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All You Need To Know About Santa Monica, California, USA

Joanna Hall

It has a world-famous pier, palm-lined promenades, hip places to stay, and on-trend places to eat and drink, so it’s no surprise that a 2018 Expedia poll named Santa Monica the most scenic destination in the Los Angeles area. The poll, which asked 1,000 readers for their top recommendations, also ranked Santa Monica as the eighth most scenic destination on the entire West Coast of the United States. More than seven million visitors a year come to this renowned beach city to enjoy in its own right, and because it is handy for other Los Angeles sights and attractions. Besides enjoying more than 300 days of sunshine a year and some of the best sunsets on the West Coast, Santa Monica is also a walkable and bike-friendly destination, making it easy to get around and experience its lineup of shops, restaurants, and attractions. Here’s what else you need to know about this quintessentially Californian beach city. 

About Santa Monica

Santa Monica is located on the Pacific Ocean at the crossroads of the Pacific Coast Highway and Interstate Highway 10, and is set along more than five kilometres of sparkling coastline. This petite city of 22 square kilometres is home to around 94,000 people, and is bordered by Malibu to the north, and Venice to the south, and it easily accessible from Los Angeles International Airport for international visitors, at just 13 kilometres away.

Did You Know?

National Geographic ranked Santa Monica as one of the “Top Ten Beach Cities in the World” putting it in the same class as Barcelona, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro. It also has a long history of being a hub for artists and creatives, however, in recent years a new wave of tech and internet start-ups have rolled into town, earning Santa Monica the nickname of ‘Silicon Beach’. If you prefer getting out and about on two wheels rather than two feet, Santa Monica is extremely bike-friendly with well-marked lanes and routes. The city is also eco-friendly, and is recognised as one of the top ten sustainable cities in the United States. 

The Coastline And Beaches

The legendary beaches of Santa Monica draw all types of people including locals and visitors. On any given day you may surfers, sun lovers, and families playing on the sand next to mats laid out for a fitness class. The city’s beaches stretch for over 40 kilometres along the scenic Santa Monica Bay, with over five of them falling within Santa Monica central. The primary ones for visitors to enjoy include Santa Monica State Beach and Will Rogers State Beach, both of which are popular for swimming, surfing, running and beach volleyball. 

The Climate

Like much of this section of Southern California, Santa Monica enjoys a year-round mild climate without humidity and with lovely ocean breezes and over 300 days of sunshine per year. It is even delightful to visit in winter, or for Christmas, with temperatures average between 13C and 21C, and January temperatures often climbing above 21C.

Where To Stay

There 36 unique and much celebrated hotels in Santa Monica, ranging from high-style boutique hideaways to world-famous oceanfront resorts, with many offering ocean views and close proximity to Santa Monica’s famous beaches, Pier, shopping, dining and leisure activities. Options include the sleek meets sustainable Shore Hotel (read our review here, the legendary Shutters on the Beach which enjoys an American beach house style and is popular with celebrities, Casa Del Mar with sweeping ocean views, the quirky Palihouse Santa Monica, and the glorious Art Deco elegant of the Hotel Shangri-La.

Eating Out

Santa Monica has been a culinary destination since the 1980s and has kept its place in the ranks thanks to celebrity chefs and a new generation of culinary innovators who continue to breathe life into the city’s dining scene. The city has also been a supporter of local foods long before it became mainstream, also the use of sustainable, organic ingredients; from vegetarian and California fusion to fresh seafood and steak, there are options for every pallet. Ones to put on your list include the iconic Michael’s, which is about as LA as it gets, the French-Vietnamese inspired Cassia, Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery for breakfast, and for sustainably raised meat and delectable cocktails try Belcampo Meat Co.

Best Bars

New to the Santa Monica lineup is the beach bar, Élephante Beach House, which features an expansive second-floor lounge, sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, a full bar, and a light menu of food items. Del Frisco’s Grille is a classic American bar and grill overlooking the Santa Monica Pier, and a hot spot for well-crafted cocktails. Meanwhile, perched seven floors up at the Hotel Shangri-La, ONYX a part indoor, part alfresco rooftop bar offering signature cocktails such as the Berry Apropos, made with seasonal berries and Champagne. For something a bit different, try the Beach Butler Service at Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals. A butler will set up two beach chairs with towels, an umbrella, a table, and a personal cooler with drinks, allowing you to sit back and relax with your toes in the sand and enjoy the sunset.

Don’t Miss 

Palisades Park is a lovely 26-acre space running the full length of downtown Santa Monica, and cliff level is an ideal spot from which to watch the sunset. Santa Monica Pier, which dates back to 1909, is a Southern California icon and should also be on your list for its lineup of shops, restaurants, and carnival attractions including the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel. The sprawling Third Street Promenade is the bustling hub of downtown Santa Monica, a pedestrian-only, open-air shopping and dining destination just two blocks from the beach. Besides street performers, Third Street Promenade is where you’ll find Santa Monica’s farmers’ markets where locals and chefs pick up the country’s freshest produce, flowers, meats, cheeses, nuts, fish, and more. Tongva Park is a new, seven-acre park in the heart of Santa Monica by the team behind New York’s celebrated High Line. It’s inspired by the Southern California arroyo landscape of washes and ravines that once defined the site, and features plants, walking paths, water elements, and two viewing platforms offering views of the Pacific Ocean. If you love to ride, rent a bike and head off on the South Bay Bicycle Trail, the world’s longest oceanfront bike path. It begins at Will Rogers State Beach and scenically winds its way past Santa Monica State Beach, the famous Santa Monica Pier, and through the Venice Boardwalk and beyond.

And Finally

Shoppers should save time to explore Santa Monica Place, a three-story outdoor shopping mecca, located just two blocks from the beach and close to Third Street Promenade. Besides sunny open spaces, refreshing ocean breezes, and an airy central plaza, the mall has a Bloomingdales and Nordstrom, a wide range of luxury and specialty shops including Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Michael Kors, and Emporio Armani, the rooftop deck offers gorgeous ocean views and dining options including ‘The Market”, famous for artisanal cheese, wines, chocolates, olive oils, fresh produce and flowers.


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