Set along a heavenly 5.5-kilometre stretch of coastline, Santa Monica combines the laid-back appeal of a classic California beach town with vibrant, big-city sophistication to create a destination that is truly like nowhere else in the world. Thanks to the city’s picturesque beachside setting, world-class hotels, celebrated restaurants, lively cultural scene, friendly locals, and over 300 days of sunshine a year, it’s easy to spend time in this coastal paradise.

And the best bit? It’s less than an hour from Hollywood and even closer from downtown Los Angeles. Whether you’re exploring the Santa Monica Pier, strolling the luxury shops on Montana Avenue, or soaking in spectacular sunset views with a drink in hand – here are 10 top Santa Monica hot spots.

  1. Hotel Casa del Mar

Each evening the Santa Monica sky explodes in layers of orange, pink, and purple, all rippling against the ocean tides. And one of the best places to catch a truly spectacular Santa Monica sunset is the Terrazza Lounge at Hotel Casa del Mar.

Terrazza offers 180-degree views of Santa Monica Beach along with Italian cuisine. You can sip and savour specialty cocktails during happy hour, choose from a selection of handmade artisan pizzas, and enjoy the unbeatable panoramic ocean views from your perfect sunset viewing point. Cocktails and the best views of the California sunset create an unforgettable pairing that is only enhanced by that ever-present ocean breeze.

  1. Trapeze School of New York – Los Angeles

Santa Monica is a hub of healthy living that has been home to some of the biggest fitness trends over the years. So if you’re looking for a fun new way to break a sweat in 2018, head down to the Santa Monica Pier for a flying trapeze class. The Trapeze School New York (TSNY) Los Angeles is a world-class aerial school and performance centre dedicated to making flying trapeze available to anyone who seeks inspiration, challenge, fitness, or just a couple hours of unique fun. Face your fears on the Pier with brilliant views of the Pacific Ocean with classes like flying trapeze, swinging trapeze, static trapeze, silks, and trampoline.

  1. Fig Restaurant

Located in the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, Fig Restaurant in Santa Monica is a go-to lunch spot for enjoying easy-going meal just steps from Palisade Park. Headed by chef, Yousef Ghalaini, Fig features only the freshest local and organically grown ingredients straight from the award-winning Santa Monica Farmers Market.

Chef Ghalaini’s Mediterranean-influenced bistro features a frequently changing seasonal menu of wood-fired dishes, a charcuterie and cheese bar, approachable wines by the glass, and a signature cocktail program. Fig’s communal table and private dining area provide an inviting space to share a bite – from albacore tuna crudo to a winter squash pizza – the casual and intimate atmosphere featuring massive windows, striped banquettes, and a circular wooden bar create a picturesque dining experience.

7. Exhale Spa
The intimate Exhale Santa Monica studio and spa, nestled within the luxurious Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, offers the perfect Pacific coast getaway for hotel guests and Los Angeles residents. The fully appointed spa boasts a menu of massages, facials, healing, acupuncture, waxing and nail therapies, including poolside spa experiences, while Exhale studio offers a packed schedule of boutique fitness classes including Barre, Cardio, Yoga and HIIT.

With over eight types of massages including shiatsu, acupuncture, sports and deep tissue guests can refresh and rejuvenate during their Southern California getaway within a relaxing and uplifting sanctuary. Relax in the zen lounge, shop the fully-stocked boutique, and get settled in the changing rooms.

  1. Santa Monica State Beach

Perched on the Pacific Ocean and set along 5.5 kilometres of glistening coastline, the beachfront city of Santa Monica presents endless opportunities to truly embrace the Santa Monica lifestyle and the wide array of oceanfront activities that come along with it.

In fact, a California getaway isn’t complete without a trip to what is an iconic beach. The wide expanse of soft sand offers a variety of activities and attractions for beachgoers, so you can sit back with your toes in the sand and sunbathe or enjoy first-come, first serve volleyball courts, surf and paddle schools and a 35km long paved bike trail.

Melissa Hoyer was a guest in Santa Monica of Qantas and Santa Monica Travel and Tourism

This article was originally posted on news.com