The Top-Ranked California Beach That Is World-Famous For A Reason

While there is no shortage of amazing beaches in California, Santa Monica Beach continues to wow tourists and locals alike. It stands up against its steep competition because the beach itself is idyllic, but also because there's so much to do around it. Located just west of Los Angeles, the coastal city has become one of the most beloved and famous beaches in the world. If you're going to plan the perfect 3-day weekend in Los Angeles, you can't leave until you've been to Santa Monica Beach.

The beloved beach is 3.5 miles long with famously soft, white sand, making it picturesque and a pleasure to walk on. It's the ultimate invitation for leisure. The beach actually consists of two distinct beaches: the north beach, that's mostly made up of sand and surf, and the south beach, that's home to the iconic Santa Monica Pier as well as an abundance of hotels, restaurants, bike paths, and Pacific Park, an amusement park located directly on the Santa Monica Pier. There's so much to explore that Santa Monica Beach is the perfect spot for a fun vacation.

The Santa Monica Pier is worth a stop

Santa Monica Beach is so beautiful that it has offered a rich location for films and TV. You'll recognize the pier from the 1995 film "The Net" featuring Sandra Bullock. The pier also marks the end of Route 66, one of the most historic highways in the United States, that begins in Chicago and connects the east to the west. So the pier also marks the symbolic end of a cross-country tour that connects the country. 

Reaching out into the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica Pier offers visitors a ride on the Pacific Park's Ferris Wheel and other amusement park rides including a roller coaster. There's a famous merry go-round as well as the chance to take trapeze lessons. There's a marine education center tucked under the pier called Heal the Bay that features an aquarium as well as lessons on how to keep the oceans clean.

You can eat your way across the pier thanks to an abundance of culinary options that largely and unsurprisingly include plenty of seafood. From kiosks to restaurants, there's something for every dining experience. You can even fish on the pier, so if you want to bring home a catch yourself, go for it.

Santa Monica Beach's north and south end

With the iconic Santa Monica Pier as the backdrop, it's no wonder that Santa Monica Beach is world famous. The north part of the beach consists of soft sand and surf, nestled along the coastline. These wide stretches of sand offer perfect spots for tanning, playing in the waves, and building sand castles. Just north of this idyllic strip is the famous Will Rogers State Beach, which is tucked behind the Pacific Palisades, so once you've reached this, you know you've hit the northernmost end of the beach.

The south end of Santa Monica Beach is where you access the pier, the amusement park, and restaurants. If you're more activity-oriented, the south end of the beach might offer more diversion. There are volleyball courts and bike paths. There's also the Annenberg Community Beach House, a public site that has a pool, workout classes, an event space, and a guest house.

While Santa Monica Beach is about as idyllic as it gets, there are a few things to keep in mind. The Pacific Ocean isn't always placid, and the beach is known to get some strong rip currents. Always listen to lifeguards and follow their safety guidelines. Avoid swimming near the pier itself, as barnacles and other hard-shelled crustaceans cling to the structure. Getting knocked into a support beam covered in crustaceans would be painful, so stick to the open waves when swimming.