Unforgettable Day at Santa Monica Pier: Photo Spots, Restaurants, & Hotels

Capture breathtaking photos, explore hidden gems, & experience the best Santa Monica accommodations. Unforgettable moments await at Santa Monica Pier.

Santa Monica is a must-visit destination, brimming with picturesque landscapes and vibrant culture. Before embarking on your adventure, dive into this ultimate guide, tailored to help you discover the best photo spots, must-try restaurants, best accommodations, and budget-friendly things to do.

An unforgettable trip to Santa Monica Pier awaits!

The Best Photo Spots in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Pier

The potential for beautiful Santa Monica Pier photos is endless. You can capture the iconic Ferris wheel against the vast ocean, snap vibrant shots of the bustling beach and colorful street art, or switch to the amusement park for thrilling action.

Come sunset, the pier transforms into a magical scene with silhouettes bathed in warm light, creating an unforgettable photo opportunity. With its diverse backdrops and endless possibilities, Santa Monica Pier guarantees unique and breathtaking pictures to treasure.

Wide view of Santa Monica Pier at sunset with the Ferris wheel in the center near Los Angeles, California, USAPalisades Park

Palisades Park offers a tranquil escape from the bustling Santa Monica Pier. Capture breathtaking panoramas of the ocean, dramatic coastline, and vibrant city skyline. Lush greenery, towering palms, and blooming flowers create a stunning backdrop for portraits and landscapes too!

Main Street Murals

The vibrant murals of Main Street offer a dynamic and colorful backdrop for your photo ops. Enjoy capturing yourself striking a pose against a kaleidoscope of artistic expressions, each mural telling a unique story.

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With so many styles and themes to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect backdrop to express your personality and creativity! Plus, the ever-changing nature of street art means you might even discover new murals and hidden gems, adding an element of surprise and adventure to your photos.

Ground view looking up at a mural of historical figures at Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, USA
photo credit: Robby Virus via Flickr

Venice Canals Walkway

Situated not far from the Santa Monica Pier, the Venice Canals Walkway boasts a unique charm that makes it an irresistible photo op spot. The picturesque landscape studded with beautifully designed footbridges reflects an Italian flair right in the heart of California.

Whether you’re capturing the serene waterways lined with stunning beach houses or the vibrant flora that thrives alongside, every corner of the Venice Canals Walkway is full of photographic potential.

Things to Do in Santa Monica

Ride the Pacific Wheel

Looking for an unforgettable experience? Step aboard the iconic Pacific Wheel. As the only solar-powered Ferris wheel in the world, it’s not only environmentally friendly, but it also provides a remarkable aerial view of Santa Monica Beach.

Feel the fresh ocean breeze gently waft through your hair as you ascend, surrounded by the vibrant lights of the wheel. Up top, marvel at the unfolding panorama; the stunning coastline, foamy waves kissing the sandy shore, and the bustling pier below.

This truly remarkable ride will infuse your trip to Santa Monica Pier with a unique blend of thrill and serenity

aerial view of santa monica pier with people, ferris wheel and other rides and view of shore and water and buildings and palm trees in background
photo credit: Heliberto Arias via Unsplash

Go Shopping at the Santa Monica Pier Marketplace

If you are wandering around the Santa Monica Pier, don’t overlook the charmed allure of the bustling Pier Marketplace. It’s the perfect place to hunt for souvenirs, a shopper’s haven filled with unique boutiques, surf shops, and eclectic vendors selling local crafts.

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Whether it’s trendy California-inspired fashion, quirky knick-knacks, or artisanal treats you’re after, you’ll most likely find it here. With the sound of the crashing waves serving as your shopping soundtrack, it’s a unique, refreshing experience, unlike any other typical retail therapy. Cap off your spree by enjoying a local ice cream! It’s the best way to revel in a splendid Santa Monica shopping day.

Pro Tip: The Santa Monica Pier Marketplace itself does not have a dedicated parking lot. Santa Monica Pier parking is the closest option across from the pier entrance. It’s a large lot with plenty of spaces, but it can fill up quickly, especially on weekends and holidays.

Play Games at Pacific Park

There’s never a dull moment when you visit the Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier California’s very own amusement park. This vibrant playground offers a wide array of games that are perfect for families, couples, and adventure seekers.

Step right up and challenge yourself at the fan-favorite basketball shootout, or see if you can outsmart the fishbowl toss. You can also inject a bit of nostalgia into your visit by taking a shot at balloon darts. With dozens of engaging games available, Pacific Park is a must-visit on your day at Santa Monica Pier.

Pro Tip: Coming with a vehicle? The on-site parking at Santa Monica Pier and Beach has an $18 flat rate. You can validate your parking at the Pacific Park for a discounted rate.

pacific park sign surrounded by buildings on the santa monica pier

Join a Santa Monica and Venice Beach Bike Tour

Embark on a biking adventure from Santa Monica to Venice Beach that’s undeniably enjoyable! This bike tour allows you to soak up panoramic coastal vistas while basking in the refreshing ocean breeze.

You’ll get to explore the enchanting Venice Canals and Marina Del Rey, making for truly unforgettable experiences. Don’t forget to have your camera ready to capture snapshots of the vibrant Art Walls.

