One of the best things about Los Angeles is its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful beachfront cities line the coast, and one of those must-visit destinations is Santa Monica.
This hotspot and celebrity favourite is only about a 30-40 minute trip from downtown LA or Hollywood, and an Uber ride will only cost you around $20! Not only is Santa Monica host to a beautiful beach, its downtown area is chock full of shops, restaurants, bars, and cafés for you to explore.
After being dropped off by our friendly Uber driver, we could feel the giddiness surge through our bodies as we headed towards Ocean Avenue and the bridge that would take us over to the Santa Monica pier to start our day.
Despite hoping for a scorching hot day at the beach, it was imperative that we brought a jacket for the cool breeze by the water and the even cooler air when the sun set later in the evening.
Still, the bright sun warmed our skin as we walked along the boardwalk amongst the hustle and bustle of the crowds.
Situated along the boardwalk are restaurants, food vendors, a large arcade (with photobooths!) for kids, and a set of rollercoasters in Pacific Park.
As piers go, it was very similar to the likes of Navy Pier in Chicago. But then… we walked over to the railing to take in the beach.
Jen having a great time.
What can I say? The view of the beach is breathtaking when coupled with the Santa Monica Mountains in the distance. It was certainly very busy too, with tons of families and small children shrieking and laughing as they played in the chilly water.
On the south side of the pier, the beach was somewhat quieter and even has some beach volleyball courts set up. I could have stood there and watched the waves roll in for hours, and it was cool to see the beach stretch so far out.
We fell in love with this place quickly and easily and it reminded me of why I wish I lived closer to a coastline. There may be beautiful beaches in Ontario edging onto lakes, but the salty ocean air and the open and endless expanse are incomparable.
Inside Pacific Park, we couldn’t miss riding the Ferris wheel to get that view-from-above of this beautiful beachfront city.
At only $8 per ticket, it was totally worth it – especially since we went around quite a number of times!
After having enough fun on the boardwalk, we hit the sand and sunk our feet into the water.
The best part? Exploring beneath the pier.
You see it in the west coast teen dramas all the time (hello, The O.C.). The light filtering just right between the array of sturdy wooden pillars, waves crashing into them with a roar, the sand and water just a bit cooler here in the shade, and the whole thing is just begging to be used as the backdrop for some epic modelesque photographs.
Too damn epic.
After we’d had our fun photoshooting, we headed back up to shore to explore downtown Santa Monica.
There are a ton of shops, and eating and drinking options, especially along the closed-to-cars Third Street Promenade. Fun to note: the giant Forever 21 has a printer for Instagram photos!
Since we wanted to kill some time before heading back to the beach for the sunset and our bellies were rumbling as we hadn’t eaten anything since brunch in Hollywood, we stopped at Café Crépe for a delicious afternoon snack and a cup of coffee to hold us over until it was dinnertime.
Sunset in Santa Monica is hard to beat. We opted to go back over to the south side of the pier to get the silhouette of the rollercoasters and Ferris wheel in the shot with the setting sun.
As it got closer to the horizon, the sun turned a stunning melted marigold yellow. Though the beach had emptied considerably, nearby a couple was having their engagement photos taken, and I can only imagine how perfect they must have turned out.
We had our own fun as the sun sank lower and lower, and even saw a lifeguard do the Hasselhoff run into the water at one point (no worries, it was a false alarm).
As we headed back downtown for dinner, we turned back around one last time to see the sky streaked with pink and purples before the sun completely faded away. It was a truly beautiful sunset-watching experience.
There are so many great options for food in Santa Monica. In the end, we opted for Sushi Roku and we’re so glad we did. I’ll do a deeper feature into the food we ate during our trip in a separate post, but honestly, the best advice I can give when it comes to food is this: if you’re near water, eat seafood! It’s so much fresher and just so much more delicious.
And come on – who can say no to oysters?
If you’ve been to Santa Monica before, what’s your favourite thing about it? And what other places would you recommend for food and drink? I simply can’t wait to go back.