With its stunning white sandy beaches, which could be enjoyed all year-round, Los Angeles is by far one of the most popular Californian areas. Just a few miles away lays the small beachfront town of Santa Monica. Despite not being as popular, it is one of the state’s hidden gems that is certainly worth visiting. From the vibrant, colorful and creative vibe to what seems to be endless miles of soft sand, gently touching the refreshing blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, the resort has so much to offer that you would be looking forward to visiting again. Keep reading to learn more about Santa Monica – Los Angeles’ Secret Paradise!
Location of Santa Monica
California is known for its hundreds of miles of white sandy beaches and endless warm sunny days. Tourists from all over the world are drawn every year by the numerous summer resorts across the state. Besides the most popular and tourists destinations, however, there are a few hidden gems that are sometimes neglected by the visitors. Such example is the coastal town of Santa Monica, situated in the vibrant Southern part of California. Just 14 miles away west of the popular city of Los Angeles, Santa Monica is definitely worth the visit!
Getting to Santa Monica
Located less than 17 miles away from Los Angeles’ downtown area, the beachfront town of Santa Monica is easily accessible for anyone looking for a more relaxing and laid-back day trip away from the busy and hectic city life. It is not just the close proximity, but also the convenient public transportation, which draws so many tourists to Santa Monica.
If you will be driving to Santa Monica, you should plan around 20 minutes of travel time depending on traffic. You will need to follow Highway 10, so reaching the small resort should not be an issue. Those not traveling by car can use the Expo Line. The tram leaves from Los Angeles’ metro center station at 7th Street and in approximately 50 minutes, you will be able to enjoy the beautiful beaches of Santa Monica.
If you will be arriving internationally, keep in mind that the nearest airport is Los Angeles Airport. San Diego International Airport is another option, but you need to be prepared for the 2 hours drive from there. Check out the best flight deals.
When to Visit
With its location in Southern California and its moderate climate, Santa Monica is a perfect tourist destination year-round. As you can imagine, the summer is the most popular season, however, if you prefer skipping the crowds, it might be a good idea to plan a trip for September and October, when the temperatures are still high and you can enjoy the pleasant warm sun rays. Keep in mind that May and June are known for being too foggy and gloomy, and you may not have the best time if visiting during these months.
Exploring the beaches in the area around Santa Monica is by far one of the best things you can do, especially on a warm sunny day. Keep reading to ensure that you do not miss the most beautiful white sandy beaches, as we have prepared a full list for you!
Santa Monica State Beach
Santa Monica State Beach is by far the most popular beach in the area. It is the combination of soft sandy beach and the good waves, which make it among the most iconic beaches of Southern California. Being a total of 3.5 miles in length, it is divided in two sections – North and South. Regardless, which area you will choose, you can be sure to find spots for both relaxation and some water activities. Being located extremely close to the city, visitors will be able to discover numerous restaurants and bars along the beach.
If you are visiting with smaller kids, you might want to head to the North Side as it also offers a playground with swings, slides, climbing equipment, etc. Check out the best beaches for kids in US. The South area, on the other hand, is widely known among the fitness enthusiasts as it is home to the Muscle Beach with various ropes and parallel bars. For those looking for a bit of water adventure, the park also has various rental stands, which offer surfing or paddle-boarding classes.
Widely known for its beach volleyball courts, Sorrento Beach is the northernmost beach in Santa Monica area. It is a great option if you are visiting with your family and would prefer a less-crowded spot, where your children can run around and swim. Besides the lifeguards on duty, visitors will be happy to learn that there are numerous restrooms and showers along the beach as well. While this is a public beach and there is no admission fee, the parking lot, situated by the Pacific Coast Highway is paid around $3-5 per hour. The surrounding area of Sorrento Beach is not as commercialized, but you can find everything you need at the nearby Santa Monica Pier.
It is the bohemian vibe at Venice Beach, which has made it extremely popular among both locals and tourists. The entire neighborhood is known for the wide canals and long ocean front walk. Taking a stroll down the promenade and experiencing the creative and a bit edgy atmosphere, while being entertained by the street performers is a must-do. It is also worth dipping your toes into the refreshing waters of the Pacific and going for a walk down the soft sandy beach. Make sure to also go for a swim, try the volleyball courts or even try some water activities, such as surfing. Venice Beach is certainly one of the must-visit places in Santa Monica, so make sure to add it to your travel itinerary.
