Venice Beach vs. Santa Monica

Venice Beach and Santa Monica are iconic, lively, and laid-back beach towns in South California. Though they're small cities, they're brimming with art, culture, and a plethora of adventure opportunities. For many other reasons, these two are among the most desirable spots in the state.
Venice Beach vs. Santa Monica

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Venice Beach is a trendy and free-spirited beach area that embraces its bohemian vibe to the fullest. It makes up for its small size with its big personality. It’s diverse, cultured, and wildly creative, yet it offers the classic beach lifestyle you’d expect in South California.

Venice Beach shares its coastline with Santa Monica, its more refined and upscale cousin. Santa Monica is the perfect marriage of a beach lifestyle and the urban hustle and bustle. With an eclectic mix of allures, the city has something for everyone.

These two are only a few minutes apart, so it’s easy to travel both on your trip. But where you’ll be spending most of your time is the question.

Venice Beach and Santa Monica, though similar, offer vastly different experiences. So get to know these two destinations more below and figure out which suits you best.

Venice Beach

Featuring the Pacific Ocean waters, tasty cuisine, and craft beers, Venice Beach has everything for a fun beach vacation. But more than that, it’s world-famous as a trendy, lively, and quirky playground for people from all walks of life.

Venice Beach’s popularity doesn’t lie in one thing. The best thing about this neighborhood is its diverse mix of allures, making it a destination that appeals to everyone. From its quirky art scene, world-famous skate park, iconic boardwalk, and more, Venice Beach is a sunny paradise for all.

What Makes Venice Beach Unique?

Enjoy the Sun, Sand, and Sea

It’s unimaginable to go to Venice beach without dipping your toes in the sand and plunging into the inviting waters. With the beach right at your doorstep, there are plenty of ways to spend a day on the beach.

A famous spot here is Muscle Beach, where you can watch gym buffs working out by the sea. You can also take advantage of the gym equipment here for an exhilarating workout too!

On the southern end of the beach is the Venice Fishing pier. It’s open to the public, and you don’t need a fishing license to catch some fish here! It can get quite windy by the pier, which is why you can also watch surfers catching a wave or two.

Once you’ve explored the attractions around the beach, it’s time to have fun at the beach! Venice Beach is a prime spot for watersports, especially surfing. The north side is the best spot to ride the waves, and it even hosts surfing events throughout the year.

If you’re a beginner, there are plenty of professional instructors around to show you the ropes. You can choose one-on-one lessons, or go for a group lesson instead. These instructors provide you with all the equipment you need. They will train you for around an hour before you head out to hit the waves!

If surfing isn’t for you, then try your luck with paddleboarding. Like surfing, there are professional instructors around the area to teach you how to paddleboard.

Once you’re done with your action-packed beach day, take the time off to sunbathe. Grab a blanket and some food, and have a picnic at the beach. Unwind as you people watch, listen to the waves, and marvel at the boats sailing by.

Stay long enough to witness the magical beach sunset from the shore. Venice Beach’s golden hour is worth the longer stay.

A Skater and Biker’s Haven

Venice Beach is a vibrant and sprawling outdoor playground. It has a thriving and world-famous skateboarding scene, bringing in skateboarders from around the world. But it’s also a biker’s paradise, as cycling throughout the city is one of the best ways to experience Venice Beach.

Venice Beach is home to one of the world’s most iconic skate parks. The Venice Beach Skatepark is often thought of as the cradle of modern skating. This put Venice Beach on the map, becoming a mecca for skateboarders worldwide.

This world-class skate park sits right off the Venice Boardwalk so you can get a view of the beach as you get into action. It features a big sunken pool. But it also has a street-inspired section with a variety of ledges, rails, and stairs.

Compete with a snake run, this skate park is among the most challenging courses in the country! The park itself is also a star, getting featured in films and popular videos. It’s also frequently visited by the legendary skateboarder, Tony Hawk.

Biking is also popular in Venice Beach, as it’s one of the best ways to discover its hidden gems. You’ll find a ton of operators here that you can rent a bike from. They also organize hours-long tours to take you around Venice Beach and its surrounding areas.

