An Insider’s Guide to Santa Monica

Whether you’re looking for a trendy hotspot for sunset cocktails or one of the best Italian restaurants in all of Los Angeles, there is so much to see and do in the heart of L.A.’s Westside.

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Thanks to its famous beaches, iconic pier and coastal charm, Santa Monica has long been lauded as one of L.A.’s best neighborhoods. Situated less than 20 minutes west of downtown Los Angeles but feeling worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city center, this Southern California coastal gem blends beachside living with urban excitement. Though you’ll find plenty of dated tourist traps that have managed to stand the test of time, the city has recently welcomed some exciting new faces that are on their way to winning the hearts of locals. From the opening of the new oceanfront Sandbourne Santa Monica, a design-forward Autograph Collection hotel that is set to debut restaurant Marelle this summer, to the opening of Chelsea, a London-inspired eatery serving up innovative cuisine and chic cocktails on Wilshire Boulevard, there’s much to look forward to.

This beach town is also home to beloved classics that have stuck around for a reason rather than a season. Whether you’re looking for a trendy hotspot for sunset cocktails or one of the best Italian restaurants in all of Los Angeles, there is so much to see and do in the heart of L.A.’s Westside. Discover all of the best places to stay, eat and drink with the help of our insider’s guide to Santa Monica.

Where to Stay

Shutters on the Beach

  • 1 Pico Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Situated right on the sandy shores of Santa Monica, Shutters on the Beach is a classic, celebrity-loved beachfront hotel that blends California living with Cape Cod style. The cottage-inspired property is home to 186 spacious guest rooms and 12 suites designed by Michael S. Smith. There are also two on-site restaurants, 1 Pico and Coast, a renowned spa and panoramic Pacific Ocean views.

Shutters on the Beach.

Oceana Santa Monica, LXR Hotels & Resorts

  • 849 Ocean Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90403

Oceana Santa Monica is a suites-only hotel nestled in a quiet and residential strip of Ocean Avenue. Guests can start each morning with a leisurely stroll through Palisades Park before settling into a plush poolside lounge chair with a signature pink hibiscus spritz in hand. Each of the 70 suites boasts spa-inspired bathrooms, smart lighting fixtures and decor by local artists.

Oceana. Oceana.

Santa Monica Proper Hotel

  • 700 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

In true Proper Hotel fashion, the design-forward nature of the Santa Monica Proper makes it one of the most architecturally stunning properties on the Westside. Each of the 267 rooms and suites follows a uniform style of neutral tones, floor-to-ceiling windows and customized furnishings. It is also home to the only rooftop pool deck in the area, where you can catch some sun while indulging in Mediterranean fare from Calabra. If you want to dine outside of the hotel, the property is within walking distance of plenty of cafes, coffee shops and restaurants.

Santa Monica Proper Hotel.

Where to Eat

Bar Monette

  • 109 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Widely recognized as one of the L.A. best restaurant openings of 2023, Bar Monette specializes in wood-fired Neapolitan pizzas and Italian tapas in a moody and romantic setting. The small space is decked out in dark green walls, antique paintings and glowing candles that set the scene for an unforgettable meal just around the corner from Ocean Avenue. After you’ve filled up on pizza, agnolotti and the melt-in-your-mouth A5 Wagyu, head next door to their sister restaurant Burgette for the custard-filled, chocolate-coated croissant for dessert.

Bar Monette. Bar Monette.

Crudo e Nudo

  • 2724 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Located on Main Street in the Ocean Park neighborhood of Santa Monica, Crudo e Nudo is a seafood fanatic's dream. This casual yet elevated restaurant serves fresh-caught and seasonal seafood, with loyal regulars flocking to the charming patio for a bottle of low-intervention rosé alongside fresh oysters, tuna toast, halibut crudo and caviar nachos.

Crudo e Nudo. Ashley Randall Photography.

Rustic Canyon

  • 1119 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Rustic Canyon is a classic Santa Monica restaurant that has been catering to upscale cravings of California cuisine since 2006. The farm-fresh ingredients yield an ever-changing menu that rotates with the seasons, but you can always expect creativity across the board. The lavender almonds are a snack staple, as are the crispy potatoes with truffle cheese fonduta.

