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Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach
Santa Monica and Venice Beach camping, parking, what to expect, and city information. Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach are part of the longest beach path in the world stretching 22 miles from Malibu to Torrance. The bike trail is free and open to most non-motorized wheeled conveyances. Along the trail is world-famous Muscle Beach in Venice Beach as well as its unique mix of vendors, artists, street performers, workout facilities and beach goers. South of Venice Beach, the beachside trail loops inland around the yacht basin of Marina del Rey and Playa del Rey, then back to the ocean to pass along Dockweiler State Beach and behind Los Angeles International Airport. It continues past El Porto Beach, Manhattan State Beach (there are two side-by-side paths here, one for walking and jogging and the other for biking and skating), Hermosa Beach and ends just south of Redondo State Beach.
There are free-to-the-public volleyball courts south of the Pier hoisting Santa Monica's reputation as a Mecca for both players and fans of the sport. Anyone can join pickup games here, and a number of America's Olympic beach volleyball competitors have trained on these very courts. Spectators watch the action from bleacher-style seating on long, broad wooden steps.
For beach parking along the Pacific Coast Highway a.k.a. Hwy 1 in the Santa Monica Pier vicinity you can park, shower, and use the bathrooms for free between 7am and 8am - anywhere there is not an attendant on duty. Later in the day you should pay the meter to stay all day as the beach parking facilities are constantly being patrolled. On Ocean Avenue which is just above Hwy. 1 there is metered parking but parking is free on some of the side streets. Along Ocean Avenue there is a pedestrian path that goes for miles among manicured grounds and under beautiful shade trees. There are restrooms and benches along the path too. There are about five pedestrian overpasses that lead from Ocean Avenue down to Highway 1 for beach access. We did a lot of walking around the Third Street Promenade which is downtown. There are lots of retail shops, restaurants, bars, fast food, bookstores, coffee shops and entertainment facilities. In the evenings there is a variety of street performers entertaining everyone. We went to the famous Farmers Market on Wednesday morning and we got kumquats, a fresh almond pastry, avocados, sourdough bread (of course), and a few other fresh and wonderful produce items grown locally in and near Santa Monica Beach.
Jason's thoughts - Nothing special compared to other California beaches.
Kelly's thoughts - I am not much into crowds in the heat of summer. I can say "been there, done that" but I wouldn't go out of my way to walk the Santa Monica and Venice beach scene again. Of course, I like the path along the beach and that is the only reason you would see me there. I would be running, walking, rollerblading or biking quickly pass the crowds on my way to the end. Third Street Promenade was a lot of fun to walk in the evening, the weather was pleasant and I my belly was satisfied.