Parking: $1 an hour parking in one of the above-ground or subterranean lots within walking distance of the pier.
Directions: From Highway 1 take Torrance Boulevard to the coast and follow it into the complex and parking.
Hermosa Beach Pier
Overview: A trim but undistinguished stretch of concrete 1,228 feet long. The Walk of Fame, established in 2003, memorializes surfers past and present.
Parking: $1 an hour on adjoining streets; parking in the plaza at the foot of the pier tends to be difficult at peak hours.
Directions: The 405 Freeway south to the Artesia Boulevard exit, right onto Artesia to Aviation Boulevard, and turn left toward the coast, left on Highway 1 and then left on Pier Boulevard.
Manhattan Beach Pier
Overview: This short, 928-foot concrete structure is flat-out endearing, radiating old-time charm. What gives this pier its character is its rounded end and the atmospheric Roundhouse Marine Studies Lab, a kid-friendly two-story aquarium with exhibits as well as live, local fish in tanks. (A $2 donation is requested.)
Background: The design came from an engineer named A.L. Harris, who believed that a rounded end would help the pier withstand the pounding of waves. It was unprecedented for the time, but it was successful, and the pier lasted, largely unchanged, until the late 1980s, when it was rebuilt, a fetching, current-day copy of the original.
Parking: $1 parking is available in the lot near the bottom of the pier, plus there is metered parking on nearby streets. Summertime and weekends can be tough.
Directions: The 405 Freeway to the Inglewood Avenue exit. Turn left on Inglewood, then after a quarter mile, turn right on Manhattan Beach Boulevard and take it about three miles to the pier, which is near the intersection of Ocean Boulevard.
Overview: This narrow concrete span, 1,310 feet out into Santa Monica Bay, is short on embellishments — no restaurants or shops — but long on vistas. From its end, on a clear day, you can see the Getty Museum, the Hollywood sign and even the Griffith Observatory.
Notable views: Besides the surprising inland views, there are splendid vistas of the Santa Monica Pier and Malibu headlands to the north and planes departing LAX to the south.
Parking: $6 lot with several hundred spaces at the foot of the pier, plus street parking on Washington Boulevard with 25-cent pay stations.
Directions: The 405 Freeway to the 90 Freeway west to Marina del Rey. Exit and turn right on Lincoln Boulevard, then left on Washington Boulevard to the pier.
Santa Monica Pier
Overview: This is the granddaddy of 'em all in Southern California. Although Santa Cruz Wharf might have more rides, Pier 39 in San Francisco more eateries and the Redondo Beach Pier more businesses, this local pier combines all these things — and adds an aquarium — to secure its reputation as a lifestyle destination that averages 4 million visits a year.
Background: Originally built in 1909, it received the inevitable buffeting by storms and tides. It closed in 1983, was refurbished and reopened in 1990 as a concrete pier, About 2,000 feet long; half the pier is over the beach.