The Legends Historic Bike tour takes you to popular beachside attractions. This includes traveling to the Santa Monica pier and boardwalk. And you’ll also visit the past homes of famous Hollywood stars. You’ll go on a two-hour-long guided tour with this. And for one hour, you get to roam the area freely.

Tons of Instagrammable Spots

Venice Beach is famous for many reasons. And part of its claim to fame is its wealth of picture-perfect sights. Color and creativity run through its streets, and even the rainbow-clad buildings by the boardwalk are a sight to behold.

There are countless picture-worthy attractions in Venice Beach. But some spots remain to be a staple visit to any Venice Beach itinerary. If you’re looking for Venice Beach’s most Instagrammable spots, pay a visit to those mentioned below.

Among the unique landmarks in Venice Beach is the Mosaic Tile House. This house is full of colorful tiles from the outside and inside. This started out as a DIY project, and it turned into a quirky passion project that made the house an ever-changing art exhibit.

Take a trip to the Venice Canal Historic District for a nice change of pace. This site gives you an entirely different side of Venice Beach. Instead of vibrant bursts of color, you’ll find an idyllic scene here.

Stroll around here and you’ll find charming sights. This includes pastel houses and beautiful arched pedestrian bridges surrounded by lush greenery. This site is reminiscent of Venice in Italy, one of the most picturesque cities in the world!

A trip to Venice Beach isn’t complete without taking a picture of its iconic sights. Two of those are the Venice Pride Flag Lifeguard Tower and the Venice Beach sign!

Vivid Street Art Across the City

Vivid and colorful, Venice Beach is where one can unleash their wild creativity. Venice Beach embraces urban art to the fullest, with street art at every turn and even a dedicated spot for murals. These vibrant works of art are part of the reason why it’s such a delight to walk around the area.

If you want to treat these murals as a pilgrimage, a self-guided walking tour of the Venice murals is among the top things to do in the area. These murals are more than eye candy, they also have tons of stories to tell about Venice Beach. Some of these are quite old, but you can always find fresh paint around the city.

The best spot to start your tour of Venice Beach’s street art is the Venice Public Art Walls. A spot dedicated to street art, it also doubles as a stunning backdrop for your photos! Some of the works here even date as far back as the 1960s.

Other great areas to explore in search of murals are Lincoln Boulevard, Kinney Boulevard, and Main Street. These streets are dense with vibrant street art ranging from marine creatures to famous figures. But across Venice Beach, you may run into smaller hidden gems that are worth a stop!

Vibrant Performing Arts Scene

It’s well-known that Venice Beach is the thriving hub for the artistic community. This is evident in the many artworks you can find sprinkled across the area. But more than paintings, Venice Beach has a lively performing arts scene.

Venice Beach has a plethora of shows and openings, small theaters, and night spots that highlight local talent. And if you need a bit more for your art or culture fix, catch a show at the Pacific Resident Theatre.

This is an intimate local theater that has long been the thriving hub for performance arts. In just under 40 years, this institution has garnered over 30 prestigious awards in theatre. This is an impressive feat, considering its young age in the theatre industry.

Run by local actors, this small theater produces lesser-known plays, classics, and new ones. It has a full calendar year-round that also features the works of up-and-coming playwrights.

You can also visit the Electric Lodge Performing Arts Center. This site has a dance studio, black box theater, and more. So more than a theater, it’s also a producing venue and performing arts center.

With a full calendar of events and performances, you can stop by for a show at any time of the year. This institution also offers special workshops not only in acting but also on other topics such as self-empowerment. Electric Lodge also offers community classes in the arts, such as art, music, and dance.

Exhilarating Gastronomic Adventures

The creativity that flows through Venice Beach also applies to its exciting food scene. Its food scene doesn’t only cater to every palate but also every price point. From upscale dining to trendy hole-in-the-wall spots to dirt-cheap street food, Venice Beach has something to offer.

Venice Beach spoils you with a plethora of must-try restaurants to choose from. But if you want the quintessential Venice Beach dining experience, dine at the Venice Whaler!

This legendary restaurant has been welcoming hungry visitors, and even celebrities, since 1944. It has a winning combination of tasty food, stunning ocean views, and a laid-back vibe!

