Looking for the perfect itinerary from Venice Beach to Santa Monica pier, or viceversa from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach? You’re in the right place! Check out the best eateries, art, and attractions on the way.
Let me guess. You’ve always wanted to visit Southern California and you finally managed to sneak a trip to Venice Beach and Santa Monica in your busy schedule. Yay! I love this area of LA!
Venice Beach and Santa Monica are located on the west side of Los Angeles, and they directly sit by the Pacific Ocean. There isn’t really a better place where to suntan, sip the perfect cocktail over brunch, and snap a couple of perfect Instagram shots. But what is the best way to enjoy this fun, sunny, and fashionable pocket of LA?
Come aboard, I’ve got the perfect 1-day itinerary for you from Venice Beach to Santa Monica (or Santa Monica to Venice Beach, whatever it’s more convenient for you). Even if you only have 2 days in Los Angeles, make sure you include this area – one of my favorites in all of LA!
How To Visit Venice Beach and Santa Monica
There are a few options for visiting Venice Beach and Santa Monica in one day. You can visit on your own, by joining a guided tour, or by using the hop on hop off bus. Let’s see these options in detail.
VISIT ON YOUR OWN
You can complete this Venice to Santa Monica itinerary either on foot (you can definitely walk from Venice to Santa Monica), with some help from a rideshare app or a bus, or by renting a bike at one of the many shops around, like the stylish Ride!Venice bike rental in Venice Beach.
I really recommend getting to Venice Beach through a rideshare app just to avoid the need to park (and to look for parking!). And in case you wish to be extra green for the day, if you’re coming from the east side of town, the Metro bus #33 will drop you off at the start of your adventure…the Venice Canals.
READ ALSO: How to Visit LA Without a Car
JOIN A GUIDED TOUR
Let’s be clear. You don’t NEED a guided tour to visit Santa Monica and Venice Beach, but a tour can definitely make the experience more fun!
➤ Like to bike but feeling lazy? I hear ya! The Santa Monica and Venice Electric Bike Tour is a 3-hour tour that will bring you around the Los Angeles’ coastal area. Pedaling or not, that’s totally your choice. BOOK IT HERE
➤ Want to take things to the next level? Then check out the Santa Monica and Venice Beach Segway Tour. This 2-hour, small group tour will bring you all the way from Santa Monica Pier through Muscle Beach to the Venice Graffiti Walls. BOOK IT HERE
TAKE THE HOP ON HOP OFF BUS
I used to snob hop on hop off buses, ’till I realize that it can actually be a great way to save time and money when you have limited time in a destination and want to see as much as possible.
I do NOT recommend buying ticket just to see Venice Beach and Santa Monica, but if you are planning to also visit other parts of the city such as downtown LA, Hollywood or Beverly Hills, then it becomes an interesting option as you don’t have to rent a car or rely on expensive Uber rides.
➤ You can buy 24-, 48-, or 72-hour pass, choose 1 of 3 Loops, or combine all 3, so you can really customize your pass. Choose the Santa Monica Tour to explore both Santa Monica and Venice. CHECK IT OUT
Explore the Venice Canals
The Venice Canals were first envisioned by the polyglot Abbot Kinney, who started the building enterprise in the early 1900s in the attempt to emulate Venice, Italy and create the “Venice of America.”
Originally used in lieu of normal streets to go through the area and 16-mile long, nowadays the Venice Canals measure 1.5 miles and are surrounded by gorgeous houses, flush vegetation…and ducks.
Start the itinerary by getting lost in this cool (and quirky) place, walking over bridges, feeling the warmth of the sun, and taking your favorite pictures with the palm trees in the background, obviously. Since people actually live there, the canals are open all day long…. which also means, please be respectful!
You could spend hours here just strolling and photographing every single cool corner…but 30-40 minutes will probably do.
The Venice Boardwalk
Once you’re satisfied with the canals, it’s time to get real and experience the world-famous Venice Boardwalk.
The best place to begin is where Venice Blvd meets Pacific Ave (a couple of minutes on foot from the Canals). From there, just keep waking west and let the crowd guide you (the whole area is car-free).
The Venice Boardwalk is a bustling 1-mile long stretch of street art (sand statues are my favorite!!), pop-up shops, tourists and locals, and is one of the most extravagant places in town. During your promenade, make sure to check out hand-made souvenirs and the local weed doctors as well as the skateboarders perfecting their technique in the skate park.
READ ALSO: How To Spend the Perfect Day in Venice Beach
If you’ve got time to spare and you’re one of those gym-addicted superhumans, the Venice Boardwalk won’t let you down. Check out the Muscle Beach Outdoor Gym (open since 1963!), in addition to the gymnastic equipment, basketball, beach volley, handball, and tennis courts just nearby. While Muscle Beach is open from 8am to 6pm and it costs $10 to enter for the day, the equipment and the courts are free for all and open at any time.
If you did decide to get this perfect itinerary down by bike, just walk your bike at first until you see the bike path on your left, then go ahead and roll those wheels. You won’t be alone!
