Santa Monica Beach from above; people on the sand lounging and playing; waves crashing

Santa Monica Beach Guide

Located just west of Downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica beach is a prime example of the famed Southern California beaches. With large expanses of beach, bike trails and other nearby activities, Santa Monica Beach has everything you’re looking for:

  • Plenty of space–3.5 miles long
  • Soft, sandy shores for little feet
  • Walkable to hotels, shops and restaurants
  • Offers a variety of activities and attractions

Remember: Santa Monica beach is not a dog beach. Leashed dogs are permitted along the boardwalk.

Navigating Santa Monica Pier

In the middle of the beach, extending from Colorado Boulevard 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.

Because the beach in Santa Monica is quite long, locals have divided it into two sections: north of the pier (read more directly below) and south of the pier.

Getting there

Santa Monica 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.

Hanging out

The Annenberg Community Beach House is at the far north end of the beach, with houses and parking lots running along the Pacific Coast Highway to the Santa Monica Pier. Hang out long enough and you might even catch a jaw-dropping Santa Monica sunset.

Playing together

The North Beach Playground is universally accessible, offering barrier-free equipment for increased maneuvering space plus accessible surfaces and paths. Sensory play elements for touching and hearing, swings, slides and climbing equipment inspire activity, mobility and imagination.

North and 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) and Carousel Park are located just south of the Santa Monica Pier, along with Shutters on the Beach and Hotel Casa del Mar.

hotel casa del mar
Man swinging through gymnastic rings on Santa Monica Beach
parking santa monica
Convenient & accessible

Parking at the Beach

Parking is available on the street or in the eight main lots available along the length of Santa Monica Beach. The beach is open from sunrise to sunset, so arrive as early as possible to snag a spot! Costs can range from $6 to $15 per day, and many lots offer electric plug-in options.

  • 2 lots are available north of Santa Monica Pier and the Annenberg Community Beach House.
  • 1 lot is available at the Santa Monica Pier, on the upper Pier deck.
  • 5 lots are available south of the Santa Monica Pier.

Real-time parking information and a downloadable app are available through the City of Santa Monica.

Beach Accessible Wheelchairs

There are six points along Santa Monica Beach with wheelchair-accessible pathways to the water. Read our Accessible Guide to Santa Monica to view local destinations that provide easy access for locals and visitors. Download the Santa Monica Disabilities Commission brochure.

santa monica accessible beaches
accessible beaches

Go by bus

Big Blue Bus day passes can be purchased online. View more information about fares and payment options. 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)

Go by car

Driving to the beach is a popular choice, 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)

Go by plane

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).

Walk or Bike to the Beach

Whether you’re 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 along the beach.

On the north side of the beach, pedestrian access is available at Colorado Boulevard, Montana Avenue, Idaho Street, Arizona Avenue, and Broadway Avenue.

South of the pier, nearly all east/west streets lead directly to the beach.

santa monica pier
biking trails

Popular entry points close to beach parking lots include:

  • Bicknell Ave.
  • Ocean Park Blvd.

Look for wooden walkways on the 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. Many bike rental and tour options are available throughout the city.

marvin baude bike trail

Eating at the Beach

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.

Browse Beach Restaurants

View All Santa Monica Restaurants

The Annenberg Community Beach House features spectacular views, a kids’ play area/splash pad and a historic pool. The Marion Davies Guest House offers docent tours, classes and rentals. Catch breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Back on the Beach Café. Open to all with no membership required, this facility is one of the reasons Santa Monica is considered one of LA’s nicest beaches!

June through September, parking reservations can be made online at Reserve Santa Monica, 1 to 3 days ahead.

annenberg community beach house pool
annenberg community beach house

Soak up the sun

Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals (multiple locations) and Back on the Beach both offer a beach butler service with lounge chairs and a variety of other amenities. Check with your hotel on securing your spot on the beach or visit their websites for more information.

Pump some iron

Santa Monica beach is home to Original Muscle Beach (not the weightlifting kind–that’s Venice Beach) featuring gymnastic equipment. Here, you’ll find parallel bars, rings, swings and ropes available for kids and adults.

Play some ball

As the birthplace of beach volleyball, the sport continues to be a popular activity. 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. Santa Monica is proud to host beach volleyball for the 2028 Olympic games.

Getting Around the Beach

The Marvin Braude Beach Trail (locally called “the Strand” or South Bay Bicycle Trail) is a 22-mile paved trail and biking path that starts in Santa Monica and finishes at the Torrance County Beach.

Just off Bay Street, rentals and lessons are available for beginners who want to learn more about Santa Monica surfing. Here’s a list of city-authorized surf instructors. Don’t forget to check out rental options for paddleboards and boogie boards!

marvin braude trail
surfing santa monica

Santa Monica Beach Rules

Santa Monica Beach has rules to ensure everyone visiting the beach has a fun and safe experience.

  • 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 not on the beach or in the water.
  • No tents or camping on the beach.
  • No alcohol is permitted on the beach.
  • Sport fishing licenses are not required when fishing from the Santa Monica Pier.
  • No glass is permitted on the beach.
The Original Muscle Beach sign
Santa Monica Beach

Visiting in summer

Summer is the most popular season for residents and tourists to visit Santa Monica beach. If you visit Santa Monica beach in the summer, expect larger crowds, less parking, major events (like summer concerts) and an average high temperature of 19°C | 71°F.

Visiting on holidays

Fridays and Saturdays are often the busiest days at Santa Monica beach, with fewer visitors on mid-week days like Tuesday and Wednesday. Major holiday weekends at the beach can include Memorial Day (May), July 4th (July), Labor Day (September) and New Year’s Eve (December).

Visiting off-season

Santa Monica stays warm year-round, which attracts many visitors to the 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 and an average high temperature of 17°C | 65°F.

Santa Monica Beach Hotels

No other Los Angeles beach city has such a great variety of hotels overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 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.

Best Beach Hotels

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Looking to see more of Southern California’s beaches?

Several options are accessible by bike via the Marvin Braude Beach Trail.

Head north from Santa Monica to find Will Rogers State Beach and eventually Malibu: gorgeous views and cove beaches at Point Dume and El Matador Beach.

Head south from Santa Monica via the Marvin Braude Beach Trail. The trail will take you through Venice Beach, Dockweiler Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach before ending at Torrance Beach.

Blogs

Discover Santa Monica

Explore itineraries, local tips, hot spots and curated adventures to make sure you get the most out of your Santa Monica experience.

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