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Los Angeles:
Staying in Santa Monica & getting around

Want to have a fantastic time in Los Angeles? Want to come away with warm feelings about your L.A. trip?

Then base yourself in Santa Monica, a few minutes from Los Angeles International Airport.

For most visitors, the Santa Monica area offers what they need: A good beach, lots of restaurants, a reasonably safe environment, easy access to sightseeing, good public transportation, a fine hostel, lots of hotels in most price ranges, and—best of all—a laid back, pleasant, and uplifting environment.

Of course, you'll have to forego being directly adjacent to some of the best music clubs and other night life. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the Sunset Strip by bus.

Outstanding Los Angeles-area hotel bargains. Check out: Hotwire.com

A southern California fun centre

As Hollywood declined in recent years—becoming nearly a slum in places and often dangerous at night—Santa Monica thrived and metamorphosed from a sleepy beach town to become one of California's fun centres.

And, whatever Santa Monica lacks in excitement is found right next door in Venice Beach. Just stroll or roller blade from beach front Santa Monica to beach front Venice or use a convenient bus. However, avoid Venice (and its hostels) at night.

In Santa Monica, great places to hang out are the

  • Third Street Promenade (Santa Monica's pedestrian only main street, a block from the Santa Monica Hostel) on any Friday or Saturday night,
  • Santa Monica Pier and its adjacent amusement centre, and
  • small clubs and restaurants along Main Street.

On weekend and summer nights, the Third Street Promenade offers an awesome variety of free street entertainment—sometimes terrible, but often very good.

And, as the sun goes down, enjoy a stroll along Palisades Park, along Ocean Boulevard, just west of the pier, overlooking the beach below. You'll love it!

Santa Monica Hostel

One of the best hostels in the United States, the Santa Monica Hostel, is located just above the beach in downtown Santa Monica. (When using the link, select "Los Angeles" for hostel information.)

Its area is exhilarating, yet usually not too hectic or too noisy.

When Rosie Garcia became wealthy in the film "White Men Can't Jump," she chose a condo a couple of blocks away. Surprisingly, budget dining places abound in the area.

Book in advance.

Hotels in Santa Monica

Naturally, the closer you book to the beach, especially on weekends or during the summer, the more you can expect to pay.

However, distances are short and buses frequent.

A great way to save on hotels in Santa Monica and nearby Marina del Ray is to pick quality (1, 2, 3, or 4 stars), amenities, and price, but not a specific hotel. Once you pay, you find where you'll stay.

Check out Hotwire.com for more details. When checking Santa Monica prices, allow a minute or two for an answer.

Another way to save is to stay near Los Angeles International Airport and commute to Santa Monica. You'll nearly always find cheaper hotels there.

However, if you do this, remember that the area around LAX is not safe. Do not walk beyond the immediate area of your hotel.

Getting around

One common misconception of the Los Angeles, fostered by some travel guides, is that a car is absolutely essential. Rubbish. How much you need a car depends on where you stay.

Santa Monica and much of the western portion of L.A. near the University of California at Los Angeles have adequate bus transportation.

The most convenient service radiates from Santa Monica via the "Big Blue Bus," Santa Monica's excellent bus system. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority also serves this area.

True, it is a long way to Disneyland and Universal Studios, but travelling by car on the crowded highways around this vast area is no pleasure either. Visitors to Santa Monica without cars can easily take guided tour buses to the more distant sights.

From Santa Monica, down the beach in the other direction than Venice Beach—too far to comfortably roller blade or walk—is Malibu Beach and the superb Zuma Beach. These can be reached by MTA buses. On the inland side of Santa Monica is Westwood Village, home of the University of California at Los Angeles and a youth (often secondary school age) orientated night scene.

Inland from UCLA, you find Beverly Hills, a deluxe shopping and residential area, and just to the northeast of Beverly Hills is West Hollywood, home to much of Los Angeles' adult night life, gay (Santa Monica Boulevard) and straight (Sunset Boulevard—"The Sunset Strip"), which can be reached by bus from Santa Monica in about 35 - 40 minutes.

As mentioned, the crescent between Venice, Santa Monica, Brentwood (the home of O.J. Simpson until a court ruling forced him to give up his lavish home and retreat to a more favourable legal environment in Florida), the very rich Bel Air and Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood is one of the few areas of California where you won't feel pinched without a car.

From Santa Monica, you can also easily reach LAX Airport and Amtrak Union Station in centre city Los Angeles via Big Blue Bus. MTA also serves Union Station, which is a short taxi ride from the Los Angeles Greyhound terminal. (You wouldn't want to walk in this area.)

For more introduction to your L.A. area visit:

Go to >> Introduction to your visit
Go to >> Choosing your base
Go to >> Finding the perfect beach
Go to >> Why L.A. is so unique

For additional L.A. information:

Go to >> Off the beaten track L.A.
Go to >> L.A. at night
Go to >> Disneyland
Go to >> Links to the most useful information

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