Anchoring the Westside of Los Angeles County, Santa Monica is a beachfront city popular with tourists for its expansive beach and its famous pier, which are among the most popular coastal attractions in Southern California. Within the city, visitors will find a number of urban shopping districts and plenty of restaurants and nightlife.
Santa Monica developed as a seaside retreat at the turn of the 20th century. The railroad owners built the first version of the amusement park on Santa Monica pier as an attraction to fill empty train seats on weekends. Santa Monica grew into an urban, eclectic, and prosperous beach city whose real estate values are amongst the most pricey in the world. Santa Monica is a very desirable city whose people are drawn to its accessibility and its progressiveness as a community. Today, Santa Monica is a mixture of very affluent, single-family neighborhoods, renters drawn by the high quality of life, lifelong surfers, young professionals and students.
Tourists visiting the Los Angeles region will find Santa Monica one of the best situated locations to base their trip. There are plenty of hotel, restaurant and entertainment options, as well as close accessibility to major sights like Venice Beach, Malibu and Beverly Hills. Visitors can also take advantage of the beach cities' moderate climate; during the summer and fall, as the mercury soars to 100 °F (38 °C) in the San Fernando Valley and 90 °F (32 °C) downtown, Santa Monica usually remains at a very comfortable 75 °F (24 °C).
Santa Monica has three Visitor Information Centers[dead link] that feature experienced Travel Counselors, foreign language line, tickets to area attractions and free visitor information on attractions, hotels, dining, museums, galleries and entertainment.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
Santa Monica sits at the western terminus of the 10 (Santa Monica) Freeway, about 20 miles west of downtown Los Angeles and 7 miles north of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The city is roughly bounded by Centinela Blvd to the east, Ocean Park Blvd to the south, San Vicente Blvd to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
The tourist center of Santa Monica is the downtown area near the famous Santa Monica Pier, which was once the western end of historic Route 66. By car, take the 10 Freeway to the 4th/5th Street exit, then head left toward the ocean. From the north, turn left off the Pacific Coast Highway (California 1) at the California Incline, which deposits you just a few blocks north of the pier.
By public transit
The county-wide Metro public transit agency offers service to Santa Monica from throughout the Los Angeles region. Santa Monica is the western terminus for the Metro Rail Expo Line, which runs out to Culver City, Exposition Park, and onward to Downtown LA. The line ends in Downtown Santa Monica at Colorado Avenue and 4th Street, just a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier. Prominent Metro bus lines to Santa Monica include the 20/720 via Wilshire Boulevard from Downtown LA and the 04/704 via Sunset Boulevard and Santa Monica Boulevard from Union Station in Downtown LA. Lines 720 and 704 are Rapid lines which stop only at major intersections, making them faster than their local-stop counterparts 20 and 04 (however, the 20 and 04 run later into the evening). Service tends to be every 10 to 20 minutes. Metro fare is $1.75.
Santa Monica is also served by its own Big Blue Bus, which runs bus lines to surrounding neighborhoods such as Venice Beach and West Los Angeles, as well as an express line to Downtown LA (requires extra fare). Local fare is $1.25, with a day pass costing $4, both of which can be purchased from the driver onboard the bus. The reusable TAP card is good on both Metro and Big Blue Bus.
If you are arriving via LAX, you and your luggage can access the Santa Monica Downtown area for $1.25 by taking airport shuttle C and asking the driver to let you off closest to the stop for Big Blue Bus line 3. Once you step off the shuttle, exit the lot, and turn right, and look for a blue triangular-shaped sign at the corner of the street. Buses arrive every 15-20 minutes on weekdays, and every 15-30 minutes on weekends; this is a regular route, the fare is $1.25. Also, Big Blue Bus line 3 connects Santa Monica to the Los Angeles light rail Green Line at Aviation Station.
Many of Santa Monica's tourist destinations are within easy walking distance of each other. The city Big Blue Bus system operates a number of lines that link not only places within the city, but also neighboring Brentwood, Westwood and Venice Beach, making Santa Monica one of the relatively few places in Los Angeles where one needn't drive to get around. Traffic is very heavy in the downtown area, and during rush hour and weekends the city's main arterial streets (Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, Lincoln Blvd) are choked with cars. Santa Monica also has a fairly extensive bike share system, Breeze, with bike stations throughout Santa Monica and adjacent Venice Beach.
