Santa Monica is Southern California at its most iconic. Thanks to its streets lined with palm trees and bougainvillea, the crash of the surf, and the bustle of downtown, Santa Monica embodies the best of sea and sky, city and small town.
If you’ve ever pictured yourself living in a Southern California paradise, you might just be dreaming of Santa Monica. But what is living in Santa Monica really like? This local’s guide will take you through the in’s and out’s of this West Coast jewel, including:
Quick Facts About Living in Santa Monica, CA
Real Estate in Santa Monica
Santa Monica Schools
Quick facts about living in Santa Monica
The laidback California lifestyle meets world-class amenities and gorgeous scenery in Santa Monica. Ranked the best suburb of California, it’s no wonder so many flock to this stunning city by the sea. Here are some quick facts about Santa Monica sourced by Niche.
Population – 92,078
Known for – Sometimes called “Silicon Beach,” Santa Monica boasts beautiful beaches and is a hub for the country’s startup scene. The city’s famous Santa Monica pier is an iconic Southern California landmark. It’s also an exceptionally walkable city. Residents can walk or bike from their homes to the beach or downtown areas easily.
Average Household Income – $93,865
Average Home Value – $1,242,100
Average Rent – $1,734
Cost of Living – The cost of living in Santa Monica, CA is 40% higher than the national average.
Who Lives Here – Santa Monica ranks at #4 on Niche’s list of best suburbs for young professionals in California. While young entrepreneurs will definitely find a home in this coastal haven, the fantastic school district and parks attract young and growing families.
Thanks to the recent spike in startups and tech companies moving their headquarters to Santa Monica, Silicon Beach has experienced a housing boom. While housing might be plenty, newcomers have a variety of neighborhoods to choose from if they decide to put down roots in this stunning suburb.
North of Montana – This area runs from 26th Avenue down to the PCH (local’s speak for Pacific Coast Highway). Here you’ll find upscale and casual restaurants, a coterie of coffee shops, as well as an assortment of stylish boutiques offering clothes, home goods, and specialty products. You’ll find luxury homes in the western part of this neighborhood, with many mansions and estates overlooking the Pacific.
NortheastSanta Monica – One of the quieter neighborhoods of Santa Monica, Northeast has its own hidden gems. In Northeast, you’ll find a bowling green, a fly fishing area, and Franklin Hill—home to multi-story houses and amazing views of the ocean. Residents of Northeast Santa Monica can take advantage of a green belt that stretches from Wellesley Avenue and South Carmelina Avenue.
Wilshire Montana – For shopping, you’ll find Wilshire Montana (sometimes known as North of Wilshire) from Centinela Avenue to the PCH between Montana Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard. Residences here are mostly condos and townhomes. In fact, it’s one of the only places in Santa Monica where the multi-family homes outnumber the single-family units.
Whether they’re living in a townhome or a condo, Santa Monica locals in this area enjoy close proximity to shopping, dining and are never too far a walk or bike ride from the water.
Mid-City – A bit more low-key than other neighborhoods, Mid-City is full of convenient shops, stores, and restaurants. UCLA Medical Center and St. John’s Hospital are located in Mid-City, along with the Santa Monica Public Library. When it comes to housing options, you’ll find plenty of condos and townhomes, but few single-family homes.
Downtown Santa Monica – Bright, bustling, and beachy, this downtown scene is like few others on the West Coast. On the eastern side of downtown, you’ll find commercial buildings, businesses, and plenty of shops and restaurants.
On the western side, you’ll find Palisades Park, a stretch of green space that runs along Ocean Avenue and overlooks the Pacific. Professionals can grab lunch from a nearby bistro, walk to a park bench on Palisades Park, and watch the waves crash onto the shore below.
As for housing options, this urban space is mostly condos and high-rises. While the housing options are more compact, the food, entertainment, and nightlife options are seemingly limitless.
Pico District – For a taste of mellow, California culture, Santa Monicans will point you to the Pico District. Divided by the 10 freeway, this area has two large parks for residents to enjoy as well as a Saturday farmers’ market. The nearby Community Center’s after-school programs for teens offer well-kept athletic facilities that include two basketball courts, a playground, a splash pad, a patio, and picnic tables.
Sunset Park – Home to Santa Monica Airport and Santa Monica College, Sunset Park has taken off in the last twenty years. Developers have filled this neighborhood with sprawling 3,000+ square foot homes. And with Airport Park, Clover Park, and Marine Park nearby, residents don’t have to sacrifice home space for outdoor space.
Local’s Tip: There’s truly something in Santa Monica for everyone. But to find your own piece of this Los Angeles county wonderland, you’ll need a local’s keen eye and expertise. The agents of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties can help you find your new home in Silicon Beach. Give our Santa Monica office a call any time and we’ll help you find your perfect neighborhood.
California’s laidback culture meets urban amenities in Santa Monica. From exquisite dining to sweet surfing excursions, the city offers something for everyone.
Fun & activities
While Santa Monica and surfing go hand in hand, there’s more to do in Santa Monica than catch a wave.
Bergamot Station – Bergamot Station is a sprawling creative complex and a local favorite. Residents peruse over 30 galleries and creative businesses, keeping an eye out for new talent or exciting events. Even better? There’s no need to leave your furry family members at home. Bergamot Station is dog-friendly!
