If you’re looking for a cocktail with a view or a cool beach bar with just right vibe in LA, here are my top picks for the best bars in Santa Monica featuring roof top bars, poolside bars and great bars with views of the beach!
The Santa Monica nightlife offers everything from dive bars to live music venues and loads of happy hours to make you, well, happy!
But this post covers my absolute favourite Santa Monica bars that have a bit of wow. They all have a relaxed vibe, are mostly outdoors (because you can do that here!) and are places you can definitely take your friends for a special occasion or just for an after-work drink.
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1. The Bungalow
The Bungalow at the Fairmont Hotel had been waiting to burst onto the scene forever and is now my top pick for a laid back beachy vibe with a twist of class.
I remember staying in the hotel years ago and the space that is now the Bungalow, to the right of the entrance, was just meeting rooms!
Today this cute outdoor cocktail lounge is nearly beachside (well – it is across the road from the beach) but finally its location and charm were recognised and it was out with the suits and in with the cocktails!
Now at The Bungalow you’ll find an eclectic mix of mismatched furniture under trees festooned with lights and the outdoor furniture dotted with fire pits. It’s a laid back vibe inside and out.
Cosy up by the fireplace indoors and sink into one of the leather suites, play a game of pool or hide away in a little nook for a quiet te ta te, or sit outside under the trees and soak up the night.
This unassuming Santa Monica hotel (don’t blink, you’ll miss it) was an office block that now hides a jaw-droppingly chic lobby (with a bar) and an even cooler pool area surrounded by cabanas and high wing-backed chairs.
The Viceroy (and the Tides in Miami which we’ve also stayed in) is designed by my girl-crush Kelly Wearstler. I just love what she’s done with a very plain office canvas, transforming this place into my pick for the chicest restaurant and bar in Santa Monica.
The poolside cabanas can be booked for private groups, but when I was last there they were empty so we plonked ourselves in one and chose the charcuterie platter with cocktails.
This is a great hotel to come for dinner or to start (or end) your evening here in the great ambience.Booking.com
The Santa Monica Loews Hotel is the best place to come for an absolute beachside bar with epic sunset views looking across the wide sandy beach to the pier.
You are literally on the beach here – well up one story from actually squishing your toes in the sand, but the closest Santa Monica beach bar I have found.
You can also drink and dine indoors, but it’s out by the pool and the fire pits I like which also includes bar service.
To get here, walk like you own it through the hotel lobby and wind your way down in front of the Loews pool, grab a seat by a fire pit and prepare to settle in with a cocktail and a view.
They have a tantalising cocktail list and a delicious bar snack menu to while away a few hours with incredible views of the Santa Monica Pier as the sun sizzles into the Pacific Ocean.
4. Shangri La
Onyx is the wonderful rooftop bar at the totally styly art deco Shangri La hotel with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean right across the road. This bar is my pick for a bit more of an occasion.
It’s only a stone’s throw from Santa Monica Pier (well you’d need a good arm) and is another great spot for soaking up the sunsets.
But if the rooftop bar is a bit breezy you can go down to the ground floor pool bar and hang out in a cabana to watch the beautiful people watching each other.
Don’t you just love a bar with a Mixologist on the payroll? Ask for a specialty drink (that’s why they’re there!) while you enjoy your 18-storey 360° views from to Malibu Beach and over to Hollywood.
They also have intimate cabanas and fireside hangouts for those chilly LA nights.
This is what you call an Ultra Lounge – a signature LA experience. Great for an occasion. It’s also where you want to come to meet a rich suit, so I’m told…
6. The Lobster
Located at the start of Santa Monica Pier, this delicious seafood restaurant, established in 1923, is one of our favourite places to dine in Santa Monica. We bring our friends here for amazing lobster, crab legs and everything in between! They also serve steaks, so you meatatarians will be fine too 😀
It brazenly lauds itself as being a great location for film shoots with its iconic view of the Pier. They have a teeny little bar, which really serves as a place for waiting for a table, but the views are exceptional so it made my Best Bars in Santa Monica list!
The Lobster is famous for its truffle fries (I was reliably told they are best on earth – even described as crack!) The patio overlooks the 100-year old Santa Monica pier with its gigantic ferris wheel. This place is also cool with local celebs dropping a few bucks on whole Maine lobsters.
The rooftop of the Hotel Erwin, is aptly called High. It is located right on Venice Beach, where medical marijuana is sold from the “doctors clinics” below – and you will smell the medication.
The hotel is about 200m from the sand and two miles from Santa Monica. It has been voted in the Top 20 rooftop bars in America. We’ve stayed at the Erwin and really enjoyed its casual chic vibe with a great location.
Views of Muscle Beach make this a great spot for perving, not to mention the chill vibe with the arty crowd like the techies from Pixar and the like. (Yes geeks can be groovy!)
Sit in front of the flaming gas heater and watch the sun set. Sublime.
If you’re planning to stay in Santa Monica, here are 7 really great hotels that I can totally recommend (some are in the list above – and some aren’t!)
AND I was asked to write about one of my favourite LA beaches, so where did I choose? Of course, Santa Monica! Here’s that story on why I like it so much and other bloggers picks for 4 more. Read it here >>