Santa Monica Beaches:
What to See, What to Do, Where to Eat


Santa Monica beaches have it all - 3.5 miles of soft sand shoreline, picnic areas, parks, playgrounds, manned lifeguard stations, the Original Muscle Beach, bike rentals, and sports galore.

In the middle of it all lies the city's main attraction, the iconic Santa Monica Pier. 

In addition to the Pier, other city attractions to see along the beaches in Santa Monica include the Santa Monica Aquarium, the Annenberg Beach House, the International Chess Park, and Carousel Park -an historic landmark replete with wooden horses and sleighs to ride for kids of all ages.

This beach guide will help you plan what to see and do on your next visit to Santa Monica.

Things to Do at Santa Monica State Beach

Santa Monica State Beach is a California State Park operated by the city of Santa Monica.

It spans 245 acres of sand along Santa Monica Bay, and is home to the world famous 'Strand" linking colorful Venice Beach and Santa Monica.

It's along the Strand that you'll find the popular beach bike path and pedestrian path; both are especially active during summer months.

The paths runs 5.2 miles from Will Rogers State Beach to the north to Venice Beach to the south.

You'll find skate, bicycle, and surfboard rentals plentiful both north and south of the pier. Perry's Cafe and Beach Rentals (a beach rental and local restaurant on the sand with multiple locations) offers a beach butler service with lounge chairs, a small table, an umbrella and a little cooler with water bottles and a wind guard for $50 per day.  

Nearby Santa Monica Bike Center offers 350 secure bicycle parking spaces, bike rental, repair, and 2 hours free valet bike parking. You'll also find a variety of guided bike tours.

Surfing and SUP! 

Surfing and SUP! (stand up paddle boarding) are two popular Santa Monica water sports. There are several good spots and plenty of lessons that offer beginners and introduction to surfing in Southern California. See City of Santa Monica authorized surf instructors.

Santa Monica Beach Volleyball, the Original Muscle Beach and International Chess Park

Santa Monica beach volleyball is a popular sport here. Volleyball courts to the sand are found both north and south of the Pier, and are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

South of the Pier you'll find the Original Muscle Beach (featuring gymnastics equipment), that 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 are 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 chess boards per table; 10 small tables each with a single chess board, and an oversized chess board.

Santa Monica Beach Public 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 an historic pergola at the lower level, grassy areas with benches, and an upper level gazebo;
  • Ocean View Park: a 5.7-acre park t 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.

Attractions Along Santa Monica Beaches

The world-famous Santa Monica Pier and the Annenberg Beach House are not-to-be-missed attractions on the beach. 

Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is a world-class destination for fun.

Here you can enjoy soaring ocean views from Pacific Park's ferris wheel (it's solar powered!), ride a kid-friendly roller coaster, try your hand at more than 200 games at the arcade, or take a class at the trapeze school.

You can also check out the marine locals at Heal the Bay's Aquarium or go for a spin on an historic 1922 carousel, replete with wooden horses and sleighs and an old-fashioned soda fountain.


The Annenberg Beach House

The Annenberg Beach House is a public facility offering the beach club experience to all, no membership required. Low- or no-cost fitness classes, recreation programs and cultural events, and beach bike rentals are offering year-round.

Here you'll find an historic swimming pool, a children's playground and splash pad, and the Marion Davies Guest House, offering docent tours.

Parking reservations can be made online June through September at Reserve Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Eats on the Beach

Enjoying a meal on the beach is a must do when you visit Santa Monica. There are lots of 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

There is so much to see and do under the sun in Santa Monica, the hardest part about a visit to Santa Monica is choosing which of many options to choose! 

Looking for a Santa Monica beach hotel? This guide to Santa Monica beach hotels can help. 

View Santa Monica parking options.




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