Will Rogers State Beach
With more than 3 miles of white and soft sand, Will Rogers State Beach is a perfect choice if you are looking for a less crowded and a bit more off-the-beaten-path spot that would be suitable for the entire family. Besides the lifeguards on duty, restrooms and showers, visitors will be also able to find a paved bike path and numerous picnic areas. The convenient parking lot situated along the highway makes the beach easily accessible as well. There are a few spots along the beach with collections of some rocks that attract the local fishermen.
If you keeping walking to the North from Will Rogers State Beach, you will reach a very narrow shore, which is widely known as the Sunset Point Beach. As you can guess by its name is a preferable location among locals who would like to admire the breathtaking views as the sun is setting in the evening. The area, however, is also very popular with beginner surfers, due to the long and gentle waves. As the area is more geared towards the younger generation, you can often see young people using the volleyball courts or just sunbathing and relaxing on the beach.
From cozy beach houses to deluxe hotels, the accommodation options in Santa Monica are endless. If you have decided to treat yourself to a fantastic luxurious holiday, you should choose between the 5-star Shutters on the Beach and Hotel Casa del Mar. Samesun Venice Beach and Santa Monica Motel are among the great budget-friendly options. If you are looking for a nature experience and being close to the beautiful surroundings of the area, you can have a look at Urban Glamping at La Boheme Living and the Honeymoon Cottage offering fabulous cozy and comfortable cabins.
Things / Activities to Do
If you would like to explore Santa Monica beyond its beautiful beaches, there are numerous places that you can visit. Keep reading to find out about the top 6 spots that deserve your attention!
Santa Monica Pier
As one of the most iconic sights in Santa Monica, the first spot you should stop by is the Pier. From local fisherman to large tourist crowds, the pier is a vibrant colorful and busy place, especially during the weekend! As you are strolling down, you will be able to find many restaurants and bars lined along the pier. The small amusement park with various rides and the unique of its kind solar-powered Ferris Wheel, however, is definitely the main feature that attracts visitors. Late in the evenings, as the sun is about to set, the Santa Monica Pier is also an excellent location to admire the views of the South Bay, while listing to some live music.
Santa Monica Place
If you are ready to go on a shopping spree, exploring some of the most upscale designer boutiques, you should visit Santa Monica Place. Spread across three floors, you will be able to find brands such as Ted Baker London, Hugo Boss, Tiffany & Co, Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors and many others. With a large open-air courtyard in the middle, you can also grab some lunch bites from the nearby restaurants and cafes and fully enjoy the sunny Californian days.
Third Street Promenade
Third Street Promenade is another open-air shopping destination that you can visit during your stay in Santa Monica. Spreading across four blocks from Wilshire Boulevard to Colorado Avenue, Third Street Promenade is a peaceful, pedestrian-only street. Regardless if you just want to go for a walk or if you would prefer to stop by one of the bars and sip on a delicious cocktail, Third Street Promenade is an excellent choice. The promenade is also home to the popular Santa Monica Farmer’s Market, which takes place every weekend. You will be able to find endless options of locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables.
Covering a territory of almost 27 acres, Palisades Park should be a compulsory part of your travel itinerary to Santa Monica. The park is situated on top of a cliff and offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding high mountains far in the distance. As the area starts from the Santa Monica Pier, you can easily combine the two locations together and enjoy a long romantic walk just before sunset. Along the alleys, there are interesting public art, historic sculptures and wooden benches situated by small rose gardens. You can bring some snack food and organize an afternoon picnic, while admiring the beautiful scenery.
If you are planning a family holiday to Santa Monica, one of the must-visit places is the Pacific Park. This amusement center is located on the Santa Monica Pier, overlooking the blue crystal clear waters of the Pacific Ocean. Despite being relatively small with just 12 rides, it is the only admission-free park in the Los Angeles area. Additionally, its unique characteristic is the solar powered Ferry wheel, which is the only one of this kind in the world. The Pacific Park is one of the best family-friendly places to visit in Santa Monica, if you are looking for a relaxing but fun afternoon, filled with activities suitable for each member of the family.
California Heritage Museum
Before you leave Santa Monica, you need to learn a bit about the local history. The best spot to do this is the California Heritage Museum. You will be first greeted by the interesting and colorful facade of an extremely well-preserved house from the 19th century. Besides the unique Victorian design, visitors will also be able to enjoy the continuously rotating exhibits with a large collection of artifacts all closely related to the local traditions and cultures. From colorful surfboards to contemporary pieces of art, there is plenty to explore, ensuring lots of fun for visitors from all ages.
Are you ready for an unforgettable holiday in Santa Monica? From the fantastic, packed with fashion boutiques shopping center to the white sandy beaches, where would you stop by first?