Santa Monica Holidays

Set by the gently lapping waters of the Pacific Ocean, the chic and luxurious Los Angeles suburb of Santa Monica is an excellent place to start or finish your California holiday. Santa Monica embodies so much of what Los Angeles and Southern California living stands for; the area is awash with boutique surfwear shops, high-end hotels and restaurants which are sometimes adorned with artful murals. And let's not forget the world-famous Santa Monica pier – the end point of Route 66. Santa Monica is a far cry from the bustling centre of Los Angeles. It feels more like a lavish beach town, whilst still being close to many of the key attractions – including Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Sun, sand, sea and city thrills: whoever said ‘you can’t have it all’ hadn’t been to Santa Monica.

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Things to See in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier

One of the most Instagrammed locations in the USA, Santa Monica pier is an iconic sight in Los Angeles, California. It stretches out into the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. Pacific Park is located on the pier, an amusement park which has around a dozen rides designed to get your pulse racing. If you prefer your entertainment slightly less intense then there is a selection of eateries available on the pier, interspersed with musicians and artists that add to the lively atmosphere of this iconic landmark.

Santa Monica Pier at night

Pacific from Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Beach

Over three miles of sweeping sandy coastline create a barrier between the beachfront buildings of Santa Monica and the rolling waves of the Pacific Ocean. With over 300 days of sunshine every year, the beach is a year-round destination for locals and travellers alike. Take a stroll – or a cycle – along the oceanfront to work off your lunch, catch some waves and learn to surf, or relax in a sun lounger and people-watch the day away. Be sure to catch the sunset to see the pinks and purples etched across the clouds. 

Santa Monica Beach

Surfers at Santa Monica Beach

Palisades Park

Lining the area just behind the beach, but before Ocean Avenue, is Palisades Park. It contains more than 30 species of trees and offers an area to take a romantic beachside stroll that is relatively sand free. You can also find pétanque (boules) courts, picnic areas and the Santa Monica Camera Obscura.

Palisades Parade

Palisades Parade

Wilshire Boulevard

This corridor running through the centre of Santa Monica is lined with excellent eateries and superb shopping. Creative Californian takes on Italian, Japanese and Argentinian cuisines are just some of the delectable delights that can be discovered along this boulevard. You'll also find boutique, surf-chic stores selling high-end brands and independent wares, the perfect place to treat yourself – you are on holiday, after all.

Things to Do in Santa Monica

Enjoy world-renowned restaurants and chefs

Because of Santa Monica’s prime location, leading chefs and restaurants abound. From Californian fusion to farm-to-table cuisine, the variety is endless and all within walking distance of your hotel. Locally sourced and fresh, organic ingredients make for a colourful offering on the plate, assisted enormously by the fresh produce that can be found at Santa Monica farmers' market three times a week.

Start your day with a quick coffee and breakfast at Dogtown Coffee, followed by lunch brought to your sun lounger by Perry’s Café and Beach Rentals. Enjoy sunset drinks at Hotel Shangri-La’s rooftop lounge and bar, Onyx, followed by a delicious dinner of seasonal, Mediterranean-influenced cuisine at Fig at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows.

Wherever you choose to eat in Santa Monica you will not be short of great gastronomy.

Big Dean's Ocean Front Cafe

Santa Monica Farmers' Market

Work up an appetite by working out

In a city well-known for its active and health-conscious residents, it takes quite something to be the place to work out. The original Muscle Beach is the birthplace of the physical fitness trend. The trend began here when acrobats, gymnasts, wrestlers and stuntmen and women would gather to practise for films during the 1930s. Thus, here you can find a plethora of gym equipment such as parallel bars, rings and ropes. Santa Monica is also the birthplace of spinning, and there are plenty of boutique, high-end classes available to get your body moving.

If gymnastics and spinning aren't your cup of tea then you can still join in the fun by taking to the waves, trying a trapeze class or taking part in a yoga session on the beach. For those who don't fancy working up a sweat, try the outdoor chess park.

Gymnastic rings at Muscle Beach

Yoga at Muscle Beach

A visual delight

For a small city located in Los Angeles County, Santa Monica plays a highly influential role in the arts and cultural life of Southern California. In fact, more than half of the people who live in Santa Monica are employed by the arts. Santa Monica boasts a diverse and vibrant arts scene; head down to Bergamot Station to explore a campus-like complex filled with nationally acclaimed galleries, vibrant public art, and quirky shops.

Treat yourself to some retail therapy

Santa Monica is a superb place to take advantage of some of the creativity that exudes from this part of the world. For example, more than 50 speciality shops can be found at Santa Monica Place, including The Curious Palate – where you can sample wholesome catering made to bring people together. Equally, Third Street Promenade is a great place to shop – the pedestrianised area features a remodelled food court and a range of eclectic street performers. Santa Monica actively encourages small businesses so take a stroll and discover some unique delights.

Ocean Boulevard

Third Street Promenade

Hire a bike and explore the city on two wheels

Santa Monica boasts the world’s longest coastal bike path, the 22-mile South Bay Bicycle Trail, so there is no better way to explore the city than on two wheels. Take a Sweet Spots tour of the city as an added treat. This guided tour stops off at some of the best dessert places in Santa Monica. Only 8.2 square miles, Santa Monica is easy to explore and you don’t need a car to get around.

Pamper yourself in world-class spas

The perfect way to end your California road-trip, Santa Monica has 40 hotels to choose from, many of them with luxurious spas where you can truly indulge in every treatment possible. At Exhale Spa, you can enjoy a gym session followed by a facial and relaxing massage, while Alchemie Spa offers all organic treatments.