When I think of California State Parks, Santa Monica State Beach certainly doesn’t strike me as a typical example. Where most of the state parks we’ve visited are quiet, serene spots to enjoy nature, Santa Monica State Beach is a park of another kind altogether.
Stretching some three miles and covering 245 acres of sand along the Santa Monica Bay, this iconic beach features a ton of attractions, including a well-traveled bike path, the Santa Monica Pier, six parks, the Annenberg Community Beach House and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium.
Which in a city of Los Angeles has made it quite the outdoor hot spot, especially for families. It’s a tourist Mecca that’s bustling year-round and just plain bursting come summer. In addition to the miles of sand and waves, here are some ideas for family friendly fun at Santa Monica State Beach:
Annenberg Community Beach House
This public facility feels like a members-only club, but is available to everyone – no membership required. During the summer, the draws for families are the beach areas, playground, courtyard and splash pad – all of which are free. There’s also a pool, fitness classes, recreational classes and cultural events, some of which require a fee.
Santa Monica State Beach features a total of six separate parks (including Ocean Park, which we quite enjoy). The famous Muscle Beach and Chess Park are popular spots.
The beach bike path in Santa Monica stretches approximately 5.2 miles from Will Rogers State Beach to the north and Venice Beach to the south. This is a popular activity, especially during summer months. Bring your own bike or rent at one of several locations along the boardwalk.
Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is not your ordinary pier. It features Pacific Park, an amusement park with both a Ferris wheel and a roller coaster, plus tons of family friendly rides and games. You can also take a ride on a historic carousel, play arcade games, watch people fish or head to the end of the famous Route 66.
Santa Monica Pier Aquarium
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is all about education and conservation. This 4,500-square foot aquarium is operated by the environmental organization Heal the Bay and is home to some 100 species of organisms, including moray eels, octopus, sharks, rays and a variety of fish and invertebrates – all examples of animals found just a short stroll away in the Santa Monica Bay.
- There is no entrance fee to enter Santa Monica State Beach. Check the website for more details on beach activities, events & rules.
- Parking at Santa Monica State Beach can be tricky – and costly; Get real-time updates on fees & availabilities here.
- Santa Monica State Beach is managed by the City of Santa Monica in cooperation with California State Parks.
- Santa Monica State Beach features an array of food & lodging options worth checking out.
- Water activities such as swimming, surfing & boogie boarding are popular; Lifeguard staffing varies seasonally.
- There is no camping available at Santa Monica State Beach.
- Your family could easily spend several hours, or days, exploring all this beach has to offer, so plan accordingly.
Santa Monica State Beach is located at:
E. Pacific Coast Highway
Santa Monica, CA 90401