Santa Monica // EXPERIENCES

If you spent all your time stretched out on sand or frolicking in the Pacific Ocean, nobody would blame you – but Santa Monica has a lot more up its sleeve for visitors. World-class shopping, for starters: the city’s retail scene is hard to beat. Whatever your style, and whatever you’re after – one-off artworks, covetable homewares, beauty-boosting lotions and potions, big-budget designers or boxfresh streetwear and skater-garms– you’ll find it all here. Since the city is so easy to get around, you won’t waste valuable shopping time stuck in traffic jams or searching for parking.

Explore at your own pace on foot – pausing to refuel at the bohemian beachfront cafés whenever you need an energy boost. Montana Avenue is where the A-list perfect their high-gloss style (it’s also home to some cool local designers); Main Street has its own bounty of quirky boutiques. Santa Monica Place mall boasts amazing stores (from high-end to high-street), breathtaking views and delicious dining; sign up for a personal shopping experience to add a dose of LA-cool to your wardrobe.

Talking of LA-cool, don’t miss Santa Monica’s thriving arts scene; the city has helped shape Southern Cali’s cultural identity, after all. Santa Monica was recently nicknamed ‘Silicon Beach’, thanks to its bounty of tech and internet start-ups; the city is home to a large and influential art community. Pick from more than 120 galleries, public art installations, museums and theatres; you can also expect a packed calendar of concerts, plays, dance shows and other performances. Don’t miss Bergamot Station, a former rail yard that hosts a wealth of contemporary art galleries.


At Santa Monica Beach, you can get your fix of ocean adventures, including sunbathing, surfing, biking and volleyball. You don’t have to be a Hollywood movie star to feel like one, thanks to Perry’s At the Beach: a beachside butler service. Let your obliging butler set up your beach chair, equip you with suntanning lotion and treat you to a chilled drink. Come sunset, stroll along Santa Monica Pier and hop on the Pacific Park Ferris Wheel for bird’s-eye views of the sinking sun. Don’t miss the South Bay Bicycle Trail, which wends 22 miles from North of Santa Monica to the bluffs and beyond. If you want to gawp at some of LA’s most iconic sights, just hop on the Metro to the attraction of your choice – they’re all within reach from Santa Monica.

Santa Monica // HEALTH & WELLBEING

Yogis and gym-bunnies: welcome to your spiritual and physical home. Southern California’s exercise craze kicked off in Santa Monica in the early 20th century. For proof, visit the original Muscle Beach (south of the Santa Monica Pier), which started back in the 1930s. A lean, keen group of acrobats, gymnasts and other talented athletes gathered here regularly to work out by the beachfront, leading to the official moniker, Muscle Beach, in 1933. (Seventeen years later, nearby Venice Beach followed suit with its own version; stroll over to compare the two.

Santa Monica continues to be a trailblazer when it comes to fitness and wellness. Stand-up paddleboarding was invented here, as was roga: a pulse-racing combination of running and yoga, which you can try for yourself on the pier. Join the locals perfecting their downward-dog on the sand, have a yoga session at peaceful Palisades Park (followed by a smoothie at Wildflower Café), or banish jet-lag with a class at BoxUnion: a beats-driven boxing studio that will make your heart race.

For an ‘only-in-LA’ fitness experience, sign up for a trapeze lesson on Santa Monica Pier with Trapeze School New York, go surfing with friendly instructors at Aqua Surf or try aqua-yoga on surf boards. Prefer spectator sports? You’re in the right place. Just relax on the sand or in your favourite beachfront café – matcha or turmeric latte in hand – and watch admiringly while others work up a sweat. You could also detoxify without moving a muscle at Shape House day spa, an urban sweat lodge.


Health and wellness shape Santa Monica’s menus, too. The craze for beauty-boosting smoothies and juices took root here; try the Cream Party (coconut water and coconut cream) from Juice Served Here, which is a hit with the locals. If you’ve had one too many cocktails at ONYX Rooftop Bar the night before, combat the consequences with the powerful Hangover Cure (featuring pineapple, ginger, cayenne, black pepper and herbal extracts) from the Hive, another favourite at 606 Broadway.

Enjoy doctor-approved dishes at True Food Kitchen in Downtown, which champions farm-to-table fare, or have a very-LA breakfast – including a Beautify syringe with a health shot – at Kreation Juice on Montana Avenue. For the ultimate indulgence, book some spoiling spa treatments at the serene Alchemie Spa and relax back, Santa Monica-style. If your stamina for exercise classes and health kicks hasn’t been exhausted, head into Downtown LA on the Metro Expo Line , for more park life, fitness classes and gyms, and healthy-living cafés, shops and restaurants…

Santa Monica // FOOD & DRINK

Santa Monica’s menu is healthy, playful, exciting and diverse – just like the city itself. Of course, Mother Nature takes centre stage here: all that sunshine (300-plus days a year, to be precise) makes for delicious, vitamin-packed produce, and the local waters are home to delicious fish and succulent seafood. Come hungry and thirsty: Michelin-star restaurants, relaxed taquerias, bustling farmers’ markets, beachfront wine bars, nocturnal bars and enticing delis await.

The good news is, Santa Monica’s relaxed spirit prevails throughout – gents don’t have to don a tie and jacket anywhere (unless they want to, of course). In addition to noteworthy cuisine, California is famous for its world-class wine: sign up for a Wine and Hiking tour with Malibu Discovery to familiarise your palate with the region’s best bottles.

Santa Monica, the birthplace of Cali-Fusion food, has always had a soft spot for farm-to-table produce. To meet the region’s friendly farmers and artisan producers, visit one of the weekly markets. There are worthy contenders on Main Street and Pico Boulevard, but the Wednesday Farmers’ Market in Downtown Arizona Avenue is particularly ripe for the picking. Head here and you’re likely to see celebrity chefs stocking up their larders and scouting for next-big-thing ingredients. Get tips from the pros by having a cookery lesson in Santa Monica: the Gourmandise School of Sweets and Savouries offers a range of excellent classes. You’ll learn about classical cookery techniques and be introduced to a tastebud-tempting array of local ingredients.


We don’t have enough room to put all of Santa Monica’s gourmet lures on your metaphorical plate, but here are a few more morsels to whet your appetite. For fine dining and unforgettable flavours, visit Cassia on Seventh Street, which pairs Southeast Asian flavours and a Californian philosophy; kick proceedings off with a drink at the wine-shop-cum-deli opposite. Fancy something a little more casual? Enjoy Caribbean-style jerk chicken – and rum-splashed cocktails – from Cha Cha Chicken, a relaxed beachside shack with buckets of character. (Make sure you get the jerk sauce, which stars fresh mango, pineapple and habanero pepper.)

If you love street-food, don’t miss the city’s Food Truck Tuesdays, when an array of gourmet food trucks tout their tasty wares at 2612 Main St. Trusted favourites include Roll’n Lobster, India Jones Chow Truck and Straight Outta the Grill. Since Santa Monica is rightly famous for its sunsets, don’t miss a scenic sunset dinner: try The Lobster restaurant on the pier, or head to Mexican-fave Mariasol for huge portions of guac, hefty burritos and unforgettable views. Of course, LA has its own bounty of world-class restaurants, all within easy reach from Santa Monica: try Italian seafood at Cal Mare, Peruvian cuisine and pisco sours at Rosaliné and ambitious fine-dining at Vespertine…