♿Both the Big Blue Bus & Metro Rapid (Red Bus) fleets include pneumatic wheelchair ramps & chair anchor points. Most stations are level and paved and stops are pre-announced (audio & visual). Fares for passengers with a disability are at 50%.
Throughout Santa Monica there are numerous pieces of public art to discover. From large murals to huge sculptures, there are almost 40 of these to check out.
- 1 Bergamot Station Arts Center, 2525 Michigan Ave, ☏ . M 9AM-4PM, Tu-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-5PM (Individual galleries may have different hours). Over 30 art galleries, including the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Free.
- 2 Museum of Flying, 3100 Airport Ave (at Santa Monica Airport (KSMO)), ☏ . F-Su 10AM-5PM. Centered around artifacts from the Douglas Aircraft Company, which used to manufacture iconic aircraft like the DC-3 at the Santa Monica Airport. It includes many aircraft in static display, from a replica Wright Flyer to World War II fighters to the microjet which appeared in the James Bond film Octopussy. "Rides" in a full-motion flight simulator are $8 each. Adult $10.
- 3 View Decks at Santa Monica Airport (KSMO), 3223 Donald Douglas Loop South (On the north and south sides of the Administration Building), ☏ . dawn-dusk, daily. Open air-decks with picnic tables. Watch and photograph the airplanes as they come and go at the airport. Listen to Air Traffic Control on loudspeakers. Bring a picnic lunch. Also, Clover Park, at the corner of 25th Street and Ocean Park Boulevard, has a viewing area with a telescope focused on the runway. Free.
- 1 Santa Monica Pier (Ocean Front Walk At Seaside Terrace). A bustling boardwalk whose huge Ferris Wheel is the city's icon, with terrific coastline views of Malibu and the Southbay. The long pier holds Pacific Park, an old-fashioned amusement park with reasonable by-the-ride pricing, including a small roller coaster and the Ferris wheel. The Pier has restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and some street performers. At almost all hours you'll find at least a few people fishing as well. The Pier is within easy walking distance to the Promenade.
- 2 Santa Monica Beach. A large, wide, beautiful beach on either side of the pier. Perry's rents bikes and roller blades or bring your own for use on the world famous strand that links all of the Westside beach cities. For some of the best people watching in the world, follow the strand south a couple of miles to Venice Beach. Hire a bike or skates and travel along the cycle path (there are a number of shops to hire from around and on the pier).
- 3 Third Street Promenade (several blocks of Third Street). A very successful Urban mall project: a vibrant, outdoor street full of restaurants, movie theaters, shopping, bookstores, and bars. Those who enjoy street performances will be impressed by the quality of musicians, dancers, and others. The Promenade is located only three blocks from the beach, the Promenade is one of L.A.'s most popular places to "hang out" for people of all ages.
- 4 Twilight Dance Series (on the Santa Monica Pier). Thursday evenings in summer, starting at 7:30PM. The Twilight Dance Series is a free concert series that has been running since 1983. Acts range from rock to reggae to folk and have included artists such as the Indigo Girls, Patti Smith, Los Lobos, Dick Dale and others. There is no organized seating, so arrive early to stake out a spot and bring something soft to sit on since the pier can be hard (note that once concerts start most people end up standing). Free.
- 5 Trapeze School New York (TSNY) (Santa Monica Pier), ☏ . 7 days a week. Trapeze School New York at Santa Monica Pier is a school of flying trapeze and aerial arts open to the public and for all skill levels and ages. Also offered are corporate workshops, events and parties, birthday parties and performance workshops. $47-65.
Santa Monica like the rest of the LA area is very cosmopolitan and attracts a lot of tourist shopping dollars.
- 1 Montana Avenue (between 7th and 17th streets). This area is relatively free of major national chains but is full of quaint but expensive local boutiques and cafes.
- 2 Third Street Promenade. A completely pedestrianized street that is the region's most popular shopping destination. Though chain stores have pushed out independent ones, it is the vibrant street life that distinguishes Third Street from the rest.
