Santa Monica activities include more than just laying in the hot sun with a refreshing drink and devouring fish tacos. (Though that is a lovely place to start and one of my favorite ways to spend the day.)
Besides sunning, you can soak up the rays of our endless summer surfing, stand up paddle boarding, skateboarding, biking, playing beach volleyball, basketball and tennis; and parasailing ... the list goes on and on.
In short: There's never a dull moment when you visit Santa Monica, even for most active busy bodies (kids included). This guide to the Top 10 Things to Do in Santa Monica will get you primed to hit the beach running.
Surfing in Santa Monica, as you might have guessed, is an all-time favorite pastime.
But as the Surfer Magazine Guide to Southern California Surf Spots aptly notes: "Santa Monica is more famous for its surfers than its surf."
It's a reference to the decidedly gentle Santa Monica surf, known for its slow-moving, crumbly waves - ideal for long boarders and to learn to surf on.
The surf is also comfortably shallow, which means there's a lot of white water that's easier (and gentler) for beginners; and there's soft sand beneath the waves.
With nearly four miles of sandy coastline and some 340 days of sunshine a year, the Santa Monica surf is as popular with new surfers as it with local legends, who can be found fine-tuning their basic skills at sunrise and sunset. Get a list of City of Santa Monica authorized surf camps and surf instructors.
If traditional surfing isn't your thing, you can still keep cool and be on the sea with SUP, or stand-up paddle boarding. When the Pacific is calm, gliding across Santa Monica Bay is truly breathtaking.
Newbie to the sport? No problem. There are options galore in and around Santa Monica where you can learn SUP basics, take a class, or obtain a rental board.
If you're a seasoned boarder, you might want to consider paddleboard yoga - where the ocean is your yoga mat and the paddleboarding ratchets up a notch. A new twist on SUP, this 90-minute workout is guaranteed to push you to your limits. You can book a class or get more info at YOGAqua.
If it's your first time out, head to neighboring Marina del Rey to Prosup Shop for some flat water training. If you're ready to head out to open water, check out Poseidon or the Annenberg Beach House for stand up paddle board rental and more.
Bike riding at the beach is hands-down one of the best ways to enjoy a day in Santa Monica. There is a popular 26-mile bike route here known as the Marvin Braude Bike Trail - also known as the South Bay Bicycle Trail - that starts in Santa Monica and ends at Torrance State Beach. (Get the Marvin Braude Route Map.)
You can pedal past popular surf breaks along Santa Monica state Beach, underneath the Santa Monica Pier, and by the original Muscle Beach just south of the pier; and the other Muscle Beach in neighboring Venice.
From there, you'll continue along Washington Boulevard - which is the one place where the route veers on city streets - before picking up the coastal trail again in Playa del Rey.
You'll continue south through El Segundo (and be directly underneath the LAX flight path), Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, and Redondo Beach before reaching the path's end in Torrance.
The Santa Monica Bike Center is a great place to get started: Here's you'll find rental bikes ranging from beach cruisers, electric, and Elliptigo bikes to Taga trike strollers and tandem bikes. You can also arrange a guided bike tour, as well as get bike route maps to destinations throughout Santa Monica.
If pedaling a bike isn't your thing, you can do the same Santa Monica route on a Segway - a two-wheeled motorized personal vehicle consisting of a platform for your feet mounted above an axle, and an upright post with handles.
There are guided tours along the paved bike path along the beach, which makes for a great way to cruise the coast in less time than walking would take. And they're fun to ride, too!
There are several companies in Santa Monica specializing in two-hour Segway tours from the Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach and back. The Santa Monica Bike Center can get you started with rentals or guided tours.
Santa Monica's Cove Skatepark is 20,000 square feet of ramps, bowls, stairs, a pool with tile coping, an over-vert bowl and the Douglas Park rail designed for skateboarding, bicycle riding, and in-line skating.
This is the place to go if you're looking for a challenging skatepark to get the adventure adrenaline flowing. The Cove, as locals call it, is a drop-in public skatepark.
Protective gear (helmets, kneepads, elbow pads) is required. There are "Bikes Only" and "Adult Skate" (for people 18 years and older) hours, so be sure to call first before heading out to make sure your mode of ride is on for the day.
More than once my son and I have arrived to find it was "Bikes Only" hours and my skateboarder was mega disappointed. You can information on the Cove Skatepark here.
Santa Monica tennis courts are plentiful and inexpensive ($4 per person per hour for visitors; $3.25 for residents).
Be sure to make a reservation as these courts fill up fast, especially during the summer months.
Call the tennis reservation office at (310) 394-6011 to lock in your game time. City-sponsored group lessons are offered year-round; for information call (310) 458-2239.
Santa Monica is a beach-lovers paradise, so naturally it has its own favored way of playing volleyball: on the sand. And with 39 beach volleyball courts to choose from, you'll find it's easy to find an open court.
There's nothing like a good pick up game to get the blood flowing, right?
There are 10 Santa Monica basketball courts to choose from; just bring a ball and you can play until the cows come home.
One of the best Santa Monica activities for getting a birds eye view of the city is parasailing. The 10 minute ride takes you over Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach Boardwalk from either 500 feet or 800 feet above the Pacific.
I'm all in when it comes to parasailing, so I'd go for the 800-foot ride. (But then again, I've been known to push the adventure limits.) You can check out the view of parasailing above Santa Monica in this video:
This one needs no introduction. (Although I did mention it in my introduction above.) Sunbathing on the beach is a time-honored way to savor Santa Monica's best asset: The beaches.
With 3.5-miles of broad, sandy shore to choose from, you can find your place in the sun without being land-locked by other bodies.
These are a few of our favorite Santa Monica activities on the beach. Naturally, there are many more, but I limited myself to the top 10 here. But I'm pretty certain that which ever one you choose, you'll enjoy a blissful day under the sun.