Santa Monica is the perfect beach town for a day of exploring and sightseeing. But, there’s more to this coastal paradise than just riding down to the beach and taking selfies at the pier (though both are still great places to visit).
Bike-friendly Santa Monica is packed with character with plenty of fun places to visit. So whether you’re looking for a little retail therapy or interested in the local art scene, there’s something for everyone in this town.
So, strap on your sandals, hop on your beach cruiser, and check out some of the must-see locations that probably aren’t on your to-do list.
Experience Local Neighborhoods On Your Bike Rental
Santa Monica is home to eight different neighborhoods, each with its own unique characteristics and personalities. Some areas boast high-end shopping, trendy restaurants, or even lively street art.
Pico Boulevard is one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Santa Monica. With residents and visitors from all walks of life, Pico exudes vibrant energy you must experience to understand.
The area runs parallel to I-10, with stretches of Pico Blvd. spattered with striking murals highlighting the area’s artistic side. There are plenty of galleries, shops, restaurants, and live music venues to satisfy a range of interests.
Plus, if you visit on a Saturday morning, you can visit Pico’s local farmer’s market – a smaller version of the famous downtown market.
Wilshire Boulevard is one of the most well-known streets in Santa Monica. It runs all the way from Ocean Avenue to Beverly Hills and into downtown L.A. So, cruising Wilshire is a great way to see a little bit of everything around town.
The area borders Douglas Park, so if you plan ahead, you can stop there for a picnic, play some lawn games or tennis, or take the kids to the splash pad.
Mid-City is the center of Santa Monica’s arts and entertainment scene. So, if you’re an art junkie, this is one area you won’t want to miss. You can enjoy all kinds of unique art murals across the eclectic neighborhood right from your bike seat.
Easily accessible from Wilshire or Olympic Blvd., Mid-City is the place to go for exciting restaurants, shops, stage shows, and a plethora of art galleries.
Montana Avenue is the place to go for high-end shopping, boutiques, and the most en-vogue restaurants. Admittedly, it’s not the most obvious shopping destination (compared to, say, Third Street Promenade), but the area is still packed with over 150 boutique shops and places to grab a bite to eat.
Enjoy The Art Scene By Bike
No matter where you go on your bike rental in Santa Monica, you’ll find inspiration. That’s probably why there’s such an active arts scene in the area. Even better, you don’t have to visit an art gallery or museum to enjoy the artistic side of Santa Monica – you can see it right from your bike rental!
Inspired by the ancient art of origami, Santa Monica is home to four “scramble” intersections with instructional origami designs hidden within the downtown streets. Right at the center of each of these intersections is a square where you can see embedded lines.
By recreating the lines on a sheet of paper in the form of folds, you can learn how to make your own origami dragonfly or frog (both Santa Monica natives). Fountains located near two of the intersections display what the finished paper creature should look like.
To see for yourself, check out the intersections at 2nd and Broadway, 4th and Broadway, 2nd and Santa Monica, and 4th and Santa Monica.
One of the lesser-known but most Instagram-worthy sites in Santa Monica is the Farnam House, owned by two locals who spent over a decade covering their home in brightly colored mosaic tiles. The mirrored surfaces catch the California sunshine, creating a stunning visual display for anyone who rides by.
This unique public art display is located at California Avenue and 26th street, and the owners encourage sightseers to check it out.
This 26-foot tall mushroom cloud sculpture was constructed in 1991. It’s made from molded fiberglass, concrete, and copper chain links. Now it sits amidst a peaceful garden and has become a symbol of the public landscape.
Chain Reaction is located at 1855 Main Street.
If you’ve seen the giant pastel-colored chairs on the beach just south of the Santa Monica pier, you may have wondered who the builders put them there for. The chairs were constructed in 1987 and are actually interactive art installations.
The massive chairs have 18-foot high pipes that act as wind harps, pumping out music at heights of up to 500 feet.
Surf, Sand, And Sun
It wouldn’t be a Santa Monica bike adventure without the beach. Since you may already have plans to check out some of the iconic beaches, here are some lesser-known oceanfront destinations.
Located south of Santa Monica, Dockweiler is a state beach complete with volleyball nets, picnic tables, and restroom facilities with showers. It’s a little less congested than some other famous beaches in the area, making it a good option for anyone who likes to get away from the crowd.
Dockweiler Beach also offers fire pits built into the sand, making it a destination for evening or nighttime visits. Not everywhere allows visitors to build fires on the beach, so it may be something you want to check out for yourself.
El Segundo beach is just south of Playa del Rey. It doesn’t have all the amenities that some of the other nearby beaches feature, but it’s typically a little more private than the others. It’s located right next to an inland oil refinery, but it still has lovely ocean views.
Plus, El Segundo is accessible from the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. That means you can cruise right to this beach from start to finish.
Manhattan Beach is a two-mile beach is bisected by a 900-foot pier and offers picturesque views that are definitely photo backdrop-worthy. Located within the Manhattan Beach community, you’ll find a relaxed atmosphere that looks like a photo from a travel magazine.
Plus, the Roundhouse Aquarium is accessible at the end of the pier and offers free admission, making it a two-for-one sight to see.
You can access Manhattan Beach just south of Dockweiler Beach from the Marvin Braude Bike Trail. That means it’s cruising distance on your bike rental if you want to include Manhattan Beach in your adventure.
On the northern end of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, you’ll find Will Rogers State Beach. It’s a little farther than the famous Santa Monica Beach, so it’s often a little less crowded but with the same iconic views.
The beach itself is about three miles long, with each end boasting wide, sandy oceanfront space for lounging, having a picnic, or playing volleyball. In the middle of the strip, the beach’s sandy area narrows to make way for scenic rock jetties reaching out into the crystal blue sea.
During your exploration of Santa Monica on your bike rental, there are plenty of food options to choose from throughout the day. From food trucks, ice cream shops, vegan eats, and of course bar foods, there is food for everyone to enjoy!
One of the most unique places to grab a bite is at the Santa Monica Food Truck Lot. There, you’ll find a variety of options of food and drinks in a lively, coastal atmosphere. The food truck lot is located at 2612 Main Street at Ocean Park Blvd.
Santa Monica has plenty of vegan-friendly food options ranging from American-style beach food to global cuisine. You can ride to the Third Street Promenade and check out one of the local restaurants or have something with a little Asian flair.
No day at the beach is complete without making a stop for ice cream. There are plenty of ice cream shops in Santa Monica to satisfy your sweet tooth within riding distance on your bike rental.
Whether you like classic flavors, gelato, crazy toppings, or a diner-like atmosphere, you’ll find something that fits your fancy. It’s the perfect end to your day before you finish your bike rental.
Whether you want to grab a drink with friends or scarf down a delicious burger, there are endless options for beachside eats just minutes from your bike rental. That makes it super easy to refill, either on the way back or before you head home.
One of the best places to get some of the best beach bar food around is Big Dean’s Ocean Front Café. They’ve been around since the 1970s and are loved by locals and tourists alike. You can find them right next door to Boardwalk Bike Rentals.
Sure, you can hit The Strand and have a great time riding your bike around Santa Monica. The area is packed with bike paths and trails that will take you from one end of the city to the other, all while enjoying the California coastline.
Still, if you really want to see what makes the town so special, you should ride like the locals.
That means checking out our lively neighborhoods, appreciating the local art scene, visiting some lesser-known beaches, and grabbing a bite at some of our favorite beach bars.
That way, you’ll have some of the best Instagram-worthy photos, and you’ll get to see some of the sights that are more overlooked. Best of all, these great adventures are all just a bike ride away.