It's the first beach you'll hit after the Santa Monica Freeway (I–10) runs into the PCH, and it's one of L.A.'s best known. Wide and sandy, Santa Monica is the place for sunning and socializing: be prepared for a mob scene on summer weekends, when parking becomes an expensive ordeal. Swimming is fine (with the usual post-storm pollution caveat); for surfing, go elsewhere. For a memorable view, climb up the stairway over the PCH to Palisades Park, at the top of
the bluffs. Free summer-evening concerts are held Thursday nights on the pier. Amenities: food and drink; lifeguards; parking; showers; toilets; water sports. Best for: sunset; surfing; swimming; walking.