Santa Monica is the end to the iconic Route 66, a coastal city on the west coast of California that comes to life from dusk. This little gem has long been attracting tourists from all walks of life. What fascinates me the most about this city is visiting the only amusement park sitting on a pier by the beach on the West Coast.
And so our first stop of a 2 weeks long coastal drive with a 5-month-old baby begins here.
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Take a guess what struck me the most at first?
My first impression of Santa Monica is how amazingly diverse this little town presented itself. Although I was taken back by the number of homeless people at first, it didn’t take long for me to lower my guard. I realised most of them are harmless, and just happily going about their days. There’s also an equal amount of police cars roaming around that actually made us feel quite safe.
First night, I didn’t sleep all night. Maybe it was the jet lag, or maybe it was the thrill of coming to a new place, I don’t know. While Kyra was still soundly asleep, I sneaked out to the beach long before sunrise and took this shot.
I met a local man flying his drone at sunrise. We shared the same sympathy towards the youths camping under a tree on the beach. He told me he flies drones as a hobby, quite often he can see whales and dolphins swim by from above. Looking up at the glowing clouds above my head, Santa Monica is stunningly beautiful, especially behind these alluring lights.
The rest of the family soon joined me. 100 meters to the beach from our hotel, we were opened up to a stretch of sand with a tiny ferris wheel rotating at the horizon. Coming from the bustling city of Los Angeles, this place screams lifestyle. We see locals walking dogs, kids riding bikes, couples cuddling on a hammock, tourists taking photos, mums doing yoga, mates on the monkey rings, hot girls showing off their flexibility on a trapeze, and of course the carefree wanderers minding their own business. It’s a vastly dynamic yet harmonious community enjoying the best of California!
If this is the first time you’re visiting Santa Monica, here are some useful information to guide you around.
Getting Around Santa Monica
Circuit – The Free Ride
Circuit offers free rides everyday of the week from 11:30 am to 9:00 pm. Download the app or simply flag down at:
- Downtown Santa Monica
- Light Rail Station
- Santa Monica Pier
- 3rd St Promenade
- Santa Monica Place
- Local Shops, Hotels, Restaurants & more.
Rent A Bike
Santa Monica is safe to travel on bicycles. In fact, we highly recommend you to explore the parks and beaches on bikes. Besides, travelling by bike is good for our health and our planet.
The Bike Center Santa Monica has all kinds of bikes to suit your group, even if you’re travelling with little ones. You can choose from:
- Comfort bikes
- City bikes
- Road bikes
- Kids bikes
- Tandem bikes
- Electric bikes
- Bikes with cargo for families with kids
- Bikes with child seat
- Bikes with tagalong
As you can see, there’s an option for everyone at The Bike Center.
Every time we walked past The Bike Center, there was a line of people outside waiting to rent a bike. So call them to check availability and perhaps make bookings to be safe.
Big Blue Bus
The Big Blue Bus is one of the most convenient ways to get around Santa Monica. They are now contactless, so please check the website for payment options.
Tap Card is the easiest way to travel around LA by public transport. You can preload it, top up and use the card for bikes, buses and metro! Plan your trip with Go Metro and travel between LA and the Coast with ease.
Hire A Car
This option is best suited for visitors stopping over at Santa Monica from a road trip. If you plan to stay for a couple of nights, I don’t really see the need for a car.
Santa Monica has beautiful boardwalk right in the heart of where it’s all happening. Walk along the beach, walk to the pier and walk around the shops. They’re not far from one another, you’ll discover so much more by doing a bit of exercise.
Things To Do
We stayed in Santa Monica for 4 days, and felt like we still missed a lot. Here are some ideas on what to do there. (sms concierge to confirm the dates and times!)
Visit the iconic Santa Monica Pier. (If travelling with baby, the boardwalk is very bumpy, I would recommend taking a baby carrier instead of a stroller.)
Take a free historical walking tour.
Farmers market is on every Wednesday, Saturday and Sun until 1pm on Main St.
Food truck is on Tuesdays from 5-10pm.
Bring a hammock, set it up on the beach and watch the most amazing sunsets.
Take a walk along the beach, and lose yourself in Pacific Park.
Up early? Perfect for a morning run, followed by a work out at Muscle Beach.
Sign up a class at Trapeze School.
Shop at Bloomingdale’s.
Shop at Third Street Promenade.
Take the kids out and have some fun at Tongva Park.
Explore Venice Beach.
Don’t miss Santa Monica’s sunsets! After dark is when the party begins. Pacific Park lights up the city, pumping music and vibrant crowds. Meet some hippy friends along the way!
Where To Eat
Bubba Gump Shrimp is a must-try on Santa Monica Pier. Although inside is very hot in summer, seafood is absolutely delicious here! Their unique decor and alfresco deck looking out to the ocean attracts big crowds, which explains the never-ending long queue outside.
Service is excellent and personal, staff all have a sense of humour, and you’ll feel well taken care of by your assigned waiter.
Their specialty drinks not only look funky and pretty, but the cups can also stack on top of each other!
Whatever the magic sauce they put in those prawns, had me thinking about this place even til now!
Cha Cha Chicken is one of the most popular best value eats in Santa Monica. Authentic Caribbean Food conveniently sits on the main road. Ideal for groups of friends to hang out in the evenings. If you don’t have the patience to line up, call them and order takeout!
Where To Stay
We stayed at Seaview Motel – a hidden gem that wasn’t advertised on any of the major hotel sites at the time of our booking. Although a little dated, Seaview Motel sits alongside the other 5-star hotels on Ocean Avenue at a fraction of the price. We couldn’t ask for a better location, the main beach is literally a 1-minute walk down the road.
It may not look glamorous from the outside on a first impression, but it was quiet and relaxing inside the motel. Rooms were clean and comfortable. Basic amenities like TV, Fan, Fridge were all available and there was a little courtyard to hang out. Water pressure was good. It’s important to be able to have a nice cool shower after a long summer day!
Wifi was easy to connect and super fast too, whoo!
Staff at Seaview Motel was helpful and accommodating. They had a luggage storage facility too. After looking around and comparing the price, this motel offered the best value for the location.
If you’re paying by cash, further discounts apply!
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