Los Angeles Beaches by Bike, Part One: Will Rogers Beach to Marina del Rey

The guide to biking The Strand

Biking Venice Beach at sunset
Venice Beach at sunset | Photo: Eric Demarcq, Discover Los Angeles Flickr Pool

The Marvin Braude Bike Trail (aka The Strand) is a 22-mile bike path that connects many of L.A.’s best beaches and offers the best day of coastal bike riding that anyone could ask for. The flat, paved path winds past Santa Monica and Venice, then heads inland at Marina del Rey, is back on the beach at Playa del Rey, and stays close to the sand all the way past the Beach Cities of the South Bay (Manhattan, Hermosa, Redondo) to Torrance Beach, where the path ends. The Strand is popular with cyclists, joggers, rollerbladers and anyone lucky enough to find themselves on the beloved beachside path.

This two-part guide follows the route of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail from its northern end at Will Rogers State Beach near Pacific Palisades and travels south to Torrance Beach.

By going at a brisk pace without stops, it’s possible to bike the entire path one way in less than two hours. But you could also easily take all day, stopping at dozens of places along the way.

A few things to consider when biking some or all of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail:

  1. Protect yourself. It’s likely going to be a beautiful day at the beaches you’re going to get a lot of direct sunlight. Apply sunscreen throughout the day and after going in the water. Wear a helmet.
  2. Bring water and snacks. Even biking at a slow pace requires more energy than you might think, so make sure you have plenty of water and snacks.
  3. Take your time. Unless your goal is to bike the entire bike path I would suggest you take your time and bike between a few beaches, spending time relaxing and exploring what each location has to offer.
  4. Bring a lock. You’re probably going to want to step into a restaurant, cafe or to walk down to the edge of the beach to dip your toes in the ocean. Make sure you have what you need to keep your bike secure so you can fully immerse yourself without the worry of wondering whether your bike is safe.
  5. Watch out. The bike path can be very crowded, especially on the weekends. You may find that you have to go very slowly at times and navigate through some crowded spots. It’s better to take it safe and walk your bike if pedestrian traffic gets too thick.
  6. Rent a bike. If you lack wheels you can always rent a bike at one of the many Perry’s Cafe locations or one of several bike & beach rental businesses that you can find along The Strand.
The Marvin Braude Bike Trail at Will Rogers State Beach   |  Photo: Joshua Johnson
The Marvin Braude Bike Trail at Will Rogers State Beach  |  Photo: Joshua Johnson

Will Rogers State Beach

A relaxed start to our 22-mile beach bicycle adventure.

Will Rogers State Beach is a relaxed stretch of sand just north of Santa Monica. It is easily accessed from Pacific Coast Highway, has a large paid parking lot and lacks the crowds that are so often found in Santa Monica. Will Rogers is also the northern end of the Marvin Braude Bike Trail, making it a great option for either a relaxed beach day or the perfect place to begin an L.A. beach bike adventure.

Hop on your bike, point your wheels south and start pedaling.

After a few hundred meters you’ll pass the beach volleyball courts. If you look across the street you’ll see a Chevron station and a bright green building - that’s Patrick’s Roadhouse, an eclectic diner that has been making favorites from scratch since 1973. Order a sandwich to go for a snack down the bike path. Two small pedestrian tunnels make crossing the otherwise busy street easy.

Santa Monica Pier   |  Photo: Joshua Johnson
Santa Monica Pier  |  Photo: Joshua Johnson

Santa Monica

A hub for visitors and locals alike, the world-famous beach and landmark pier have a festive and fun atmosphere.

Between Will Rogers and the Santa Monica Pier is a huge area of open beach. The bike path passes several beach clubs and the free-to-the-public Annenberg Community Beach House plus the adjoining Back on the Beach Cafe, where you can purchase goods like sunblock and towels, and rent beach chairs, umbrellas and boogie boards. Space at the Annenberg is available for groups on a first-come, first-served basis. The beach front cafe has a mouthwatering menu featuring local and seasonal cuisine.

Once you reach the Santa Monica Pier you’ve covered about 3.5 miles from the Will Rogers parking lot, nice job! You can either keep going south towards Venice Beach or hop off your bike and explore one of L.A.’s most enduring landmarks. The pier is popular with visitors and locals alike any day of the week, and on the weekend during the summer months it is positively swarming - but in a good way. Get up close and personal with 100 species of sea creatures at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, ride the solar-powered Ferris Wheel at Pacific Park, and pick up a souvenir at the Route 66 Last Stop Shop. Or just walk to the end of the pier and watch the waves roll in from the Pacific.

After you’re done exploring, jump back on your bike and ride under the pier to head south to Venice Beach.

Venice Beach | Photo: Joshua Johnson
Venice Beach | Photo: Joshua Johnson

Venice Beach

The path takes a turn for the artistic in this free spirited and iconic beach community.

By this point on your ride down the Marvin Braude Bike Trail you’re sharing the pavement with a variety of people that are riding, walking, skating and running at different speeds. Sometimes people stop and turn suddenly or veer off course as they bury their face in their phone. Slow down and go with the flow, taking extra precautions when passing pedestrians.

About halfway to the Venice Beach Pier, as the bike path begins to run parallel to the world-famous Ocean Front Walk (aka the Venice beach Boardwalk), the trail will go from being mostly straight to twisting gently with corners and curves. Soon you’ll find Venice Ale House, a local favorite serving killer burgers and craft beers. Besides the Ale House you’ll find a cluster of right-off-the-bike-path food options like The Waterfront Venice and Fig Tree Cafe. This could be the perfect point in your beach bike adventure to pull over for a meal before you head into the colorful and chaotic heart of Venice Beach.

Biking past the pedestrian heavy Ocean Front Walk is a great way to take in the vibe without having to get bogged down in foot traffic. The bike path wends past the skate park, public art walls, basketball courts and Muscle Beach then continues on to the Venice Fishing Pier.

Walk your bike to the end of the long pier and admire the commanding view of the coast.

The Venice Fishing Pier is a simple concrete structure that juts into the ocean. Unlike the neighboring Santa Monica Pier, there are no cafes or carnival games here; only fishermen, a few pedestrians and some hungry seagulls.

The Marvin Braude Bike Trail leaves the beach for a few miles after the pier, heading inland on West Washington Blvd to navigate around the thousands of ships docked in Marina Del Rey. Thankfully Washington is a bike friendly street with lots of bike lane signage.

The Marvin Braude Bike Trail in Marina del Rey
The Marvin Braude Bike Trail in Marina del Rey  |  Photo: Joshua Johnson

Marina del Rey

Head inland for a detour around L.A.’s enormous and fascinating harbor.

From the Venice Fishing Pier you’re going to ride up West Washington Blvd for less than a mile. At Mildred Avenue, go right onto the bike path and make your way around Marina del Rey in the dedicated bike lane. Marina del Rey is the world’s largest man-made small craft harbor and a destination unto itself. You could get lost exploring if you wanted to slow down and really take in the marina by bike. If you’re hungry you have a host of dining options, from a pork belly banh mi sandwich at Mendocino Farms to the peel & eat prawns at Killer Shrimp. Eventually the bike path joins with Fiji Way for the final stretch around the marina to Ballona Creek.

The path dramatically runs along a narrow jetty towards the ocean until it crosses a bridge over Ballona Creek and just like that, you’re in Playa del Rey! The whole journey from the Venice Pier around Marina del Rey to Playa del Rey is about four miles.

NEXT: Part Two of our guide to biking the Marvin Braude Bike Trail.