Of course, Venice Beach is also home to a gorgeous and wide beach, and you’ll have a great view of it from the boardwalk already. If this is your second (or third, fourth…) time in Venice, I recommend walking over the boardwalk and reach the ocean. Not just you can jump in the Pacific Ocean (careful, the water is coldddd) but you can also take your walk up the coast with your feet in the water. As a matter of fact, you could reach Alaska!
Just kidding, but if you want to get to Santa Monica and the Pier this way, make sure to have drinking water and sunscreen on you as well as a good 45-minute window of time to spend on foot.
Stop for a Picture at the Venice Sign
If you did stroll on the Boardwalk, I recommend making a stop and take in the place at the crossroad with Windward Ave (just passed the Hotel Erwin). You’re at the heart of Venice Beach now!
This is also where you can get the best view of the Venice Sign, which will surely be dangling in the wind once you look up, with your back to the ocean. Taking a selfie is a must here.
The sign’s exact location is at Windward and Pacific, and it’s been photographed for so many decades. The original sign, of which the current one is a replica, was put in place in 1905.
If you’re into vintage clothing and shopping, check out also Gotta Have it at 1516 Pacific Ave, just behind the Venice Sign (opening hours: 11am-7pm). You’ll find treasures among their racks.
Stroll Down Abbot Kinney Blvd
Now take Windward Ave all the way and keep going for 10-15 minutes – the street will turn into Grand Blvd, then briefly into Venice Blvd. You’re leaving the beach, the ocean, and the boardwalk behind you…just to find another Venetian gem: Abbot Kinney Blvd.
This is where Venice Beach turns into a hip mix of plant-based eateries, fashionable retailers, and not-to-miss street art. I love doing my wanderings here going from East to West, precisely from where Abbot Kinney Blvd meets Venice Blvd until you cross Brooks Ave.
On the way, I really love getting lost in the shops (some of my favorites are Urbanic Paper Boutique and Saje Natural Wellness) and check out the wonderful murals that pop up around every corner—they’re literally everywhere.
The city recommends an actual Venice Art Crawl but you can just take a look (and a pic) to the ones you find on your way to lunch, or to the next shopping venture.
Have Brunch at The Butcher’s Daughter
By the time you’re on Abbot Kinney Blvd, it will be indeed time to eat some food and I suggest making a stop at The Butcher’s Daughter, at 1205 Abbot Kinney Blvd (opening hours: 8am-8pm). This plant-based restaurant has been in the headlines of many travelers and globetrotter blogs…because it’s actually amazing!
It serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and brunch on weekends, and most importantly, all dishes are vegetarian, and their vegan or gluten-free options are many—and all delicious. The founder Heather Tierney prides herself for using solely seasonal produce from local and organic farms, and I can testify to the goodness of it all.
My personal favorites are the Surfer’s Breakfast (you can’t miss having a burrito when in CA…even if vegetarian) and the Spinach Pesto Ravioli, which are really amazingly close to what you can have in Italy…with much less animal-based ingredients, of course. You also don’t want to miss out on their drinks. Try, for instance, their Vampire Slayer juice or their 7 Minutes in Heaven Smoothie. What else can I say? Just go.
Stop for ice cream or donuts on Abbot Kinney Blvd
At whichever time of day (or night, I know you!) you’re doing this itinerary, I don’t think you can leave Abbot Kinney Blvd without having ice cream or a donut. I mean it!
➤ If you’re lucky, the scrumptious Salt&Straw won’t have too much of a line. This ice-cream celebrity shop is located at 1357 Abbot Kinney Blvd, and it opens at 3pm every day. Try the Pots of Gold and Rainbows or the Honey Lavender…if they’re available. Salt&Straw changes its menu every four weeks, so you can always be surprised. At the same time, they’re very constant in their delivery (soo good) and ingredients (local).
➤ In case I still didn’t convince you—or perhaps you’re one of those few people of the planet that don’t fall for ice cream—check out Blue Star Donuts (1142 Abbot Kinney Blvd, opens at 11am until they run out of donuts!). I’m already salivating.
Shop ‘Till You Drop at Third Street Promenade
You’ve done your shopping, you filled your belly, you’ve taken a hundred pictures to refashion your Insta account, you have sand in your toes…it’s time to move on and get to Third Street Promenade, a Santa Monica must do!
➤ You’ve got several options here: take your car and park it in one of the Third Street Promenade parking lots, use your good old rideshare app and ask to be dropped off at Broadway and Third St, hop on the Big Blue Bus #18 (get off in front of the Tesla shop), or take a 1-hour-long leisurely walk. Either way, it will take you between 20 and 60 minutes to make the trip.
At your arrival, you’ll find another open-air shopping mall…with more affordable prices and significant additions, such as movie theaters, hotels, and statues. This area is also car-free and one of the best ways to explore it walking around with no specific destination in mind. If you rode your bike, you’ll find convenient bike racks all around. Santa Monica is super bike friendly.
