An overview of Palos Verdes and its four affluent cities

The Palos Verdes Peninsula (better known as the Peninsula, the Hill or PV by locals) is a natural landmark along the coast of the Los Angeles Basin. With 100 foot sea-cliffs, canyons and ravines – as well as having a top elevation of 1447 ft above sea level – PV looms over its beach city neighbors to the north and the Los Angeles/Long Beach harbor area to the south.

It also stands out for another reason; it comprises some of the most exclusive and affluent communities in the United States. Four suburbs and portions of other cities can be found on this hilly peninsula.

Palos Verdes Estate, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills Estate, and Rolling Hills are the main towns. Two dominate the coastline while the other two crown the summit regions. Also, each city is distinctive from one another. One has the open spaces; the other resembles the French Riviera; one is an exclusive gated community; and the other contains the commercial, financial and cultural center of PV.

Palos Verdes Estate

Located on the northwest side of the peninsula, Palos Verdes Estate is possibly the most picturesque. Spanish-tiled mansions are situated on steep slops along tree-lined streets. In fact, there are so many trees (mostly eucalyptus and pepper trees) that it resembles a small forest on the Mediterranean coast.

Palos Verdes Estate is more than just trees. It comprises of a Mediterranean-style shopping center (better known as Malaga Cove Plaza), an historic library (Malaga Cove Public Library), and city hall. Most, if not all, are located on PV’s main thoroughfare, Palos Verdes Drive South.

The city’s business districts can be divided by coves. That is, the businesses are located near two coves: Malaga Cove and Lunada Cove. The Malaga area has the main features of the city.

Lunada Cove is further south. Here, Palos Verdes High School can be found. Also, it contains small shops and restaurants. Lunada, however, is best known for other things; it has a vista overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Santa Monica Bay, and Catalina Island. And, it is well-known as a great surf spot.

Other points of interest in the city include numerous horse stables open for riding lessons; private and public golf-courses; several hiking and biking trails, and the headquarter of the  top performing Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District (which controls all public schools in the four cities).

Rancho Palos Verdes

Further south is Rancho Palos Verdes – the largest and most populated city (over 40,000) of the four. Also, it contains most of the peninsula’s open spaces, thanks to several local and state conservatory organizations. Much of these places include the area around Portuguese Bend and Abalone Shoreline Park.

It’s also home to some of the peninsula’s most iconic landmarks. This includes one of two historic light houses (Point Vicente Light House), Marymount College, Trump International Golf Course, the glass chapel known as Wayfarers Chapel, and Terranea Resort. Trump International and Terranea are fairly new. The resort is located on the former grounds of Marineland, a water-themed park that once rivaled SeaWorld before closing its doors more than 20 years ago.

There are other interesting features. In the area around Portuguese Bend and Abalone Cove, the land is slowly slipping into the ocean. As a result, the main road in this area, Palos Verdes Drive South, is constantly shifting. It is advisable that drivers must slow down in this area, unless they want to be unexpectedly airborne. In one area, the road has a drastic and sharp dip. Many unsuspecting drivers have had unwanted roller-coaster rides on this small, but dangerous stretch of road.

Rolling Hills Estate

Rolling Hills Estate is the financial, educational and cultural center of PV. And much of it can be found on its four main streets: Crenshaw Boulevard, Hawthorne Boulevard, Silver Spur Road, and Palos Verdes Drive North. 

The most important area within Rolling Hills Estate is along Silver Spur between Crenshaw and Hawthorne. Here, the largest shopping center in PV, Promenade on the Peninsula, can be found.  Also, this is the location of the largest library in the Palos Verdes Library District (Peninsula Center Library), as well as home to Peninsula High School (formally, Rolling Hills High School). 

Peninsula High is the largest school in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. And, until Palos Verdes High School was reopened, it was the only public high school in PV. Over the years, Peninsula High has gained numerous distinctions for being one of the top public schools in the country.  

Also, on Crossfield Drive (behind the mall) are the Norris Theatre and Norris Center of Performing Arts.  The theater offers stage performances within a 450-seat, tiered structure. The performing arts center also offers productions of stage plays and concerts. In addition to that, it has educational courses pertaining to acting and production.

Other significant places include the private prep school Chadwick, several horse trails and equestrian centers, South Coast Botanic Gardens, the flagship store for Bristol Farms, several banks and financial institutions, and the office of The Peninsula News, PV’s community newspaper.

Rolling Hills

Population-wise, Rolling Hills is the smallest city with approximately 1800 residents. Many of them live within gated communities in one-story ranch-style homes. In many respects, it is a low-key town. Don’t let that fool you. The city sits atop of PV in more than one way.

Geographically, it is at or near the top of the peninsula (although a portion of Rancho Palos Verdes has the highest elevation). Financially, its residents are the wealthiest. And by wealth, the residents not only top others per capita in PV’s four city, they top most of the state of California and the United States.

Aside from an assortment of equestrian centers and parks, Rolling Hills has access to some of the peninsula’s most spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island.

One of the best places for this view is at the end of Crenshaw Boulevard near the city’s Crest Gate. It is called Del Cero Park (many locals know it as Second-Level Park).  Here, one can see clearly Catalina Island, the Catalina Straits, and the various ships heading toward Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor.

Also, the park and city of Rolling Hills is located above the fog that often rolls in from the ocean. On certain days, it seems like one is looking above a sea of clouds.

Other Cities

Portions of Torrance, Lomita and Redondo Beach share the northern base of the peninsula. A fire road meandering through a stretch of eucalyptus groves separates these larger middle-class cities from the PV cities. The southern slope contains much of the Los Angeles community of San Pedro. Miraleste Drive, Western Avenue, Palos Verdes Peninsular Park, and Deane Dana Friendship Park serve as borders.

San Pedro is the home to many important places and historical landmarks. On its northwestern edge near Rancho Palos Verdes, one can find Point Fermin Light House, Angel Gate Park (former barracks converted into a series of professional art studios), remnants of the World War II-era Fort McArthur’s Coastal Battery, and Korean Bell of Friendship