In case you haven’t been down to South Bay for a while, let the Portofino Hotel & Marina reintroduce you to Redondo Beach with their brand new ocean kayaking tour. After all, true beachfront hotel experiences in Los Angeles are few and far between, and plenty of locals know to skip the crowded, tourist-packed streets of Santa Monica and Venice to head down to beachfront cities like Redondo Beach. Just 30 or 40 minutes away from the west side, this area is one of greater LA’s best-kept secrets, whether it’s for a staycation, or just for a day on the water.
Embracing the fact that they’re one of the closest properties to the Pacific in all of Redondo Beach, Portofino Hotel decided to partner up with REI to offer a golden-hour kayak tour. Hotel guests and locals alike can book this guided, 90-minute tour with an expert REI Experiences Guide (if that isn’t a dream job I don’t know what is). The best times of day to get out on the water are obviously when sunrise or sunset is involved, and since most people would rather kayak in the evening than the early hours of the morning, that’s the timeframe for now.
If you’ve never kayaked before, have no fear, as the instructor Arlan Pfohl first got into kayaking way back in 1979 and has been working with REI to teach kayaking since 2007. First, Pfohl will walk you through extensive instructions while still on land about how to hold and maneuver your paddle, and tricks for staying upright in the kayak once you’re out on the ocean. (Hint: Use your core!) If you’re skeptical about your own kayaking abilities, know that this tour is approved for ages 12 and up, and mostly sticks to the calmer, almost non-existent waves in King Harbor.
In fact, the waters are calm enough on this experience that Pfohl considers being out on the ocean in a kayak to be a “zen-like” outing. “The solitude, the smells, the wind, the sounds of the water slapping against my boat are all very therapeutic,” Pfohl tells InsideHook. “When we take guests on our coastal tours, many of them have never been in a kayak. And those that have have never been out in the open ocean. It’s thrilling for them and a real joy for me to be the one giving them the experience. Watching our participants get close to some of the marine life, like sea lions and dolphins, is really magical.”
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On a recent tour of the bay, we were able to get up close and personal with a whole gaggle of sea lions who were sunning themselves on a floating platform out in front of the hotel. In a nod to this de facto local mascot, the hotel places a stuffed sea lion in all guest rooms. For a small donation, this stuffed furry creature can be taken home complete with an adoption certificate, and the donations for these toys go to the Marine Mammal Care Center.
A bit farther down, and through a slightly more exciting stretch of open ocean with larger waves, guests can kayak in and around the historic Redondo Pier. This is also a chance to discuss the not-so-positive impact that humans have had on the ocean in this area. “In addition to viewing marine life we often get numerous opportunities to point out our local pollution problem inside the harbor and how it impacts our marine life,” Pfohl says. “Modeling being a good steward of our planet is another way we have a positive impact on our participants.”
As for the history of the area, the Pier isn’t the only place with a storied past. The Portofino itself — which, yes, was named after the coastal Italian town — was built way back in 1962. Designed with a Mediterranean feel, a tip of the hat to its namesake, the property was a racecar driver hangout in its earliest days. A historic cross-country car race from New York to Los Angeles, The Cannonball, first took place in 1971. Its final destination? The Portofino. Though the property is over 50 years old, a multi-million dollar renovation recently brought it up to speed on modern amenities and design. Don’t expect any ultra-minimalist aesthetic here, though: The coastal, shabby chic elegance still reigns supreme in the guest rooms and a romantic, ’60s-era lobby.
One thing that didn’t really need any updating, though, was the hotel’s heated pool with ocean views. Few places can boast this kind of secluded, waterfront swimming pool, a great place to unwind after a day of kayaking. Or, if you prefer more activity, the hotel also offers complimentary one-hour beach cruiser rentals from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. When all that is done, swing by Baleen Kitchen for one of the best meals in all of Redondo Beach. Though the cities of South Bay are sometimes derided by Angelenos for subpar dining choices, this on-site restaurant proves them wrong. With a more formal dining room and a less formal lounge area, the all-day menu is best at dinner, and includes classics like hot crab dip, grilled calamari, New England chowder and cioppino.
LA is a seaside town where the sea can often be hard to access. Whether you stay over at the hotel for a welcome night out of the house, or pop down to Redondo for the kayaking tour and a fresh, seafood-focused meal at Baleen, this will cure that problem in a rather excellent way.
Book the Golden Hour Kayak Tour here. Book a room at Portofino Hotel here. Learn more about REI Experiences here.
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