California Coastal Road Trip (Part 01): Santa Monica + Los Angeles
We flew into LAX early on a Saturday morning and picked our car up before heading toward our AirBnB apartment in Santa Monica. We stayed in a studio below a house owned by two young, very helpful hosts and the spot served as a great launching point for Santa Monica and beyond. After settling in a bit, we walked the beach (which was only a few minutes away) southward toward the famous pier.
By the time we reached our first destination, the Third Street Promenade, we were pretty thirsty and desperate for some food. We found a small café where we shared a light lunch and refueled for the rest of the day. We made our way along the main drag and then worked our way toward the ocean to explore the pier. On the walk back, we opted for the path above the beach through Palisades Park. That night we took it easy with dinner in the apartment and a restful night’s sleep.
The next day we jumped in the car and headed towards the Santa Monica Mountains. The amazing thing about Los Angeles and its environs is that a dose of nature is a quick drive away from the bustling city. The sights from the winding mountain roads were reminiscent of rural Tuscany—rolling hills dotted with elegant villas, except the roads were lined with cacti instead of cypress trees.
Our journey took us to Hollywood next! We only spent a short time strolling Hollywood Boulevard before venturing north into the hills for a self-guided tour of some of LA’s “secret stairs.” We had found mention of these stairs online and printed a guide that took us on over 800 steps winding through residential portions of the neighborhood. While the walk was exhausting, we were rewarded with some great views of both downtown LA and the Hollywood sign and we barely saw anyone else the whole time. Once we finished the trail, we went back down into the center of the small neighborhood to get some lunch at Beachwood Café.
A visit to Los Angeles would be incomplete without a stop at Griffith Observatory. We toured the inside and then spent most of our time outside taking in the views. We could clearly see downtown, which was the next stop in our adventure! Artists & Fleas is an artist-based pop-up craft and vintage market with everything from clothes to pottery and lots of music pumping throughout. The event was being held in the city’s arts district which has a very industrial and creative feel to it. After going through the market we wandered around the neighborhood a bit more and found some inspired restaurants and other cool spaces.
We made our way back to Santa Monica and stopped at Milo and Olive for some unbelievable pizza. Not yet ready to head back to the apartment to retire for the night, we decided to take the car to Venice Beach and drive over some of the canals. This was a fitting way to spend our last night in LA before we would venture north toward Pismo Beach on our way to Big Sur!