Venice Beach City Guide: Outdoor Experiences
BEACHES, CANALS & PIERS
Venice Beach, one of the most famous beaches in Los Angeles, is located in the iconic Venice neighborhood just 13 miles (21 km) from Downtown LA. While the beachfront is a perfect spot to soak up sun or cool off in the ocean, the surrounding Boardwalk is a hotspot for vendors and performers. Numerous films and television shows, from Baywatch to American History X, have been filmed along the half-mile boardwalk, which connects Venice to Santa Monica. Join in on a session with pro and amateur skaters alike at the legendary skate park, play a game of pick-up basketball, watch gym lovers pump iron at Muscle Beach, or rent a bicycle to enjoy the boardwalk and surrounding neighborhoods.
Santa Monica State Beach
The Santa Monica State Beach is another beloved and always popular hang-out spot. Whether you’re looking to lounge on the beach or enjoy a night out along the Santa Monica Pier (a historic landmark constructed in 1909), you’ll find an array of activities along its 3.5 mile (5.6 km) coastline. Bring your roller skates or bike along the 22 mile (35km) paved trail next to the beach, take a surfing lesson, or visit the amusement park along the pier. A ride on the iconic solar-powered ferris wheel offers spectacular views of the ocean and the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian shopping and entertainment mall. An insider tip: hop onto the ferris wheel right before sunset for incomparable views from the top.
Venice Canal Walk
In the early 1900s, Abbot Kinney resolved to make a “Venice of America,” turning modern-day Venice into a system of winding canals. And while some of Kinney’s canals eventually fell into disrepair in the intervening years, many were restored in the 1990s, today weaving their way through some of Venice’s most beautiful homes. It’s a strange, delightful, and uniquely Venice experience — well worth a stroll on a sunny day.
Annenberg Community Beach House
Experience a dose of Venice history at the Annenberg Beach House, which combines elements of the historic Marion Davies Estate with new amenities to create a truly unique community destination that’s open to all. The property features incredible views, an art gallery, historic pool, splash pad, children’s play area, and the Marion Davies Guest House. Highly recommended for a family outing.
SURFING & SKATING
Surfed by thousands every year, Breakwater is one of the most surfable spots in Los Angeles thanks to consistently good waves — located directly on the shore off Windward Avenue just beyond the Venice Public Art Walls. We recommend arriving as early as possible if you want to enjoy the open surf before the crowds.
The Venice Fishing Pier
Head to the Venice Fishing Pier to experience the largest waves in Venice, thanks to a hidden underwater 4,000-ton quarry rock reef that creates a powerful swell to the north and south. Use caution — the pier’s riptide is strong and not recommended for beginners…but it’s a great spot to linger and watch seasoned surfers hit the break.
Jay’s Rentals has been helping tourists and locals alike enjoy outdoor sports since 1996. The staff is notoriously friendly and helpful, many spending off time in the surrounding water and giving surf lessons. Located on the corner of Windward Avenue and Speedway, this highly-recognizable building has been featured in many movies and television shows shot in Venice. If surfing isn’t your thing, Jay’s also rents wetsuits, bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, inline skates, skimboards, and more. We think the prices are good, and you can rent equipment for an hour, three hours, or by the day.
ZJ Boarding House
Whether you’re a beginner looking to rent a board or a dedicated rider in need of a repair, this surf and skate shop can help. Awarded the “best surfboard rental in Santa Monica” by Yelp, ZJ Boarding House has been around since 1988, with surfboards, skateboards, and bodyboards of every different size, shape, and brand lining the walls. Step inside and immediately feel their passion for the dedicated culture of skateboarding and surfing in Southern California.
Afternoons at a skatepark has long been a favorite pastime for the Los Angeles community, and no bowls are more iconic than the ones at Venice Beach Skatepark, where LA skate culture originated. All are welcomed by the older, experienced crowd, and the combination of cooling beach breezes and mesmerizingly good skating makes it fun for everyone.
ADDITIONAL NEIGHBORHOOD MUST SEES
In Santa Monica, fun art is easy to find. Street art and graffiti murals bring color and culture to the exterior of independent businesses and local neighborhoods, and recently, there’s been a revival of murals commissioned by local artists all across the area. The best finds are the unexpected ones, so start exploring.