Seafood dishes are the king here, especially their world-famous fish tacos. But their menu has a wide variety of offers, such as salads, pizzas, and sandwiches! Venice Whaler also offers cocktails so you can lighten up with the beach view as your backdrop.

More than the food, Venice Beach’s craft beer scene is worth exploring too. The Venice Beach Beer Company has been brewing specialty beers since 2010. Much like Venice Beach’s artsy and hip character, their beers have an edgy flavor to them.

There is no shortage of awesome breweries in Venice Beach though. Other popular choices are Firestone Walker, Venice Ale House, and Beach and Brew.

Santa Monica

With the idyllic beach on one side and flanked by the mountains on the other, Santa Monica is an irresistible sunbaked destination. This postcard-worthy city offers the ultimate beach lifestyle and ensures summer vibes year-round. But Santa Monica is more than its beach and iconic pier though.

Venture off inland and you’ll see why it’s a dream vacation of many. With a thriving art and food scene, charming neighborhoods, and plenty of things to do, Santa Monica is the perfect base for your SoCal holiday.

What Makes Santa Monica Unique?

The Iconic Santa Monica Pier and Beach

The state beach in Santa Monica is one of the busiest ones in LA. Popular among tourists and locals alike, its accessibility plays a big part in this. But more than that, it’s because there are a ton of things you can do in this vast stretch of golden sands.

You’ll find no shortage of ways to get active on Santa Monica’s beach. Sports are a popular, year-round activity here as there are courts all around the area. You can play beach volleyball and basketball, or go for a run or stroll on a seaside path.

Naturally, other usual beach things are welcome here too. Try your hand at watersports, build sandcastles, go for a quick swim, or sunbathe to your heart’s content.

All these are delightful to do on this idyllic beach as it’s well-maintained and fairly clean. This state beach is also a great spot for families with young kids. You’ll be swimming under constant lifeguard surveillance, and there’s also a playground at the north part of the pier!

The focal point of the city’s beach though is the world-famous Santa Monic Pier. This is among the most iconic landmarks in LA, and one of the most photographed ones too. And like Santa Monica’s beach, this pier offers a wealth of things to do.

Have some carnival fun at Pacific Park, the main attraction of the pier. This park has around 12 rides and a plethora of fairground games. The most popular ride is the solar-powered Ferris wheel, which is part of the iconic view of the pier.

You can also explore the Heal the Bay Aquarium, just below the pier. Here’s where you can find and learn about the diverse marine life, featuring moray eels, moon jellyfish, and more. The aquarium also has touch tanks that children will enjoy.

Around the pier are tons more to see and do. You can go shopping, listen to live music, munch on some street food, and more! There’s also a chess park here that not only has chess tables, but also a human chessboard!

A Lively Art and Cultural Hub

Artistry and culture run through the streets of Santa Monica thanks to its robust art scene. The city has long been a creative hub in Greater Los Angeles, and it upholds this reputation to this day.

The art lover in you can spend a lot of time uncovering the city’s artistic side. Santa Monica has dozens and dozens of museums and art galleries for you to explore. But you don’t even need to head inside a building to do this, as there are a plethora of public artworks all around town.

An unmissable stop for visitors from all over the world is the Bergamot Station. This arts center showcases the stunning artworks of artists worldwide. With a mix of classical and contemporary pieces, and being free to visit, it’s easy to see why this is an undeniable attraction in the city.

If you’re more of a film buff, then the Aero Theatre will be an exciting spot for you. Operating since 1940, this theatre screens classic films along with contemporary independent cinema.

If you’re a history lover, the California Heritage Museum is a must-visit. This museum lies in an old Victorian house, and inside it will give you a glimpse of the state’s history. California is such a diverse and complex place in many aspects, and this museum’s where you can discover the factors that make it what it is today.

A Treasure Trove of Outdoor Attractions

Santa Monica is such a popular sunny retreat, and the balmy weather and beach lifestyle play a big role in this. But there’s no denying that the wealth of scenic outdoor spots in the city is a part of this too. This makes it easy to go on a stroll and find the perfect place to soak in the sun and the easygoing vibe of the city.

It’s no surprise that one of the best places to visit in Santa Monica is a sprawling park. The verdant Palisades Park sits on top of coastal sandstone cliffs. Its location gives you a stunning panoramic view of Santa Monica’s coastline.

