Santa Monica is one of those places you go for a holiday – and then never want to leave! With so many things to see, do and eat, not to mention the (near) year-round sunshine, this beachside city is a haven for travellers who love to get out and about! Whilst you could easily spend a week (or two!) meandering the markets, shopping up a storm in one of eight distinct neighborhoods, and sampling the local farm-to-table dining scene – and we highly recommend it, if you’re on a tighter schedule, here’s how to experience the very best of this vibrant destination in just 72-hours!

DAY ONE

Morning

Rise and shine with the sun (or slightly later if you’re a fan of sleeping in), throw on your sneakers and activewear, and head to SoulCycle for a calorie burning sweat sesh. Located on Wilshire Boulevard, the stylish studio is the go-to spot for a fun-filled workout with a difference! Here, high intensity cycling classes are held in candlelit studios, to the soundtrack of your favourite upbeat tunes. Whether you’re a first-timer or a devotee, the energetic, easy to follow workout promises to leave you feeling totally invigorated.

With the morning workout done and dusted, a little indulgence seems only fitting, and perhaps nowhere is more of a treat for the senses, than local-mainstay Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery. Favoured for their flaky house-baked pastries and decadent cakes, they also serve a selection of nourishing breakfast options that promise to satisfy the biggest of appetites. Be sure to save room for a cheeky slice of Blueberry cornbread cake and coffee – it’s an absolute must!

Afternoon

After an active morning, ease up the pace and spend the afternoon casually soaking up the city’s cultural and artistic sites starting at Bergamot Station. A former railroad station turned creative arts complex, this creative enclave is the perfect introduction to SaMo’s eclectic art scene. Home to over 20 galleries and creative spaces, the complex features rotating exhibitions of artists from across the globe, as well as regular community activities, events and workshops. The best part? It’s completely free, so you can visit as many times as you like, and there is a cafe incase you work up an appetite! 

Next on the list is Camera Obscura Art Lab in Palisades Park for an art experience with a difference! Hosting an ever-changing roster of artists-in-residence, along with regular pop-up exhibits, hands-on programs, and adult workshops, there’s (literally) never a dull moment! Roll up your sleeves and learn how to make a mosaic tabletop, try your hand at landscape painting, brush up on your salsa moves, or take a photography class – you can easily fill an afternoon at this community arts centre, even if you just spend the entire time marvelling at the stunning Pacific views! For up-to-date events and workshop times, be sure to check out the website before you visit.

Night

Sunsets in Santa Monica call for one thing – happy hour! And with chic bars, and rooftop terraces dotted throughout the city, there is no shortage of lively hotspots to enjoy an afternoon aperitif as you watch the sunset. Named Best Happy Hour on the Westside by the L.A. Times and Best Happy Hour by Eater L.A, it makes perfect sense that you kick start your evening at Misfit Restaurant + Bar. Here the fun starts from the moment the doors open – which is as early as 10:30am on Sundays, and lasts until 7pm everyday, making it one of the longest and most buzzy Happy Hours’ in the city. With beer and wine starting at just $7, and signature cocktails at $9, you’re free to indulge (guilt-free!). Featuring fresh seafood, chargrilled skewers, and a hefty range of shareable dishes, the menu at Misfits is ideally suited for grazing! Enjoy a light bite, or tuck into something a little heartier (like the infamous mac n cheese) – it’s the perfect post-happy hour snack.

Day Two

Morning

Do as the locals do and downward-dog into the day with a morning yoga class. Whilst there are plenty of studios offering a range of styles and flows to choose from, nothing says Santa Monica quite like a beachfront yoga class with SoCal. Held on Santa Monica State Beach just metres from the shimmering water, you can bend and stretch you worries away to the calming backdrop of gently crashing waves – it makes for the ultimate zen-state! And with alternating class times, including afternoon classes, you don’t have to be an early riser to join in on the fun. Rehydrate after the mornings activity with a fresh juice or smoothie from Nektar Juice Bar, or if a caffeine hit is calling your name, beeline for Dogtown Coffee and get your hands on a micro-roasted brew to-go (the sweet ‘n salty caramel iced coffee is a house special), before making your way to Palisades Park to spend the rest of the morning basking in the sunshine and breathtaking ocean views.