Santa Monica Farmer’s Market
California is known for its fresh food, but the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market boasts some of the best produce around. Beyond shopping for favorite ingredients, the beachfront market also features arts and crafts, face-painting, local coffee, and unique vendors. It’s one of the best ways to spend a morning with the entire family.
SANTA MONICA MOUNTAIN HIKES
Los Liones Canyon
Distance: 7.3 miles
Time: 4 hours
Los Liones Trail, just a mile from the ocean, leads you through a lush canyon near the south end of Topanga State Park. After 1.3 miles (2 km), the trail arrives at a clearing that opens up to expansive views of the Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, and the ocean beyond. For those interested in a longer hike, the trail continues to the Parker Mesa Overlook, which offers sweeping views of Topanga State Park.
To access the trail from the Pacific Coast Highway, turn east onto Sunset Blvd and left onto Los Liones Drive after 0.3 miles. The trailhead is clearly marked about 0.6 miles down Los Liones Drive, just before it makes a sharp turn to the west. There are several parking areas closer to Sunset Blvd, which have a short trail connecting them to the trailhead.
Distance: 5.7 miles
Time: 4 hours
Parker Mesa Overlook offers panoramic views of Santa Monica Bay and the Pacific coast. The coastline spans from Palos Verdes to Malibu, with nothing but breathtaking blue ocean in between.
Time: 2.5 hours
This hike takes you on the popular Temescal Canyon Trail to Temescal Falls (heads-up—these falls are often just a small cascade!) From there, the hike begins a challenging but shaded ascent up to Skull Rock, a rock formation with photo-worthy views of the Pacific coast. This is a fun, slightly-more-than-casual hike with lots of options to extend your workout if you’re feeling more adventurous!
The trailhead and parking are at the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Temescal Canyon Road in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood. Parking is $7 inside the park gates, or you can park for free on the street on either Sunset or Temescal Canyon Road.
Point Dume Cove Trail
Distance: 1.4 miles (2.3 kilometers)
Time: 1 hour
Elevation: 300 feet (91 meters)
Point Dume is a coastal rock formation located at the northwest end of Santa Monica Bay. Visitors make time for this easy walk because of the unbelievable views that encompass Santa Monica Bay, the Malibu coast, the Santa Monica Mountains and even Catalina Island on a clear day. During spring, vibrant poppies grow along with giant caryopsis, adding lush fields of color to the ocean backdrop. There’s no entrance fee or permit required for parking, but dogs and off-trail hiking are not allowed.
Hundreds of acres of salt and freshwater marsh are being restored in this eco-friendly tribute to nature at the Marina’s southern edge. Self-guided trails are available for strollers, and organized tours are offered a few times a month.
303 Culver Blvd, Playa del Rey, CA, 90293
Will Rogers State Beach: Boardwalk from Venice Beach to Santa Monica Beach
Will Rogers Beach is a secluded haven away from the denser city center, seven miles (11 km) north of Venice Beach. This beachside trail has an hour return time, making for a relaxed ride for cyclists of any level. The path winds through Santa Monica and under the famous Santa Monica Pier, leading you through dramatic bluffs with plenty of opportunities to stop and cool off in the ocean.
Dockweiler State Beach
With a return time of one hour, this 6.6-mile (10 km) ride to Dockweiler State Beach first leads you along the path of the Marina Del Rey docks — a great opportunity to see the water dotted with every kind of boat from sailboats to superyachts. Known to locals simply as Dockweiler, this is the only beach in LA County that allows bonfires directly on the beach and on crowded evenings, groups of people sit around the campsites’ many designated fire pits. There are grills for outdoor cooking, bathrooms, and a parking lot where RVs park for the ocean views. During the day, you’ll find friendly groups of visitors taking in the Southern California sun at this classic seaside oasis.
Manhattan Beach Pier
Located 10 miles (16 km) away from Venice Beach, this ride has a 1.5 hour return time and is a mostly easy beach ride with West-facing ocean views (there’s even a spot to stop and hang-glide along the way!) An ideal adventure for visitors with only a few hours to spare, you can also stop at Manhattan Beach before heading back for lunch and drinks…or head down to the beach for a game of volleyball at one of the nets lining the beach. Enjoy the sun, go for a swim, or check out the sunset before returning to Venice.
Hermosa Beach Pier
The ride to Hermosa Beach Pier has a two-hour return time, 12 miles (19 km) from Venice Beach. This trip is ideal for visitors with a bit more time who are looking for a less-populated adventure. During the day, visitors stop in the Hermosa Beach neighborhood for lunch or an afternoon of shopping (there are plenty of fun boutiques!) If you stay past sunset on the weekends, you’ll find a friendly, busy nightlife scene with dancing and live music.
