Coastal Vote: A Beach-Lover's Guide to Santa Monica, California

Riding a cruiser along the bike path at Santa Monica Beach is a quintessential activity in this coastal community
Riding a cruiser along the bike path at Santa Monica Beach is a quintessential activity in this coastal community | © joni198 / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Doug ONeill
8 September 2021

Spot marine life during a beachside yoga session and swim in a historic pool frequented by the stars in this smart Pacific-spying city.

The Southern California city of Santa Monica – with its scenic 25mi (41km) coastline, 100mi (160km) bike-trail network, 20 urban parks and sunny year-round weather – has long been an antidote to the bustle and busyness of neighboring Los Angeles. The iconic Santa Monica Pier marks the end of the famous Route 66, making it a great post-road trip pit stop, and the city’s high number of historic beachfront hotels bear witness to Santa Monica’s reputation as a place to escape. Here’s how to explore the coast in style.

Casa del Mar

4.6/5 (564 Reviews)
Courtesy of Casa del Mar / Expedia
Price Drop
Now from $607 per night
Built in 1926, the 129-room Casa del Mar was modeled on the grand villas of the Mediterranean and promoted as an exclusive beach club for Hollywood’s high-flying elite. Superior standards are present at two on-site dining spots, Catch Restaurant and Terrazza Lounge, where grilled branzino and kumamoto oysters are served. At the Sea Wellness Spa, reenergize with hydrafacials and mineral-rich manicures that harness the sea’s ingredients, followed by loaded plates of chef Gemma Gray’s squid-ink linguine.
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Shore Hotel

Eco Hotel
4.3/5 (942 Reviews)
Shore Hotel_2b8a3ba4
Courtesy of Shore Hotel / Expedia
Price Drop
Now from $224 per night
Just steps from world-famous Santa Monica Pier – with its iconic Ferris wheel circling and illuminated at night – the Shore Hotel’s ocean theme is reinforced with coastal California style touches throughout. Not only are the rooms bright and airy, but guests have unobstructed ocean views of the Pacific from private balconies or patios.
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Marvin Braude Bike Trail

Hiking Trail
Map View
Santa Monica, USA - May 20, 2018: bicycle path that runs mostly along the Pacific Ocean shoreline
© Michael Kurlin / Alamy Stock Photo
The 22mi (35km) Marvin Braude Bike Trail is a paved bicycle path that stretches along the Los Angeles County coastline, from the northern terminus at Will Rogers State Beach, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles, to the southern end at Torrance County Beach. You’ll cycle past such landmarks as the Santa Monica Pier, Venice Beach and Marina Del Rey. Bike rentals are available at Perry’s Beach Rentals, which also loans surfboards, deck chairs, towels and more.

Beach Yoga SoCal

Fitness Studio
Map View
Multi ethnic friends doing yoga at sunrise on the beach Santa Monica CA
© MARC ROMANELLI / Alamy Stock Photo
Catch sight of marine wildlife while in dolphin pose or recover from downward-facing dog to the sound of crashing waves. Let the sand be your mat and the ocean be your soundtrack at Beach Yoga SoCal’s yoga sessions on Santa Monica Beach. Meet where Ocean Park Blvd. meets the Pacific; classes range from vinyasa-style flows to sunset sessions, reiki and sound baths.

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  • Poseidon Paddle and Surf

    Map View
    Surfers at the Pacific Ocean in California, USA
    © Emanuel Tanjala / Alamy Stock Photo
    The goal in stand-up paddleboarding is to get your quadriceps, shoulders, arms and knees working in sync so you can propel yourself forward. But concentration might not be easy when your classroom is the beautiful Santa Monica Beach. You’ll be briefed on how to safely enter and exit the water, the proper paddling technique, maneuvering your board, reading ocean conditions and other topics. You’ll not only get attuned to your body – but Santa Monica’s surroundings as well.

    The Bike Center Segway Tours

    Natural Feature
    Map View
    Segways, Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California, USA
    © wendy connett / Alamy Stock Photo
    Whiz past iconic landmarks such as Venice Skate Park and Muscle Beach on a two-wheeled motorized personal vehicle that you navigate by distributing your weight. In other words, by leaning backward or forward. The Bike Center offers a two-hour Segway ride that allows you to zoom around Santa Monica and Venice Beach. No experience necessary. Training provided.

    Palisades Park

    Map View
    Palisades Park, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, USA
    © wendy connett / Alamy Stock Photo
    The paths in this 27-acre (11ha) bluff-top park are lined with eucalyptus and palm trees. Running nearly the entire length of Santa Monica’s Ocean Avenue, Palisades Park offers incredible views of Santa Monica Bay and the Santa Monica Mountains for your strolling pleasure. Expect more people in the section closer to the ever-popular Santa Monica Pier and instead head to the northern end near San Vicente Blvd.

    Annenberg Community Beach House

    Swimming Pool
    Map View

    The public pool at the Annenberg Community Beach House is on the site of the former oceanfront estate built in the 1920s by media mogul William Randolph Hearst for the actress Marion Davies and then frequented by Greta Garbo, Clark Gable and other stars of the day. The pool (one of the first heated pools created a century ago) is trimmed with tile work and hugged by a marble deck. The second floor of the Pool House offers spectacular views of the Pacific, and adult-only sunset swims are offered from 6pm-9pm.

    Shutters on the Beach

    4.5/5 (348 Reviews)
    Courtesy of Shutters on the Beach / Expedia
    Price Drop
    Now from $734 per night
    Coast Beach Bar is a casual beachfront venue at the Shutters on the Beach hotel, where decor is the standard Santa Monica trinity of sand, sky and ocean. Cocktails include the Clipper, a smooth mix of Maker’s Mark, Aperol, lemon and honey syrup. Or try the Sunset Island Margarita, a blend of Casa Dragones tequila, lime, pineapple and pomegranate. Don’t skip the local craft beers, including 310 Blonde from Santa Monica Brew Works and 1-10 IPA by Coachella Valley Brewing.
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    These recommendations were updated on September 8, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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