27 miles up to Malibu. We didn’t go that far but we did work up a big appetite for lunch.
While looking for a place to eat, we walked to the city’s historic pier area and strolled around Fisherman’s Wharf and the marina. Along the way we encountered anglers with their lines stretching from the wooden planks down to the water, a fish market with fresh lobsters and crabs, gift shops, a few taverns and eateries, and scores of giant pelicans standing atop wooden posts. We also discovered a statue of George Freeth, the man who introduced surfing to California, and Kincaid’s Restaurant.
Located above a rocky cove, Kincaid’s serves classic American surf and turf in a memorable location. Our tasty lunch included salad and oven roasted crab and artichoke dip with warm bread and a couple glasses of iced tea. While eating, we sat on the patio, absorbing a wonderful sea breeze, while watching schools of fish swim below us and sea birds fly above.
After lunch we soaked some sun rays by Portofino Hotel’s heated pool, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. We then relaxed in the room, before dinner at BALEENkitchen, the hotel’s all new signature dining spot. The restaurant boasts an eclectic, eccentric fine dining experience, where guests can enjoy outside patio dining overlooking the marina with dramatic drapery and fire pits. There is also an upstairs bar with a cosmopolitan-lounge vibe, with fireside sofas and chairs.
For dinner I devoured a delectable bowl of cioppino with shrimp, calamari, clams, mussels, Spanish chorizo, saffron-tomato broth and the fresh daily catch. My friend had pan-roasted diver scallops with corn-truffle purée, lardons, potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and jalapeño honey.
In the morning we swam at The Seaside Lagoon, a large saltwater lagoon, with lifeguards, a sand area for sunbathing, children’s play equipment, snack bar facilities and volleyball courts. There is also a grassed area and luau shelter for day and evening events.