Rustic Canyon. Rustic Canyon.


  • 1119 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Colapasta’s casual ambiance and low-key reputation have made it a staple amongst Santa Monica locals. Created by Michelin-starred chef Stefano De Lorenzo, Colapasta prides itself on using organic and locally sourced ingredients from nearby Santa Monica farmer’s markets. Can’t-miss dishes include the poppy seed-topped red beet ravioli and the rich, truffle-forward moringa agnolotti.

Colapasta. Colapasta.


  • 2104 Main St, Santa Monica, CA 90405

Between its feminine, floral decor and South Asian fusion menu, it’s no wonder why Cobi’s has become one of the coolest restaurants in Ocean Park. Whether you’re visiting for brunch or dinner, kick your meal off with the refreshing and light lychee blossom cocktail. For food, the pork dumplings are a flavorful appetizer that can easily be shared, while the butter chicken and wood-grilled beef short rib should be top contenders for your main course.

Cobi's. Cobi's.

Where to Drink

The Penthouse at The Huntley

  • 1111 2nd St, Santa Monica, CA 90403

Looking to sip a dirty martini while admiring the best view in Santa Monica? Upon taking the glass elevator up to the top floor of The Huntley Hotel, guests are greeted by a modern and sleek decor that offers 180-degree views of the ocean, city and Santa Monica Mountains. Since the bar sits at the center of the room, try to snag one of the cozy booths along the windows for the best sunset scene imaginable.

The Penthouse. The Penthouse.

Bar Chloe

  • 1449 2nd St, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Bar Chloe is a sexy, speakeasy-esque bar located in the heart of Downtown Santa Monica. In addition to craft cocktails made with care, Bar Chloe also has a solid selection of natural wines to sip, and the dim lighting and plush booths curate a romantic atmosphere that makes the unique hotel bar a great first-date spot.

Bar Chloe. Bar Chloe.


  • 1332 2nd St Rooftop, Santa Monica, CA 90401

As one of the most talked-about restaurants on the Westside, Élephante is known for its chic, bohemian atmosphere, breezy ocean patio and refreshing cocktails. While you can sit down for a full dinner, the lounge-like setting makes Élephante a popular spot for espresso martinis before a night on the town. If you're a fan of passion fruit, however, the signature namesake cocktail is a tangy libation that can be made with your choice of vodka, tequila, mezcal, gin or rum.

Élephante. Elephante.


  • 700 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Located next to the rooftop pool deck at the Santa Monica Proper Hotel, Calabra is a Mediterranean restaurant that boasts a bohemian bar and lounge area. The strawberry rhubarb spritz is a quintessentially California cocktail. Though you can happily enjoy a sunset cocktail at Calabra, it is also ideal for patrons in the mood for an elevated, boozy brunch.

Calabra. Calabra.

What to Do

Visit the Santa Monica Pier

  • 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Despite being a major tourist destination, the Santa Monica Pier is a must for locals and visitors alike. The iconic Pacific Park Ferris Wheel is the ultimate place for a sunset photo, but nothing beats nostalgic fair games and funnel cake in between amusement park rides. You’ll also find plenty of vendors selling Santa Monica-inspired trinkets, beachwear and handmade jewelry.

Santa Monica Pier.

Bike Down the Boardwalk

Stretching from Venice Beach to Malibu, the lengthy boardwalk that cuts through Santa Monica is always filled with joggers, bikers and roller skaters. Whether you’re hoping to break a sweat or enjoy a leisurely ride while enjoying the ocean breeze, this is the perfect activity for those looking to hit the beach while moving their body.

Santa Monica Boardwalk.

Shop Montana Avenue

From high-end boutiques to rare antique stores and art galleries, it’s easy to spend an entire day shopping along Montana Avenue, which stretches from Santa Monica through Brentwood. Though the 3rd Street Promenade is one of the most famous outdoor shopping blocks in the city of Santa Monica, Montana Avenue boasts more exclusive, luxe and locally-owned businesses. You can also peruse gourmet grocery stops like Andrew’s Cheese Shop or McCall’s Meat and Fish Co.

Divine Vintage, Montana Avenue.

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