Look at www.metro.net for the public transportation system
I've been using Google maps and find it easier to read than metro.net, but you can use either.
Don't forget to check the link for public transit under Top Questions on the right, too.
The easiest place to stay if you don't want a rental car will be Hollywood. You can use the tab at the top of this page, Hotels, plug in your dates and the neighborhood you wish to stay in, and it will be easy to see prices and TA reviews, too.
You may want to check back on this forum when you have a few hotel options. There are great folks here who can tell you if the hotel is in a lousy neighborhood, far from transit, or any other factors that you may need before making a decision.
Hmmm no car? Wow the places where you have friends are all 15-20 miles apart and sorry to say but there is a reason Los Angeles is known for the car... our public transportation leaves something to be desired. Although in fairness to our city - it is SPREAD out over a huge area... So you can get everywhere by public transportation it just might take a long time and many transfers... If your friends have cars and can pick you up (sometimes?) then you have a chance at success without a car.... and a little cab fare money to help.
You could stay at the Travel Lodge in Culver City, I've stayed there several times, not a bad hotel, fine, large rooms, quite reasonable and that will be in the middle of West Hollywood and Marina Del Rey. And it's close to the 405 so if friends are dropping you off or picking you up then it will be convenient for them. It's also near major street intersections (Sepulveda and Washington) as far as catching public transportation.
11180 Washington Pl, Culver City, CA 90232
If you don't mind trading inexpensive for borderline tacky (check out TripAdvisor reviews) but cheap and walking distance - minutes - to dozens of restaurants, bars, stores, LA's Farmers Market (great fun booths open year round and places to eat), TheGrove (huge outdoor shopping center with movie theaters, movies, restaurants)...
Try Rodeway Inn in West Hollywood (West Hollywood is LA on lots of addresses). Awesome location. It's also near major intersections (Beverly, Fairfax, Third) as far as catching public transportation. They remodeled in the past couple years.
7721 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036
At least if your friends come to you there will be plenty to do just walking distance from your hotel! And if you are alone then you'll have plenty to do. If you can afford more $$ then The Farmer's Daughter hotel is right there too - much nicer but more expensive, the best deals I've seen for Farmers Daughter hotel are on Expedia or elsewhere, not on their website.
Another sort of central place where you could have fun and be right on the beach is the Cadillac Hotel but it'll run you around $165 a night.
8 Dudley Ave, Venice, CA 90291
The reason it's so "cheap" even though it's right on the beach is because it is really old, built in like 1909 and everything works but it's not been remodeled really. Repainted, new tiles... wall furnace type of thing. Some rooms have ocean views. Rooms are called like "The Charlie Chaplin room" because he used to stay there (gives you an idea of the age) Lot's of Europeans stay there. I've stayed there, don't mind it at all myself. And, like the West Hollywood hotel I recommended (which is less expensive) if you're alone you can walk the strand (cement walkway between Venice Pier and Santa Monica Pier) and walk all the way to Santa Monica Pier, rent a bike or rollerblades, gazillion shops, restaurants, and friends won't mind going there to visit you either.
Redondo Beach is pretty far south in comparison... that friend should probably come north to see you.Edited: 7:40 pm, November 16, 2013
Are your friends planning to come see you? Or are you planning to visit them? If the latter, rent a car. Getting in and out of Redondo Beach and MDR will be difficult. If you plan on visiting your friends, rent a car.
What is your nightly budget for a hotel? Here is my budget motel on the west side.
West Hollywood is an expensive area to stay - public transit access there tends to be decent, but not great. Marina Del Rey and Redondo are cheaper, but you won't want to be stuck in either place if you are going to be relying on public transit and want to visit the main LA sights - public transit from either area to the rest of the city is inconvenient, at best. The best public transit is found in Hollywood itself, near the intersection of Hollywood Blvd. and Highland Ave., which is a big public transit and tour bus hub, and also has a large selection of nearby hotels spanning a wide range of prices.
The best transit location for reaching both West Hollywood and Marina del Rey would be Downtown Santa Monica, which has got direct buses to each. The transit is not bad, but the distances are long. Downtown Santa Monica, around 3rd St. Promenade, has a bunch of hotels but it's a very pricy area, especially at the holidays. I agree that the person from Redondo Beach should come visit you.
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