Cycling The Strand bike path along Los Angeles’ best beaches. It’s one of the most iconic things to do when visiting LA. Officially named the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, this bike path winds along the area’s best beaches, like Santa Monica Beach and Venice Beach.
When I looked into cycling The Strand bike path, I quickly realized there were lots of options. And it wasn’t easy to tell which would be best for a first time visitor like me. So I decided to do a little research and share what I found.
The 3 main options for cycling The Strand bike path are:
- Bike sharing: A system where you access a bike from a special bike rack (called a docking station or hub) and return it to any other bike rack in the same network.
- Bike rental: Rent a bike from a business and return it to the same place when you’re done.
- Bike tour: Hire someone to lead you through a predetermined route.
If you don’t love cycling, you can simply walk the main stretch from Santa Monica Pier to Venice Beach. This takes about 30-45 minutes. More on the route below!
Like anything, there are pros and cons to each option above. Which one you pick depends on your comfort level and what you want to get from the experience.
- THE ROUTE AND THE SIGHTS: Cycling The Strand (Marvin Braude Bike Trail)
- LEGALITIES: What I Need to Know for Cycling The Strand
- OPTIONS FOR CYCLING THE STRAND: Pros, Cons and Vendors
- SUMMARY TABLE: Factors to Consider for Bike Sharing, Rental or Tours
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THE ROUTE and SIGHTS: Cycling The Strand Bike Path (Marvin Braude Bike Trail)
The official name of The Strand bike path is the Marvin Braude Bike Trail (after a City Councilman in 2006). It’s a fully-paved, 22-mile (35-km) bike path that runs from Will Rogers State Beach in the north to Torrance County Beach in the south.
Now, I’m definitely not a cyclist (in fact, staying on my bike is a challenge!) but this route sounds amateur-friendly as a flat pathway with lots of shops, taco trucks and ice cream along the way. A common, shorter version of the trail is from Santa Monica Pier to Marina Del Rey, which is 7 miles one way.
The Strand bike path follows the Pacific Ocean coastline past a number of beaches, piers and fantastic shops and places to eat. The north section (including Marina Del Rey) is 10.5 miles and south of the marina is 11.5 miles.
Here are the main sights of The Stand bike path, from north to south:
MAP: The Route, Sights, On-Street Sections and Bike Rental/Tour Operators
Here is a map that consolidates everything in this post in a visual way. The Strand bike path route; the key sights to see along the way; on-street sections to be aware of; and, bike rental and tour operators with strong reviews.
To use the map below: Use the buttons at the top to access map details, to share it (i.e. with yourself to modify it for your own trip) or view a larger version.
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Now let’s dig in a bit deeper …
Cycling The Strand Bike Path’s NORTH SECTION: 10.5 miles
The north section of The Strand passes by the most famous (and busiest) spots on LA’s coastline. Santa Monica Beach tends to be quite clean and relatively quiet. Venice Beach and the Boardwalk are more colorful and packed with character, with lots of shops and restaurants right along the beach.
Will Rogers Beach to Santa Monica Pier: 3 miles
- Will Rogers State Beach: This is the official start to The Strand, with a large paid parking lot ($4-12 depending on season) and quieter beach to start the day. However, you won’t find bike rentals until you get closer to Santa Monica Pier.
- Pacific Palisades: Beautiful, expansive ocean views and volleyball courts.
Santa Monica Pier to Venice Pier: 3.5 miles
- Santa Monica Beach and Pier: This is where you’ll find lots of bike rental options and lots of parking lots ($7-15 depending on lot and season). The pier itself is a fun place to visit, with an amusement park, aquarium, shops and restaurants.
- The Original Muscle Beach: A beachside gymnastics and fitness site since the 1930s.
- Venice Boardwalk: Busy with fun shops, restaurants, performers and craft beer right on the beach.
- Muscle Beach (Venice Beach): A famous outdoor gym used by bodybuilders.
- Venice Canals: A lovely man-made canal system a few blocks inland from the beach between N Venice Blvd and 27th Ave. Park your bike at a side street and walk around (canal walkway is too narrow for bikes).
Marina Del Rey Wrap-Around: 4 miles
- Marina Del Rey: Great restaurant options and peaceful vibe among 5000+ boats and yachts.
- Marina Beach: A great spot for kids, being well-sheltered and with a playground.
Cycling The Strand Bike Path’s SOUTH SECTION: 11.5 miles
The south section of The Strand is certainly less well-known and quieter than the north, but packs so much fun into its wide sandy beaches, shops, restaurants, surfing, boating and parks. (I admit that until I did a little research, I didn’t even know about the south section. Silly me!)