The Santa Monica Pier – A must-see for tourists and a beloved landmark for locals, the Santa Monica Pier is always worth a trip. There’s always something new to see or try at the pier. It’s home to an amusement park, a solar-powered Ferris wheel, restaurants, the New York Trapeze School, and the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium. Residents love strolling along the pier, enjoying pier concerts, or grabbing a quick bite with an amazing view.
Santa Monica State Beach – No matter where you live in Santa Monica, the crashing of waves and salty air are never more than a few minutes away. One of the most pristine beaches in California, Santa Monica State Beach, is a haven for surfers, sunbathers, swimmers, and bodyboarders alike. It’s also one of the most easily accessible beaches on the coast.
Palisades Park – Palisades Park runs along Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. Bike and pedestrian-friendly, this 1.5-mile tree-lined park is dotted with benches to help residents take in the jaw-dropping ocean views.
Third Street Promenade – Thanks to the amazing Southern California weather, Santa Monicans can enjoy sun and sky as they shop at Third Street Promenade. This open-air pedestrian mall offers shopping, dining, and entertainment.
Local’s Tip: With such an assortment of new and old in Santa Monica, a stroll through the local neighborhoods can be an adventure in itself. Residents discover something new in every exploration, from mosaic-covered houses to office-buildings shaped like binoculars.
Santa Monica is home to many hungry foodies. The Santa Monica food scene offers a diverse array of cuisines of impeccable quality. Here are just a few local favorites to check out:
Heroic Deli & Wine Bar – Classic deli fare gets a wine-bar upgrade. Residents love the deli’s homemade loaves of breads and imported meats. Don’t forget to ask for extra Calabrian chili sauce!
Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery – An array of quiches, tarts, cinnamon buns, and breakfast sandwiches are perfect for brunch or to fuel up after early morning surfing.
Fritto Misto – Locals can’t get enough of Fritto Misto’s pasta made from scratch in-house. This casual Italian, family-friendly dining experience is perfect for birthdays or first dates.
Father’s Office – This cozy neighborhood burger spot is famous for its sweet potato fries and 36 beers on tap.
Cassia – Food critics and diners alike love this elevated French-Vietnamese dining experience. To see simplicity made exquisite, locals order the charcuterie platter, featuring cuts of sumptuous heritage pork.
Dialogue – Known for conversation-starting menus, Dialogue offers an intimate atmosphere and innovative eats. This upscale tasting menu borrows flavors from all over the world with the help of local farmer’s market ingredients.
Melisse Restaurant – The gem of Santa Monica’s food scene, Melisse is a white tablecloth restaurant with a tasting menu that shocks, awes, and delights. King crab tartlets, pressed quails, and wagyu strip steak are just a few mouth-watering menu items. Locals know to plan well ahead of time for a table at Melisse—there are only 14 seats in the house.
After watching the sun sink below the Pacific from Palisades Park, where do locals go to enjoy the night? Not far. The nightlife in Santa Monica is as busy and vibrant as its day life. Scores of bars and restaurants line the streets from Ocean Avenue to the edges of North of Montana and Sunset Park.
Here are just a few notable evening experiences:
Basement Tavern – Located in the basement of an 1800s Victorian mansion, Basement Tavern is known for its speak-easy atmosphere and delicious cocktails. Don’t forget to check out the whisky menu—it’s one of the most extensive in the city.
Santa Monica Playhouse – For intimate live theater experiences, locals look to the Santa Monica Playhouse. You’ll find musicals, plays, holiday specials, comedy specials, and kid-friendly shows on the events schedule of this entertainment staple.
Harvelle’s Santa Monica – Founded in 1931, Harvelle’s is well-known for its blues and jazz scene, but it might be most famous for its more daring burlesque performances.
Local’s Tip: Not sure where to start your evening? Start with a happy hour. The city of Santa Monica offers a comprehensive list of local-approved happy hours. From there, ask your bartender what’s happening nearby for an authentic Santa Monica adventure.
Ranked among the top 20 best school districts in California, Santa Monica Malibu Unified School district is a boon to local families. Small classroom sizes and excellent teachers help build a strong academic future for young Santa Monicans.
Here is the district’s report card (graded by Niche):
Academics – A+
Teachers – A+
College Prep – A+
Diversity – A
Health & Safety – A
Clubs & Activities – B+
Student-Teacher Ratio – 21 students to each teacher.
While the public school offerings at Santa Monica are stellar, families have plenty of private schools to choose from as well. They include:
Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences
New Roads School
Pacifica Christian School
St. Monica Catholic High School
Lighthouse Christian Academy
St. Monica Catholic Elementary School
Saint Anne School
PS1 Pluralistic School
Santa Monica Montessori School
Garden of Angels School
Local’s Tip: If you’re thinking of moving your family to Santa Monica, looking for homes in the right school district is essential. It can help to have a local’s perspective on which neighborhoods lead to the right schools. And we know exactly where you can find friendly locals, knowledgeable in all things Santa Monica Unified—the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties Santa Monica office.
Give us a call and we can help guide you to an amazing neighborhood near the perfect school for your child.
Catch a wave to Santa Monica with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties
When it comes to Southern California cities, Santa Monica shines. Excellent schools, incredible beach access, Pacific Ocean views, exciting nightlife, and a mouth-watering food-scene set Santa Monica apart from others on the West Coast.
Let Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties help you and your family find your own little niche in this rich city. Whether you’re looking for a townhome in the heart of downtown or a quiet mid-century home tucked away in Ocean Park, a Santa Monica REALTOR® can help you find your dream home so you can become a Santa Monica local.
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