The Santa Monica Pier is one of the most visited entertainment destinations in Southern California. Whether you are planning to visit the expansive white sand beaches along the Santa Monica shore line, want to walk the historic boardwalk of the Pier, or take a ride on the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel, you’ll first need to get there.
The Metro Expo Line, which opened in 2016, conveniently delivers you just blocks from the top of the Pier ramp and the famous Santa Monica Pier and Yacht Harbor sign. However, some people just need their cars. Here’s the 5 best places to park when visiting Pacific Park on the Santa Monica Pier.
Lot 1 North | 1550 Appian Way
Sometimes referred to as just “the beach lot,” or “that lot next to the Pier”, Lot 1 North, located at 1550 Appian Way, is the largest parking lot that serves the north beaches, volleyball nets, Santa Monica Pier, Ocean Front Walk and even Downtown Santa Monica. If you are planning on rolling a cooler out onto the sand to spend a day on the beach and Pier, this is the place you want to park. Even with its 1,200 parking spaces, the lot will fill up on sunny days and weekends, so plan to arrive early.
Parking in Lot 1 North is charged as a flat fee for the whole day. There is an attendant who takes payment in cash or a machine if you prefer to pay by credit card. Parking rates vary by time of year and increase for special events. All parking lots in the area are owned by the City of Santa Monica. Check out the latest parking rates at (https://www.smgov.net/Departments/PCD/Transportation/Motorists-Parking/).
At first glance, you might point your GPS to the Pier expecting access to this parking area, but the entrance to this lot is actually under the Pier. Enter “1550 Appian Way” in your phone or other navigational device to be routed to Lot 1 N. If traveling from the North along PCH, you will exit just before the McClure tunnel and be routed directly into the lot. From I-10 and surface streets, you’ll take the downtown Santa Monic exits and follow signs to Pico Blvd which ends at Appian Way, right by Shutters on the Beach. Pro tip: when traffic is backed up on I-10 with people trying to take the 4th-5th Street exits, get off on Lincoln and turn left to Pico – you’ll avoid the crush of cars trying to go to the Promenade.
Civic Center Garage | 333 Civic Center Dr
The City built the parking garage across from City Hall to give commuters and visitors alike more options to park downtown. While not expressly convenient to Downtown Santa Monica and the Third Street Promenade, the Civic Center Garage is great place to park for the Pier, beaches and Ocean Front Walk.
It is located just off 4th street and Olympic. If you are coming from the I-10 Freeway, you can turn left on 4th then make a right into the parking area just after Olympic Blvd. This keeps you off the street and prevents you from circling other lots looking for availability. The garage is a premium on the weekdays when it is used by City staff and people visiting City Hall, but on weekends the rates drop to just $5 for the whole day – the best rates in Downtown!
Once parked, walk west from the garage across the newly renovated Tvonga Park and see the cool art installations and native plants. At the opposite side of the park, you will be at Ocean Blvd and Colorado, just across the street from the famous Santa Monica Pier and Yacht Harbor sign. From the garage to the Ferris wheel is an 8 minute walk at a brisk pace, or about 12 if you’re pushing a stroller.
Hot Dog on a Stick | 1633 Ocean Front Walk
One more hidden gem is a small lot located just behind the original Hot Dog on a Stick stand on Ocean Front Walk. There are only a couple dozen spaces, but if you need to stop by the Pier or beach for just a few minutes, this is a good option. This lot is metered by the hour, and the first 20 minutes are free. There is a blue machine where you can pay for up to two hours of parking and pay with coins or credit card. Keep an on eye on your watch, though – this lot closes at sundown and you will be ticketed!
The Pier Parking Deck | 200 Santa Monica Pier
Many people don’t realize that there are actually a limited number of public parking spaces on the 100-year-old wooden Pier. These are accessible via the Pier ramp which leads from Ocean Ave. and Colorado onto the Pier. Space is limited, so it’s not recommended to try driving down there during the summer or weekends, but if you are stopping by early on weekday, this is the closest parking available for visitors wishing to see the Pier. There are a few catches though: No oversize vehicles, including larger SUVs like Escalades and Suburbans. Same goes for RVs, big trucks, or large passenger vans.