Finally, the famed Muscle Beach beckons – a must-see for anyone visiting this vibrant stretch of coastline. Pedal back in time and truly immerse yourself in the unique beach culture and vibrant atmosphere that Santa Monica and Venice Beach have to offer.

Take a Stroll on the Beach

When you visit Santa Monica, you can’t miss a view of Santa Monica pier at sunset. The beach stretches over three miles, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Monica Mountains, and the iconic Santa Monica Pier.

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The beach is always buzzing with activity, with people walking, running, playing volleyball, surfing, and simply enjoying the beautiful scenery. Keep an eye out for interesting sights like street performers, musicians, and artists selling their wares too!

Iconic Santa Monica rescue cabin against famous Amusement park in sunset
Iconic Santa Monica rescue cabin against famous amusement park in sunset light

Dining Favorites in Santa Monica Pier

The Albright

If you’re searching for refreshing dining experiences among the Santa Monica Pier restaurants, look no further than The Albright. This landmark eatery has revamped itself into a rustic-chic destination, offering visitors a refreshing dining experience right on the pier.

Not only does The Albright serve tantalizing local fare, but it also boasts a selection of craft beer that pairs perfectly with the fresh ocean breeze. All meals are served on communal tables, ideal for sharing laughter and stories.

Seaside on the Pier

When you’re on Santa Monica Pier, indulge in the seaside culinary experience at Seaside on the Pier. This charming fish shack is perched perfectly, giving a breathtaking view of the vast Pacific. It feels almost surreal as you dine, with the Ferris wheel painting a picture-perfect backdrop.

The restaurant is renowned for its seafood-centric menu, where freshness meets flavor. Treat yourself to some of their most loved dishes like the fresh seafood platter or the clam chowder, each exquisite in its taste. You’ll find this gastronomical jaunt not just fulfilling but also delightful and scenic, enhancing your Santa Monica Pier experience.

FAQ: What are the Santa Monica Pier hours? The Santa Monica Pier is open Daily from 6 AM to 10 PM.

Five tropical drinks on a table with the Santa Monica Pier in the background under a blue sky
Photo Credit: Seaside on the Pier via Facebook

Big Dean’s Ocean Front Café

Experience the vibrancy of beach life at Big Dean’s Ocean Front Café! It’s located directly on the beach, thus offering stunning ocean views that add a special touch to your dining experience.

Their menu stars two fan favorites: the juicy burgers and crispy fish and chips, each having their flair of deliciousness. Do anticipate a bustling atmosphere, especially during weekends and holidays when the café draws in bigger crowds.

To guarantee a spot near the glittering sea and golden sand, we recommend making a reservation beforehand. A visit to Big Dean’s is sure to leave a flavorful impression!

Hotels Near Santa Monica Pier

Courtyard by Marriott Santa Monica

When considering Santa Monica Pier hotels, the Courtyard by Marriott Santa Monica unmistakably stands apart. A blend of luxury and convenience, this hotel is an exceptional accommodation choice, located just a few steps away from the beach, and a short walk from the Pier.

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You’ll delight in the hotel’s spacious rooms featuring modern amenities, designed to provide a tranquil haven after a day of pier festivities. Add to that their welcoming staff, a fitness center, and a stunning heated pool, you’ll understand why it’s one of the best Santa Monica Pier hotels for travelers seeking an unforgettable coastal California experience.

View of a very clean beige and brown hotel room with flowers on the bed and a large window with the curtains open on.Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites

If you’re planning a visit to Santa Monica and looking for a lavish stay, be sure to consider one of the best hotels near Santa Monica Pier – the Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites. This luxury establishment provides you with a myriad of amenities designed to enhance your visit.

You’ll find elegantly furnished suites, world-class dining, an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and much more at this prime location. Staying at the Hilton Santa Monica Hotel Suites means experiencing the inimitable blend of comfort, convenience, and opulence, that serves to augment the allure of your Santa Monica vacation.

Gateway Hotel Santa Monica

You’ll find the Gateway Hotel Santa Monica to be a stellar option if you’re keeping an eye on your wallet. This budget-friendly stay offers a comfortable retreat within proximity to the buzzing Santa Monica Pier. It’s not only the reasonable rate that wins visitors over but also the bonus of free parking.

If you’re planning a road trip or simply renting a vehicle during your stay, you can enjoy this perk that is often rare in Santa Monica hotels. Here, you can soak up all the fun of the city without stressing over the extra costs.

close up of ferris wheel and pier with ocear at Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, California, USASoCal Vacation Package

As you plan your trip to Santa Monica Pier in California, unlock a world of convenience and savings with the SoCal vacation package on Tripster! This fantastic deal bundles your choice of hotel and preferred activities together for one incredible price.

The best part? It’s customizable! You get to handpick the desired experiences and the accommodation that fits your style. Start planning and make unforgettable SoCal memories on your terms today.

What Did We Miss?

Have anything to add to our guide? Leave us a comment below!

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Written by Nicole King

There are only two things that make Nicole really happy–books and travel! When her head’s not buried in a book, she’s most likely...

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