Located just west of Downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica beach is an iconic example of the famed Southern California beaches. With few Los Angeles beach options offering both large expanses of beach, bike trails and nearby activities, Santa Monica Beach has exactly what you’re looking for. Read on to discover why Santa Monica State Beach is arguably the best beach in Los Angeles.
Tourists and visitors come to the Santa Monica State Beach because it:
- is large, at 3.5 miles in length
- has a maintained, soft sandy beach
- is within walking distance to popular hotels, shops and restaurants
- offers a variety of activities and attractions
- is just a short 16-mile distance from Los Angeles to Santa Monica Beach
- Is less than an hour’s metro ride from DTLA
- is an iconic beach in Southern California and home to the Santa Monica Pier
Santa Monica Beach basics
Because the beach in Santa Monica is long (3.5 miles in length) it is helpful to divide the beach into two sections: north of the pier and south of the pier. Keep in mind that the beach in Santa Monica is not a dog beach, although leashed dogs are permitted along the boardwalk.
North of the pier
Santa Monica State Beach on the north side of the pier is separated from the city by the palisades (an ocean bluff) and the Pacific Coast Highway. A series of bridges, walkways and stairs provide access to the beach from the city.
The North Beach Playground is universally accessible, offering barrier-free equipment for increased maneuvering space, and accessible surfaces and paths. Sensory play elements such as touching, feeling, and hearing are utilized as well as swings, slides, and climbing equipment to inspire activity, mobility, and imagination in all children. These features make it one of the best beaches in LA for young children.
Santa Monica Pier
In the middle of the beach, extending from Colorado Blvd and the center of Santa Monica is the Santa Monica Pier. The pier is a landmark for the beach and the city, featuring an amusement park, aquarium, shopping, restaurants, and more.
South of the pier
On the south side of the pier, Santa Monica Beach is level with the city, with parking lots, parks, homes and hotels bordering the beach.
The Original Muscle Beach (featuring gymnastics equipment), International Chess Park and Carousel Park are located just south of the Santa Monica Pier, along with Shutters on the Beach and Hotel Casa del Mar.
Getting to the beach in Santa Monica
Walking & biking
Whether you are staying at a nearby hotel, parking your car in the city for the day, or taking the Metro in from Downtown Los Angeles, walking or biking to the beach is quick and easy. Paved and lighted paths, clear signage, accessible walkways, and bike lanes are available the length of the beach.
On the north side of the beach, pedestrian access is available at:
- Colorado Blvd.
- Montana Ave.
- Idaho St.
- Arizona Ave.
- Broadway Ave.
South of the pier, nearly all east/west streets lead directly to the beach. Popular entry points are close to beach parking lots at:
- Bicknell Ave.
- Ocean Park Blvd.
Look for wooden walkways on the Santa Monica State Beach to help haul gear. Find them just south of the Pier at Crescent Bay Park, at Bay Street and Arcadia Terrace. Walkways also extend adjacent to the Pier, and at the Annenberg Community Beach House.
For beachfront biking, the Marvin Braude Beach Trail runs from Pacific Palisades to Torrance. If you want to ride on the Marvin Braude bike trail during your visit, a number of bike rental and tour options are available throughout the city.
The Big Blue Bus operates several routes that stop at or near the Santa Monica beach:
- Route 1 (from UCLA / Venice Beach)
- Rapid 3 (from LAX)
- Rapid 7 (from West LA / Wilshire)
- Rapid 10 (from Downtown LA)
Big Blue Bus day passes can be purchased online, click here to see more information about fares and payment options.
Driving to the beach is a popular choice for many Southern California residents looking for Los Angeles beaches but roads can be very busy during the summer or holiday weekends.
Major routes for getting to the Santa Monica State Beach include:
- I-10 (from Downtown LA)
- Santa Monica Blvd. (from West LA)
- Pacific Coast Highway / US 1 (from Santa Barbara / Malibu)
- Lincoln Blvd. / US 1 (from Venice / LAX)
Traveling From LAX
Santa Monica beach is only 8 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
- By car, exit the airport and take Lincoln Blvd. / US 1 north to Santa Monica.
- By public transportation, take the Big Blue Bus (Route 3 or Rapid 3 towards Santa Monica).
Find parking in the eight main parking lots that are available along the length of Santa Monica State Beach, or at the on-street parking for Santa Monica State Beach available nearby. Real-time parking information and a downloadable app are available through the City of Santa Monica. Many parking lots offer electric plug-in options as well.
Santa Monica beach parking lots are:
- open from sunrise to sunset (get there early to snag a spot!)
- can range from $6 to $15 per day
- located north of Santa Monica Pier (2 lots, including the Annenberg Community Beach House)
- located at the Santa Monica Pier (upper Pier deck lot)
- located south of the Santa Monica Pier (5 lots)
Beach Accessible Wheelchairs
Beach/all-terrain wheelchair rentals are available at Heal the Bay Aquarium and through the City of Santa Monica at four locations: Annenberg Community Beach House and three Perry's Café & Beach Rentals locations. All locations offer manual wheelchairs and two Perry's locations offer electric wheelchair rentals (1200 Ocean Front Walk and 2400 Ocean Front Walk). There are six points along Santa Monica State Beach with wheelchair-accessible pathways to the water. Read our Accessible Guide to Santa Monica to view Santa Monica locations and attractions that provide convenient and easy accessibility for locals and visitors.