- Dockweiler Beach (3.75 miles): Common for hang-gliding and watching planes take off and land from LAX. This beach even has bonfire pits!
- Manhattan Beach and Pier (2 miles): Watch the surfers and some beach volleyball. At the end of the pier is a small, hands-on aquarium.
- Hermosa Beach and Pier (1.5 miles): The bike path is wide and smooth through this area, with wide sandy beaches on your right and multi-million dollar homes on your left. On the weekends, the pier hosts concerts, festivals and events; watch for red lights telling you if you need to walk your bike (fines are heavy if you don’t).
- King Harbor and Redondo Beach (4.75 miles): Find more great restaurant options and the kid-friendly Seaside Lagoon. You’ll pass through the International Boardwalk, Fisherman’s Wharf and Redondo Pier; these are popular spots but the bike lane tends to keep you away from the heavy pedestrian traffic.
- Torrance Beach (1.5 miles): Enjoy this quieter section of the trail with great views of the Rancho Palos Verdes cliffs to the south. Have a picnic, relax at the beach or grab a drink at the beach-side cafe.
Then turn around for the return trek! Now that you know what to expect, you can stop and enjoy your favorite spots heading north along The Strand bike path.
ON-STREET SECTIONS of The Strand Bike Path
This is a very important part to cover for an amateur cyclist like me!
The Strand has 3 on-street sections: Marina Del Rey, Hermosa Beach (optional) and King Harbor (between Hermosa and Redondo beaches). These stretches are all well-marked and the last two have a barrier from traffic.
1. Marina Del Rey: UNPROTECTED On-Street Bike Path
There are two short stretches of unprotected on-street bike paths that wrap you around the marina. When you reach Venice Beach Pier, turn onto Washington Blvd. Watch out for pedestrians and cars fighting for parking spots.
Follow the bike lane along Washington Blvd for one mile. Then you’ll see a bike sign showing where to veer right (directly across from Mildred Avenue). The path is dedicated for bikes until you reach Fiji Way. Fiji Way takes you past Fisherman’s Village and back onto the bike path.
Note: When heading north on your return trip, the bike lanes along both Fiji Way and Washington Blvd follow are on the outside of the lanes (i.e. follow the flow of traffic).
2. Hermosa Beach: MOSTLY PROTECTED On-Street Bike Path (Optional)
When you reach 35th Street where Hermosa Beach starts, you have two options. You can either stay on the dedicated bike path along the beach (which can get quite busy with pedestrians during the summer) or take the mostly protected on-street path along Hermosa Ave.
To access the Hermosa Beach bike path, watch for the pedestrian sign at 35th Street. It’ll direct you down a set of stairs and then you’re good to go on the bike path.
If you continue straight along Hermosa Ave, you’ll have a two-way protected bike path until 28th Street and then unprotected until 26th Street. You can either get back onto the beachside bike path at 26th Street or earlier at Longfellow Ave (to avoid the unprotected section).
3. King Harbor: PROTECTED On-Street Bike Path
To wrap around King Harbor between Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach, follow the bike path along N Harbor Dr. This two-way stretch is protected from traffic the entire way.
Where N Harbor Dr makes a hairpin turn, becoming N Pacific Ave, the bike path continues straight. It’ll take you on towards International Boardwalk and the pier. Watch for signs at the pier telling you to walk your bike.
PARKING near The Strand Bike Path: North End
If you have your own bike, you can start cycling The Strand right at the trailhead in Will Rogers State Beach. You’ll find a large parking lot at Temescal Canyon Road.
But for most visitors, the best place to park is closer to Santa Monica Pier where you’ll find lots of bike rental options. There are plenty of parking lots nearby along Ocean Ave and Appian Way. Daily rate ranges from $7-15/day. Expect to pay cash.
Wondering where to stay? Read my post on 5 reasons to stay on Rodeo Drive!
LEGALITIES: What I Need to Know for Cycling The Strand Bike Path
Do I need to use a BIKE HELMET?
If you are 17 years old and younger, California law requires you to wear a helmet. Look for a label, often inside the helmet, to make sure it meets the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation safety standards. (See SantaMonicaPD.org)
If you are 18 and older, a helmet isn’t required by law. That said, it’s a good idea to wear one to protect yourself from head injuries.
(And I definitely recommend some kind of footwear. Even if it’s just cute sandals. Hello, glass??)
Can I ride on the SIDEWALK?
Nope. California law forbids bikes on sidewalks. Ride either on bike paths or the road. (See SantaMonicaPD.org)
OPTIONS FOR CYCLING THE STRAND BIKE PATH: Pros, Cons and Vendors
Okay, now it’s time to dig into the actual options for cycling The Strand. Here we go!