Almost surely, you’ll also run into live performances, you’ll snap a shot in front of a dinosaur statue, and you’ll shop around Anthropologie (1402 Third St; opening hours: 11am-5pm). I always have a great time here, especially for good people watching.
The Last Stop: Santa Monica Pier
But you are missing the ocean already, aren’t you? Something else great about Third Street Promenade is its proximity to Santa Monica Pier. Take a left towards the ocean from wherever you are on the Promenade and walk over until you reach Ocean Ave. You’ll spot the Pier in the distance (precisely, it’s the continuation of Colorado Ave).
I could bet on the fact that you’ll find a large crowd gathered around a street performer at the Pier entrance. Stop and watch…or not. The Pier is long, it offers both shops and restaurants, and it’s a great location for pictures of the coast. Think about it: you’re on the edge of the world!
Or go and get a drink at Rusty’s Surf Ranch, or make it to Pacific Park for a scary ride or a romantic tour on the ferris wheel. What you cannot find in this great part of the world!
Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach: The Opposite Itinerary
Want to go the opposite way from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach? No problem at all. This itinerary can be easily reversed.
The only thing you need to take into consideration is that Pacific Park, the amusement park section on the Santa Monica Pier, opens at 11 AM so you might want to sleep in if you’re going this direction.
Parking at Santa Monica Pier is possible since there are a few lots around it, but it can really get expensive if you’re planning to spend a few hours exploring Santa Monica and Venice Beach. I recommend getting here by Uber or public transportation.
Renting bikes in Santa Monica is absolutely possible. I recommend Santa Monica Beach Bicycle Rentals (1428 4th St, Santa Monica).
Rest assured: there are plenty of things to do in Venice Beach and Santa Monica, and you’ll always find something fashionable, yummy, and sunbathed to experience there. I know I do!
Where To Stay in Venice Beach
Book your accommodation by using the map below⬇
FAQ: Practical Questions to Plan Your Day
How far is Venice Beach from Santa Monica?
The distance from Santa Monica to Venice Beach is approximately 3 miles.
Can you walk from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Pier?
Walking from Venice Beach to Santa Monica is possible – in fact, it’s quite a nice walk on the boardwalk that will take about 45 minutes-1 hour.
Is there a shuttle from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Pier?
There is a bus from Santa Monica to Venice Beach (and viceversa): Metro bus #33. It takes approximately 10 minutes.
Is there free parking at Santa Monica Pier?
No, but most residential streets around it offer free parking during the day (not on weekends). Otherwise, the beach lots offer free parking after 5.30 pm.
Can you bike from Santa Monica to Venice?
Of course you can! The boardwalk in Santa Monica and Venice are bike friendly. In fact, you can bike all the way from Santa Monica beach to Venice Beach.
What’s the best bicycle rental in Venice Beach?
There are plenty of places for renting bikes in Venice Beach, but my favorite place is Ride!Venice.
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Stefania Guglielmi is the founder of Every Steph. Originally from Bologna, Italy, she's been traveling full-time since 2016 and has visited over 50 countries across 6 continents.She believes sustainable travel and luxury travel can go hand in hand and has been advocating for responsible tourism since 2014. Stefania's advice and travel experiences have been featured in important publications such as Business Insider, Refinery29, and Yahoo Money.(Video) 12 Things to do in VENICE BEACH, California | Venice Beach Guide and Top Attractions
How long should I spend at Santa Monica Pier? ›
Visiting the Santa Monica Pier can be a half day or whole day activity. It depends on your mood and how much you enjoy people-watching. We would definitely recommend at least two hours for the Pier and surrounding area. On a beautiful day, maybe even longer and plan to have some lunch there.Can you do Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier in one day? ›
There are a few options for visiting Venice Beach and Santa Monica in one day. You can visit on your own, by joining a guided tour, or by using the hop on hop off bus.How far is Santa Monica Pier from Venice Beach? ›
Venice is about 1.5 miles from the Santa Monica Pier, or about 30 minutes walking along the Ocean Front Walk. If biking, you can get from the Santa Monica Pier to the Venice Fishing Pier in about 15 minutes.Is Santa Monica Pier or Venice Beach better? ›
Venice Beach vs Santa Monica Beach—Both Are Winners
The touristy areas of these cities offer different things. Venice Beach is a vibrant beach locale that's perfect during the day, whereas the larger Santa Monica provides a wider range of things to do and a much more happening nightlife.
Late afternoon is a great time to head out to the Santa Monica Pier, with no shortage of things to do or see. Take the time to watch a street performer, or see how the pros fish at the end of the pier. Grab a drink and an appetizer at one of the many restaurants as you ease into the evening in Santa Monica.Is Santa Monica Pier worth going? ›
Many beachgoers say the Santa Monica Pier is a must-visit spot and fun to see. Travelers recommend riding the Ferris wheel. Visitors can also zip around on a roller coaster, catch lively street performances, play carnival games and grab a bite to eat from one of the food vendors or at a sit-down restaurant.