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Santa Monica Parking Tips and Tricks

Published on July 11, 2018

It doesn’t matter if you’re coming to Santa Monica from the other side of Los Angeles, or the other side of the country – if you’re driving, you’re going to have to navigate parking. The parking enforcement is very strict in Santa Monica, so forgetting to feed the meter or leaving your car in the wrong place at the wrong time could mean a ticket – or a tow! Don’t worry, though, we have all of the Santa Monica parking tips and tricks you will ever need.

Tip 1 – Park and Walk: Don’t plan on driving from one spot to the next after you park your car for the day. It’s time to enjoy the sun and walk! Trying to find parking multiple times in one day is sure to cost you more money and wasted time – and maybe a bit of patience. You can find everything you need within walking distance from the downtown / beach area parking spots.

Tip 2 – Get Here Early: Parking will fill up early, so it’s important to get here even earlier than you planned. By getting into the city early, you will be able to find more parking in your desired location, making the rest of your day much easier. Enjoy breakfast overlooking the beach and hit the boardwalk before the rest of the Santa Monica visitors arrive.

Tip 3 – Read the Signs: Easy to say, hard to do. Some people think the street parking signs in Santa Monica are confusing, but they can be very helpful too. Make sure to pay attention to the enforcement hours and time limits for street parking. Many spots only allow a vehicle to stay for 3 hours at a time.

Tip 4 – If You’re Unsure, Don’t Park There: Think you found a secret perfect parking spot that is free? It’s probably not. If you’re unsure whether or not you can park in a certain spot, it’s better to find another parking place instead. Worst case scenario is that you come back to an empty parking spot because your car was towed to a Santa Monica impound.

The Best Places to Park

It’s no surprise that two of the best parking lots are also the busiest, but if you follow the tips above, you may be able to get a spot in one of these:

Lot 1 North: Open from 6AM to 10 PM daily, this lot is located next to the Santa Monica Pier, just behind the beach. If you plan on spending your day back and forth between the beach and the Pier, this is the lot for you.

Double check our directions to the Santa Monica Pier options to make sure you know exactly where you’re going and read our parking at the Santa Monica Pier blog for more information on specific lots.

Santa Monica has over 20 parking lots for beach parking and downtown. Most downtown lots are free for the first 90 minutes. All parking is controlled by the City of Santa Monica.


One Last Santa Monica Parking Trick

There is a way that you can park in metered spots for free. Cars with CA state special recognition plates or white / green Clean Air or Zero Emissions decals are allowed to park at meters free of charge. The posted maximum time limit does however still apply. See you in Santa Monica!