1. BIKE SHARING on The Strand Bike Path: Pros, Cons & Systems
Initially I thought that bike sharing would be the best, most cost-effective way to try this route. It’s likely the cheapest option, but whether it’s the best option depends on what you want to do on your ride.
Those that have used the bike share systems in Santa Monica generally say that it’s very easy and there are lots of hubs. You can either buy a pass right at the kiosk or online. However, you should also be aware of the complaints. These include the bikes themselves being heavy and poorly maintained. The stations can fill up so you can’t return the bike to the spot you’d planned to. And a faulty locking mechanism led to some customers being charged more than they should’ve been.
Another consideration is how far you want to cycle The Strand bike path. If you want to cycle south of Venice Beach and be able to stop, bike sharing probably isn’t the best choice. The most southerly bike sharing stations are by Marina Del Rey and anytime you lock your bike south of there (even if you bring it back later) you’ll be charged a $20 out-of-service-area fee.
PROS for bike sharing on The Strand:
- Cheap option at $7/hour (Breezes) or $1.75/half hour or $5/day (Metro); no one-way fees and you’re only charged for the time you actually use
- Purchase easily online or by credit or debit card right at the kiosk; if you use the website or app, it’s easy to see stations and bike availability
- Lots of bike racks between Santa Monica Pier and Venice Beach to lock your bike if you want to stop or return your bike (option of only going one-way)
CONS for bike sharing on The Strand:
- Limited selection of bikes; quality and maintenance seems to be hit or miss
- Helmet isn’t included (required for children; system lock and basket included)
- Penalized for locking up outside of a system station, with a $20 fee for locking up outside of the system’s service area (even if you return it later)
Bike share SERVICES near The Strand:
There are two options for bike sharing along The Strand: Breeze and Metro. Both have kiosks at Santa Monica Pier and along Venice Beach; Breeze also has kiosks north of the pier along Santa Monica Beach. Reviewers seem to be happier with Metro bikes.
Tip: If you choose a bike share, I suggest taking a picture of the computer screen once you return the bike. This might be helpful if the lock fails.
2. BIKE RENTALS near The Strand Bike Path: Pros, Cons & Vendors
I was surprised that bike rentals along this famous route weren’t super expensive. You’ll pay a premium to rent right along the beach, but if you walk up a few blocks from Santa Monica Pier you can get the price cut in half.
Renting a bike is more flexible for stopping wherever and going as far as you want. You also have many more bike options, including tandem, infant seats and kids bikes. On the flip side, you do have to return it to the shop before it closes (though the vendor may have another option; see below).
It’s pretty typical for bike rental shops to only accept cash and to keep ID, like your driver’s license or a credit card, until you return the bike.
PROS for bike rentals near The Strand:
- Good variety of bikes and accessories, all in decent shape
- Helmets, locks and baskets are available (most places include in the rental)
- Regular bike locks let you stop anywhere along the way and go as far south as you want
- Customer service fits your bike, pumps up tires, and gives you maps
CONS for bike rentals near on The Strand:
- Must leave ID behind (driver’s license or credit card)
- Must return to the shop by their closing time (some vendors offer a pickup option or extension until the next day)
- Typically cash-only
Bike rental VENDORS near The Strand:
I did a little digging into vendor options near Santa Monica Pier and found five that offer something different depending on what you’re looking for, all with strong customer reviews:
- Santa Monica Bike Rentals (1428 4th St, Santa Monica, CA): A few blocks away from Santa Monica Pier saves you – price starts at $15/day and includes helmet, basket, lock and map; strong reviews for bikes and customer service, and they offer lots of variety.
- Santa Monica Public Bike Rental (117 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA): Only a block from Santa Monica Pier, they also have strong reviews for customer service and lots of variety; price starts at $6/hour or $16/day and includes helmet, basket and lock.
- Joy Ride Santa Monica Tours (2-20 Arcadia Terrace, Santa Monica, CA): At a super-convenient spot on the beach just south of Santa Monica Pier, this place gets great reviews for equipment, customer service and tours, but their selection is limited; price starts at $25/day and includes helmet, basket, lock and map; will pick up for free within 10 miles.
- The Bike Center (382 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA): A block away from the Santa Monica Pier, this spot has good reviews and lots of variety, including options for baskets and kids; price starts at $20/2 hours or $30 for full day, which includes a helmet.
