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The Beaches and Santa Monica Pier

beach-bird-soaringLocated just west of Downtown Los Angeles, Santa Monica beach is an iconic example of the famed Southern California beaches.

Tourists and visitors come to the Santa Monica beach, because it:

  • is large, at 3.5 miles in length
  • has a maintained, soft sand beach
  • is within walking distance to popular hotels, shops and restaurants
  • offers a variety of activities and attractions
  • is an iconic beach in Southern California

Because the beach is long (3.5 miles in length) it is helpful to divide the beach in two sections: north of the pier and south of the pier.

Santa Monica beach on the north side of the pier is separated from the city by the palisades (an ocean bluff) and the Pacific Coast Highway. A series of bridges, walkways and stairs provides access to the beach from the city.

The Annenberg Community Beach House is at the far north end of beach, with houses and parking lots running along the Pacific Coast Highway to the Santa Monica Pier.

In the middle of the beach, extending from Colorado Blvd and the center of Santa Monica, is the Santa Monica Pier. Featuring an amusement park, aquarium and restaurants, the pier is a landmark for the beach and the city.

Santa Monica beach on the south side of the pier is level with the city, with parking lots, parks, homes and hotels bordering the beach.
The original Muscle Beach (featuring gymnastics equipment), International Chess Park and Carousel Park are located just south of the Santa Monica Pier.



You know you’ve arrived in Santa Monica, California when you see the iconic Ferris wheel of the Santa Monica Pier jutting into the inviting waters of the Pacific Ocean. Set at Santa Monica’s westernmost point, the Santa Monica Pier is a staple of this picturesque seaside community. Packed with family-friendly activities, restaurants and shops, it also has stunning views and over a century’s worth of history. Here’s everything you need to know about the Santa Monica Pier, the area’s most recognizable landmark.


For first-time visitors, your first stop should be the Pier Shop & Visitor Center, where you can find maps of the area, branded apparel, visitor guides and a knowledgeable staff. If you’re up for the walk, you can jump on a free Historical Walking Tour; docents will reveal hidden nooks and crannies of the Santa Monica Pier, take you by the famous Muscle Beach and divulge stories about celebrity visitors. Tours take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 11am to 12pm.


You don’t need a fishing license to drop a line off the Pier; at the Santa Monica Pier Bait & Tackle Co. you can get gear, poles, bait and tips from the locals. If you’d rather simply admire the marine life, head to Heal the Bay’s Santa Monica Pier Aquarium located below the carousel. The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium offers up-close views of indigenous marine life. Stop by for interactive exhibits and hands-on presentations.


Take a ride on the wooden horses and sleighs of the Santa Monica Pier Carousel. The famous carousel was built in 1939 in the Looff Hippodrome, a National Historic Landmark and one of the few structures remaining from Santa Monica’s original pier.


‘Yahoo Travel’ recently named the family-friendly Pacific Park “California’s Best Amusement Park”. The West Coast’s only amusement park located on a pier features the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, an exhilarating roller coaster that towers 55-feet above the Pacific Ocean, midway games, food and shopping. Pacific Park is open year-round, although seasonal hours vary.


Strike up some friendly competition at Playland Arcade, which has over 200 games for the whole family. You’ll find old-school pastimes like skee ball and pinball alongside newer videogames in this classic arcade. Don’t miss getting your picture taken in one of the photo booths.


…with the greatest of ease at Trapeze School New York (TSNY) Los Angeles. No prior experience is necessary for the two-hour Flying Trapeze class or the one-hour Aerial Silks class. Adventure seekers over the age of 6 are welcome to swing and soar like Superman.