5 Santa Monica Gems: Chic Beach Life at Its Best

Eco Guide to Santa Monica

Santa Monica is a mecca of beach chic, creativity, eccentricity, and quite possibly the detox capital of the world. 

Ah, Santa Monica. The home of public beach clubs, ocean view community parks, the LEED Gold Certified Santa Monica Place, miles of bike paths, golden sunsets, transformational candlelit spin classes, and a renowned farmers market that recycles and composts everything. One of the ten greenest cities in the U.S., you’d have to try really hard not to become one of those smiling happy healthy people drinking a green juice with a skip in their step.

Where to go in Santa Monica

Here are five not-to-miss Santa Monica landmarks that make this chic, green, and eccentric beach city internationally loved.

1. The Annenberg Community Beach House 

Where to go to the beach in Santa Monica
image via Annenberg Beach House

Well, hello five acres of oceanfront property all for you. And when I say you, I mean everyone. It’s public. Just north of the Santa Monica Pier, you’ll find the LEED Gold certified Annenberg Community Beach House that uses, get this – recycled jeans for insulation. Which just brought denim to yet another level of cool.

For a nominal fee, take a dip in the original marble pool where the Hollywood crowd once rubbed elbowed and hobnobbed in ’60s-style bikinis. Who cares about the free Wi-Fi when you can surf, swim, stand up paddle, play beach volleyball or get a dose of beach literary culture with its Red Hen Press poetry readings?

When the hunger pangs strike, relax on the sandy oceanfront patio at the Back to the Beach Cafe. Nosh on seasonal offerings as you drink in ocean views and marine layer permitting, even Catalina Island.

2. LEED Gold Certified Shore Hotel

LEED Hotels in Santa Monicas
image via Shore Hotel 

Perched on Ocean Avenue, the LEED Gold certified Shore Hotel has just the right vibe to get the party started, beginning with an upbeat lobby soundtrack and your complimentary glass of champagne upon check-in. Upgrade to an ocean view room with a stellar balcony. Talk about unobstructed views, you can see ocean waves break through the floor-to-ceiling glass shower. Its 164 guest rooms are all eco-conscious and come stocked with environmentally friendly hotel amenities.

If you don’t take a dip in the ocean, enjoy the Shore’s outdoor pool and indulge in a cocktail or two. Hungry? Dry off and walk twenty feet to Blue Plate Taco for some tasty organic Mexican cuisine. While you’re here, why don’t you join the Santa Monica fit crowd? Sign up for The Shore’s “Metox” Wellness Package that includes: two nights, the Beginner Clover Cleanse, a 60-minute Custom Remedy Massage or Superfood Facial from Alchemie Spa, and yoga at YAS. Before you know it, you’ve become one of those happy healthy people, too.

3. FIG Restaurant at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel

Where to dine in Santa Monicaimage via Fairmount Miramar Hotel

A beloved favorite of both locals and visitors alike, FIG, at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, has just the right beach vibe that hooks you in for lunch and makes you want to stay for dinner. Born in Lebanon, Executive Chef Yousef Ghalaini is a regular at the renowned Santa Monica farmers market sourcing the best organic local ingredients for his menu including a beloved cheese bar. Working his magic with a wood-fired oven, Ghalaini creates exotic bread balloons with Mediterranean spices and authentic pizzas. A vegan’s delight is his slow roasted savoy cabbage with tomato fondue and pine nuts. While the wood smoked manilla clams are so good that you won’t want to share.

If you’re looking for even more nighttime fun, mosey over to the ocean view Bungalow. Just walk past the stunning fig tree and down the lighted path to what that feels more like your new best friend’s epic beach house than a popular bar. Fire pits, a custom ping pong table, a great group of friends, and seriously crafted cocktails is the right recipe for an amazing night out.

4. Hotel Casa del Mar

Where to dine in Santa Monica
image via Hotel Casa Del Mar

Not your typical hotel, Hotel Casa del Mar is an oasis of ocean views, Mediterranean dining, and live music with a fun meet-and-greet lobby bar vibe. Recently renovated by the legendary Michael S. Smith, the lobby lounge features floor-to-ceiling windows and striped indoor cabanas create a sexy relaxed atmosphere. While elements of wicker, glass, rattan, ceiling fans, and aqua tile perfectly tie together a sophisticated beach look.

At the Terrazza Lounge, you’re in in the talented hands of executive chef Gemma Gray. Hailing from Salamanca, Spain, she creates dishes that are what seafood dreams are. Order the yellowtail crudo. And a must-try is the seafood pasta in a spicy tomato sugo. You could travel the entire Mediterranean trying to find a dish this good. But, why? When it’s right here in Santa Monica. Tapas Night at the hotel is rumored to be quite a party. Every Wednesday, Gray displays her mastery in Spanish cuisine and no one goes home hungry.

If you’re in need of “me” time, Casa del Mar’s spa calls you. Designed by eco-elegance guru Rachel Winokur, you’ll be transported to a stunning, sustainable and fair-trade world of relaxed golden glamour before and after your massage.

5. Shopping on Montana Avenue

Where to shop in Santa Monica
image via The Detox Market 

There’s not much more charming than shopping in one-story converted boutique bungalows with secret gardens in the back. Its European vibe sets the tone for tree-lined Montana Avenue. Attracting the creative healthy crowd, make sure to head to The Detox Market for the best in organic beauty and Larrisa Love Cosmetics. Her scented candles are quite a local’s favorite.

You’ll find plenty of outdoor cafés to choose from like Kreation, where they make their own almond milk. And if you’re feeling naughty, visit Sweet Lady Jane Bakery even just to drool in front of their glass counter filled with delicious pies, cakes, and tarts.

Oh, if you see anyone with large dark glasses and a floppy hat, underneath all that anti-glamour is a bonified movie star. And a fun game to play is to ask anyone working on a laptop how their script is going. Chances are you’ll receive a very detailed answer.

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Donna Sozio

Author, journalist and publishing consultant, Donna Sozio has been featured in 200+ media outlets including the Tyra Banks Show, Early Show, Fox News, Good Day LA, Seventeen Magazine, Yahoo! Personals, Match.com, Lavalife.com, EcoSalon.com, OrganicAuthority.com and many more. Her books The Man Whisperer (Adams Media) and Never Trust a Man in Alligator Loafers (Kensington) were Amazon.com bestsellers, had TV/Film options and were translated into German, Portuguese and Czech.