The Santa Monica shore draws throngs of people year-round to its many attractions. On any given day, the two-mile-long Santa Monica State Beach ––complete with pier and amusement park––is crowded with families, fishermen, street performers, tourists, surfers, and sunbathers. Among the many attractions are the Marvin Braude Bicycle Trail, Ocean Front Walk (promenade) along the backside of the...
The Santa Monica shore draws throngs of people year-round to its many attractions. On any given day, the two-mile-long Santa Monica State Beach ––complete with pier and amusement park––is crowded with families, fishermen, street performers, tourists, surfers, and sunbathers. Among the many attractions are the Marvin Braude Bicycle Trail, Ocean Front Walk (promenade) along the backside of the beach, Muscle Beach, several pocket parks with picnic tables, an aquarium, and, at the northernmost end of the beach, Annenberg Beach House, a public recreation facility that offers a beachside pool with a lift, cultural programs, classes, free tours of the Marion Davies Guest House, and gallery exhibits.
The 1,600-foot-long Santa Monica Pier, which dates to the early 1900s, has two distinct sections. At the foot of the pier is an amusement park with a turn-of-the-century carousel, ferris wheel, arcade games, cafes, and souvenir shops. This section is surfaced with wooden boards and is very bumpy. Beyond it is a long fishing pier with a smooth asphalt surface. Handrails on the fishing pier are too high for fishing from a wheelchair. Although accessible from Colorado Avenue, the walkway is steep and often crowded; upcoast a short distance, at Moomat Ahiko Way, is a gentler path down a switchback ramp.
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium is located at beach level just below the carousel. This marine education center, operated by Heal the Bay, is home to more than 100 species of Santa Monica Bay marine animals and plants. You can watch a shark feeding, examine microscopic sea life, explore critters in touch tanks, or attend Saturday story time. Youth under 12 get in free; for others, a $5 donation is suggested.
For a change of scenery and excellent dining and shopping, venture uphill from the beach to Third Street Promenade, a popular outdoor pedestrian-only mall that stretches for several blocks.
Pick up at Perry’s Café (2400 Ocean Front Walk). Rentals are limited to an hour on busy days.
Spaces on the pier and at several beach-level lots are free with a valid disabled placard. There is street parking along Ocean Ave., but the route to the beach is steeply downhill.
The numerous restroom stations that line Ocean Front Walk are named according to the street they are closest to. All those we checked south of the pier are accessible, although they don't display the international accessibility symbol. Look for the stalls with the widest doors. Restrooms north of the pier had no space for a lateral transfer, except for the family restroom at California Ave. All three restrooms on the pier are accessible.
At South Beach Park, Ocean View Park, and Crescent Bay Park
Other Things of Interest
Open to travelers of all ages, the Santa Monica Hostel offers affordable accessible accommodations and a quiet retreat just two blocks from the beach. The dorm rooms have plenty of space to maneuver, the restrooms also have good access, and roll-in showers have a fold-down wooden seat, grab bars, and a hand-held shower. There’s a lovely courtyard with a fountain, trees, tables and chairs, and a barbecue; a large community kitchen; a game room; a library with travel information; and a laundry room. It is one of the nicest hostels I’ve seen.
Palisades Park is a linear park that runs along Ocean Avenue on a bluff overlooking Santa Monica Beach. A two-mile paved path weaves among the palm trees, with plenty of benches and shady places to rest along the way. Most of the park is wheelchair accessible, but there are steep slopes where California Avenue bisects the park, and occasional cross-slopes throughout. Overpasses across the Pacific Coast Highway to the beach have stairs at each end.