- Perry’s Cafe: Has 11 locations along The Strand, including one immediately north of Santa Monica Pier, a couple just south of it, and two south of Marina Del Rey (Dockweiler Beach and Torrance Beach trail-end); price starts at $10/hour or $35/day and everything is extra (lock, basket and helmet are $3 each); reviews of customer service and bike maintenance are hit or miss; offer a one-way option ($10 fee).
Tip: If you have a history of getting carded, be sure to bring backup ID. I suspect these Californian beaches pair well with an umbrella slushie drink 😉
3. BIKE TOURS on The Strand Bike Path: Pros, Cons & Guides
A bike tour takes your experience of cycling The Strand bike path up a few notches. A tour will give you insight into the history, development and celebrity connections in the area. Your guide will also point out sights you can easily miss if on your own. The negative is that it costs at least 3 times more than a rental.
All of the main tours of the Santa Monica and Venice Beach area are pretty similar. They take 2-3 hours and offer similar itineraries (though you can also find foodie, dessert and community tours). All include a helmet, basket and water bottle; some include a snack. When booking a tour with kids, first confirm that they have infant seats, kids bikes or tandem options.
Touring with an electric bike could also be fun. Electric bikes give you the choice of pedaling or not. However, you should be quite comfortable on a bike and at least 5 feet tall; some places don’t allow anyone under 13 years old to ride.
PROS for bike tours of The Strand:
- Learn about the area and see both the main and lesser-known sights
- Price includes helmet, basket and water (some include a snack)
- Some selection of bike, all in decent shape
- Customer service will fit your bike and pump up tires
CONS for bike tours of The Strand:
- The most expensive option, starting at $60/adult for 2-3 hours
- The least flexible option and only goes as far south as Marina Del Rey
Bike Tour GUIDES for The Strand:
Here are my two favorite bike tour guides near the Santa Monica Pier, both of which have solid customer reviews:
- Joy Ride Santa Monica Tours (2-20 Arcadia Terrace, Santa Monica, CA): Conveniently located just south of Santa Monica Pier along the beach, days/times are flexible based on the reservation; tour is $60/person (electric bike is $75/person) and includes a snack.
- The Bike Center (382 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA): Located one block from Santa Monica Pier, daily tours start at 11 am with a minimum of 2 people and maximum of 8; $69/adult and $49/child; three bike sizes are available.
SUMMARY TABLE: Factors to Consider for Bike SHARE, RENTAL or TOURS on The Strand Bike Path
There are both pros and cons to every option for cycling The Strand bike path. Whether you decide on bike sharing, renting or touring will depend on your preferences and situation.
Here is a table that summarizes the pros and cons of bike sharing, renting and touring The Strand bike path. If you think of another factor not listed, please add it in the comments!
|Bike Sharing||Bike Rental||Bike Tour|
|Includes area south of Marina Del Rey||No: Locking up south of Marina Del Rey costs you $20 (even if you return bike)||Yes: Regular locks let you lock up wherever you want||No: Tours only include Santa Monica and Venice Beach|
|Stop and lock bike wherever you want||No: Lock up at a system-specific hub to avoid a $2 fee||Yes: Regular locks let you lock up wherever you want||No: A guide takes you through a predetermined route|
|Return bike whenever you want||Yes||No: Return within business hours (some vendors allow 24-extensions)||No: Return when tour is done|
|Option to cycle one-way only||Yes||No (most vendors)||No (not applicable)|
|Kid friendly||No: Helmets, infant seats and kids bikes not available||Yes: Helmets, infant seats and kids bikes available (most vendors)||Yes: Helmets, infant seats and kids bikes available (check with vendor)|
|Helmets included||No||Yes (most vendors)||Yes|
|Baskets included||Yes||Yes (most vendors)||Yes|
|Locks included||Yes (system-specific)||Yes (most vendors)||No (not applicable)|
|Price||Min $1.75/half hour||Min $6/hour OR |
|Payment type||Credit or debit card at kiosk or online||Cash only||Credit, debit or cash (check with vendor)|
|ID must be left behind||No||Yes||No|
|SUMMARY||Cheap option for adults who want to stay in the Santa Monica/Venice Beach area||Flexible option for families, those wanting nicer bikes, and those wanting to travel south of Marina Del Rey||Easy option for those wanting to learn about the Santa Monica/Venice Beach area|
Which option sounds best for you? Have you tried one? Let me know below!
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Featured photo credit (Santa Monica Beach): Viviana Rishe from Unsplash.
Dreaming. Planning. Exploring. Finding that “wow” moment. Cora loves the journey nearly as much as the destination. She wants to experience the wonders and the stories of this amazing world for herself. Cora has toured with friends, family and now three little ones (eek!).
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