6 mi / 9 km
Los Angeles (LAX)
Experience all that happening Santa Monica has to offer on this block-by-block drive through the hippest neighborhood LA can muster (sorry, Venice!). The local crowd is a strange fusion of New Age hippy types a pin-stripe-suited Hollywood big wigs, family beach goers and day trippers come to see the sights. You'll get in amongst them and encounter the famous pier, the whirling Ferriss wheel, and plenty, plenty more.
Cha-ching! Retail therapy abounds at the starting point. You'll be on Montana Avenue, a steady stream of over 150 boutique shops and farm-to-table kitchens. Grab yourself the compulsory skinny flat white and go seeking artisan house goods, designer shoes, handmade chocolates – the list goes on.
The way leads to the coast from there. Zigzag down Lincoln Boulevard with those trademark slinky palms lining the sidewalks. Then turn onto California Ave, a gorgeous route with pretty plane trees that paves the way right down to Ocean Avenue, the vibrant shoreline gathering point of the whole neighborhood.
A stroll through Palisades Park is a must there. This salty green space spans across 1.6 miles of the town's coastline, gazing over Sorrento Beach and it's priceless mansions (see if you can spot the one that was once home to The Beatles!). The finale is a lookout with front-on views of the lapping Pacific surf from between clusters of old oak trees. Talk about romantic!
Back in the 1930s and 1940s Santa Monica's Muscle Beach was a captivating haven for bodybuilders, fitness enthusiasts, and daring acrobats. The beach transformed into an open-air theater of strength and agility, featuring jaw-dropping displays of bulging biceps and gravity-defying stunts.
Legendary figures like Jack LaLanne captivated crowds with daring feats, embodying the epitome of health and vitality. Today, the spirit of Muscle Beach lives on at the reimagined Muscle Beach Venice, where a new generation continues to push the boundaries of physical fitness.
Of course, no trip through this corner of LA could possibly be complete without seeing the Santa Monica Pier. That's 1,650 feet of pure joy. Now an icon of SoCal life, its base brims with seafood buffets, smoothie cafes, and American surf-turf grills. Further along, you'll be able to stand at the western terminus of Route 66, and then delve into Pacific Park – a fully-fledged amusement zone that has looping rollercoasters and the 85-meter-high Pacific Wheel.
You'll then glimpse the chic 5-star spa hotels that gild the Santa Monica coastline over on Appian Way before veering back into the middle of the town on Main Street. That's a vibrant and curious place, where yoga workshops and Irish pubs collide. Film buffs won't want to miss jAdis, a ramshackle prop shop that's packed with items that might just have featured in Sci-Fi flicks over the years.
Whether you're captivated by the stunning coastline, palm tree-lined boulevards or vibrant energy of the city, a drive through Santa Monica promises a memorable adventure that captures the essence of this beloved coastal gem.
Travelers seeking a more budget-friendly option can consider the Hotel Carmel, a historic hotel with a prime location near the beach and the Santa Monica Pier.Parking fees may apply to some areas - see signage on site.
Got a tip for this route? Send us yours!Santa Monica's roads are all sealed. View current alerts and warnings from the City of Santa Monica.
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