The Sunken City. That’s a pretty badass (nick)name, right?
It certainly piqued my curiosity and I went for a visit in August 2018.
This post will give you:
- the background on The Sunken City
- my experience from visiting the Sunken City
- the details on how you can make the trip including tips and tricks
- a video showing you what it looks like on the ground
How The Sunken City In San Pedro, CA Came To Be
The Sunken City is an abandoned site by the Pacific Ocean in San Pedro, CA. In 1929 the section housed an exclusive neighborhood when the residents suddenly found themselves being evacuated, and their homes being relocated when the land they were on started shifting after nearby water and gas pipes burst. Eventually a large enough crack caused a landslide, with two of the homes not being relocated in time. Little has been done to the site now, with the remains of foundations and footpaths jagging out, the perfect abandoned urban playground.
The site is technically closed off to visitors with a metal fence around the area along and several large no trespassing signs. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the rules (including me, so cool I am) and there have been lots injuries and deaths recorded over the years at the Sunken City. But given there is a large hole in the fence that hasn’t had any attempts to be covered up, from what I can see it’s more of a place where you can visit if you want, just be careful and don’t get close to the edge when taking selfies.
Please do be careful, silly behaviour like this scene below from the The Big Lewbowski at the Sunken City is not advised (it’s filmed along this coastline somewhere – sources have conflicting answers)! I’m not telling you to/not to visit, it’s your choice. In this post I share my experience and tips that may help if you do decide to visit. Don’t go blaming me for any injuries 🙂
An LA Half Day Trip To The Sunken City
Google Maps is your friend when it comes to getting from Downtown Los Angeles to San Pedro. I had a busy afternoon scheduled so started the day early. Thankfully I was staying with a friend at the Intercontinental so only had a short walk to catch the Metro Silver Line bus from 7th/Flower at 7.09am. The bus arrived right on time and I was stoked as to have access to free wifi, bonus.
The regular fare for the Metro Silver Line is $2.50 for adults (each way). Pay with the exact change.
The bus journey from Flower/7th to the terminal stop, Pacific/21st in San Pedro is scheduled to take 58 minutes which was about spot on. From here Google Maps suggests to catch the 246 bus from Pacific/22nd, but I wanted to see a little bit of San Pedro life so walked the 1.6 miles to Point Fermin Park, the entry point to the Sunken City which in accessed down from Walker’s Cafe on W Paseo Del Mar.
Now before you enter, I mentioned above it is technically illegal to hike around the Sunken City and you’re at risk of being trespassed. This had me a little nervous but after reading about other peoples experiences online (and #sunkencity on Insta has thousands of photos) I came to the conclusion that as long as I wasn’t being a nuisance it’d be fine (don’t go quoting me on that).
The trespassing signs are for public safety which is fair enough given the accidents over the years. There are articles online mentioning that they may open up the Sunken City for the public in a safer way going forward, but there’s no timeline on that (as of August 2018).
The entry point to the Sunken City is on the corner of Point Fermin Park. If you go to the end of W Paseo Del Mar, past Walker’s Cafe you’ll see the wire fence blocking off the entrance to The Sunken City. Follow the metal fence line towards the ocean and you’ll see a nice large whole you can get through easily. There were a couple of people in the park as I was entering but no one seemed to care I was going there.
Do be careful the surface can be slippery around the fence area and if you got carried away you could end up falling a long way.
Once you’re through you’ll need to walk 100-200 meters to where the landslide really begins. There are a few possible entry points to get down to where the land settled post slide where you see all the street art. Make sure to choose the entrance point carefully as a couple of them looked dodgy as fuck.
Once you’re in explore as you please. You’re away from public view (that doesn’t mean you should be having sexy time there) and you might have the place to yourself if you get lucky. Well, there’ll be some squirrels running around but they don’t give two hoots about you.
Now I’ll leave it up to you, explore as your heart desires. There’s some fun art painted on cliff faces and foundations, and lots of epic views over the Pacific.
If you’re visiting in the middle of the day, you’re a bit of a muppet as there’s a couple of scrawny trees for shade but that’s all. I chose to go early in the day, but a picnic during golden hour would be the dream situation I feel. Though in this case you’re more likely to be sharing the place with others.
You could spend as little as 15 minutes exploring, or hang out here for hours if you wanted. It’s up to you. I left after 30 minutes or so, needing to get back to Downtown LA sooner rather than later. I’d love to have found a little bit of shade and spent a couple hours reading with the views though! I was impressed by how little rubbish there was given the kind of location it was, so remember, do take your own rubbish home with you!
Before beginning the pilgrimage back to Pacific/21st, I checked out the rather unusual looking lighthouse and took in this sweeping view from another point in the park. You could easily make this an awesome day trip from Downtown LA by including a few of the other activities in San Pedro, grabbing a meal etc.
I ran back to Pacific/21st and caught the 9.45am Metro Silver Line back to Downtown and was there before 11 am. A great morning!
Is The San Pedro Sunken City Worth Visiting?
Now, if you live in the Los Angeles area and are thinking of going, go! It’s an awesome hidden gem.
If you’re a rule-abiding citizen 100% of the time, and would rather not take the slight risk of getting a fine, then pass.
If you’re on a vacation in Los Angeles and are thinking of this as a day trip, that’s an awesome idea. The Metro Silver Line runs until late in the night which is convenient if you’re staying downtown and want to see the sunset. There are so many bucket list items in LA that this shouldn’t be at the top of your list, but if you’re looking for a break from the tourist action or have 3+ days in the city, it’s worth it.