Redondo Beach Pier
Originally built in 1889, the Redondo Beach Pier is 14 miles (22 km) from Venice Beach. It’s nestled among a seaside lagoon, making it ideal for both fishing and paddle boarding. It’s truly enormous — 70,000 square feet — full of souvenir shops, dive bars, restaurants, and an authentic dockside fish market where freshly caught fish are purchased live or steamed upon request. Although the ride to Redondo Beach is mostly flat, it’s a bit more challenging than the other beach paths and has a return time of approximately 2.5 hours. You can also schedule a full day for this adventure, stopping along the way to rent a sailboat or go whale watching before continuing on to the pier.
BEACHES ONLY LOCAL KNOW ABOUT
Lechuza Beach, Malibu
This little-known public beach in Malibu is lined by the beautiful homes on Broad Beach Road. It remains hidden from crowds thanks to the tree-covered pathway leading down to the shoreline. The various rock formations dotting the coast make it an ideal location for a secluded daytime photo shoot. The water stays mostly calm along this sandy stretch as well, creating a relaxing environment for sunbathing, a private picnic date, or sunset dinner with friends.
El Matador State Beach
Located 24.5 miles (39.4 km) north of Santa Monica, El Matador Beach is one of three beaches making up Robert H. Meyer Memorial Beach. This destination is an ideal day trip for the adventurous traveler. It takes approximately 50 minutes by car to reach, and it’s one of the top-rated beaches in Malibu. Its towering cliffs and long stretches of white sand are offset by massive rock formations, tide pools, arched rocks, and hidden sea caves. The shoreline is also home to different species of seabirds that share their habitat with surfers and bodyboarders brave enough to ride the dangerous breaks here. Spend a day relaxing in the sand, exploring a sea cave, or taking in the incredible views.
Leo Carillo State Park & Beach
Leo Carillo State Park, named after the actor and conservationist, is 28 miles (45 km) northwest of Santa Monica. This secluded getaway has 1.5 miles (1.4 km) of pristine sandy beaches, so pack a lunch and go for a hike through the backcountry trails, or plan a surf trip with friends. Bring a fishing pole and cast from the shore, or explore the many tidepools, coastal caves, and reefs. With overnight camping available, extend your day trip into multiple days of exploring the natural world.
Little Dume Beach
This secret haven is difficult to reach, making it the ideal spot for a traveler seeking an isolated, off-the-beaten-path adventure. Surrounded by Malibu’s most sought-after, high-end real estate, Little Dume is a small piece of public beach that’s only accessible by foot during low tide. This area is a short walk north of Paradise Cove or just south of Big Dume (some suggest walking from Paradise Cove). The locals are friendly and spend their time surfing, diving in the reefs, or exploring the rock formations and tide pools. Enjoy a secluded walk on the shore or pack a picnic with a friend. Just remember to check the time so that you can walk back before the tide returns!
Pirate’s Cove Beach
Located on the west side of Point Dume, Pirate’s Cove is a small sandy beach, made famous as the filming location for the last scene in the Planet of the Apes (1968). This secret spot is 22 miles (35 km) north of Santa Monica, and its accessibility by public transit makes it the ideal beach destination for visitors without a car. Stretch out on the sand, hike, or climb the bluffs to see the panoramic view. Reserve an afternoon to connect with nature and explore its hidden beauty.
Carbon Beach, Billionaire’s Beach
Between the Malibu Pier at Surfrider Beach and Carbon Canyon Road is a stretch of stunning beachfront homes in Eastern Malibu. This south facing beach—nicknamed “Billionaire’s Beach”—is lined by lavish properties owned by famous celebrities and CEOs, right along the water’s edge.
MARINA DEL REY : PADDLE BOARDING + BOAT RENTALS
The marina in Playa del Rey, the stretch of coast immediately south of Venice, is the perfect place to rent water equipment for an ocean adventure. Kayaks, sailboats, stand-up paddle boards, jet-skis, Duffy Electric boats, and power boats are all available in incremental daily rates. If you’re planning a trip with friends or family, we recommend this spot for daily rentals. Drive one of their boats up to Malibu to watch for dolphins, or get in a paddle board workout before relaxing on the shore.