Afternoon

With the afternoon comes the lunch flurry, and with some of the most touted foodie spots in LA on offer, skipping a meal simply isn’t an option. Keep things light and easy with a bite at Sweetfin Poke, a chic spot serving healthy poke bowls, taro chips and a selection of teas. Opt for a signature bowl or get creative and build your own – either way you can’t go wrong! Alternatively, the Curious Palate in Santa Monica Place is a go-to for fresh farm-to-table fare in a casual and inviting space. Here you can tuck into anything from healthy wraps to sandwiches, burgers, salads, soups, pastas and sides – the miso short rib wrap with miso slaw, harissa, and pickles is a must! Linger over a long lunch and enjoy the breezy surrounds (and perhaps a craft beer or two) because that’s what being on holidays is all about after all!

Combining the best of exercise and sweets, Santa Monica Sweet Spots Dessert Bike Tour is the perfect ending to any afternoon. Don your helmet and discover some of the city’s best-kept secret spots whilst sampling an array of hand-made (and totally delicious) desserts.

Night

Kick up your heels and enjoy all that the city has to offer starting with drinks and nibbles on the outdoor patio at Sonoma Wine Garden. Boasting ocean views, stylish decor, and a curated wine list (starting at just $6 a glass between 3-7pm – hello happy hour!) this lively bar is bound to elevate your evening. For those keen on experiencing quintessential SaMo after dark, continue on to Circle Bar, a local mainstay for its vibrant atmosphere, affordable drink prices, and old school tunes that will keep you grooving well into the early hours.

Day Three

Morning

Today is all about taking it easy! Start the morning slowly with a trip to the local farmers markets where you can fill your carry basket (and stomach) with a variety of fresh bounty including organic fruit and vegetables, locally grown herbs, hand-made pastries, artisanal products, and freshly caught seafood. Santa Monica Farmers Markets (held Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays) are the place to go for certified organic produce – and a lot of it! On Wednesday, local chefs can often be seen buying their weekly produce, so keep your eyes peeled. Alternatively Pico Boulevard Farmers Markets (held on Saturday mornings) is favoured for its fresh seafood, and free monthly preserving classes, meanwhile Main Street Markets (held on Sunday mornings) are a favourite amongst local families, with plenty of entertainment and free activities! 

After (no doubt) working up a sweat at the markets, cool off with a refreshing dip at Santa Monica State Beach, or if you’re feeling energetic try your hand at hanging ten with a surf lesson.

Afternoon

In a city bursting with shopping districts you simply can’t visit without treating yourself to a local purchase! A popular choice not just for the extensive range of retail boutiques and terrace cafes, but also the street performers that line the pedestrian only walk-way adding a lively and entertaining atmosphere, Third Street Promenade is a must! Take your time perusing the stores between Broadway at Santa Monica Place and Wilshire Boulevard – be sure to stop in at Vintage Wasteland for a one-of-a-kind buy! If splurging on designer labels is more your jam, then Santa Monica Place will be your bread and butter. Home to a plethora of luxury boutiques, as well as high-end restaurants and beauty salons, you’re guaranteed to leave with a few new items – and a lighter wallet.

Night

What to do on your last night in sunny Santa Monica? Wine and dine in style (of course!) with a meal at the exclusive Dialogue restaurant, helmed by James Beard award-winning chef Dave Beran. The sensory experience starts from the moment you receive your unique code (the morning of your booking) that gains you entry through the private back access elevators marked ‘private’! Inside, the intimate 18-seater restaurant boasts a minimalist approach, allowing the 20-course tasting menu – which is seasonally inspired and especially created to be eaten in a specific order – to truly shine! Much like a good story, eating here is about making connections with every dish sharing an ingredient with the dish that precedes it, taking your palate on an exciting and tantalising journey. It’s not just about the food, they also take their beverages just as seriously, meaning you’ll likely sample several wines throughout the evening. From fine fare, to the immersive yet intimate atmosphere, and carefully curated wine list, this unique restaurant is a dining experience to remember! Reservations are essential, so be sure to book well in advance.