A brief guide for travelers going to Santa Monica.
Whether you have a day to spend in Santa Monica on your way out of town, or you have several days or more, it’s a destination that will leave an impression on you and likely leaving you with the desire to return.
Santa Monica is an area of greater Los Angeles on the Pacific Ocean and known for its famous pier.
Santa Monica is set along a 5 ½ kilometer stretch of coastline, so you get the feeling of a California beach town but it’s also close enough to Los Angeles to feel city-like and sophisticated.
There are more than 300 days of sun a year in Santa Monica, and it’s less than an hour from Hollywood. It’s an even shorter distance from downtown Los Angeles, and the area is packed with beautiful hotels, great restaurants, shopping, and cultural venues.
Where to Stay
Many people who are visiting Santa Monica opt to stay near the beach and the Pier. This gives them great views, and this is also where you’ll find some of the most luxurious beach hotels in Southern California.
You can also opt to stay in Downtown Santa Monica and near the Third Street Promenade, or near Main Street, which gives you a very local experience, rather than one that’s more touristy.
If you stay near the Pier, Shutters on the Beach, Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, and Casa del Mar as some world-class options. You can also get Pacific views at hotels that are a block off the ocean, such as the Viceroy and the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot.
The Shangri-La is an Art Deco style hotel that’s close to the Third Street Promenade, and a more budget-friendly Art Deco option is the Seaview Hotel.
The Santa Monica Pier isn’t the only thing to do in Santa Monica, but it’s a big one with a history spanning back 110 years.
The Pier is open every day of the year, 24 hours a day, but specific business hours for the attractions on the pier vary. There’s an aquarium and the Health the Bay marine education center at the Pier. There’s also the Trapeze School, and there are a lot of family-friendly options.
During the summer, there are free Twilight Concerts at the Beach. Pier 360 is another free event that takes place over two days in June and includes live music, food, and ocean sports competitions.
Pacific Park is the last West Coast amusement park on a pier, and it has a roller coaster and other rides, carnival games, and food you’d find at a fair.
You can fish from the top deck of the pier, and you can also rent bikes and ride the path known as The Strand.
If you’re going to grab food on the pier, there’s a restaurant called The Lobster, which is a bit pricey, as well as a less expensive casual venue called Seaside on the Pier. A staple since 1991 is Mariasol, which serves coastal Mexican food and margaritas.
Where Else to Go in Santa Monica
Other things to add to your to-do list during your time in Santa Monica include:
- Visit the Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savories to learn how to book from the best instructors and chefs in Los Angeles.
- Go to Montana Avenue, which stretches for 10 miles and is home to more than 150 restaurants and shops. It’s a short walk from Downtown Santa Monica, but the picturesque tree-lined streets feel very different.
- Santa Monica State Beach is something you can’t miss. This beach features volleyball courts, surf schools, and other activities.
- Have a meal at the Terrazza Lounge at Hotel Casa del Mar. You’ll have stunning beach views and Italian fare. It’s best to try and go at sunset.
Finally, if you’re visiting Santa Monica, there are also some great day trip options within a short drive.
Marina Del Rey is one that’s only around three miles from Santa Monica. Thousands of boats are at home in the Marina, and you can take a sunset cruise.
The beachside surfers’ haven of Malibu is around five miles from Santa Monica. Here you can hike or surf or check out the homes of the rich and famous.
Rodeo Drive is about eight miles from Santa Monica, so you can get your fill of luxury shopping, and West Hollywood and the Sunset Strip are around 12 miles from the Pacific coastline of Santa Monica.