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From Point Dume to the north to Palos Verdes to the south, Santa Monica Bay was once a busy shipping harbor. It’s still busy—now with recreational activities rather than industry. The city of Santa Monica, just about midway between the two points, is 20 minutes north of Los Angeles International Airport and about 30 minutes west of downtown Los Angeles. In 2009, the Santa Monica Pier celebrates 100 years (in various incarnations) and is located where Highway 1 (or Pacific Coast Highway) and Highway 2 (formerly Route 66, now Santa Monica Boulevard) meet.
Santa Monica Accommodations
We recommend lodging near the beach, since Santa Monica’s best activities are located within walking distance. Informal yet elegant, a great place to stay is the JW Marriott Le Merigot Beach Hotel & Spa. The luxury Shutters Beach Hotel is right on the beach, overlooking the Santa Monica Pier and is well-known for its Saturday and Sunday brunches. The Sheraton Delfina Hotel is a stylish hotel with a pool and private cabanas. Within about a mile of the ocean and featuring bargain rates for the area is the Best Western Gateway Hotel Santa Monica .
To view the wide selection of hotels in Santa Monica for your beach vacation enter the dates of your stay in the Hotel Search search box on this page.
Feeling adventurous? Really adventurous? We’re talking insects and worms! Typhoon restaurant serves ants, crickets, scorpions and sea worms. The bonus is that the restaurant is located in the heart of the Santa Monica airport! If you’re looking to relax by a fire over the Pacific Ocean, the Mariasol restaurant, at the end of the Santa Monica Pier, has fire pits in a lounge area. Put your order in for a margarita and Mexican food. A haven for local Anglophiles, British residents and visitors alike, is Ye Olde King’s Head Pub. There’s always a party here, often a great chance to do some star gazing.
Walking south of the pier, the Santa Monica Boardwalk has vendors and stores for souvenirs. Main Street is full of small shops and coffee houses. Check out ZJ Boardinghouse for all your Surf - Snow - Sk8 boarding needs. It’s easy to spend an entire day on Third Street Promenade with dozens of shops, vendor carts, performers and restaurants. On Wednesday and Saturdays, from 8:30a.m. to 1:30p.m., there is a giant Farmer’s Market selling fresh produce of California. For a more peaceful shopping experience, the Ocean Park Boulevard neighborhood galleries and boutiques offer art and clothing. Follow Wilshire Boulevard east from the beach for about 15 minutes into the ultra-expensive shopping district of Beverly Hills.
Billed as Southern California’s largest art gallery, Bergamot Station has about 40 galleries and the Santa Monica Museum of Art. A 15-minute drive inland will land you at the magnificent Getty Center, a must-see for anyone visiting the Los Angeles area.
Almost all of Santa Monica’s recreation revolves around its pier. No exception is the vintage carousel and Pacific Park, an amusement park including a solar-powered Ferris wheel and the Sig Alert electric bumper cars, named for the California Highway Patrol’s designation of major traffic jams. At the end of the pier, go to the Santa Monica Bait and Tackle to rent equipment to fish off the pier. There are several places both on the pier and the adjoining boardwalk to rent skates, rollerblades or a bicycle. Take off on the South Bay Bicycle Trail; it goes about a mile north of the pier and 20 miles south to Redondo Beach. Join one of the volleyball games on Santa Monica Beach, both north and south of the pier. Will Rogers State Park and the adjoining Santa Monica Mountains offer hiking trails for all levels. During the months of March through August, a favorite late night activity and a fabulous night view of the pier, head north to Topanga State Beach for the Grunion Runs – small, sardine-size fish that mate on the shore and sparkle in the moonlight. Los Angeles County provides Lifeguard services to Santa Monica Beaches. Check with lifeguards prior to your ocean adventure. Locations for allowable activities (including surfing and skimboarding) can change due to water and surf conditions and signs aren’t always obvious. The beaches in and around Santa Monica can get quite crowded during the summer months, sometimes it seems the population of Los Angeles County has decided to visit for the day. Swimming is the primary activity (next to sunbathing!), so it is difficult to navigate surfing unless you go very early in the day. South of the pier is most popular and you check local conditions here.
For those interested in learning to surf, try Surf The Bu. Owned by Joel Shultz, a pioneer in the surf lesson business. Joel's knowledge and experience with regard to Southern California's surf breaks are unparalleled, and he will lead you to the most secluded, beginner-friendly waves possible. In your very first lesson with Joel, you should expect to be standing up and riding not just once, but several times!
Santa Monica city’s Big Blue Buses are easy to spot and travel directly to and from Los Angeles International Airport, Union Station (Amtrak) and UCLA. The Big Blue Bus routes connect with Los Angeles city’s Metro Transit Authority’s (MTA) service.
Topanga Banjo Fiddle and Folk Festival in nearby Topanga Canyon
- June through August
Twilight Dance Series on the Santa Monica Pier