With its size, you’ll have no problem looking for a hang-out spot in the park. More than that, this park is also home to other attractions. This includes playing courts, beach paths, art installations, and more.

If you’re a passionate nature lover, Santa Monica has something up its sleeve. Prepare for an adventure and head to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. This massive reserve gives you easy access to wild areas for you to explore.

This park features the long and towering mountain range of the city. The mountains stretch as far as Malibu and downtown Los Angeles. For the landscape alone, there are tons of sightseeing opportunities and adventure that await you here.

Within the area are over 20 other parks. The more well-known ones are Topanga Creek State Park and Point Mugu State Park. Hiking and biking are the top things to do here. But with its diverse landscape, there are other activities here to fit your preference.

You can wander around the shoreline, frolic in sand dunes, or have fun at the river canyons. Watersports are aplenty here too, so surf, swim, or fish to your heart’s content. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also hike to discover the park’s hidden waterfalls!

Vibrant and Unique Neighborhoods

The Santa Monica Pier is the image on most people’s minds when they think of the city. But Santa Monica is quite a diverse city, home to eight unique neighborhoods that each have their unique vibe and appeal. And because Santa Monica is a compact city, it’s easy to discover these on foot. So when in Santa Monica, see where your feet take you. The city has eight different neighborhoods for you to explore.

The Downtown area is the epicenter of the action, the most energetic spot in the city. Filled with all sorts of establishments and entertainment, Downtown is the most urban spot in the city. It’s where you can find the famous Ocean Avenue, the main drag of the area that sits parallel to the coastline.

Third Street is also the city’s main shopping hub, a seemingly endless promenade of stores, restaurants, and galleries.

Ocean Park is what many consider to be the soul of the city. It’s home to the famous and artsy Main Street, lined by independent cafes, casual bars, and a wealth of shops. This part of town is well-known for being pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

Pico Boulevard is the city’s most ethnically diverse district. It’s a mellow spot that’s full of boutiques, art galleries, record stores, and more.

The atmosphere in Mid-City, the most inland neighborhood, is more low-key. It’s the arts and entertainment center of Santa Monica, housing some large entertainment companies. This is where you can find the famous Bergamot Station too.

Montana Avenue exudes a more high-end yet local vibe. Though it’s mostly a residential area, it’s also home to a vibrant shopping scene.

Wilshire Boulevard is among the well-known areas in town too. The food scene here caters to every palate, with an emphasis on Mexican restaurants. It’s also the place to be for shopping on a budget.

Incredibly Indulging Food Scene

Santa Monica’s thriving food scene has strong ties to Californian farmers. The city has a famous farmer’s market scene that attracts chefs and foodies alike with its fresh produce, meat, cheese, fish, and more. These fresh ingredients make their way to your plate, tickling your tastebuds with a range of hearty dishes.

Known for organic and superfoods, there is a great selection of restaurants in the city for healthy and sustainable food. If you’re all for clean living, Santa Monica will not disappoint you. Santa Monica is a health-loving city, so you can dine without guilt.

But of course, Santa Monica indulges you with delectable and calorific food too. And the city spoils you with a ton of restaurant options.

You’ll find a vibrant food scene right within the Santa Monica Pier. Dine with an oceanfront view with the breeze in your hair and a drink in your hand. Most restaurants here are quite casual, offering local favorites such as burgers and pretzels.

Elsewhere in the city is a diverse range of restaurants to cater to every taste and budget. Pono Burger is a popular one, specializing in healthy burgers with organic and locally sourced ingredients. If you’re looking for dessert, grab some of the best ice creams in the city at Sweet Rose Creamery.

Is Venice Beach or Santa Monica Better?

Venice Beach and Santa Monica offer similar allures to give you the best SoCal beach vacation. But since they have different personalities, the better pick depends on what you want out of your trip.

Venice Beach offers the quintessential South Californian experience. Venice Beach’s eccentric vibe is arguably its greatest asset, as it never fails to surprise you.

Choose Venice Beach if you want a more down-to-earth experience. It’s quite liberal and it embraces its “anything goes” attitude to the fullest.

One thing Venice Beach has that Santa Monica doesn’t is its world-class skate scene. So if you’re a skateboarder, Venice Beach is a no-brainer.

