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

Things to Do at Santa Monica State Beach

Santa Monica State Beach 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 path runs 5.2 miles from Will Rogers State Beach to the north to Venice Beach to the south. 

How  to Enjoy Santa Monica's World Famous Beaches Like a Star!

To give you even more time to work on your tan, Perry's Cafe now offers Beach Butler service at two of its Santa Monica Locations.

The butler package includes two beach chairs and two beach towels, umbrella, personal cooler with two bottle of water (wind block available).

For an additional charge, you butler will hand deliver tanning products, beach toys, and a full array of rentals ranging from extra chairs to boogie board rentals, chilled beverages, and even food from their award-winning menu so you will never have to leave your towel.

When you are ready to leave, however, they do the clean up, so you don't have to. Get more details and reserve your spot on the sand here.

  • Butler service is available all year at Perry's Cafe & Rentals, 2400 Ocean Front Walk (south of the Santa Monica Pier)
  • During summer only, butler service is available at Perry's Cafe & Rentals at 930 Pacific Coast Highway (north of the Santa Monica Pier at California Avenue)

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 and Venice beach tours ($84 per person +tax) and Santa Monica Twilight Tours ($69 per person +tax) are available through Segway.la, located at 1660 Ocean Avenue.

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

Beach volleyball is a popular sport here in Santa Monica. 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.