Party Earth Review A nearly seamless continuation of the famed Venice Beach to the south, Santa Monica Beach offers a bevy of waterfront fun to suit almost any visitor’s tastes, from intense recreation to avid shopping to burning away the... ... read full review
Bordered by the Santa Monica Pier to the south and Will Rogers State Beach to the north
Santa Monica, CA 90291
Daily 5am–midnight, curfew enforced
Pacific Park hours vary seasonally; check venue calendar
Santa Monica / Westside, Los Angeles –
A nearly seamless continuation of the famed Venice Beach to the south, Santa Monica Beach offers a bevy of waterfront fun to suit almost any visitor’s tastes, from intense recreation to avid shopping to burning away the day on 245 acres of sand.
The hundred-year-old Santa Monica Pier marks the beach’s southern edge, where a landmark sign has greeted untold thousands of daily visitors since the pier first opened in 1909. The Pier is home not only to scores of restaurants, shopping stalls, and an arcade, but also the adjoining Pacific Park amusement complex.
If an historic Ferris wheel, a roller coaster, and an aquarium don’t entice, there’s always the Pier’s trapeze school, while mellower types can pop down to the public chess tables – including a human-sized board set into the sidewalk – or join the ever-present anglers coaxing their lines into the sea.
Of course, Baywatch made this place famous for a reason, and though the lifeguards don’t really wear outfits that tiny, the rest of the three-mile expanse is awash in beach bods all year, from surfers and volleyball fanatics to bikers and joggers cruising The Strand, a 22-mile path that runs along the Pacific Coast Highway. It may not be a place to escape the crowds – although the crowds do thin out further north – but for fun in the perpetual sun and a chance to partake in a signature California adventure, it doesn’t get much better than Santa Monica Beach.
The city of Santa Monica has developed an interactive parking map with real-time updates that visitors would be wise to check before heading out. If you want to avoid the biggest tidal wave of vehicles, it’s usually better to use a parking garage a few blocks from the beach, especially on weekends.
Diverse mix of athletes, surfers, joggers, bikers, tourists of every ilk, beach bums, moneyed locals, wayward travelers, couples, kids, and more tourists. And then some more tourists. All ages.
Santa Monica Pier and adjoining Pacific Park include a roller coaster, a solar-powered Ferris wheel, a drop tower, bumper cars, and a pirate ship swing, as well as several child-friendly rides. There’s also a vintage carousel, an aquarium, an arcade, and a trapeze school on the Pier.
Anglers typically congregate at the Pier’s edge.
The beach itself offers several volleyball courts, public chess boards, and all the obvious fun in the sand and water. The Strand, a pedestrian and bike path parallel the highway, runs twenty-two miles from Will Rogers State Beach to the north to Torrance County Beach to the south.
Bike, skate, and surfboard rentals available at Perry’s Café, which operates four branches north and south of the Pier (930 Pacific Coast Highway, 1200 Pacific Coast Highway, 2400 Ocean Front Walk, and 2600 Ocean Front Walk).
There are multiple places to grab food along the beach and on the Pier itself, though those in search of less tourist-oriented fare would be wise to head further southeast to Abbott Kinney Boulevard.
Public restrooms and showers are plentiful.
Parking in the lots near the Pier can be a hassle on weekends, especially after noon.
A temporary memorial called Arlington West sets up just north of the Pier every Sunday, when from sunrise to sunset, volunteers lay crosses in the sand to represent U.S. military personnel who have died in the Iraq War.
Most beach facilities are free and operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Budget-friendly grub is easy to find at the concession stands, though food at the stands and along the Pier suffer the price bumps expected at any massively popular tourist area. Area parking ranges from $4–$15/day depending on season.
Any sunny day.
The Annenberg Community Beach House (415 Pacific Coast Highway) is a public facility that features a splash pad for the kiddies, the historic Marion Davies Guest House, museum, and event space, a gallery, a beautiful public pool, a second-story view deck, and the Back on the Beach Café.