Where to stay Santa Monica or Venice Beach?
I had the hardest time trying to decide on accommodation when we were planning our trip to California. I knew I wanted to be close to the beach, near restaurants and near public transport but I wasn’t sure whether to stay in Santa Monica or Venice Beach. At first glance both suburbs seemed to have everything I wanted!
I also didn’t know if the big dollars it costs to stay beachside would be worthwhile. After all, I like shopping and eating, so if I was a couple of blocks back from the beach, would it be so bad? I’d just be in the midst of the shopping, cafe scene.
Also, I was a bit confused… Why was absolute beachside Venice Beach, so much cheaper than semi beachside Santa Monica?
Now that we’ve had our time in both suburbs I know the answers to these questions and so many more. Looking at the two suburbs Santa Monica is certainly the more stylish, upmarket suburb of the two. It’s catering to the more sophisticated shopper and traveller. Venice Beach attracts a younger more grungy traveller and the accommodation is styled and sized to suit that market.
Not knowing the geography of the two suburbs or the “feel” before we arrived, made choosing between the two area’s even more difficult. Where do we stay, Santa Monica or Venice Beach?
I was also concerned that if I chose neither and booked something on the beach between the two suburbs we would be isolated. I need not have been concerned about that!
Between Santa Monica and Venice Beach is a cycle way and pedestrian path which hugs the edge of the sand and is absolutely gorgeous. On the Santa Monica side of the cycle way you have the Santa Monica Pier. If you continue to Venice Beach you numerous beachfront cafes until you get to Muscle Beach, a little along from there you will find yourself at the Venice Beach Markets and then the Venice Pier. In between the two beaches there is plenty to keep the average traveller entertained… of and it’s beautiful!
Did you know Baywatch was filmed here??? Although there wasn’t any sign of “The Hoff” while we were on the beach.
Santa Monica Vs Venice Beach Accommodation
We were holidaying with children and I noticed that Santa Monica is the most family friendly destination of the two. The pier is great for the kids, shopping is made up of boutique stores, yoga studios, lots of yoga studios, and mainstream shopping centres. Santa Monica has a calm, stylish, “comfortable with itself” feel. The accommodation ranges from budget to luxury. Couples and families have a large selection of accommodation to choose from and all price points are looked after.
Venice Beach is where I would stay if we were on a couples holiday, a holiday with friends or backpacking. There is so much here to offer! It’s funky, fun, a little rebellious.
I snapped a pic of this metal VW as Brett looked for a skateboard in one of the beachfront stalls. To me this really summed up the feeling of Venice Beach, a little retro, a bit cool, a little beat up but totally carefree.
The area has lots of grungy pubs, live bands playing and it seems like a great spot to just chill. The Beach has budget accommodation located right on the sand. We saw people just sitting in the windows, watching the surf, and watching people strolling by all day. They usually had a cold beer in their hand or have been down to the “Green Dr”.
Oh, a little word of warning, don’t inhale too deeply. The smell of legal marijuana starts at dawn and only gets stronger in the air as the day progresses. Perhaps that is why I have such a mellow feeling about this place. Anyway, I guess if that’s what you’re looking for then look no further. The clinics are space about 50 metres apart so you can’t miss them. Even our children asked me about the smell! It was time for us to go back to Santa Monica!
One more plus about being in Venice Beach… it’s just entertaining. The buskers are out on the street, stall holders are seeking their wears, crazy mofo’s ride past on bikes talking gibberish to themselves. It’s just entertaining! It would be amazing to have the time and location to just sit back and watch everyones day unfold.
Venice Beach and Santa Monica both have an amazing dining scene, but where Santa Monica has a slant toward a more sophisticated style, Venice Beach had a casual healthy, funky food flair happening.
We spent nearly a week enjoying the best of each of the suburbs. As we walked around, shopped and dined I picked out some places I would like to stay next time we’re in the area.
Santa Monica Accommodation
Hotel Carmel – Budget – Family
We stayed for three nights at the hotel Carmel with the children. Its older style building with original 1920 features and lots of charm. This is definitely a budget hotel but I consider it a great “find”. The tariff included a lovely continental breakfast which was served in the lobby.
The hotel is located on the 3rd Street Promenade which is only one block from the beach and right in the middle of shops and restaurants. We didn’t need the car at all during our stay. All the staff were fantastic. It would be hard to go past this for value and convenience.
DoubleTree Suites by Hilton – Mid Range – Family
We had a two night stay at DoubleTree, the children preferred this hotel over the Hotel Carmel as it had a swimming pool. On a comfort level DoubleTree is a Hilton Hotel so as expected the level of comfort and style was appropriate to the brand.
Oh, and I loved the cookies. Now, I know you shouldn’t judge a hotel by their cookies… but I can’t help it! I would go back just to get more of the warm cookies they give you at check in. They were out of this world! I noticed they were also available via room service in take home tins. Obviously I had to buy a tins, only it didn’t make it home with me.
DoubleTree is a little out of the main shopping and restaurant area of Santa Monica and a distance from the beach so we did need to use the car. They do provide a free courtesy bus for guests.
Shutters on the Beach – High End – Couples
Shutters on the Beach is a stand out, luxury property on the beach at Santa Monica. There is literally nothing between you and the sand! I noticed the property the first time we ventured onto the beach and I was instantly envious of everyone staying there.
I can honestly say, there is no better location at Santa Monica, and the style of this property is like no other in the area. The hotel has an elegant opulence, whilst still maintaining a beach house feel. The facilities include a day spa and three restaurants, all with beautiful views of the ocean. Alas, we didn’t stay at Shutters on the Beach but we did enjoy a meal at one of their restaurants which only made me want to stay here more.
Venice Beach Accommodation
Su Casa at Venice – Budget – Couples
I admired this property during our many strolls along the Ocean Front Walk between Santa Monica and Venice Beach. I never imagined the rates would be so reasonable. I thought the people sitting in the sandy courtyard must have been rockstars in between gigs. The apartments are literally on the sand. I chose the Su Casa because they are not located in the busiest section of Venice Beach, so I think it would still be reasonable peaceful if you wanted to stop partying.
Venice Breeze Suites – Mid Range – Couples
This is another block of holiday let apartments, which we admired from the beach. The property has been renovated and the apartments are modern. There’s a rooftop terrace we noticed with a BBQ area that guest were using. It’s plainly visible from the beach, and I was more than a little jealous.
I haven’t included any high end accommodation for Venice Beach as there didn’t seem to be anything that was worth mentioning. Venice Beach does relaxed, casual and cheery exceptionally well. If your looking for something more exclusive one of the other beaches is probably going to be a better fit.
I also haven’t included any family accommodation in Venice Beach because when we were looking I wasn’t able to find anything suitable.
So these are my pick of accommodation in Santa Monica & Venice Beach. Obviously I haven’t seen everything on offer but I did make a point of looking at the hotels that were located in the spots I liked. I hope this list helps you next time your looking for accommodation in Santa Monica or Venice Beach.