I ended my recent trip to the USA with a short stay in Santa Monica. After experiencing the heat and mystery of the Joshua Tree desert and hitting up the top Insta spots around Palm Springs, stopping in Santa Monica felt refreshing and almost like a totally different part of the world… let alone the same state.
While I was there, I discovered why California is so often associated with beaches, palm trees and ferris wheels. Santa Monica is the epitome of all these things. As an Australian who grew up bombarded with American life on television and in movies, there’s something so whimsical about being able to bask in the things that make California so stereotypically ‘Cali’.
If you ever find yourself in Santa Monica, put these activities at the top of your to-do list.
3 must-do activities in Santa Monica
Cycle along the 26-mile bike path
This is my number one activity to do in Santa Monica. If, like me, you haven’t step foot on a bike pedal in years, this is one of the most joyful and freeing things you can do while you see the sights of this dynamic city. Make like a local (and one of the many tourists also partaking in a joy ride) and rent a beach cruiser for the whole day – you don’t want to rush this! There are a bunch of shops offering bike rentals near the pier, so you can take your pick.
If you love summer, sun and the beach, this is a great way to spend a whole day sightseeing and enjoying the ocean breeze. We ventured south towards Venice Beach and saw Muscle Beach, the Venice Beach Boardwalk and Venice Fishing Pier, as well as the beautiful stretch of virtually empty beach space along the way. If you’re up for a long ride or want to go the path less travelled, the bike path also goes the other way towards Malibu.
Experience a sunset on the beach
Let’s face it: aside from the beach, the Santa Monica Pier is one of the biggest drawcards to this part of Los Angeles. And with good reason. The pier is a place you must visit in your lifetime if you want that quintessential ‘Cali’ experience. There is a carnival-like atmosphere and a few restaurants, and it also marks the end of the Route 66 trail.
However, after you’ve strolled the pier (and perhaps paid a visit to Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., a novelty in itself), I recommend spending a summer evening on the sand watching the sun set over the water and seeing Pacific Park light up. Seeing the lights on the ferris wheel and rollercoaster while you relax on the beach with friends really feels like summer – and it makes for the perfect Instagram shot!
Shop at Third Street Promenade
If you want to escape the sun for a little while and indulge in a little TLC, Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade is the place to do it. If you’re a shopaholic, you can spend hours here pounding the pavement and browsing the stores in this three-block, pedestrian-only stretch.
Third Street Promenade also has plenty of eateries, cinemas and street performers to keep you fed and entertained. This is an open-air shopping mecca so you’ll still get a hint of the ocean breeze every now and then. We stayed two blocks away from the beach so we were inbetween the pier and Third Street Promenade, which made for the ideal balance between sand and shopping.
What are your must-do activities in Santa Monica? Let me know in the comments below!