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Santa Monica Beach and Pier

Los Angeles, California, USA


At Santa Monica Pier and Beach there is so much to do! Here, the beach is absolutely gorgeous. The waves crash strongly on the shore and it's great to go for a walk east of the pier. Rent bikes at the shop near the bike path and ride to quirky Venice Beach on the bike path over the sand. 
Just east of Santa Monica Pier, check out Old Muscle Beach, a cool area where acrobatic people work out. Watch the amazing tricks they pull. It's fun for kids to swing here like gymnasts, to climb high up a rope like a fire pole, or to stand on the slippery rounded cement boulders. Lots of people come here to slackline, a sort of tightrope walking. It's great to watch them.
There's a small ship playground with a huge dragon's mouth carved out of stone. Kids can climb inside, grab onto the teeth, and pretend they are being eaten alive! Unfortunately, there's some graffiti on the dragon and ship and it's dirty.
At the base of the pier there's an indoor carousel all decorated in baby blue. It was a little disappointing once, because the horses we chose did not go up and down, so choose the inner not the outer horses.
On the pier there's an arcade game place, loud and crowded- hell for parents but lots of fun for kids, who will be very wired if you stay too long. Vendors along the pier sell trinkets and food. An amusement park called Pacific Park beckons, with an incredibly scary pirate-ship ride that looks like a dragon. It goes much higher than you're used to and it feels like you are falling off a building each time it comes down. There's an antique roller-coaster that's not particularly frightening to ride on and a ferris wheel that looks beautiful when lit up at night. Come with your date at night! From the top of the ferris wheel you get a fantastic view of the beach. It's not very thrilling though because you're all sitting in a circle and your legs don't hang over.
At the tip of the hundred-year-old wooden pier, it's gorgeous to stand and look down on the sparkling water below. You can run around the rim of the pier with your kids and breathe in the fresh air. We love to come here after arriving at LAX. We stretch our legs, breathe the salt air, and rejuvenate. And the yummy finale is that we eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory, which is on the pier and has the most incredible views of the beach to the west of the pier and the red cliffs by the highway. Sunsets here are spectacular. It's a little rowdy with the waiters and waitresses yelling out trivia questions and all manner of hoop-la but the food is good and you can't beat the AMAZING views! During holidays or weekends the wait to be seated can be impossible- they will tell you it's an hour wait, then you wait an hour, come back, and they tell you it's another hour. Not worth it!
From mid-July to mid-Sept, there are free outdoor concerts on the pier, Thursdays at 7pm.
The wood is so old on the pier that several people a day are in for a surprise. Splinters longer than sewing needles can easily anchor themselves in your foot. The policemen on the pier are so used to dealing with this that they've become expert splinter removers. One poor lady sat on the pier, scooted to the side and got a splinter as long as a knitting needle wedged you-know-where. Ouch! Be extra careful.
If a picnic on the beach sounds great, walk from the beach to 2400 Main Street (this is about a mile south of the pier and three blocks back from the beach). Here you'll find a wonderful European delicatessen owned by a German woman. It's called Shoop's. There are plenty of yummy European chocolates and goodies to buy while you're there.
While in Santa Monica, check out 3rd Street Promenade, a pretty, pedestrian-only area with great street performers and musicians and many sidewalk cafes. It is lovely at night when the trees are lit up. Also, don't miss a walk along Palisades Park, just across the bridge from the pier, where you can enjoy winding walkways above the clay-red cliffs of Santa Monica and gorgeous sweeping views of the beach, the Pacific Coast Highway, and the chic pastel beachhouses. There are many homeless people but on busy days plenty of tourists as well. Across the street from the pier, there's a playground with rockclimbing grips built into a hill, called Tongva Park.

Photo Gallery

Feast your eyes on the sparkling water below the pier...

The old Muscle Beach, at Santa Monica pier.

The dragon, and cafes in the background.

Beach Volleyball on a Sunday afternoon, beside Santa Monica pier!

The original Muscle Beach on a Sunday afternoon.

The beach and pier- a perfect scene of fun!

The amazing bike path in the sand, which stretches all the way from Will Rogers State Beach in the north, past Santa Monica, to Torrance Beach in the south for 20 miles.

Cafes alongside the pier, including the famous "Muscle In" Cafe.

The amazing view from Bubba Gump on Santa Monica pier, usually a long wait to be seated.

Entrance to the pier.

The pale blue carousel, indoors on the pier.

Carousel horse.

Playland Arcade, on the pier.

Acrobatics school on the pier.

Colorful fast food places on the pier.

Maximum color!

Pacific Park, the amusement park on the pier.

Octopus ride above the water, on the pier.

Rollercoaster zooming past the tip of the pier.

Dragonboat ride- this one is SCARY!

View of Santa Monica Beach from the ferris wheel.

View of the tip of the pier, from the ferris wheel.

Cruising in the sun on the ferris wheel.

Men hang out playing chess at the base of Santa Monica pier.

View as you walk a bridge over the highway to get to the pier.

Rusty's Surf Ranch, a bar and grill with live bands on weekends.

View of the beach from the pier.

The bike path.

A young man rides along looking toward the sea.

A couple rides along the bike path.

A child climbs up the tall rope.

Kids being acrobats.

A boy sits on the rounded cement rocks.

Two guys work out at the bars.

Two women sit under a cluster of palm trees.

Rollerblading on the bike path.

A guy performs amazing acrobatics.

A guy slacklines while a woman does acrobatics.

Two guys on the slackline.

Looking down at the beach from the pier.

The beach and mountains.

Ben Bostick playing guitar plus drums with his feet!

Sitting on the end of the pier enjoying the views.

A couple sits at the end of the pier looking toward the ferris wheel.

A couple strolls along the pier.

Ferris wheel.

The cliffs across the Pacific Coast Hwy from Santa Monica Beach.


This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.

From Highway 405, take Highway 10 west. Take the 4th Street exit and turn right on 4th Street and get into the left lane immediately. Turn left on Colorado Ave and then left on Ocean Ave. Turn right immediately into a little lane called Seaside Terrace. Go down a steep hill and there is a parking lot on the right. It is 2 hour pay-parking that is very affordable. This is our secret parking, so consider yourself lucky I'm telling you about it!
If you need an address to find a parking structure, try parking in Lot 4 at 1321 2nd St, Santa Monica CA 90401. Parking in this lot is $8.
There are public restrooms at Old Muscle Beach, on the pier, and in the carousel building- but I'd recommend waiting and using one at the restaurant.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Factory, Santa Monica Pier, call (310) 393-0458.
Shoop's Delicatessen, 2400 Main Street, call (310) 452-1019. There is parking right outside the delicatessen. To get to Shoop's, exit Highway 10 at 4th Street, left on 4th, right on Pico, left on Main St.
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