Santa Monica Beaches

Although a trendy Southern California attraction, Santa Monica beaches are also long (3.5 miles), which provides plenty of room for summer crowds. Manned lifeguard stations, paved walkways, restrooms, and restaurants are plentiful and easy to find. 

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. Both sand and ocean are clean, making for some grade-A beachcombing, swimming, and surfing.

Santa Monica Pier

Because Santa Monica beaches are long (3.5 miles in length), it is helpful to divide the beach into two sections: north of the Santa Monica Pier and south of the 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.

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 Community 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.

The North Beach Playground is universally accessible, offering barrier-free equipment for increased maneuvering space, and accessible surfaces and paths. Sensory play elements such as touching, feeling, and hearing is utilized as well as swings, slides, and climbing equipment to inspire activity, mobility, and imagination in all children. These features make it one of the best beaches in LA for children.

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 (not the weight lighting kind, that's Venice Beach), featuring gymnastic equipment including parallel bars, rings, swings, and ropes are available for kids and adults.

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.

Getting to Santa Monica Beaches

If you're staying close to the beach in Santa Monica in a nearby hotel or parking at an adjacent lot, walking or biking to the beach is quick and easy. Paved and lighted paths, clear signage, accessible walkways, and bike care are available, the length of the beach. 

On the north side of the beach, pedestrian access is available at:

  • Colorado Blvd.
  • Montana Ave.
  • Idaho St.
  • Arizona Ave.
  • Broadway Ave.

South of the Pier, nearly all east/west streets lead directly to the beach. Popular entry points are close to beach parking lots at Bicknell Ave. and Ocean Park Blvd. 

Look for wooden walkways to make getting gear to the shore easier. You'll find them south of the Pier at Crescent Bay Park, at Bay Street and Arcadia Terrace. Walkways also extend adjacent to the Pier and at the Annenberg Community Beach House.

For beachfront biking, the Marvin Braude Beach Trail runs from Pacific Palisades to Torrance. At 22 miles, it is the world's longest oceanfront bike path. 

By bus: The Big Blue Bus operates several routes that stop at or near the beach:

  • Route 1 (from UCLA/Venice Beach)
  • Rapid 3 (From LAX)
  • Rapid 7 (from West LA / Wilshire)
  • Rapid 10 (from Downtown LA)

Big Blue Bus day passes are $4 and can be bought online or on the bus.


Driving to the beach is a popular choice for many Southern California residents, but roads can be congested, especially during the summer or holiday weekends.

Major routes for getting to Santa Monica beaches include:

  • I-10 (from Downtown LA)
  • Santa Monica Blvd. (from West LA)
  • Pacific Coast Highway / US 1 (from Santa Barbara / Malibu)
  • Lincoln Blvd. / US 1 (from Venice / LAX)

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

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.