The perfect day in LA for me is in Santa Monica. The beach. The shops. The sunsets. Oh my.

It’s my beachside place to visit whenever I’m Los Angeles! In fact Santa Monica is a city within Los Angeles and is always the first place I look to stay when I’m in the area – if I can afford it.

It’s kinda pricey and let’s be honest, there are other very cool places to stay in LA. In fact you might even be surprised to find you can get a hotel in Beverly Hills for under $300.

Santa Monica Pier

Here’s how to spend the day in Santa Monica

Shop Third Street Promenade

I love shopping in Santa Monica and you’ll find three pedestrianised blocks on Third Street lined with stores and street entertainers. It is anchored at one end by Santa Monica Place, a three level mall with shops and eateries. You’ll find Nordstrom in here plus 7 For All Mankind, Tiffany, Coach, Forever 21, Nike and more.

But I usually just blitz through and head out to the street in the sunshine. There are gardens up the middle and a couple of cafes, and either side of the road are several big national and multinational stores, plus some home grown ones to while away a few hours.

If you are after a fine cigar, my husband always makes a beeline for Lone Wolf Cigar Company to pick up a couple of stogies for our visit. You’ll find Davidoff, Partagas, Cohibas and more. I’m not a smoker, but I don’t mind the smell as we sit outside with a cheeky glass of something and watch the sunset from a great hotel.

Lunch in Santa Monica

On Level 3 of Santa Monica Place you will find lots of dining options including the Cheesecake Factory, Johnny Rockets or the Dudes Brewing Company. However if you’ve already shopped your way down the Promenade, you’ll find lots more cafes and restaurants for a hunger buster.

But for somewhere really special for lunch, I love The Lobster. Located at the start of the Santa Monica Pier, this Michelin Guide Plate awarded seafood restaurant has the most amazing views and the most delicious food! But it is spendy.

For something a little more affordable but still with the views, head to Seaside on the Pier. Yes, on the pier. You can get sandwiches, pizza etc here. Or, an old favorite, and a bit of fun, get your fry on at Bubba Gump, also the pier.

Wander Santa Monica Pier

After lunch stroll down the 100-year old pier. This is officially the start of Route 66 (you can walk all the way to end and pick up a souvenir) and to celebrate Forest Gump’s run along the iconic road.

You’ll get the best views of the beach stretching for eternity. Look north and staring at Malibu, south and you’ll look over Muscle Beach and all the way to Venice and beyond.

Route 66 sign on Santa Monica Pier
Route 66 begins on Santa Monica Pier!

Bike ride to Venice Beach

Rent a bike from Blazing Saddles (opposite Bubba Gump). You can take a tour if you want to uncover some secrets, or just rent it for a few hours and ride with the wind in your hair. Another rental is Boardwalk Bike Rentals (at the start of the pier) and cycle along the bike path laid out in the sand.

Go north and 13 miles later you’ll reach Malibu (ah that’s too far for me!), or go south and you’ll be in Venice Beach just two miles along.

Santa Monica bike path towards Venice Beach

On the way south you’ll get to ogle at the fancy beach front hotels like Shutters on the Beach, and uber spendy apartments.

You’ll cruise by Muscle Beach, where the fit and toned will be working out on gym rings and high bars, while others come to work out to be seen. It’s totally worth a photo stop, or even a little try yourself!

You can hire e-scooters to get to Venice, but note that they are not permitted on the beach bike path, which kind of defeats the purpose because you don’t want to ride up on the street with the traffic!

You’ll need a drink when you get to Venice, so grab a window seat at the Sidewalk Cafe & Bar and enjoy the entertainment from the street performers. Some are amazingly talented, like this guy below on the piano, and others are… not.

Incredibly talented pianist performs outside Sidewalk Cafe, Venice Beach
Incredibly talented pianist performs outside Sidewalk Cafe, Venice Beach

Happy hour sunset cocktail

If you did in fact ride to Venice, the best place for a sunset drink is on the Erwin Hotel rooftop. Named High, for the medicinal cannabis you’ll be offered everywhere, the open-air rooftop has 360˚ views and the best view of the Pacific Ocean sunsets along this coast.

We’ve stayed at the Erwin Hotel before and it’s super trendy, very hip and reasonably affordable given it’s beachfront location. The restaurant on the ground floor serves a fabulous breakfast. But that bar! Those sun sets!

This post contains some affiliate links. That means if you make a direct purchase I may make a small commission, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support of my new blog.

Similar Posts