Santa Monica Beach is a stunning 3-mile stretch of sand with a famous pier, walking and biking paths.
In warmer months Santa Monica Beach is LA's busiest beach, with swarms of people enjoying the sunshine. The coastal views are breathtaking with distant glimpses of Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains.
The more crowded section of Santa Monica Beach is north of the Pier, however if you'd prefer a quieter atmosphere then head south of the pier.
The beach parking lots are open from sunrise to sunset and get incredibly busy in summer months.
10 best things to do at Santa Monica Beach
1. Plan a beach day on the golden sands of Santa Monica Beach.
Plan a fun beach day at Santa Monica Beach! The seawater temperature is warmest from July 15 to September 15 (on average 67-68 degrees).
There are 27 seasonal lifeguard towers along the beach, and plenty of public restrooms and outdoor rinse-off showers. You can rent chairs, umbrellas, mats, boogie boards, surfboards, and wet suits at Perry's Cafe and Beach Rentals at Santa Monica.
The first thing you'll notice about Santa Monica Beach is the massive expansive of sand. It takes forever to walk across the sand to get to the ocean! This is the result of the breakwater installed west of the Santa Monica Pier in 1934, that changed the currents and widened the beach.
An early photo of Santa Monica depict the bluffs with a much narrower beach in front of them, before the arrival of the Pacific Highway. Do you think Santa Monica Beach looks better today, or in its original state?
The Pacific Coast Highway divides Santa Monica's downtown area from the beach, but there's a pedestrian overpass along Colorado Avenue that connects the two. Cars can drive down the California Incline to get from downtown Santa Monica to the beach.
2. Visit the amusement park at the Santa Monica Pier.
The world famous Santa Monica Pier bustles with energy, and has an amusement park, video arcade, aquarium, fishing pier, and plenty of restaurants and souvenir shops. One of the most popular attractions is the iconic ferris wheel.
The Santa Monica Pier also marks the end of America's famous Route 66 highway, so don't forget to take a photo of the Route 66 sign on the pier.
The Pacific Park amusement area is a big hit with tourists. Ride the ferris wheel, rollercoaster, or dozens of other attractions.
3. Ride along the beachfront Marvin Braude Bike Trail.
Los Angeles has some of the world's best beachfront biking trails, and the popular 22-mile Marvin Braude Bike Trail runs from Will Rogers State Park at Pacific Palisades, past Santa Monica Beach, Venice Beach, inland around Marina del Rey, then south to Torrance Beach.
You can also bike the shorter 2-mile section between Santa Monica and Venice Beach. There's plenty of places to rent a bike, including Perry's Cafe and Beach Rentals at Santa Monica.
4. Take the Ocean Front Walk between Santa Monica and Venice Beach.
The Ocean Front Walk overlaps a section of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, where both bikes and pedestrians are allowed. The Ocean Front Walk runs 6 miles from Will Rogers State Park at Pacific Palisades, past Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach, down to Marina Del Rey.
5. Check out the Original Muscle Beach.
The Original Muscle Beach is directly south of the Santa Monica Pier and dates back to the 1930s. Anyone can participate! There are climbing ropes, gymnastic rings, parallel bars, and a climbing structure and swings for kids. Bodybuilding greats like Jack LaLanne trained here.
The Original Muscle Beach is not to be confused with another Muscle Beach at the Venice Beach boardwalk which emerged later in the 1960's and is more focused on weightlifting.
6. Take your kids to the North Beach Playground.
Take your kids to the North Beach Playground right on the sand. This modern playground has fun climbing structures and swings. It's at parking lot 8 North. Don't forget your sunscreen because there's no trees here.
7. Explore the pirate ship at the South Beach Playground.
The South Beach Playground is more shaded and has a pirate ship, swings, and sand play area. It's at parking lot 5 South.
8. Swim at the Annenberg Community Beach House Pool.
No membership is required to visit the beautiful beachside pool at the Annenberg Community Beach House. There's plenty of shade, and a gorgeous pool to enjoy. Santa Monica beach is just steps away.
9. Take kids to the Annenberg Community Beach House with splashpad and playground.
Kids will adore the fun splashpad and swings right on the beach. There's also a cafe where you can sink your feet in the sand while enjoying a meal ("Back on the Beach Cafe"). If you're running low on time, grab a snack from the kiosk.
As an added bonus, the cafe rents chairs, umbrellas, boogie boards, volley balls and soccer balls. The volley ball courts and soccer nets are right on the beach.
This is a view of playground and splashpad, with the swimming pool in the background.
10. Enjoy beautiful waterfront restaurants at Santa Monica.
The Santa Monica Pier has a great selection of restaurants and fast food. Popular restaurants include Bubba Gump Shrimp Co, Mariasol (mexican), and The Albright (seafood). The Back on the Beach Cafe at the Annenberg Community Beach House provides a casual, beachfront experience with tables right on the sand.