- 3 Santa Monica Place, 395 Santa Monica Pl (at the south end of the Third Street Promenade). An indoor-outdoor mall that was extensively remodeled in 2010. It houses a variety of restaurants, shops, and pavilions. A large parking garage is attached with reasonable hourly rates.
- 4 Main Street. From Pico Blvd to Navy Street, Main Street shopping is similar to Montana Ave in that it celebrates the independent retailer. Main Street also has its fair share of excellent restaurants and bars. Heritage Square on Main Street is home to the widely popular, family-friendly Sunday Farmer's Market.
|This page uses the following price ranges for a typical meal for one, including soft drink:|
|Mid-range||$10 - $20|
Very diverse food selection, from high-end cuisine to burgers and tacos.
- 1 Bay Cities Italian Deli, 1517 Lincoln Blvd, ☏ . Some of the best sandwiches on the west side. There will be a long wait during peak hours, so browse the authentic Italian market after you take your number, or go online, view the menu, and call in your order in advance.
- 2 Bagel Nosh Deli, 1629 Wilshire Blvd, ☏ . M-F 6:30AM-2:30PM, Sa Su 7:30AM-3PM. Serving breakfast, lunch, and hand-rolled bagels since 1978.
- 3 Snug Harbor, 2323 Wilshire Blvd, ☏ . 6AM-3PM. A great breakfast place! A small "hole in the wall" with a relaxed atmosphere and competent service, you'll find many locals trying to wake up on Saturdays and Sundays. Offering up traditional bacon and eggs with a twist the food is fresh and good. Meat lovers should try Uncle Zeke's scramble.
- 4 Tacos Por Favor, 1406 Olympic Blvd, ☏ . M-Sa 8AM-8PM, closed Sundays. Fresh, cooked to order Mexican food in a taqueria atmosphere. It features good tacos and an excellent chicken mole burrito. Don't miss the pickled carrots and jalepeños in the salsa bar.
- 5 Rae's Restaurant, 2901 Pico Blvd, ☏ . Daily 6:30AM-4PM. Cheap, hearty diner food. Breakfast and lunch only. Quentin Tarantino fans may recognize the interior from Reservoir Dogs, or the exterior from True Romance.
- 6 Blue Plate, 1415 Montana Ave, ☏ . Blue Plate is a small, cozy neighborhood eatery that serves great American comfort food. Located in the heart of Montana Avenue, Blue Plate is close to many hip boutiques and is a great rest stop after a day of shopping. An added plus: the menu is kid-friendly, offering healthy items for kids as well as organic baby food. The turkey meatballs and mac 'n cheese are a must-try. Menu items range from $10-15.
- 7 El Cholo, 1025 Wilshire Blvd (11th and Wilshire). A Los Angeles institution and this Santa Monica branch offers great margaritas and wonderful traditional Mexican food. The green corn tamales, available from May to October each year, are a specialty.
- 8 Solidarity Restaurant, 1414 Lincoln Blvd, ☏ . Authentic Polish food can be found on Lincoln with a signature dish of roast duck. They have a fantastic outdoor patio in the back where you can get a great vodka martini.
- 9 The Lobster, 1602 Ocean Ave (Colorado Blvd & the Santa Monica Pier), ☏ . One of the few restaurants in Santa Monica that has a view of the Pacific Ocean. Located at the Eastern end of the Santa Monica Pier, The Lobster provides good seafood dishes, great cocktails and a little bit of a scene. While a little noisy and on the expensive side (from $120 for two with alcohol), the food, fun and view can make it worthwhile.
- 10 Michael's, 1147 Third St. Along with Chez Panisse in Berkeley, lead the nouvelle cuisine movement. Using fresh vegetables from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, locally caught fish and excellent meats every dish is sublime. While not cheap, a meal at Michael's does not disappoint.
- 11 Melisse, 1104 Wilshire Blvd, ☏ . Also featuring organic, locally grown produce and two tasting menus (including a vegetarian version), Melisse is Chef Josiah Citrin latest world class restaurant. The food is outstanding and gets the highest marks in Zagat and Michelin. $100 per person at a minimum.
