When visiting Los Angeles its easy to forget amongst the heavy traffic, buzz, and excitement of the city that there is a vast ocean at its very end full of white, clean, sandy beaches that extend over 20 miles. Any visit to Los Angeles should include some down time (if time permits) to relax on one of its many famous beaches. The three primary beaches that both locals and visitors flock to the most are Santa Monica, Venice and Malibu. Even though the climate is ideal beach weather all year round (although in winter there is always chance for rain and the temps on many days struggle to hit 70) the beaches are their most crowded in summer. Even on random warmer days in winter local Angelenos tend not to head for the beach.
Santa Monica Beach
Santa Monica Beach is the most convenient to the areas of Beverly Hills and Hollywood. One can take interstate 10 (aka the Santa Monica Freeway) west where it turns into Highway One and runs right through the center of Santa Monica Beach along the coast. From here there are many areas to turn off onto to Park (although can cost as much as $10 per day). Santa Monica Beach is vast (extending the length of three miles) and its center piece is the Santa Monica Pier. There is a bike/walking path that runs the length of the beach and is ideal for those who want to roller blade, bike or jog instead. Santa Monica Beach was made famous by the TV show “Bay Watch” and the iconic yellow life guard pick up trucks can be seen carving their way through the sand while super in shape life guards in the obligatory red swim trunks stand guard along the life guard shacks that dot the beach near the water.
The beach in the area of Patrick’s Road House or Channel Road (2 miles north of the Santa Monica Pier) is known as Will Rodgers Beach and is the area where
LA’s gay population hangs out in the summer. North of that area are dozens of Volleyball courts. The area south of Will Rodgers to the Santa Monica Pier is where most of the families go.
It should be noted that no pets of any kind are allowed on the Santa Monica Beach and the Santa Monica Police routinely patrol the beach with special SUV’s in hunt of any violators.
To the south of the Santa Monica Pier by about a mile is Venice Beach. Venice Beach is a must see when visiting Los Angeles (See are complete Venice Beach Guide). Venice Beach unlike its sister beach to the north is a lot more eclectic, engaging , at times bizarre and more interesting. If you want to just relax, go to Santa Monica Beach, if you want to be stimulated-do Venice. Venice offers both sandy areas to lay out and the boardwalk. The boardwalk on weekends is packed with thousands of people that range from LA locals, to tourists, artists, homeless people and random street performers. All along the boardwalk are pipe shops, t-shirt stores and random food stands offering all kinds of fried food goodies. If in the mood to walk, you could start the day in Venice and easily walk up to Santa Monica Beach .
Traffic in and around both Santa Monica and Venice Beaches can be insane at times. Parking in Venice is a lot more difficult than Santa Monica with visitors left to meters or public parking for a price (but that fills up) around Lincoln and Pacific Drive.