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Introduction to Santa Monica, California

by Max Lent

Santa Monica tops my list of L.A.'s must visit tourist destinations.  It is located on the West side of Los Angeles on the Santa Monica palisades overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  Some of Los Angeles's better tourist hotels are located along the ocean front in Santa Monica.  The air is often fresher in Santa Monica than in areas further east and the smell of the salt air blowing in from the ocean is always refreshing.  Visitors will find the restaurants situated within walking distance from their beachfront hotels good to excellent.  Santa Monica has pedestrian mall a couple blocks inland from the ocean that is worth exploring.  Stores come and go, as they do with most malls, but they always provide an interesting shopping experience.

Santa Monica by Foot


Santa Monica is ideally for leisurely walks along the ocean.  If you don't walk much, at least take in the Santa Monica Pier, especially at sunset or in the evening.  It is located at the intersection of Ocean and Colorado Avenues (MapQuest Map). 

For a longer walk, start at the Pier entrance and walk north along the palisades to the end of the park near the end of San Vicente Boulevard where you will find a totem pole and then return by the same route.  The total distance is about three miles.  If you take this walk during the day stop and view the Camera Obscura located above the Senior Center (MapQuest Map).  If you take this walk in the afternoon, take along a snack.  The aromas of ethnic foods being cooked on the open grills along the path will surely cause you hunger pangs.

An even longer walk, but one that should not be missed, starts at the Santa Monica pier and proceeds south on the boardwalk (the boardwalk is made of cement and blacktop)  to Venice Beach for a distance of about two miles each way.  Along the way, you will pass the original Muscle Beach near the Santa Monica Pier where it is not unusual to still see body builders performing their routines.  The walk passes by beachfront hotels, apartments, storefronts, restaurants, and food stands.  There is little need to bring snacks or water with you for this walk.  Everything from bottled water to gourmet meals are available along the way.

This walk can be shortened by taking a bus from Venice back to Santa Monica.  Los Angeles is known for its lack of usable public transportation.  Santa Monica has its own bus service called the Big Blue Bus and it does a good job of providing transportation on the West Side of Los Angeles.  If you are going to take the bus one way, take the bus to Venice and walk back to Santa Monica.  That way you can stay as long as you like and not worry about the frequency of the busses.       

The Santa Monica to Venice Boardwalk walk is most enjoyable for its sights, sounds, and people.  On any given day, you might see people juggling, riding a unicycle, telling fortunes, roller skating, bicycling, or just walking, like you.  It is a place to people watch and be watched.


If you are a runner, the Santa Monica Palisades park is an ideal run at any time of the day at almost any time of the year.  If you want to extend your run, there are two excellent extensions.  The first option is to start at the Santa Monica Pier and run the length of the park to the totem pole.  This run is slightly uphill.  Cross the street and run east on the median of San Vicente Boulevard to Brentwood.  (MapQuest Map)  The branch distance adds about another four miles each way.  The second option, which is more desirable in many ways, but can be more crowded, is to start at the Santa Monica Pier and run along the boardwalk to Venice and Marina Del Rey.  The board walk ends at Venice, so your run will take you inland to the first street or ally that parallels the ocean where you continue in the same direction adding about four miles to your run. (MapQuest Map).     


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