- 12 Ocean and Vine, 1700 Ocean Ave. Chic restaurant and lounge at Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel. "farm-to-table" approach, California cuisine.
- 13 The Penthouse, 1111 Second St, ☏ . A rooftop Santa Monica restaurant located on the 18th floor of The Huntley Hotel. Offers a bar and lounge and panoramic ocean views. Menu features contemporary American cuisine with global influences from Asia and Brazil. Serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Happy Hour Monday through Friday from 4 to 7PM. Also available for private events.
Santa Monica offers over 50 Happy Hour[dead link] specials all over town, from dive bars to the high end hotels.
Because LA and specifically the west side of LA are famous the world over for their night life, going out and drinking in Santa Monica is expensive, normal prices for a domestic beer are $5 and martinis frequently range over $15. The bars listed below are sorted by type and not price:
- 1 Fathers Office, 1018 Montana Ave (near 10th & Montana), ☏ . Excellent burgers in this popular pub. Offers beers from over 20 different micro-breweries, a nice wine selection, but alas no full bar. The other downside is that its a small space and very popular so long lines quickly spring up. Don't try to change any of the items on the burger - it's their way or the highway. For fun, try to sneak in ketchup.
- 2 Britannia Pub, 318 Santa Monica Blvd (near 3rd Street Promenade), ☏ . Small but very friendly Brit style pub, popular with locals and budget travelers. Good and cheap snacks and meals.
- 3 Circle Bar, 2926 Main St, ☏ , [email protected]. This is a deep dark space that as you would imagine has a circular bar, popular with the twenty-something I-drink-too-much crowd.
- 4 O'Brien's Irish Pub, 2941 Main St, ☏ . This is your typical Irish pub, but big! It has 4 parts really. The outside patio, the front seating area, the bar, and the back room with the stage. There is almost always live music on the stage, ranging from punk rock bands to acoustic sing-alongs.
- 5 Cock N Bull Pub, 2947 Lincoln Blvd, ☏ . Referred to as "the most OG English bar in LA" by espn's page 2, the Cock and Bull Serves typical British pub fair, has a wide array of beer on tap, and authentic British bar tenders. Although it can be quiet on the week nights this bar rapidly fills up when ever a quality soccer (football to the rest of the world) match or rugby game is on the TV, regardless of what time it is on, during the World Cup lines started forming at 4AM.
- 6 Wokcano, 1413 5th St (near Third Street), ☏ . Wokcano offers indoor and outdoors seating in a cosmopolitan atmosphere.
- 7 Ye Olde Kings Head (Kings Head), 132 Santa Monica Blvd, ☏ . British style pub that is a notable hangout for tourists, celebrities and locals. Favorite amongst local Brits to watch football and play pub quiz on Tuesdays. Has excellent fish and chips.
- 8 Library Ale House, 2911 Main St. Carries lots of interesting beer on tap. Food is mid-scale pub style.
- 9 V Lounge, 2020 Wilshire Blvd (20th & Wilshire), ☏ . Santa Monica's largest dance club, with a huge sunken dance floor. DJs spin pulsating Top 40, hip-hop, R&B and rock, with a down-to-earth crowd who wants to avoid the hassle of the Hollywood scene.
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Mid-range||$100 - $200|
- 1 Bayside Hotel, 2001 Ocean Ave, ☏ , toll-free: . $75-140.
- 2 Ocean Park Inn, 2452 Lincoln Blvd, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . $70-85.
- 3 HI Los Angeles/Santa Monica, 1436 Second St (on 2nd Street between Santa Monica Blvd and Broadway), ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Hostel/backpacker style accommodation. 200 beds, clean, safe, plenty of activities. Linen incl. towel provided, the bed is even made for you From $30.
- 4 Palm Motel, 2020 14th St, ☏ , fax: . $65-95.
- 5 Seaview Hotel, 1760 Ocean Ave, ☏ . A 1950s art deco gem one block from the ocean. The rooms are upgraded with fresh colors, cozy fibers and trendy furniture. Each room includes free wireless, flat screen TV's and free maid service. $88-125.
- 6 Best Western Gateway Hotel, 1920 Santa Monica Blvd, ☏ , fax: . $90-160.
