Sun, sea, sand and city thrills: whoever said ‘you can’t have it all’ hadn’t been to Santa Monica. Begin your LA adventure in this cosmopolitan coastal city – and stay at the beach. Getting here is a breeze: Santa Monica is just eight miles from LAX Airport (a 20-minute drive or a speedy shuttle). The Metro’s Expo line connects Downtown LA and Downtown Santa Monica (whose station is just a few blocks from the beach), so it’s blissfully easy to tick off LA’s iconic attractions while you’re here. Noteworthy stops include Culver City, Exposition Park, USC, STAPLES Center and Downtown Los Angeles. Pick up a TAP card from a Metro station, top it up – and you’re good to go.
Explore Santa Monica’s 8.3 walkable square miles on foot, by bike or like the locals by rollerblading. You can even get around for free by texting Santa Monica Free Ride, an electric shuttle service that will pick you up and drive you to your attraction of choice within the city. Santa Monica enjoys close proximity to LA’s big-name lures – you could catch a bus to Hollywood or Beverly Hills, or stroll along the beachfront to get to Venice Beach – but it’s also a destination in itself. Spend a few days soaking up its beachy vibes and sunny outlook, starting with Santa Monica Beach.
Relax and unwind on the sand, admire the local fitness-bunnies, or explore Instagram-icon Santa Monica Pier, which has an amusement park with retro rides. See how the city’s colours and mood shifts after dark: sip cocktails at ocean-spying ONYX Rooftop Bar, at Hotel Shangri-La, or head to Santa Monica Place for Sonoma Wine Garden. If you’re feeling lively, go dancing with the locals at Circle Bar, or soak up the atmosphere at one of the city’s dive bars: Chez Jay, perhaps.