Santa Monica is an idyllic beach town and an urban jungle rolled into one. Choose the city if you want a more polished city to explore. It has an exciting shopping scene, focuses on sustainable food, and is an artistic and cultural powerhouse.

Unlike Venice Beach, Santa Monica offers a different vibe around every block. Santa Monica has eight neighborhoods, each with its distinct charm.


Stay in Venice Beach or Santa Monica?

Venice Beach and Santa Monica have a variety of accommodation options. Since they’re both 10 minutes apart, you’ll get the best of both worlds on your vacation with easy day trips. But figuring out which one to pick is crucial, and this will depend on your priority.

Venice Beach has low to midrange hotels and a few pricey boutique hotels. You have a ton of cheaper stays to choose from here. But tourists would rather stay in Santa Monica as it’s a safer destination.

Venice Beach is relatively safe with officers patrolling around the city. But it has more records of petty crime than Santa Monica. And while the area is fun to explore during the day, you have to be a bit more careful at night.

Santa Monica has a stronger police presence though. It’s safer both during the day and at night. Another thing that swings in Santa Monica’s favor is that it has more stay options than Venice Beach.

Accommodations in Santa Monica are more well-managed and more luxurious than those in Venice Beach. And while there is a wide range of stays to choose from, they are more expensive than what you’d find in Venice Beach.

Santa Monica Beach vs. Venice Beach

The beach of Venice Beach and Santa Monica are physically the same. These two beach paradises are next to each other and share the same stretch of sandy shore. But when you cross the demarcation line from one beach to the other, you’ll find that their beaches are quite different.

In Venice Beach, all the action is in the Ocean Front Walk area. It’s an oceanfront path lined with colorful buildings that sell a variety of items, from t-shirts to tasty food. You’ll also find all sorts of people here, such as bodybuilders, musicians, palm readers, and more. Venice Beach also has the Strand, which is a mix of a bike and a walking path.

Meanwhile, the epicenter of all the action on Santa Monica’s beach is the pier. Here you’ll find plenty of beachside attractions that you won’t find in Venice Beach. This includes a carnival, an aquarium, and tons of food stalls and restaurants within the pier.

Both beaches are great for the usual stuff, such as swimming, surfing, or sunbathing. They also have a wealth of beachside sports, and they each have a Muscle Beach.

Santa Monica’s beach is cleaner though, with well-manicured lawns and well-painted facilities.

Venice Beach or Santa Monica Pier?

Santa Monica Pier gives you a diverse range of attractions within a small spot. Its compact size makes going through the pier manageable, so you can easily get a taste of everything it has to offer.

The pier has several must-try highlights—

You can have some fun at Pacific Park. This amusement park has several rides, such as a roller coaster. But its solar-powered Ferris wheel is the star, towering 55 feet (16.8 km) above the ocean.

You can also try swinging and soaring in the air like Superman on the pier. Choose from the Flying Trapeze class or the Aerial Silks one.

You can also go old-school and play classic arcade games at Playland Arcade. Santa Monica Pier also has the Heal the Bay Aquarium, tons of seaside eateries, and even hosts tons of events year-round! This includes music festivals, running yoga events, and a plethora of family-friendly events.

Venice Beach is also a fun spot with tons of outdoor activities to offer. But you can also find most of these in Santa Monica Pier too. And Venice Beach doesn’t have all the allures mentioned above.

Is Venice Beach in Santa Monica?

Venice Beach isn’t in Santa Monica as they are two different places. Venice Beach is a neighborhood in Los Angeles City. Meanwhile, Santa Monica is a city that’s part of Los Angeles County.

How Far Is Venice Beach From Santa Monica?

Venice Beach is only 3.8 miles (6.1 km) away from Santa Monica via Lincoln Boulevard. A shorter route is through Main Street, which has a distance of around 3.4 miles (5.5 km). No matter which route you pick, the travel time from Venice Beach to Santa Monica is only around 10 minutes.

Venice Beach to Santa Monica

You have several transportation options if you travel from Venice Beach to Santa Monica. You can either take a bus, taxi, or bike. Traveling by bike is also possible if you’re feeling adventurous.