- 7 Ocean View Hotel Santa Monica, 1447 Ocean Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . $100-250.
- 8 Wyndam Santa Monica, 120 Colorado Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . Hotel is quaint, comfortable and some rooms have a partial ocean view. $180-280.
- 9 Sheraton Delfina, 530 Pico Blvd, ☏ .
- 10 Ambrose Hotel, 1255 20th St, ☏ . While 20 blocks from the beach, the Ambrose Hotel offers great style and comfort for less than the large beach-front hotels. Very convenient if visiting someone at St. John's Santa Monica Hospital. From $175.
- 11 Hotel Casa del Mar, 1910 Ocean Way, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: , [email protected]. One of the only hotels in Santa Monica that is directly on the Beach and has prices that reflect this rare amenity. Share pools, spas, etc. with Shutters.
- 12 The Fairmont, 101 Wilshire Blvd, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . A great hotel, but it only has ocean views. $290-730.
- 13 The Huntley, 1111 Second St, ☏ . A luxury hotel featuring a business center, fitness facilities, concierge service, and fine dining at The Penthouse.
- 14 JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot, 1740 Ocean Ave, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . $300-1200.
- 15 Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, 1700 Ocean Ave. A beachfront resort overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
- 16 Viceroy Hotel, 1819 Ocean Ave, ☏ , toll-free: . The Viceroy Hotel is perfect for travellers who are seeking an ultra-hip experience and don't have any budget restrictions. One block from the beach, the Viceroy still is able to command more than $300 per night because of its status as "One of the 50 hottest hotels in the world". From $300.
- 17 The Georgian Hotel, 1415 Ocean Ave, ☏ . The Georgian Hotel is an Art Deco classic that dates back to the 1920s. Rooms are smaller and prices are not cheap, but it is a great place to stay. $200-400.
- 18 Hotel Shangri-La, 1301 Ocean Ave, ☏ . The Shangri-la Hotel has huge rooms, ocean views, and free parking for guests.
- 19 Shutters on the Beach, 1 Pico Blvd, ☏ , toll-free: , fax: . One of the only hotels in Santa Monica that is on the beach. Share pools, spas, etc., with Casa del Mar. From $450.
- 20 Oceana Santa Monica, 849 Ocean Ave, ☏ . Oceana Santa Monica is a boutique hotel featuring a restaurant open only to guests.
Crime rates in and around the tourist areas are relatively low, thanks to an increased police presence and "neighborhood watch" campaign by business owners. While there is a large homeless population in the area, you're unlikely to be seriously bothered.
The small neighborhood around Pico Boulevard and 20th Street can be a little rough, side streets in this area are best avoided at night.
Santa Monica has several free City Wi-Fi hotspots[dead link] throughout the area.
- Brentwood. An upscale neighborhood on Santa Monica's northern border that is home to the rich and famous.
- Malibu. Just a few miles to the northwest and accessible via the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Malibu is a beach town that is home to many entertainment stars and offers great beaches, surfing and restaurants for visitors.
- Pacific Palisades. A neighboring town that is home to multi-million dollar homes set amongst the hills overlooking the ocean, as well as the J. Paul Getty Villa which features classical sculpture.
- Culver City. A neighboring city and the home of Sony Studios that has undergone a rebirth and has many food, shopping and entertainment options. Accessible by Metro's Expo Line.
- Venice. The neighboring beach town offers miles of sand, an eclectic nightlife, and the infamous Muscle Beach.
- Marina del Rey. The "marina of the king" is home to a vast number of restaurants, hotels, and the largest man-made pleasure craft harbor in the world, yet is not as touristy as some of the neighboring beach cities.
- Beverly Hills and its fabled shopping is accessed by driving east on Santa Monica or Wilshire Boulevards.
|Routes through Santa Monica|
|END ←||W E||→ West L.A. → Downtown L.A.|
|Santa Barbara ← Pacific Palisades ←||N S||→ Venice → Long Beach|
|END ←||W E||→ West L.A. → Northwest L.A.|
|END ←||W E||→ West L.A. → Downtown L.A.|
|END ←||W E||→ West L.A. → Downtown L.A.|