As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe.
As the weather gets colder, the sun hides behind the occasional clouds, and layering becomes a necessity, we daydream of a beach getaway to a galaxy not so far away. Down at the southern end of the Golden State’s coastline lies the very last stop on the historic Route 66: the iconic Santa Monica Beach. This quintessential SoCal beach town is an amazing destination to leave behind your daily life and let yourself be enveloped by the sun, sand, and straight-up positive vibes.
Whether you’re going for the beautiful beach, the pier, the waterfront amusement park, or the mouthwatering food, Santa Monica Beach will have you leaving with a smile on your face and memories you’ll forever remember fondly. So, what are you waiting for? Gather your closest friends, assemble a beach day playlist, and hit the road for an unforgettable getaway to Santa Monica.
Getting to Santa Monica State Beach
Driving to Santa Monica Beach makes for a fun road trip. Make your way to I-10 west, and cruise until you reach the point where it intersects with the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Here, you’ll find several large paid parking lots, all within walking distance to the beach. Other major routes you can take are Santa Monica Boulevard from west L.A., the PCH from Santa Barbara and Malibu, and Lincoln Boulevard from Venice or LAX.
On Foot or Bike
If you’re staying nearby at a Santa Monica Beach hotel, walking or biking might be the easiest way to access the beach. Paved pathways, clear signs, and accessible bike lanes and walkways are available along the beach, so getting lost won’t be an issue.
If you’re walking from the north side of the beach, you’ll find pedestrian access on Colorado Boulevard, Montana Avenue, Arizona Avenue, Idaho Street, and Broadway Avenue. From the south side, nearly all of the east/west streets lead to Santa Monica Beach. Popular entry points are via Bicknell Avenue and Ocean Park Boulevard.
Several bus routes stop at or near Santa Monica Beach. The Big Blue Bus day passes cost $4 per person and can be purchased online and on the bus. You can take Route 1 from UCLA, Rapid 3 from LAX, or Rapid 10 from downtown L.A.
Santa Monica Beach Weather
The warmest season at Santa Monica Beach lasts for about four months. If you want to enjoy warm-weather activities on your trip, June through October is the best time to visit. The average daily high temperature around this time of year is 74 degrees, and the hottest months are July and August.
The cool season also lasts for about four months at Santa Monica Beach. If you visit between December and April, expect colder weather, light precipitation, and cloudy skies—and fewer crowds. The average daily low temperature during these months is around 49 degrees. So, if you’re visiting in the cooler months, make sure you bring a jacket and a wetsuit if you plan on catching great swells.
Santa Monica Beach Hours
Santa Monica beaches open around sunrise, and like most beaches in Los Angeles County, they typically close around 10 p.m. Get your beach action in from sunrise to sunset, and enjoy the rest of the activities Santa Monica State Beach offers later in the night.
Due to the pandemic, the Santa Monica Beach Pier is currently closing at 10 p.m. on weekdays and remaining closed on the weekends for safety measures.
Fun Things To Do at Santa Monica State Beach
The long, wide stretch of Santa Monica State Beach is distinguished from other California beaches by the sheer number of activities it offers year-round. Families and couples; locals and tourists; thrill-seekers and those looking to relax—this Santa Monica beach is truly for everyone.
Although it is a very popular destination, Santa Monica State Beach is also very large. The 3.5 miles of coastline provide enough room for everyone to swim, even during the busier summer months. Slather on the sunscreen, and take advantage of the cool waters at one of the best L.A. beaches to visit.
Santa Monica’s south-facing beaches don’t promise big and consistent waves like the nearby west-facing beaches do. But the waves can get big enough to ride north of the pier. Santa Monica Beach is especially ideal for beginner surfers. If you’re just starting out, sign up for a lesson with one of the many companies offering surfing lessons near the beach.
Walk, bike, skate
The 20-mile-long Marvin Braude Trail, also known as “The Strand,” is a paved path stretching all the way from north of Santa Monica Beach to Redondo Beach. As one of the best trails in Los Angeles, it’s great for exploring, whether on foot or on wheels. Walk, run, bike, or roller-skate the old fashioned way, and you'll yourself stopping at plenty of cool spots along the way.
Bring a beach blanket, some snacks, an umbrella, and a cooler—lay on the sand for some much-needed oceanside relaxation. Don’t forget to grab a book from your summer reading list so you can while away the afternoon.
Ride the Ferris wheel
Pacific Park is a major attraction that makes Santa Monica Pier one of the coolest boardwalks in California. While there are many rides at this top California amusement park, the first solar-powered Ferris wheel—and the only over-water wheel in the state—is arguably the best thing to do here. (Did we mention the cool photo ops you get during the ride?)
The Santa Monica Pier is packed with restaurants that’ll satisfy all your cravings. From fresh seafood and classic American favorites to can’t-miss carnival foods, this famous pier makes it easy to eat your day away at Santa Monica Beach.
Play games at the arcade
The Playland Arcade at Santa Monica Pier is a must-visit spot, especially if you’re visiting with kids. With over 200 games, this family-friendly place offers everything from Pac-Man and Dance Dance Revolution to air hockey and basketball hoops.
Not to be confused with Muscle Beach in Venice, the Original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica is located on the south side of the pier. You'll still find retro athletic equipment such as rings, parallel bars, balance bars, and more here—all of which you can use free of charge.
Other things to do at Santa Monica Beach
Shop at Third Street Promenade
This open-air, pedestrian-only shopping destination is a fun activity for those looking to take a break from the beach. Noted for its weekly farmers market, Third Street Promenade is also a great place to watch street performers and check out local eateries.
Go on a self-guided art tour
There are more than 70 museums and art galleries in Santa Monica, so not stopping by at least one of them would be a missed opportunity. Don’t want to go indoors to check out the art? No problem at all; public art and sculptures are also aplenty on Santa Monica’s streets.
Visit Heal the Bay Aquarium
Right under the historic pier carousel, you’ll find the Heal the Bay Aquarium. As a part of Santa Monica’s Heal the Bay Initiative, the aquarium aims to educate and inspire visitors to take better care of the environment through interactive exhibits and hands-on presentations.
Santa Monica Beach Hotels
Sea Blue Hotel
Location: 1670 Ocean Avenue
Price: From $120
This boutique hotel is located only half a mile away from the Santa Monica Pier, making it a prime place to stay. The Sea Blue Hotel features a private courtyard with beach access and is close to several other Los Angeles attractions.
The Huntley Hotel Santa Monica Beach
Location: 1111 Second Street
Price: From $160
The Huntley Hotel is within a five-minute walking distance of Third Street Promenade and the path to Santa Monica State Beach. Offering a modern twist on classic beachside luxury, this Santa Monica hotel boasts plenty of amenities such as rooms with ocean views, rooftop dining, pillowtop bed with Egyptian-cotton linens, and other wonderful treats.
Shutters on the Beach
Location: 1 Pico Boulevard
Price: From $525
Only a select few hotels provide the same level of all-around luxury as Shutters on the Beach. This hotel in Santa Monica features two oceanfront restaurants, a spa, breathtaking interiors, an outdoor pool, and sweeping coastal views. We don’t know about you, but we’re already swooning at the thought of stepping out onto our waterfront balcony and listening to the crashing waves of Santa Monica Beach.
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