Where to Go for Hidden Adventures in Santa Monica, Los Angeles

Explore LA's beachfront community of Santa Monica in new ways
Explore LA's beachfront community of Santa Monica in new ways | © Jon Bilous / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Sharon Carson
27 August 2020

Santa Monica is known as the beach town of Los Angeles, where people come for the best food, coffee and golden sand to calm their nerves. But these hidden spots offer the types of experiences that California tourists rarely discover – from parasailing over mountains to exploring graffiti murals.

Skyward Aviation

Architectural Landmark
Map View

Located next to the Santa Monica Airport, Skyward Aviation will meet all your dreams of flying by turning you into a pilot. With a fantastic learning program and easygoing yet knowledgeable instructors, Skyward Aviation is known throughout Los Angeles as the best location to obtain your pilot’s license, whether it be private or commercial. The views are a bonus: you’ll have the backdrop of the coral sunset over the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the lavender hills of Los Angeles on the other. Skyward Aviation even offers a special discount for an introductory flight lesson that lets you learn what it’s like to fly before taking the big plunge.

Santa Monica Beach

Natural Feature
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© Gerson Repreza / Unsplash

You don’t have to travel down the Pacific Coast Highway to Huntington Beach if you want to get your surf on. Santa Monica Beach offers the perfect coast to jam out to those Beach Boy songs while spotting eye candy along the way. North of the Santa Monica Pier, you will find luscious and soft sand that you can walk along at night under a twinkling highway of stars, or you can choose to lotion up and brave the sun during the day. If you decide to surf the magical waters of the Pacific, there are many local certified instructors who will teach you how. Or – even better – just bump into a local and ask.

Parasailing over Santa Monica

Sports Center
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Parasailing at Venice Beach. Image shot 02/2014. Exact date unknown.
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Recently highlighted by KCAL, parasailing is gaining traction as one of the best activities to do with your bestie or significant other. Take a boat ride on the sapphire waters, strap in and rise 800ft (244m) in the air, watching your fears and worries melt away as sweeping landscapes of land and sea entertain your mind. Marina Del Rey Parasailing offers thrilling views of Santa Monica and its surrounding areas with a dose of fun and a splash of the Pacific on the way back down. If you want to conquer the sea and the sky on the same day, then this Los Angeles adventure is for you.

Graffiti murals

Art Gallery
Map View

Painting, art and imagination are no longer confined within the walls of a museum or the depths of your mind. Rather, they are integrated into the daily life of Santa Monica. Graffiti is an art form in which colorful and vibrant murals exist in alleys and skulls of consciousness erupt on the walls of indie business shops. In Santa Monica, there has been a revival where graffiti murals are becoming incorporated into local neighborhoods along fences, mom-and-pop shops and even cafes. The best finds are the unexpected ones, so start exploring.

Santa Monica Farmer’s Market

Market, American
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California is known for its fresh food, but the Santa Monica Farmer’s Market goes a couple of steps further, supplying everything from arts, crafts and face painting for the kiddies to local coffee and exotic fare for the adults; the market is the best way to spend a day with the entire family to enjoy new sights and to smell delicious food cooking only a couple blocks from the beach.

Main Street

Shopping Mall
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Wildflour Pizza, Main Street, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, USA
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo
Everyone usually goes to the Promenade for shopping, but then you are truly missing out on the local spot that offers the best food, hand-crafted furniture, surf shops and even trinket boutiques your aunt loves to spend hours in. This local hot spot is Main Street, lined with beautiful Moreton Bay fig trees that make up the urban forest of Santa Monica; they shade your path as you get your shopping on. Plus, the pedestrian-friendly streets allow ample walking room alongside your fellow consumers. Watch out for the bearded bicyclists, though, as they can swoop by quite fast.

Santa Monica Mountains

Natural Feature
Map View
ron-atory-5ZShueTuFXw-unsplash
© Ron Atory / Unsplash
The largest urban national recreation area in the United States is one of the best ways to spend a couple of hours hiking. From the Santa Monica Mountains, you not only overlook the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean, but you also see Santa Monica and the majority of Los Angeles from unparalleled heights while being in the middle of nature. Whoever said Los Angeles was just concrete is in for a rude awakening when they are met with the beauty and lush greenery of the Santa Monica Mountains that seemingly rise into the sky. The paths vary from beginner to advanced, with fluctuating elevations depending on which trailhead you choose. The mountains are home to a Mediterranean climate ecosystem, making any time a great time to hike these mountains that range from the tip of Malibu through to the edges of Studio City.
These recommendations were updated on August 27, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.