About Santa Monica Beaches

Santa Monica beaches are an iconic example of the famed Southern California beaches. With few Los Angeles beach options offering both large expanses of beach, bike trails, and nearby activities, Santa Monica beaches have whatever you're looking for.

Although a top-rated Southern California attraction, the beaches are also vast (3.5 miles long), providing plenty of room for summer crowds. Both sand and ocean are clean, making for some grade-A beachcombing, swimming, and surfing. But there's more.

You can bike the Marvin Braude Bike Trail - sometimes called The Strand - a 22-mile paved bicycle path that runs mainly along the shoreline and finishes at Torrance County Beach in Torrance while passing through Venice, Hermosa, and Redondo beaches.

Here are some of the top beach attractions and activities. Because Santa Monica beaches are long, it is helpful to divide the beach into two main sections: north of the Santa Monica Pier and south of the pier. 

North of the Pier

Santa Monica State Beach on the north side of the pier is separated from the city by the palisades (an ocean bluff) and the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). A series of bridges, walkways, and stairs provide access to the beach from the city.

The Annenberg Beach House is at the far north end of the beach, with houses and parking lots running along PCH to the Santa Monica Pier. This a public facility offering the beach club experience to all; no membership is required. Low- or no-cost fitness classes, recreation programs, cultural events, and beach bike rentals are offered year-round.

Here you'll find a historic swimming pool and the North Beach Playground, offering barrier-free equipment for increased maneuvering space and accessible surfaces and paths. These features make it one of the best beaches in LA for young children. Parking reservations can be made online from June through September at Reserve Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Pier

In the middle of the beach, from Colorado Avenue and the center of Santa Monica, is the Santa Monica Pier. It is home to Pacific Park amusement park, the Heal the Bay Aquarium, and restaurants. The pier is a landmark for the beach and the city.

South of the Pier

On the south side of the pier, Santa Monica beach is level with the city featuring parking lots, parks, homes, and hotels bordering the beach. The Original Muscle Beach (featuring gymnastics equipment), International Chess Park, and Carousel Park are just south of the Santa Monica Pier.

South of the Pier, you'll find the Original Muscle Beach (featuring gymnastics equipment), which was popular during the 1930s, '40s, and '50s among muscle mean and preening bathing beauties.

You'll find it just south of the pier. Athletic equipment including rings, parallel bars, balance bars is available at no charge.

Nearby at Ocean Front Walk at Seaside Terrace, you'll also find the International Chess Park, featuring 14 large tables with four chessboards per table, 10 small tables each with a single chessboard, and an oversized chessboard.

Beach volleyball is a favorite sport in Santa Monica. Volleyball courts on the sand are found both north and south of the pier and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Surfing and SUP

Surfing and SUP! (stand-up paddleboarding) are two popular Santa Monica water sports. Lessons and rentals adjacent to the beach offer beginners an introduction to surfing Southern California. See the City of Santa Monica authorized surf instructors.

Bay Street, just south of Hotel Casa del Mar, is a popular, accessible surf spot with a sandy beach break and a spread-out lineup (not too crowded).

Beach Parks

There are four public parks on the beach, each offering family friendly-amenities:

  • Ocean Park at Bernard Way:  a 4.6-acre park with picnic tables, a children's playground, beach parking (fee), and two beach restroom buildings;
  • Crescent Bay Park: a 2.3-acre park at 2000 Ocean Avenue featuring a historic pergola at the lower level, grassy areas with benches, and an upper-level gazebo;
  • Ocean View Park: a 5.7-acre park at Barnard Way & Ashland with 2 junior paddle tennis courts; a basketball court, and 6 tennis courts; 
  • South Beach Park: a 1.8-acre park at Barnard Way with picnic tables and a children's playground.

Santa Monica Eats on the Beach

Enjoying a meal on the beach is a must-do when you visit Santa Monica. There are many quick-bite options for beach-goers looking to grab a to-go bag before settling into the sand.

Inexpensive Santa Monica eats can be found at Perry's Cafe and Beach Rentals, Back on the Beach Cafe, along with numerous options along the Pier and Santa Monica boardwalk.

For special occasions - or if you're looking to splurge - options include The Lobster at the entrance to the Pier, Catch at the Hotel Casa del Mar, and Coast at Shutters on the Beach. 

Wrapping Up on Santa Monica Beaches

The hardest part about a visit to Santa Monica is choosing which of many options to choose! 

And after a busy day along Santa Monica beaches, be sure to stay around for the finest Santa Monica beach attraction of all - a fiery, beachside sunset.

Are you looking for a Santa Monica beach hotel? This guide to Santa Monica beach hotels can help. 

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