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6 Best Rooftop Bars in Santa Monica and Venice, CA

High Rooftop Lounge views at Hotel Erwin
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Are you visiting LA’s Westside and looking for the absolute best rooftop bars in Santa Monica and Venice area? You’ve come to the right place. I’ve lived in the LA area for over 7 years now, and one of the things that has always driven me crazy is that for all of the oceanfront property and miles of beaches we’re lucky to have here, there aren’t nearly enough establishments where you can enjoy the view from above—but I’m going to tell you where to find them!

Downtown LA and West Hollywood both have its fair share of fun rooftops, but finding rooftop bars in Santa Monica or Venice for those ocean views is harder to come by. But the good news is that they do exist if you know where to look!

The Westside of LA has been my local stomping ground for years, and I’ve spent a solid amount of time exploring the surrounding nightlife. Especially when “June gloom” passes and we get into the sunnier days of July-September, there’s really no better way to spend the day into the evening than sharing food and refreshing drinks with friends from a rooftop overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Whether you live here and are looking for a new spot for a night out or are just visiting from out of town, you won’t want to miss these awesome places to snag a drink with a view.

Santa Monica Proper for best rooftops in Santa Monica
Santa Monica Proper rooftop. Image credit via Booking.com

Between the top six spots below there’s a little something different for everyone. Whether you’re looking for a casual vibe or prefer something more fancy where you can feel at home in a dress and heels, you’ll find the right spot in this list.

Keep reading to discover the best rooftop bars in Santa Monica and Venice area and let me know if you have any favorites in the comments!

The Best Rooftop Bars in Santa Monica and Venice

Hotel Erwin’s High Rooftop Lounge

Hotel Erwin’s High Rooftop Lounge is a Venice staple that all locals need to experience at least once. It’s definitely the best place to go out in Venice if you want epic views of the LA beaches and the iconic Venice boardwalk.

Unlike some rooftop bars in Santa Monica and Venice, High Rooftop Lounge is super versatile, and you can have a great time both during the day and at night. That said, if you are able to visit during sunset, this spot offers epic views and photo opportunities.

While you definitely could come here for a romantic date night, Hotel Erwin is much better for a fun GNO or group outing in my opinion, especially because it’s right in an area surrounded by a ton of other fun bars if you’re in a bar hopping mood.

The food is all very shareable, but I wouldn’t recommend a full dinner here; the menu is a little limited, although I’ve heard the pizza is delicious. Instead, I would plan on coming to Hotel Erwin for drinks and apps before heading to one of the many nearby restaurants like Gran Blanco, Great White or Felix for a full, sit-down meal.

Also, the menu changes seasonally at Hotel Erwin, but if you visit during the summer, I highly recommend ordering one of the frozen cocktails. For apps, the Macho Nachos and blistered shishitos are great!

TIP: It’s highly recommended to make a reservation in summer on the weekends. Note that when reserving, you have the option to book VIP tables or lounge seating. For VIP seating that offer the best views, there is a $50 charge per table, but you can avoid the fee by booking a regular table.

Location: 1697 Pacific Ave, Venice, CA 90291

Calabra at Santa Monica Proper

The Santa Monica Proper is without a doubt one of the most stunning and hip design hotels on the Westside. Out of all of the rooftop bars in Santa Monica, Calabra is perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing, featuring wicker furniture, lush palm leaves, and bohemian accents. The rooftop pool also adds to the ambiance.

The menu has a heavy Mediterranean influence, so if you’re looking for light bites like hummus, vegetable crudites, and refreshing crudos, this is the place for you—it’s all delicious, I promise.

Calabra also has a special sushi menu that is served from Thursday to Sunday, and though the selection is on the smaller side, there are some tasty options like truffle yellowtail and yuzu salmon sashimi.

The seasonal cocktails rotate often, and they have a fantastic list of boutique wines. Between the design-forward vibe, ocean backdrop (although it’s a bit further from the beach), and refreshing menu, Calabra truly is the ultimate place to enjoy a summer day in Santa Monica. In fact, out of all of the rooftop bars in Santa Monica, this one might be my favorite.

Just note, it’s not directly on the beach, so if that’s your dealbreaker…keep reading!

Location: 700 Wilshire Blvd (entrance on 7th Street), Santa Monica, CA 90401

ONYX Bar at Shangri-La Hotel 

ONYX Bar for best rooftop bars in Santa Monica
Image credit via Booking.com

Shangri-La Hotel is located right on Ocean Avenue, meaning that the ONYX Rooftop Bar offers uninterrupted Pacific views and stellar sunset opportunities. Despite the fact that this rooftop is on the smaller side, it is really fun and gets pretty lively on the weekends. As I said, the sunset views are stellar, but I would say that ONYX is most popular for after-dinner drinks.

If you manage to beat the crowds or visit on a more mellow night, definitely snag the corner spot with a fire pit. This is probably the coziest spot in the house.

