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.
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 an iconic beach in Southern California
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 they can take a leashed walk along the boardwalks.
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 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.
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. Featuring an amusement park, aquarium, and restaurants, the pier is a landmark for the beach and the city.
South of the pier
Santa Monica beach on the south side of the pier 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
If you are staying close to the beach in Santa Monica in a nearby hotel or parking at an adjacent lot, 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 are $4.00 and can be purchased online or on the bus.
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)
Learn how to go car free once you arrive.
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).
Eight main parking lots are available along the length of Santa Monica State Beach, with 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 (with the exceptions of Lot 1N which is open from 6am to 2am and the upper Pier deck lot which is open 24 hours per day).
- 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 accessible wheelchairs are available through the City of Santa Monica at four locations.
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 $50.00 per day. It’s also a great spot to grab breakfast or lunch on the beach.
Santa Monica beach is home to the 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. Numerous volleyball courts are first-come, first-served courts are situated at various locations north and south of the pier.
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 surfing Southern California. 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 ocean front walk of the Santa Monica beach are popular spots for locals and tourists. Nearby hotels, the pier and Ocean Ave. also offer a variety of restaurants, cuisines and price points.
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 offered along Ocean Ave.
Check out a list of additional Santa Monica Beach restaurants.
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-weekdays 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 ocean front 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 as 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. Immediately north of Santa Monica, before you reach Malibu, is Will Rogers State Beach, and just south of Santa Monica is Venice Beach. If you hop on the Marvin Braude Beach Trail, it will take you through Dockweiler Beach, Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach before it ends at Torrance Beach.