Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica

Access Type: Bike Lane (San Vicente-Bicknell); Bike Route (Bicknell-Hollister)

Pretend the lounge at the Oceana is your own living room. Credit: http://www.hoteloceanasantamonica.com/dining/wine.asp

Difficulty: Easy

Traffic Intensity: Moderate to heavy

Other Bikers: Moderate

The View: Scenic (beach and expensive dwellings)

Entrada to Wilshire: The most serene portion of Ocean Ave., this stretch offers views of the breathtaking coastline, million-dollar homes, and many, many active people with their dogs.  Although it does not, in my opinion, embody the iconic beachy-hippie vibe I associate with Santa Monica, this section is nevertheless representative of (the really really wealthy portion of) my beloved city.  One could have a very calorie-burning, tourist-free time hanging out here: the 2 sets of stairs on Adelaide offer opportunities for exercise and excellent people-watching (Matthew McConaughey reportedly works out here and the SMFD definitely does!).  Not much exist in the ways of watering holes – this is a mostly residential area – but the Oceana Hotel at Idaho serves refreshing Toasted Marshmallow Milkshakes (vodka optional) in a gorgeous (but fancy) setting.

Wilshire to Pico: Tourists, joggers, performers, oh my!  This section may be the most pedestrian-heavy drag in Santa

Beautiful but not a great place for bikes. Credit: Mike Gonzalez (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:TheCoffee)

Monica outside of the Promenade and the Pier.  Riders, whether on the dirt paths in Palisades Park or on asphalt, are presented challenge after challenge as they navigate through people descending tour buses, people posing for photographs, people making out on the grass, someone’s bedding on the grass, and – lest you forget – LOTS of cars.  In fact, I’d highly suggest against biking in the northbound direction here, particularly at Moomat Ahiko on a weekend (go one block in instead and take either Main or 2nd).  Having said that, the spectacle that is the Pier is worth checking out at least once in a while and, north of Pico, it actually provides one of the least physically demanding entries to the beach bike path.

There is much to eat and do here.  I highly recommend checking out Fig Restaurant at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel at Wilshire for their half-price happy hour  menu.  The ambience is luxurious and upscale yet beachy and warm.  I’ve enjoyed a few happy sunsets here with their inventive cocktails, foodie-favorite dishes such as spicy braised beef tongue (really delicious!), and adventurous cheese flights (along with their knowledgeable cheese man Eric) at non-snobby prices.  Don’t forget to take a little walk around the pool afterwards.

Beware that it is way too easy to wander into dens of the pretentious, logo-wearing, douchy crowd.  Case in point, Ma’Kai Lounge at Broadway.  Mind you, I’m not really knocking trendy haunts of the rich (and tacky); I visit these places from time to time, but I am prepared and in the right mood when I do.  Ma’Kai is actually a lovely place to have an expensive drink.  Just be prepared to get hit on by the tanned fifty-year-old who is dressed like s/he is 25.  After your dance-off there, stumble next door to Joe’s Pizza for a (good) slice or Alexandria’s for some beef shawarma that will hit the spot.

Other eateries of note include Bar Pintxo (pork belly!  tortilla española!  chocolate pot de creme!) at Santa Monica and the Lobster (if for nothing else besides the view) at Colorado.  Between Moomat Ahiko and Pacific Terrace are two unique businesses – Segway Los Angeles and Poseidon Stand-Up Paddle Boards Shop – that promise to show you Santa Monica in a brand new way.

Pico to Hollister: The street calms back down here and gets reclaimed by the locals.  Cha Cha Chicken on a hot night (which are uncommon), as previously mentioned, is reminiscent of feasting outside on a tropical island.  If you have fancy in-laws to impress, the giant windows at The Veranda lobby lounge at Hotel Casa del Mar are like a television set showcasing the beach outside (hopefully those fancy in-laws are also footing the bill).  In the morning, lots of surfers – whether walking or biking – can be found in this area.