About Santa Monica Beaches

Broad, glistening beaches stretch for 26 miles along scenic Santa Monica Bay, with 3.5 of those miles comprising Santa Monica beaches.

Primary beaches include Santa Monica State Beach and Will Rogers State Beach, popular for swimming, surfing, running, and beach volleyball.

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

Bikers, roller-blades, runners, and walkers move along the famed 22-mile South Bay bicycle trail, the world’s longest oceanfront bike path.

It begins at Will Rogers State Beach, the northernmost point of Santa Monica, then scenically winds its way past Santa Monica State Beach, the famous Santa Monica Pier, through the Venice Boardwalk and past the Venice Pier, all the way through Hermosa and Redondo Beaches to end at Torrance County Beach.

National Geographic ranked Santa Monica as one of the “Top Ten Beach Cities in the World” – putting Santa Monica in the ranks with Barcelona, Sydney, and Rio de Janerio.

North and South of the Pier

Because Santa Monica beaches are expansive, 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,  one of the city's top attractions.

It is home to the world's only solar-powered Ferris wheel in Pacific Park, Heal the Bay Aquarium, and Pier restaurants ranging from casual eateries to sophisticated seafood dining. 

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 provides access to the city's beach.

The Annenberg Community Beach House is at the far north end, 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.

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.

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

Getting to Santa Monica Beaches

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)

On the north side of the beach, pedestrian access is available at Colorado Blvd., Montana Ave., Idaho St., Arizona Ave., and 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, Bay Street, and Arcadia Terrace.

Walkways also extend adjacent to the Pier and at the Annenberg Community Beach House.

The Marvin Braude Beach Trail runs from Pacific Palisades to Torrance for beachfront biking. At a scenic 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. Big Blue Bus day passes can be bought online.

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 two junior paddle tennis courts; a basketball court, and six 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.