LA is so big that the area in which you stay will have a big impact on your travel plans. Downtown, the historic heart of the city, has both chic hotels and hostels, but getting to the coast from here can be a hassle. West LA is a safe and secure area and is a relatively central option for seeing the whole city, while Santa Monica is predominantly mid-to-upper-range territory, perfect for soaking up the beach culture but a long way from the cultural attractions inland.
Since the opening of the Staples Center in 1999, Downtown LA has been experiencing something of a renaissance, with many of its graceful old banks and hotels turned into apartments and the enormous LA Live complex. It remains a diverse neighbourhood, however. In the space of a few blocks you’ll find adobe buildings and Mexican market stalls, Japanese shopping plazas and avant garde art galleries such as Various Small Fires , high-rise corporate towers and antique movie palaces.
What is loosely called the Westside of Los Angeles begins immediately beyond Hollywood - and contains some of the city’s most expensive neighbourhoods. Bordered by the Santa Monica Mountains to the north, the Santa Monica Freeway to the south, and Hollywood and the beach cities to the respective east and west, this swath of the city best embodies the stylish images that Los Angeles projects to the outside world. Highlights include the impressive collection of the LA County Museum of Art (LACMA) , the restaurants and boutiques of West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and the UCLA campus in Westwood, though you should also make time for the outstanding Getty Center, positioned high above the LA basin.
For many Angelenos, Santa Monica represents the impossible dream: a low-key, tolerant beachside town with a relaxed air and easy access to the rest of the city. Set along a white-sand beach and home to some of LA’s finest stores, restaurants and galleries, this small community has little of the smog or searing heat that can make the rest of the metropolis unbearable. Friendly and liberal, Santa Monica is also a great spot to visit - a compact, accessible bastion of oceanside charm. Santa Monica is most certainly one of the best areas to stay in Los Angeles.
Everyone has heard of Malibu; it’s been immortalized in surfing movies since the 1960s, Courtney Love sang about it and it serves as the fictional home of Two and Half Men and Iron Man. While its pop, Hollywood image is not so very far from the truth, you might not think so on arrival. The succession of ramshackle surf shops and fast-food stands scattered along both sides of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) around the graceful Malibu Pier don’t exactly reek of money, but the secluded estates just inland are as valuable as any in the entire country: Halle Berry, Jeff Bridges, Mel Gibson, John McEnroe, Steven Spielberg and Barbra Streisand are among numerous stars that have homes here. Zuma Beach and Point Dume State Beach bring in plenty of ocean lovers, too.
One of the largest ports in the world is Long Beach. 25 miles south of Downtown LA, Downtown Long Beach is quite flashy, with office buildings, a conference centre, hotels, a shopping mall, and some of the best preserved early twentieth-century buildings on the coast. Inland, running from Ocean Boulevard to Third Street, the three-block strip known as The Promenade is lined with touristy restaurants and stores that can get busy on weekend nights. To the south, Shoreline Village contains a generic collection of shops, funfair arcades and restaurants.