Surf, sand, sun: the key ingredients for a California beach town. Playa Del Rey has all these in abundance. Yet the tiny community also has had perhaps more than its share of fallout from both the force of nature and the hand of man.
What was once a vast complex of wetlands south of Santa Monica, and the estuary for the Los Angeles River, is now a narrow slice of coast squeezed between man-made Marina Del Rey on the north, the huge upscale housing complex known as Playa Vista to the east, and LAX so close on the south that jets soar directly over the beach.
Playa Del Rey is a community defined by water. Ballona Creek, once a major river, cuts through the landscape as it courses from the Santa Monica Mountains down to the sea. Two centuries ago, the creek bed also channeled the Los Angeles River before that watercourse jumped its banks about 1825 due to earthquakes and flooding and began flowing south to San Pedro.
Even without the waters of the L.A. River, Ballona Creek was a formidable stream, creating swaths of freshwater wetlands upland and saltwater wetlands as it approached the sea. A wide estuary ballooned into a lagoon surrounded by sand dunes, an ideal spot for recreational boating.
Playa Del Rey Beach is the wide sandy beach in front of the Playa Del Rey neighborhood of Los Angeles. The beach is northwest of LAX Airport on state land at the north end of Dockweiler State Beach and south of the Marina Del Rey Harbor entrance. This beach like the rest of Dockweiler State Beach is operated by Los Angeles County not the state.
Playa Del Rey Beach offers volleyball courts, a long paved bike path, and a grass park across the street that has a kid’s playground and basketball courts. Locals call the north end of Playa Del Rey Beach “Toes Beach” for hanging ten (toes) on a surfboard.