Having long outgrown its reputation as a drowsy beach town, today Santa Monica exudes the quintessential California experience. You’ll feel like a movie star or a Kardashian, cruising by the towering palm trees on Ocean Avenue, past Michelin-starred restaurants, trendy boutique shops and swanky nightlife spots. At just over 13 square kilometres, Santa Monica is a bite-sized dose of Californication; plus, the city’s free electric shuttle service, Circuit, makes it easy to get around.

Fit cyclists, roller bladers and joggers sporting fresh tans flood the bike lanes and sidewalks, and swimsuit-clad beach volleyball players seem to always be glistening in the sunlight. The people here are just as beautiful as the weather.

Two people roller blading near Santa Monica beach

Near the world-renowned Santa Monica shore, soft gusts of salty sea air will ruin even the most immaculate hairdo, but it doesn’t matter — you’ll fit right in with the other beach bums, surfers and skateboarders. A trip here will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, and wistfully perusing home prices in the area on your trip back home. From drip coffee in Dogtown to downward-dog yoga at sunrise, here’s how to spend three wellness-packed days in Santa Monica.

Santa Monica, California: Where to stay

Imagine the quintessential beach hotel, but turn up the luxury: That’s the Viceroy Santa Monica. Everything has been curated to create the feeling of a never-ending summer daydream, from the spacious rooms, washed in an ocean blue, to the coastal views, the breezy indoor-outdoor Sugar Palm restaurant and the bright lobby lounge brimming with abstract art.

Rooms starting at $300 USD per night; viceroyhotelsandresorts.com

Santa Monica, California: Day One

Getting there

Most major Canadian airlines offer direct flights to LAX, including Porter Airlines, which just launched a direct flight between Toronto and L.A. From the airport, it’s around a 20-minute drive to Santa Monica — but make sure to give yourself extra time to account for L.A. traffic, which can more than double your commute.

A leisurely stroll along the well-kept roads in the Santa Monica Pier neighbourhood is an excellent introduction to the area. You can rent a bicycle from the Viceroy Santa Monica, or take a guided ride with local tour company, Bike & Hikes. Coast along the city’s clean, wide bike lanes and stumble upon attractions like the Original Muscle Beach, the Venice boardwalk and the lush Palisades Park. At lunchtime, pop by the beachside Hot Dog on a Stick stand for a battered and fried turkey, beef or veggie weenie.

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Once the sun sets, cut slices of drool-worthy Neopolitan-style pizza with barber’s scissors, and tuck in to tapas at cool-casual haunt Bar Monette. Run by Canadian ex-pat, chef Sean MacDonald (named best young chef in the country in 2016), this whimsical eatery features cooky decor like antique portraits and dried candlewax streams that gush down wooden bookshelves.

Then, don your nicest button-up or cocktail dress for late-night tipples at Élephante, one of the hottest nightlife spots in the area. Their impressive cocktail list includes five types of espresso martini.

Santa Monica, California: Day Two

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Seize the day and get an early morning sweat on at The Sun Cycle’s SunBURST class. On Santa Monica beach, near Lifeguard Tower 28 and facing the ocean’s cresting waves, an instructor will guide you through an hour-long cycling class as the sun rises but before the heat of the day sets in. It’s a good thing, too — this will really get your blood pumping.

A person surfing at Santa Monica beach

After you’ve showered, drive four minutes or walk 20 to Third Street Promenade, a sprawling and well-manicured pedestrian shopping strip decorated with topiary sculptures, string lights and art. Talented street performers frequent the area, too. Lunch options abound here, from grab n’ go burger spots to airy, French Riviera-inspired rooftop lounges. Head into the nearby mall for even more high-end shopping. Once you’ve concluded your retail therapy, trek back to the beach for an afternoon surfing class with Aqua Surf School. They’ll provide you with a wetsuit, board, instructions and expert supervision; you’ll be catching waves in no time.

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Wash the salty water out of your hair before driving eight minutes to Le Great Outdoor, a lively al-fresco, open-fire, farm-to-table restaurant for a mouth-watering feast and great wine.

Santa Monica, California: Day Three

A person practicing yoga and meditation at Santa Monica beach

It’s hard to imagine a more peaceful place for morning yoga than on Santa Monica beach. Stretch stress away to the sounds of gentle crashing waves and feel peace wash over you with a guided early morning class by Beach Yoga SoCal. Afterwards, get caffeinated at Dogtown Coffee, a nearby café in the old Zephyr Surf Shop. They have great warm breakfast options, too.

Nearby Main Street is packed with cute boutiques, sunny patios and murals that pay tribute to the area’s rich surf and skateboarding culture. On Sundays, there’s also a vibrant farmers’ market to check out for fresh produce, live music and prepared bites for lunch.

A bird's eye view of Santa Monica Pier Pacific Park

Save room for funnel cake at Santa Monica Pier’s Pacific Park, the iconic sun-soaked amusement park at the end of the boardwalk. Make sure you take a trip ‘round the Ferris wheel; there are also roller coasters, drop towers and bumper cars.

For your last meal in the city, head to Cobi’s, an adorable, flower-filled, Michelin-recognized restaurant serving authentic Southeast Asian cuisine. Order the curry puffs — these crispy little bubbles of joy are loaded with flavour and served with a phenomenal tamarind sauce.