Know before you go: Want to visit the places recommended in this article? With local regulations changing frequently, it’s a good idea to check the web site of any attraction or business to make sure it’s open before you go.
Los Angeles, California, may be one of the most famous cities on earth, and for good reason: it’s packed with sights and experiences that are familiar to much of the world thanks to all of the movies, TV shows, and music videos set there. But beyond the Hollywood sign, the tours of movie studios, and the glow of theme park lights, there’s so much more to see and do in this iconic Southern California city. From international cuisine, to pristine natural parks and beaches, to world-class museums and concert halls, LA’s got something for everyone.
The list of LA’s must-see attractions make up a familiar bucket list: the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park (and, a bit further south, Disneyland), Mann’s Chinese Theater, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, Muscle Beach, the Griffith Observatory, the Santa Monica Pier. Visiting any of these spots will make your Instagram feed look like you’re vacationing on the set of a movie.
HI Los Angeles Santa Monica is the perfect place to base yourself if you want to do it all: just next door do the hostel, you’ll find Starline tours, which runs daily tours and round-trip shuttles to lots of the area’s top attractions and offers discounts to HI guests. Whatever’s not covered by Starline, there’s a good chance you’ll find it for free at the hostel, from tours to Muscle Beach and Venice Beach, to hikes up to the Hollywood sign.
Parks and beaches
Southern California’s known for its stunning natural beauty, and Los Angeles is no exception. Start at the beach in Santa Monica, just a short stroll from HI Los Angeles Santa Monica hostel. It’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon sunbathing, surfing, boogie boarding, biking, or running. A bit further up the coast, you’ll find Malibu’s famous coast, blanketed in white sand and lined with the homes of the rich and famous.
In addition to its legendary beaches, LA’s home to more mountainous terrain that’s perfect for hiking and other outdoor adventures. Go for a hike through Laurel, Topanga, or Temescal Canyons (check the hostel’s events schedule for upcoming group hikes), or explore the greater Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. A bit further south, you can hop a ferry to Catalina Island, a wonderland of beaches and hiking trails.
The J. Paul Getty center houses a world-class collection of European art and is surrounded by beautiful public gardens and epic views of the LA skyline. Admission to the museum is free any time, but check out HI Los Angeles Santa Monica’s events calendar to find out when the hostel is running free group tours there.
There’s also the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, or LACMA, the largest art museum in the western U.S. Works in the museum span all cultures and time periods, and the outdoor sculpture installations alone will have you busy Instagramming all afternoon. LACMA is adjacent to the famous La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, an Ice Age fossil excavation site where you can see existing fossils on display and watch new ones being discovered.
Want even more? See contemporary art at the Broad museum or MOCA; get scientific at the Natural History Museum of LA County or the California Science Center; or immerse yourself in history and culture at the California African American Museum, the Japanese American National Museum, or the Museum of Tolerance.
Los Angeles is one of the world’s most exciting destinations for food, and for good reason: you can find just about any type of cuisine under the sun here. From Korean to Japanese, burgers and hot dogs to vegan eats, and of course some seriously inventive and authentic Mexican food, Los Angeles has everything you could possibly want to eat. Just within walking distance of HI Los Angeles Santa Monica, guests have their choice of a wide range of global flavors, from classic British pub fare at Ye Olde King’s Head Tavern, to handmade Italian pasta at Uovo, to Caribbean plates at Cha Cha Chicken. Just ask the friendly front desk staff at the hostel for their favorite recommendations!