Also, if you’re a smoker (I personally am not), this is one of the few bars in Santa Monica that allows cigarette smoking on the roof. They even provide ashtrays on each table. That said, if you’re not a fan of cigarette smoke, this might be a deal breaker for you.

I would say the cocktails here are pretty basic and also somewhat overpriced, however, what you’re really paying for when coming here are the views. I recommend sticking with wine or beer here and kicking back for pre-dinner or post-dinner drinks. Shangri-La is conveniently situated right along Ocean Ave by the chaos of the Santa Monica Pier, so there is plenty at your fingertips once you’ve had your fill of rooftop views.

Location: 1301 Ocean Ave #1019, Santa Monica, CA 90401


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Venice Whaler

The Venice Whaler is a beloved sports bar that is literally right on the beach and looks out onto the Venice Pier. I used to live right down the street from here when I first moved to LA and have seen it go through a bit of a transformation, though it still retains it’s casual, surfer watering hole vibes.

One of the best things about visiting the Whaler is the fact that you can take a nice beach stroll after enjoying a beer and some food on the patio. If you’re looking to bar hop, the Whaler makes it easy since it’s on a lively little strip on the border of Venice and Marina del Rey, surrounded by other bars and eateries.

This is definitely one of the more casual spots on my list, so don’t feel as though you have to get all dressed up to visit. Also keep in mind that the Whaler is only two levels high, so though it does technically have an open-air patio on it’s roof, you’re not going to get the sprawling views you will at Hotel Erwin or Calabra.

Still, the Whaler has been a Venice institution since 1944 and it’s a popular spot for after-dinner drinks or a Sunday funday. They’ve even welcomed famous guests over the years including the Beach Boys, the Beatles and the Doors.

TIP: If you’re down to go on a weeknight, don’t miss their Taco Tuesdays with $4 shredded chicken tacos, grilled fish tacos, carnitas tacos, and more! They also have a pretty extensive all-day food menu that has everything from sandwiches to seafood to pizza.

Location: 10 Washington Blvd, Venice, CA 90292

Huntley Hotel

The Huntley bar for best rooftops in Santa Monica blog
Image credit via Booking.com

The Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel has more of the glamorous vibe that you’re typically going to find in Beverly Hills or West Hollywood—not so much on the Westside.

It offers an elevated dining experience in the heart of Santa Monica and though it’s technically inside, it is on the very top level of the hotel (exactly 18 floors high), offering sweeping views of the beach and surrounding city. The white booths are comfy and plush, and there is also a nice little lounge section that is great for drinks and apps.

If I’m being honest, this is probably my least favorite spot on the list, mostly because it’s a little too much of a scene for me. I prefer something on the casual side and that’s not what you’re going to find here. The Huntley is more upscale, and the prices certainly reflect that. However, they do have a great happy hour that runs from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM Tuesday through Friday!

With that said, if you’re looking to enjoy a more formal, sit-down dinner, with menu items like a full-on Seafood Platter or Prime Cut of the Day, that is more of the atmosphere here. You’ll definitely want to request a window seat so that you can enjoy the epic views.

One of my favorite things about visiting The Huntley is taking the glass elevator up to The Penthouse. It’s a really special experience that also offers some great photo ops! Pro-tip: One of the absolute best views in the restaurant is in the women’s bathroom at the very last stall (if it’s occupied, I promise it is worth waiting for).

Location: 1111 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90403

Élephante 

Élephante is undoubtedly one of the most popular spots for Westside locals and visitors. Hot tip: If you’re going celebrity scouting, this is a great place to start; I don’t think I’ve been there yet without spotting a cast member from The Bachelor!

Between the chic bohemian atmosphere and ocean views, this hotspot sets the scene for a picturesque summer day in Santa Monica. Plus, they have an incredible eggplant dip that is to die for. That said, this trendy hotspot also has amazing pizzas and appetizers (their arancini is literally insane).

I would say that Élephante can be a great option for nearly any occasion. Whether you’re celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or you’re simply looking for a fun spot to gather with the girls, the chic and somewhat tropical vibe here definitely offers a fun setting for all of it. You’ll find that people definitely get dressed to the nines here, so don’t be afraid to throw on a cute dress and heels.

When it comes to cocktails, The Élephante is a local favorite that allows you to pick the spirit of your choice and is made with passionfruit, lemon, orgeat, Montenegro, and Calabrian chili. They also have some refreshing slushie cocktails on draft!

TIP: Don’t show up here without a reservation unless you want to be waiting for awhile.

Location: 1332 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Did this post inspire you to explore some of these rooftop bars in Santa Monica and Venice? Let me know in the comments below!

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2 Comments

  • Reply John July 22, 2022 at 12:14 am

    This is a great overview of the best rooftop bars in Santa Monica and Venice. I didn’t know about Calabra or the Huntley. Great recommendations! Thank you

    • Reply Michelle Halpern August 2, 2022 at 9:52 am

      So happy to share some new spots with you 🙂

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