By Laura Jemetta
Like I’ve written about previously on Xen, last year Kate and I did some travelling in the US, and at the end of the trip, we decided to stay in Santa Monica for one night before we caught out flight home. We needed to be in LA to catch our flight out of LAX anyway, so we figured that we may as well get some rest in sunny Santa Monica before sitting on the plane for 15 hours.
It turned out to be a great decision, and the perfect way to recharge before starting the long journey home. I would highly recommend doing a short stay in Santa Monica if you’re catching a flight out of LAX – Santa Monica has a bit of a different vibe than Los Angeles proper does, and boasts a beautiful beach, an iconic pier and some fantastic food. Plus, at best, Santa Monica is only about 15 minutes away from LAX so it’s nice and close when airport time comes.
How did we get there?
Well, we arrived in LA early in the morning on an overnight bus from San Francisco, and we caught the light rail to a station near our hotel. From memory I believe this took about 20-30 minutes, and while it was a little difficult with our suitcases, it is definitely do-able. And cheap! It was only a really short walk from the station, which was so handy, especially after not sleeping on the bus!
Our hotel was the Hampton Inn and Suites, and it’s one that I would recommend without hesitation. Maybe it was simply because we were coming off the back of a stay in a slightly disappointing, shoe-box room in San Francisco, but walking into that bright, airy, air conditioned foyer was heaven. I knew when we arrived that we’d hit the jackpot.
At the time we stayed there, the Hampton Inn and Suites was virtually brand new, opening in April 2017, and to me, the hotel was immaculate. The hotel is aesthetically beautiful and beautifully functional, with a modern design and a sophisticated palette, and the best part is, the hotel is situated only three blocks away from the Santa Monica Pier.
When we arrived, we were greeted by friendly staff, who happily stored our bags for us until check in time. Because breakfast was still being served when we arrived, we were invited to eat some breaky in the dining area while we waited. It was a really nice gesture, and so appreciated after travelling all night.
So what did we do in Santa Monica?
We had a great time in Santa Monica. We spent plenty of time down on the pier – which was so close to our hotel – just relaxing and taking in the sights. The Santa Monica Pier is the obvious must-do if you’re in Santa Monica – it’s a fantastic place to get some food, see some entertainment or to just people watch. If you’re on the pier, don’t forget to check out Pacific Park, the family amusement park on the pier. I recommend taking a ride on the ferris wheel for spectacular views of the beach.
The pier is the heart of Santa Monica – a hub of activity drawing huge crowds of tourists. It’s over 100 years old, stretching out across the water and providing awesome views of the ocean and Santa Monica Beach. Just across the road from the pier and it’s iconic sign, is Blue Plate Taco, where we had two fantastic meals; an afternoon snack, and proper dinner later in the evening. It’s a fantastic mexican restaurant, serving fantastic food and drinks, with a relaxed atmosphere that’s perfect for a lazy lunch or afternoon drinks.
We also spent time in Downtown Santa Monica – an outdoor shopping mall which we were able to walk to from our hotel. We did a little shopping, but my favourite part was going to Barnes & Noble for the first time. We walked to Santa Monica Place from there, to get lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, which I was hugely excited about. We don’t really have anything like it in Australia, so I jump at any chance I get to visit the Cheesecake Factory.
By the afternoon, we had to get back to the hotel to pick up our bags and go to the airport, but it was nice to walk back via the pier one last time. We had enough time to ride the ferris wheel, before heading back to the hotel to order an uber. The ride to the airport was quick and painless – because Santa Monica is situated so close to LAX.
There you have it – our one and a half days in Santa Monica. Why not consider Santa Monica for a short stay, (or a long stay), next time you’re in the Los Angeles area. It’s a great base from which to explore greater LA, or just to stay overnight if you want to be close to the airport.
Let me know in the comments below if you’ve been to Santa Monica and loved it like I did!