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Santa Monica
Vacation Guide

The Beaches

Beach in Santa Monica California

A Santa Monica vacation means beaches, shopping, sightseeing and more. Santa Monica California is a hot spot for beach goers of western Los Angeles County, but people also come visit from all over the world. Read on for information about hotels, vacation rentals, the Pier, festivals, and other things to do on your vacation.

The number one attraction has to be the beach of course, and there is Santa Monica Beach, Will Rogers State Beach and Venice Beach to choose from.  Read more about beaches in Santa Monica. 

The Santa Monica Pier is also quite popular, with a vintage carousel, an aquarium, an arcade, fun rides, games, restaurants, treats and people watching. More about the Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Park. 

Getting There And Getting Around

Located where the 10 freeway intersects Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy. 1), it is faster to get to from most inland areas than Malibu (to the north), or beaches south of LAX. But its convenient location also means a lot of traffic in the area to contend with.

View Santa Monica in a larger map

One way to get around on your Santa Monica vacation without hassling driving and parking is by taking the Big Blue Bus or Mini Blue Bus.

Santa Monica big blue bus

Santa Monica Buses Are Eco Friendly

Santa Monica has an excellent bus system and almost half of the buses are fueled on Liquefied Natural Gas, which is much cleaner for the environment. The ride costs a dollar (2 for the express buses) and has convenient routes around town. 

Where To Stay

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Santa Monica shoreline and beachfront hotels

Santa Monica Beach Hotels

Most lodging is found around the Pier and Third Street Promenade areas. This also makes them within walking distance to the beach, ideal for your Santa Monica vacation. A few others are further inland.

To see a list of some of the most popular hotels with their contact information and basic features, go to our Santa Monica Hotel page.

Some of the more popular hotels include:

Travel Lodge -- There are two, but the one by the beach is on Ocean Ave. 

Doubletree Hotel -- Convenient location near Convention Center, Third Street Promenade and 4 blocks from the beach. 

Shutters Hotel -- Beautiful beach front hotel. 

Casa Del Mar -- This oceanfront hotel also has some 3 and 4 bedroom suites. 

Hotel California -- Modest motel style lodging within walking distance to the Santa Monica pier. 

Hotel Oceana -- Across from Palisades Park. 

Fairmont Miramar Hotel -- Lush gardens and bungalows along with a ten story tower. 

Santa Monica Vacation Rentals

If you're looking for Santa Monica vacation rentals, try and find something between 4th Street and Ocean Ave. or Ocean Front Walk. Streets numbered higher than 4 are going to be almost too far to walk to the beach. However, you'll be more likely to save some money by staying well inland.

Also, the less you have to drive and find parking, the more relaxing your beach vacation will be. If your vacation home comes with a parking spot, all the better!

The area down around the Main Street District is ideal, because the neighborhood has cute houses, and you're within walking distance of the beach, and Main Street shops and restaurants.

The area north of Wilshire is nice, but to get to the beach, you must cross Palisades Park, take stairs down the bluff, and cross Pacific Coast Highway. The views are great, but it may be too much of a hike for some.

Search for beach vacation rentals in Santa Monica

Shopping In Santa Monica

There are three main shopping areas near the beach in Santa Monica:

  • Third Street Promenade -- a pedestrian only street with lots of shops between Wilshire and Broadway.
  • Main Street Historic District -- This strip of Main Street runs between Pico and Rose, near the Venice Beach border. Lots of more unique shops, plus California's first Starbucks.
  • Santa Monica Place -- A multi-level shopping center with large department stores and a 5 story parking garage with a food court on the top level. Located at the end of the Third Street Promenade between Broadway and 4th and Colorado and 2nd.

Other Things To Do On Your Santa Monica Vacation

Other possible things to do before or after spending the day at the beach include visiting the Museum of Flying at the south side of Santa Monica Airport.

Another popular activity for adventurous visitors is to stroll down famous (or infamous) Ocean Front Walk in neighboring Venice Beach, with all its assortment of characters doing, wearing, displaying and/or selling things that will amaze.

A third option of things to do on your Santa Monica vacation is to check out the many art galleries at Bergamot Station at 2525 Michigan Ave. (well inland).

Additional Resources: view and/or print the official Santa Monica Visitors Map

> Santa Monica

Affiliate Disclosure: Some links on this page may go to the TripAdvisor website, where I will gain a small commission if you click certain links within their website. However, I wouldn't link to that site if I didn't think it would be useful and interesting as a supplement to this site.

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