The lot has an attendant who takes cash and cards when you exit. Just pull a ticket when you enter. If paying with card, use the machines located on either side of the police substation to pay before you exit.
Garage Parking Structures 4-8 | 2nd and 4th Streets, Downtown Santa Monica.
There are thousands of parking spaces in the 8 garages nestled along Downtown Santa Monica’s primary shopping thoroughfare, the Third Street Promenade. Each garages feature an electronic sign displaying the number of available spaces, so when driving down 2nd or 4th Street, you can enter the garage that has plenty of room left.
People love visiting the Promenade, so these parking structures fill up fast! As always, check the city’s parking website for updated parking rates (https://www.smgov.net/Departments/PCD/Transportation/Motorists-Parking/).
Cheaper lots further afield
The new Metro Expo Line is a modern and convenient way to access downtown Santa Monica and the Pier. If you are visiting the Pier from an area serviced by the Metro light rail, like Downtown LA, Culver City or USC, then you should look no further. The Metro will be faster and cheaper and you won’t have to worry about shooing seagulls off your car.
If you are planning a visit on a busy day, like weekends or anytime during the summer, particularly late in the afternoon, then consider parking at one of Metro’s many parking garages and taking the train in the rest of the way. There’s 260 spaces at the parking structure located at Expo/Sepulveda Metro Station (11295 Exposition Blvd., Los Angeles, 90064) and another 217 along Exposition Blvd. by the Expo/Bundy Station. Parking starts at just $3 and there is no penalty for parking overnight. See the latest rates and get more information about Tap cards and parking by visiting Metro.net.
Parking for Disabled Placards and visitors with mobility devices
All of the lots mentioned above have spots reserved for automobiles displaying a disability placard or license plate. The most convenient spots for mobility devices and wheel chairs will be the Pier Parking deck, although these spots are limited in number and fill up fast. There are many spots reserved for vehicles displaying disability placards in Lot 1 North (straight ahead after you pass the parking attendant booth). However, the elevator is not easy to get to, located inside the Bubba Gump restaurant which doesn’t open till lunch. There are additional spots located in the garages on 2nd and 4th streets, but the ramp leading to and from the Pier is steeper than typical ADA ramps (this is slated for a re-build in the coming months – stay tuned). Your best bet is having a driver head for the Pier deck parking lot. If all the spaces are taken, you can be dropped off; there is adequate room to turn around outside of the parking ticket booth. Then your driver can park elsewhere and meet you after.
Ride Share Drop Off / Pick Up Locations
The City of Santa Monica has been proactive in working with the largest ride share service providers like Lyft and Uber to provide designated pick up and drop off areas. The closest pick up area to Pacific Park and the Ferris wheel is just outside the entrance to the Pier parking lot (200 Santa Monica Pier). There is adequate room for drivers to turn their vehicles around and a walkway that separates pedestrian traffic from vehicles. However, on a busy evening, this could take 20 minutes or more to get to from the freeway, so we recommend giving your driver a break and meeting them at either Hot Dog on a Stick or, on a really busy evening, 5th and Colorado. These areas have wide curbs for passenger loading and easy access to the freeway so you can get on your way without having to wait for left-hand turn light.
Bus, RV, Oversize vehicles
Any vehicle over 22 ft in length, including busses, RVs, motor homes, trucks pulling trailers, and limos should go directly to Lot 1 North. There are additional spots available beside the Civic Center lot, and these cost less than the beach lot, but are less convenient. Rates are set by the City and are typically 6x the posted rate for a passenger car (so in the summer, parking an RV at the beach for the day costs a whopping $84!). As always, check the City’s site first for up to date rates and availability.
There is no overnight parking in Santa Monica, so if you plan to stay later than 2AM, you should contact the City’s parking office for permitting options.