Digital Nomad's Guide to Santa Monica, California
The best cafes, restaurants, nightlife, and more for Santa Monica digital nomads.
Santa Monica used to be a beach-meets-city destination for vacationers, but a new wave of tech companies and startups have turned the city into a great place for entrepreneurs and digital nomads.
Santa Monica digital nomads have access to a network of like minded remote workers (and remote workers who have decided to make Santa Monica a permanent home) as well as all the perks of Southern California – AKA SoCal – living. Think: surf, sun, and extremely mild winters. No snow here!
In sunny Los Angeles, Santa Monica digital nomads work hard and play hard. There are plenty of outdoor activities to partake in year round – surfing, beach volleyball, hiking, biking, roller skating, you name it! Plus, there are tons of restaurants and bars to spend your nights at.
Here are some tips and recommendations for you if you’re planning on spending some time as a digital nomad in Santa Monica.
Getting Around Santa Monica
There are plenty of ways to get around as a Santa Monica digital nomad. While LA is very much a “driving city” there are plenty of other options if you don’t plan on renting a car.
Outsite Santa Monica - Montana is in the Wilshire-Montana neighborhood of Santa Monica, which has a walk score of 88, meaning most errands can be accomplished on foot. You’ll be able to walk to plenty of coffee shops, grocery stores, and restaurants.
Santa Monica is a biker’s paradise. There’s plenty of big bike lines to get around safely. You have the option of using a good old fashioned regular bike, or scooping up one of the Uber Jump Bikes around town. These electric bikes are scattered throughout Santa Monica and the surrounding areas, and you can reserve it right in the Uber app. Scan the code on the bike and you’ll be good to go, and you can drop the bike off anywhere you please.
These scooters have truly taken over LA. They’re not moped scooters – they’re literally just electric scooters, like the ones kids ride around, except these go up to around 15MPH. They work in the same way as the Uber Jump Bikes – find one, scan the code, get riding, and drop it wherever you please. You have a variety of providers to choose from including Uber Jump, Bird, Lime, and Lyft. It's a great eco-friendly way to get around if you're trying to get somewhere in the neighborhood.
Uber or Lyft in Los Angeles
Ride shares are definitely one of the most popular and convenient ways to get around the city. There’s always an Uber or Lyft close by, and they’ll take you anywhere. Uber and Lyft both have options for cheaper rides if you share with people who are going in a similar direction as your destination that your driver will pick up along the way.
Public Transportation in Santa Monica
You have two options: the bus and the metro rail. In Santa Monica, the bus goes everywhere and you can take it to any other part of LA. Google Maps is super handy for getting directions to wherever you want to go. They’ll tell you when the bus leaves, how often it departs, and whatever transfers you might have to make. If you want to take the metro rail (LA’s “subway” system) you can pick it up from the Blue Expo Line at the Downtown Santa Monica station, a short bike ride away from Outsite Santa Monica.
Cafes with Wifi in Santa Monica
Primo Passo Coffee Co.
This cafe has indoor and outdoor seating, so on those extra beautiful LA days you can soak up the sun while you work from outdoors. They have all the essential caffeinated drinks – a wide variety of espresso drinks, pour over coffee, match lattes, you name it. Plus, they have no shortage of delicious pastries when you need your sugar fix.
This spot is great whether you’re looking for a cool cafe to get lunch with friends or if you want to buckle down with your laptop and cappuccino and work for a few hours. There’s plenty of seating both indoors and outdoors. This one’s a fan favorite of the locals!
Yes, this one’s a big chain, but they actually source their coffee sustainably from farmers around the world, so you can feel good drinking their coffee. Their Santa Monica location is on Main Street, in the Ocean Park area of Santa Monica. This space is super bright and airy...and close to the beach if you want to take a midday break from working to see the ocean.
The self proclaimed “coffee geeks” at Demitasse Santa Monica serve up coffee that they roast themselves in small batches. This is the spot for you if you want to try some interesting specialty drinks – such as a Grapefruit Ginger Latte or a Kyoto float (Kyoto cold brew coffee with vanilla ice cream). And yes, there’s wifi!
Would you believe us if we told you that this cafe was donation based? Pay what you can for any of the drinks on the menu – there are no set prices, and the proceeds are donated to charities. There's free wifi and plenty of seating indoors and outdoors. This cafe is designed for fostering community and providing an accessible place for people to study, work, and hang out.
Where to eat in Santa Monica
R&D Kitchen is one of the most loved American restaurants in Santa Monica. There’s nothing too exotic on the menu, but if you want some good American comfort food, this is the spot. Think: burgers, fresh veggies, and rotisserie chicken. This spot is always lively. They don’t take reservations so you might have a little wait, but it’s worth it!
The folks behind Uovo are so dedicated to providing an authentic Italian experience to the customers that they literally overnight fresh handmade pasta from Bologna, Italy. How cool is that?! The menu is short and sweet but has all the essentials, like ragu, lasagna, pomodoro, and carbonara.
