This review of the wheelchair accessibility of Santa Monica is from Fall 2022.
Santa Monica is one of the quintessential Los Angeles beach spots. It has a huge, sprawling boardwalk along the beach. It has great restaurants overlooking the water. And it has the iconic pier with its Ferris wheel lighting up the night skyline. It is a great place to spend a day, week, or lifetime.
Santa Monica takes pride in its accessibility, and has numerous resources to assist with accessibility. The Accessible Santa Monica Beach map is particularly helpful, especially the location and contact information for free rentals of electric and manual beach wheelchairs.
We spend a lot of time here, and note some of our favorite activities below. If you want to spend the night, we had a good experience with the wheelchair accessible rooms at the Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Santa Monica.
To say the boardwalk is accessible is an understatement. It is a wide, paved path that runs for miles along the beach–in fact, it is so smooth that you need to watch out for bikers, scooters, rollerbladers, skateboarders, etc. Everyone on every type of mobility device uses it as a great way to walk/scoot along the water, and to explore from Venice to the Santa Monica Pier…and beyond.
The boardwalk leads to the pier, and there are multiple ramps and elevators that can take you from the boardwalk to the pier. The pier is wood, and so can be quite bumpy in a wheelchair–not prohibitively bumpy, but just go-slow-and-steady bumpy. There was a beach wheelchair mat down on the main path on the pier, which made the wood a bit smoother. The pier offers amazing views of the coastline, and is a popular place for tourists and locals alike. It is also the end of Route 66, and is featured in countless movies.
3rd Street Promenade
The 3rd Street Promenade is a cool shopping mall in downtown Santa Monica. It consists of 3 car-free blocks that are home to ~80 retailers, numerous restaurants, and assorted street performers. It is also the end-of-the-line for the Metro light rail between downtown LA and Santa Monica. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
Urth Caffé is one of our favorite local chains, and is a great spot for organic teas, espressos, and food. They also have some decent vegan options, although we are pretty bummed they discontinued the vegan chicken curry salad sandwich. They also have the best pumpkin pie (vegan and non-vegan) I’ve ever had.
It is a bit of walk from downtown Santa Monica, but worth it (especially along the coast). There is also a public parking lot a block away from it. The accessible entrance is around the corner, which can cause confusion when the line to order goes down the stairs. In that instance, I either 1) order online (a good idea anyway to save time) or 2) go up the accessible entrance and return to the top of the stairs and try to find the place I would be in line. The latter is not ideal, but people are usually pretty chill at Urth and understand the situation.
I am always impressed by the wheelchair accessibility of Santa Monica, and particularly enjoy spending time on the boardwalk.