Santa Monica

A summer day at Santa Monica State Beach - Southern California

Santa Monica is perhaps one of the most well known beachfront cities in Los Angeles. Almost everyone has heard of the famous Santa Monica Pier. The iconic pier features an amusement park and also marks the end of Route 66, a historic route which runs from Chicago to Santa Monica.

End of route 66 sign - Santa Monica Pier

The roller coaster, complete with fantastic views of the coast, is a must while visiting the pier. In addition, several other carnival rides and games, a small aquarium, and restaurants are available. An amusement park combined with gorgeous views of the pacific: it doesn’t get much better!

Santa Monica Pier - Southern California

Santa Monica also encompasses a portion of the beautiful Strand Bicycle Path, a 22 mile long oceanfront path stretching from Torrance to Pacific Palisades.  The 5 mile long Santa Monica portion of the path goes right past the pier and beautiful beach. This oceanfront path is one of the most beautiful and entertaining in the country.

The Strand Bike path in Southern California

There are so many incredible views and sights to see along the way, including: the Manhattan Beach Pier, Venice Beach, beautiful Will Rogers Beach (used to film “Baywatch” and various other TV shows), and gorgeous Marina del Rey. Along the way you will encounter dozens of exercisers and observe every type of athlete from volleyball players to surfers. Nothing says summer like a ride on The Strand!

Volleyball players on Hermosa Beach - along the Strand bike path

Santa Monica State Beach is a very popular summer destination, much more so than many of the other LA area beaches. The 3 miles of coastline offer opportunities for morning strolls/jogs and lazy afternoons enjoying the beautiful California sunshine.

Beach activities include: volleyball, surf lessons, and the original Muscle Beach.

There are plenty of seafood restaurants, many offering gorgeous views of the coast.

Other fun activities in the area include: hiking and biking in the Santa Monica mountains, shopping at Third Street Promenade, and taking a stroll along Palisades Park.

Where to stay: There are numerous highly regarded beachfront hotels. One of the most highly rated is Shutters on the Beach, which has been featured on the Travel Channel. The resort features direct access to the beach, a casual, beachy atmosphere, an outdoor pool, and rooms with gorgeous beach views.

Huntington Beach

Lifeguard training day at Huntington Beach - Southern California

Huntington Beach is one of Orange County’s best beach towns. This coastal town has that iconic California beach feel: surfers, volleyball players, bike paths, 8+ miles of gorgeous beaches, summertime entertainment, and a beautiful pier. It’s everything you imagined California to be and more.

The highlight here is the gorgeous 8 mile paved path that runs along the coast. This path is perfect whether you are a walker, biker, or skater. It is wide enough to accommodate everyone. Huntington Beach is home to some of the best beach recreation in the state. Where else can you take a bike ride while watching a surfing competition?

NSSA Huntington Beach

In fact, it is known as the “Surf Capital of the World.” Whether you choose to watch the surfers from the pier or engage in a lesson yourself, you will definitely never encounter a surf atmosphere quite like this.  The US Open of Surfing is held here each year, along with several volleyball tournaments. Plenty of surfing shops and even an International Surfing museum are found here.

Surfers in Huntington Beach, California

Other recommended area activities:

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve – This gorgeous bird watching haven offers peaceful nature trails with ample bird watching opportunities. It is the perfect place to escape for some peace and quiet. So close to the hectic crowds at the beach, yet so far away!

Other must-do area activities include: shopping on downtown’s Main Street, a deep tissue massage at Cloudmover Day Spa (great after a day of biking and surfing!) and a visit to the International Surfing Museum.

Where to stay: There are hotels here to suit every budget, from glamorous oceanfront resorts to more budget friendly chain hotels further away from the coast. Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa is a great choice for those who want direct access to the beach and great on site amenities.

Ocean City, Maryland

Boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean City, Maryland is most famous for its’ iconic beach boardwalk, frequently rated amongst the best in the country. Ocean City’s lively boardwalk is home to numerous amenities including: a 2.5 mile walking/biking path, an amusement park, shops, and dozens of restaurants. Make sure to test out a serving of Ocean City’s trademark Thrasher’s French fries, located in several different locations along the boardwalk. You can’t miss them!

Ocean City, Maryland pier

Things to do…

Jolly Roger Amusement Park on the pier includes 10+ rides and attractions including a giant Ferris Wheel and roller-coaster. Enjoy all your favorite amusement rides while taking in great views of the Atlantic!

Jolly Roger Amusement Park - Ocean City, Maryland

Be sure to visit Fenwick Island, Delaware, Ocean City’s next door neighbor, and home to beautiful, isolated beaches. The serene, peaceful beaches offer a quiet escape from the Ocean City crowds. Be sure to plan at least one morning on your itinerary to relax at a Fenwick Island beach. Bethany Beach offers a quaint, peaceful beach and boardwalk with just a handful of shops and restaurants.

Beach in Fenwick Island, Delaware

Other fun things to check out in the area: mini-golf courses, Splash Mountain Water Park, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and 48th Street Watersports (offering stand up paddle-board and kayak tours).

Ocean City offers no shortage of oceanfront dining choice. Shenanigans Irish Pub is a popular choice. This lively Irish pub offers a large menu of traditional pub favorites and an outdoor patio facing the beautiful beach and boardwalk.

Where to stay: Lodging ranges from basic motels to 4 star resorts such as the Hilton Suites Ocean City Oceanfront. This all suite hotel features rooms with private balconies facing the gorgeous Atlantic coast. Additional amenities include a pool, fitness center, and 2 on-site restaurants. For a quieter experience away from the crowds, check out Sands Motel in Fenwick Island. This family-run motel features direct access to a gorgeous beach, an outdoor pool, and friendly staff.