Taking the bus is one of the cheapest ways to travel to Santa Monica. Bus tickets only cost around 1 to 2 USD, and the travel time is around 9 minutes.

Direct buses are available, and you can catch one at the Main Nb and Market Ns. Buses leave Venice Beach for Santa Monica every 15 minutes.

If you want to travel more comfortably, you can also hail a taxi. Though this is a bit pricey, costing around 18 to 23 USD.

You can also rent a bike from Venice Beach and cycle along the scenic south bay. Some companies rent their bikes per hour, but others rent theirs for a day. This costs around 6 USD per hour or 20 USD per day, though prices vary from one company to another.

Keep in mind that you have to come back to Venice Beach to return the bike. If you need a one-way bike trip to Santa Monica, you can go for a bike share instead.

Santa Monica to Venice Beach Bike Ride

Cycling from Santa Monica to Venice Beach and vice versa is one of the top attractions on the south coast! You can bike along the Marvin Braude Bike trail, enjoying the coastline views and ocean breeze.

This takes you from Venice Beach to Marina del Rey and then to Santa Monica. The trail extends further than Santa Monica though. But from Venice to Santa Monica, you’ll be covering a distance of around 6 miles (9.7 km).

On this journey, you’ll go through several top attractions. This includes the Venice Canals, Muscle Beach, and Venice Boardwalk in Venice Beach. Then you’ll run through Palisades Park and Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica City.

You can find various bike rental places from Venice Beach. Rentals can be per hour, every couple of hours, or all day. There’s an extra cost if you’ll be renting an electric bike or one with a child seat.

With these rentals, you have to come back to Venice Beach to return the bike. But if you want a one-way trip, you can always get a Metro Bike Share. This way, you can just drop off your bike at any Metro Bike Share station in Santa Monica.

Can You Walk From Santa Monica to Venice Beach?

If you’re up to the challenge, you can walk from Santa Monica to Venice Beach. You’ll be walking along the south coast, from the Venice Beach Boardwalk to the Santa Monica Pier.

This beach-to-beach journey has a distance of around 2 miles (3.2 kilometers). The travel time will depend on your pace. But this takes around 30 to 45 minutes on average.

Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach

You have a few travel options to travel from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach. You can either travel by taxi, bike, or on foot.

You can hail a taxi nearby, and this is the fastest and most comfortable option. It only takes around 6 minutes to get from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach. The downside to this option is its high price tag, as it costs around 16 to 20 USD.

Renting a bike is among the popular ways to travel between the two destinations. There are bike rental places around Santa Monica so it’s easy to find one. They rent their bikes per hour or per day.

But you can only choose this option if you’re taking a day trip to Venice Beach as you have to come back and return the bike. If you want a one-way journey instead, you can rent a bike from a bike share. This way, you can get a bike from a Metro Bike Share dock in Santa Monica and leave it at a dock at Venice Beach.

You can also walk from the pier to Venice beach too if you want. This is around a 3-mile walk (5 km).

Is Venice Beach Near Santa Monica Pier?

Venice Beach is quite near Santa Monica Pier. If you travel by bus, you’ll get to Santa Monica pier in only around 10 minutes. Some people even choose to cycle or walk from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Pier!

Distance From Venice Beach to Santa Monica Pier

The distance between Venice Beach and Santa Monica pier is only around 3 miles or less. But this will depend on the route you choose to take.

You’ll only be covering 2.8 miles (4.5 km) if you travel via Main Street and Neilson Way. If you go through Pacific Avenue and Neilson Way, you’ll cover roughly the same distance. Traveling via Main Street and 4th Street is the longest route as it has a distance of 3.2 miles (5.1 km).

Can You Walk From Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach?

Walking from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach is possible. In fact, many adventurous tourists choose to travel between the two destinations on foot!

Walking via Ocean Front Walk is one of your options. This is the most popular one too, as you’ll have oceanfront views throughout your journey. This route covers a distance of 2.7 miles (4.3 km).

You can also go inland a bit and go through Neilson Way and Pacific Avenue. This route covers roughly the same distance so it all boils down to your preference.

Your travel time on this journey will depend on your pace and if you make stops along the way. But the approximate travel time on this trip is only under an hour.