Click here to download the Santa Monica Disabilities Commission brochure - a resource for people with disabilities in Santa Monica.
What to do at Santa Monica beach
Annenberg Community Beach House
The Annenberg Community Beach House features spectacular views, a children's play area/splash pad and a historic pool, and Marion Davies Guest House offering docent tours as well as classes and rentals. It is a public facility, open to all with no membership required. This unique place is one of the reasons why Santa Monica is considered one of LA's nicest beaches! Back on the Beach Café is also on-site and offers beachfront breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
June through September parking reservations can be made online at Reserve Santa Monica, one to three days in advance.
Beachgoing in Santa Monica
Sitting, playing and sunbathing are popular activities at the beach. A wide expanse of soft sand offers room for large summer crowds of residents and tourists.
Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals (a beach rental and local restaurant on the sand with multiple locations) offers a beach butler service with lounge chairs, a small table, an umbrella, a little cooler with 2 bottles of water and a wind guard for $50 per day. It’s also a great spot to grab breakfast or lunch on the beach.
Santa Monica beach is home to Original Muscle Beach (not the weightlifting kind, that’s Venice Beach) featuring gymnastic equipment including parallel bars, rings, swings and ropes are available for kids and adults.
Beach volleyball is also a popular activity at the beach in Santa Monica. Volleyball courts are located at various locations north and south of the pier and are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Marvin Braude Beach Trail (known to locals as "The Strand" or South Bay Bicycle Trail) is a 22 mile long, paved trail and biking path that starts in Santa Monica and finishes at the Torrance County Beach. Rent a bicycle and enjoy one of the many biking paths near Santa Monica State Beach.
Surfing and Paddleboarding
A sandy beach break, a spread-out lineup (the waves are not too crowded) just off of Bay St. and rentals/lessons offer beginners an introduction into Santa Monica surfing in Southern California. Check out rental options for paddleboards and boogie boards as well! View City of Santa Monica authorized surf instructors.
Attractions at Santa Monica Beach
The Santa Monica Pier, International Chess Park and Carousel Park are easy to find and centrally located on the beach.
Eating at the Beach in Santa Monica
Picnic areas and parks along the oceanfront walk of the Santa Monica beach are popular spots for locals and tourists. Nearby hotels, the pier and Ocean Ave. and Main St. also offer a variety of restaurants, cuisines, and price points, all within walking distance of the beach.
Popular restaurants near the beach include:
- Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals
- Back on the Beach
- Catch (at the Hotel Casa del Mar)
- Coast (at Shutters on the Beach)
- Santa Monica Pier and boardwalk (numerous options)
- Additional locations are offered along Ocean Ave. and Main St.
Check out a list of additional Santa Monica Beach restaurants.
Santa Monica Beach Rules
Santa Monica Beach has rules to ensure everyone visiting the beach has a safe time. A few of those rules are the following:
- No beach use when the area is closed
- No generators or inflatable structures on the beach
- No loud and unreasonable noise
- Do not use any equipment for exercise that is not designated for exercise use
- Leashed dogs are permitted on the boardwalk, but no dogs on the beach or in the water
- No tents or camping on the beach
- No alcohol is permitted on Santa Monica Beach
- No sport fishing license is required when fishing from the Santa Monica Pier
- No glass is permitted on the beach
When to go to Santa Monica State beach
The summer season is the most popular time for residents and tourists to visit Santa Monica beach.
If you visit Santa Monica beach in the summer, expect:
- larger crowds
- less available parking
- major events including summer concerts
- average high temperature of 19°C | 71°F.
Days / Holidays
Fridays and Saturdays are often the busiest days at Santa Monica beach, with fewer visitors on mid-week days such as Tuesday and Wednesday.
Major holiday weekends at the beach can include:
- Memorial Day (May)
- July 4th (July)
- Labor Day (September)
- New Year’s Eve (December)
Off-peak at Santa Monica Beach
Santa Monica stays warm year-round, which attracts many visitors to the Santa Monica beach and oceanfront walk during the spring, fall and winter months.
If you visit Santa Monica beach during off-peak times, expect:
- small to medium crowds
- more available parking
- average high temperature of 17°C | 65°F.
Staying at Santa Monica Beach Hotels
No other Los Angeles beach city has such a great variety of hotels overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Read our guide to staying near Santa Monica Beach. Great accommodations are one of the many reasons that Santa Monica Beach is considered by many to be a great beach in Los Angeles’s greater area.
Nearby Southern California Beaches
If you're looking to see more of Southern California's beaches in addition to Santa Monica State Beach, there are several nearby options that are easily accessible via the Marvin Braude Beach Trail. If you head north from Santa Monica, you’ll reach Will Rogers State Beach and eventually Malibu where you’ll discover gorgeous views and cove beaches at Point Dume and El Matador Beach. If you have a bike, you can head south from Santa Monica by hopping on the Marvin Braude Beach Trail which will take you through Venice Beach, Dockweiler Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach before ending at Torrance Beach.