Santa Monica, CA, is calling all motorcycling beach bums! Although the city might be the most famous for its surf and sand, it offers much more than just sunbathing on the beach.
In many minds, Santa Monica (perhaps understandably) blurs with the surrounding Los Angeles, becoming just another megalopolis neighborhood. That’s doing Santa Monica a disservice, though—it’s a city of its own with a unique character.
The weather is ideal for year-round urban motorcycling, with balmy to hot temperatures and little to no rain. Naturally, there’s traffic within the city proper but lane splitting is legal in California, making traversing the urban jungle easier. With all that said, the beaches are the city’s main draw for a good reason. If the SoCal beach life appeals to you, Santa Monica is a prime destination, whether you want to lounge on the sand or prowl the beachfront boulevards and Santa Monica Tier for oceanside attractions.
Speaking of Santa Monica Pier, every motorcyclist in Santa Monica should give it a visit. After all, it’s the ending spot of the historical Route 66, as commemorated by the Route 66 End Sign. Yet, it could also mark the beginning of your Route 66 adventure.
Surfing is hot in Santa Monica, with choice spots to catch breaking waves abounding one after one along the shore. Riders interested in another kind of board-based extreme sport are also at Ground Zero—the infamous Z-Boys group invented modern vert skateboarding as we know it in Santa Monica’s Ocean Park in the ‘70s.
Got some cash burning a hole in your pocket? Santa Monica’s many shopping options—such as Santa Monica Place and Montana Ave—have everything from upscale outlets to beach kitsch for you to blow your money on.
The art scene in Santa Monica is bustling, with plenty of galleries showcasing artworks of all kinds. And once your stomach starts grumbling, you’re never far from an excellent eatery where you can grab a tasty treat.
Should you exhaust everything Santa Monica has to offer (unlikely), you can always head to the surrounding areas. As long as you don’t head out to the sea, you will go through LA (this route, for example, includes a stretch on the legendary Sunset Blvd). Motor a bit farther and you can hit the mountain roads for some excellent curves.
This isn’t everything you’ll find in Santa Monica by any means. Really, the only way to find out what’s there is to get on your bike and roll to the city.
Points of Interest
The blooming flowers of the Palisades Park Rose Garden have attracted visitors since the 1950s. Located on Ocean Ave, this beautiful plot of land makes for a gorgeous opportunity to stretch your saddle-worn legs. The garden is undergoing replanting efforts to replace some of the old, ailing bushes, so you can expect to see plenty of vivid, thriving young roses.
Sunset Boulevard in LA skirts Santa Monica, giving you easy access to this road to the stars. Along this famous road, you’ll find rundown bars and the most luxurious five-star hotels alike. You might even spot some celebrities. This road distills the essence of LA, bringing together shocking extremes in one SoCal package.
The Third Street Promenade is a delightful pedestrian-only mall in downtown Santa Monica. Having served as the city’s center of business since its founding in the 19th century, the road is lined with wonderful shops, cafes, restaurants, and other establishments. Include a day off the saddle in your itinerary and get the blood flowing back to your lower extremities by walking around this beautiful esplanade.
The Santa Monica Pier has a special place in many motorcyclists’ hearts due to its status as the end point of Historic Route 66. There’s more to the pier than motorcycling nostalgia, though, what with the Pacific Park (with its famous Ferris wheel), video arcades, and restaurants. You can even try your fishing luck on the pier’s west end, which is a popular spot for anglers.
Facts & Information
Coffee Stop: Rustic Coffee
Rustic Coffee is a small coffee trailer located early in the route, right before you get onto Sunset Blvd. They serve drip coffee, espresso drinks, smoothies, and other small bites to start your day. I'll have some coffee with my sunshine, please. Find it at 169 W Channel Rd, Santa Monica, CA.
Lunch Stop: MariaSol
MariaSol is a cantina and bar located at the end of Santa Monica Pier. Relax after your ride with a drink (there’s a margarita for every taste) and delicious Mexican food. This is a great spot to watch the sunset. Find it at 401 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA
Recommended Lodging: Shutters on the Beach
Shutters on the Beach is located—as it says on the label—right on the beach within a wrench’s throw of the Santa Monica Pier. It’s an excellent and comfortable home base that provides easy access to everything in Santa Monica.
Private parking keeps your bike safe, while on-site laundry facilities (included in the price) let you clean off dusty gear. With two beachfront restaurants, you won’t have to go far for food if you don’t feel like it. The swimming pool and spa let you rest your ride-weary bones in luxurious comfort.
But perhaps the best thing about Shutters on the Beach is the location. There’s nothing quite like watching the sun set over the ocean from your room’s balcony before hitting the hay.
Best Time to Travel
Santa Monica is a top-notch resort destination all year round—which naturally brings with it hordes of tourists. As such, I recommend heading to the area in late(ish) fall, from September to November.
You still get to enjoy wonderfully warm weather while avoiding both the swarming vacationers and the uncomfortable hot summer sun. With thinner crowds, it’s simply easier to do anything in Santa Monica, whether that’s cruising the streets on your bike or trying to find a spot on the beach.