Little Ruby is the offshoot of Ruby’s in NYC, which is one of the best Australian spots over there! It’s right by the beach and there’s outdoor seating, so it’s perfect for a warm sunny day. Brunch and dinner options are equally as delicious. Brunch has options like sweet corn fritters, avocado toast (obviously) and vegemite toast, if you want some authentic Aussie flavor. Lunch and dinner feature specialty pastas and burgers. The Bronte burger is what Ruby’s is famous for, and it’s worth the hype. They also have a beyond burger for the vegetarians.
True Food Kitchen
This spot has a rotating seasonal menu, so there’s always something new to try. All of their dishes are health conscious. They’re also happy to adjust any menu item to suit your diet (keto or paleo, anyone?) There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan options, like the “Unbeetable Burger” made with beets and butternut squash pizza.
No LA food list is complete without a Mexican food option, and Mercado is a delicious restaurant that mixes contemporary and classic Mexican dishes. They also have a great happy hour that has both drink and food deals including tacos, nachos, and tamales. If you’re a tequila lover, they have over 70 types to choose from to pair with your meal!
Nightlife in Santa Monica
The Bungalow in Downtown Santa Monica is usually one of the most hopping places in the neighborhood, for drinks any night of the week or day drinking (and night drinking) on the weekends. Being here feels almost more like hanging out at someone’s huge house party than a bar. The huge space has a couple different outdoor patios including fire pits, dance floors, and chill indoor areas with a pool table.
It wouldn’t be LA without some karaoke! The Gaslite is a neighborhood favorite dive/karaoke bar in an old school, no-frills atmosphere. Get there early for happy hour deals and less wait time for your name to be called to hit the stage. Bonus: there’s popcorn.
Onyx Rooftop Lounge
Surprisingly, Onyx is the only indoor/outdoor rooftop bar in Santa Monica, atop the Shangri-La hotel. There’s happy hour from 4-6 (also a perfect time slot for watching the sunset from above) and views of the beach and the Malibu Hills in the distance. A little pricey, but you’re paying for those beautiful views that can’t be beat!
This one wins for closest to Outsite Santa Monica. Just a ten minute walk down the street is Father’s Office, making it the perfect spot for an after work drink or a starting point for a big night out. The bar is tiny, but has no shortage of drinks. There are 36 seasonal rotating craft beers on tap, plus curated wine and cocktails.
The Basement Tavern is a beautiful vintage style speakeasy in (you guessed it) the basement of The Victorian, a popular event venue in town. There are theme nights ranging from burlesque nights to pop punk/emo nights, so there’s something for everyone! The Tavern is famous for their whisky selection, but of course, there are other drink options available.
Day trips from Santa Monica
When it comes to LA beaches, you can’t beat Malibu. The main Malibu public beach is just about a half hour away from Outsite Santa Monica. Point Dume, Zuma Beach, and El Matador Beach are a bit further west, but well worth the drive. All these beaches are perfect whether you’re trying to surf or just hang out and sunbathe. There are also plenty of beautiful hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains if that’s more your style.
For some of the most pristine beaches and a more laid-back vibe than LA, head down to Orange County to famous Laguna Beach, which is about an hour and a half long drive south. Here you’ll find multiple beaches great for surfing or just hanging out, plus tons of restaurants and shops to explore. Laguna also has a big art scene – check out all the art galleries and the Laguna Art Museum.
If you’re a theme park lover, you’re in luck. You’ve got two of the very best nearby. North, in Universal City, you have Universal Studios where you’ll find the Wizarding World of Harry Potter amongst other famous attractions, as well as the super popular studio tour, where you can tour the lot and see where most of your favorite movies have been filmed. South, in Anaheim, you have Disneyland – no explanation necessary.
Startups in Santa Monica
Startup culture is thriving in Santa Monica. In fact, most of the westside of Los Angeles is referred to as Silicon Beach – including Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa Vista, and Playa del Rey.
Some cool Santa Monica based startups to watch are:
- Bird: If you’ve spent time in a major city in California, chances are you’ve encountered the Bird electric scooters. This startup aims to provide an eco friendly way to get around without a car, cutting back on C02 emissions. They have scooters in over 100 cities.
- Headspace: Headspace is an online health company that has a best-selling app that makes meditation easy. Through guided meditations, audio, and video lessons, users can learn to practice mindfulness and meditation.
- Hulu: A favorite for binge watchers, Hulu is probably the most well known of all the Santa Monica startups. On top of offering streaming of all your favorite network TV shows and blockbuster movies, they also now have their own original series, a la Netflix.
- Beautycounter: The world certainly has enough beauty brands, but “clean” beauty is something we could use more of. This Santa Monica startup’s mission is to change the industry and make all beauty brands clean beauty brands in the future. They source ingredients sustainably, are conscious about their packaging and footprint, and they ban the use of over 1,500 ingredients that are unsafe or questionable commonly found in other products.
- Inspire: Inspire is a smart energy startup that uses wind energy to power homes in a cleaner, more sustainable way. They want to make clean, renewable energy accessible to those who need it. You can use the startup’s app to control your homes heat or AC, and check on your home’s energy usage.