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Los Angeles Santa Monica

United States: 4-day Los Angeles travel guide

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The Los Angeles area is vast; for sure, four days are not enough to cover everything to see and (especially) to eat in this American megalopolis, but this guide will give you an excellent introduction to Los Angeles.

Plus, the days on this 4-day Los Angeles itinerary break up nicely as they take you through several parts of the city.

So you can choose to follow a single day when you just have a stopover, for example.

Indeed, Los Angeles is often a hub to Asia or Oceania, and the schedule is usually made so that you end up with several free hours.

Los Angeles
Los Angeles

Los Angeles: a 4-day itinerary

Day 1: Hollywood & Beverly Hills

When you think of Los Angeles, you immediately associate it with Hollywood because this metropolis is the birthplace of the entertainment industry; this is where the action is for celebrities and aspiring artists.

The most famous tourist attraction in this area is, without a doubt, the Walk of Fame. This begins at the intersection of La Brea Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard; in fact, the sites to visit are along this street.

Although there are many famous people in Los Angeles, they are often very discreet so you are more likely to see “stars” on the Walk of Fame! If you are looking for a particular star among the 2,500+, you can use this site to locate it.

Los Angeles Stars

Afterwards, a visit to the TCL Chinese Theater is a must; this historic cultural landmark in Los Angeles is also renowned for its floor filled with celebrity prints. The artists who have the privilege of putting their touch on the Chinese Theater are selected according to their impact on the industry; a ceremony is performed at the time of the prints, and it is a great honour to be there!

Chinese Theatre 2

Then, I enjoyed my little guided tour at the Dolby Theater to see the backstage of the Oscars. Then, the majority of Disney movie premieres are held at El Capitan Theather; although you have to be invited to attend, you can also go there to watch a movie as part of a regular movie screening.


After a morning in Hollywood, I suggest you go to Beverly Hills and take a walk on Rodeo Drive; it’s the luxury of luxury! The major brands of the fashion industry are located here and it is the perfect place for window shopping.

You can also find a beautiful park in Los Angeles at Beverly Gardens Park. It is an ideal place for a break or a picnic.

Other iconic streets in this area are Melrose Avenue and Sunset Strip.

Rodeo Drive
Rodeo Drive

At the end of the day, I recommend a trip to the Griffith Observatory to watch the sunset; the views are breathtaking. There are also plenty of walking routes in the area if you want to spend a little more time in nature and away from the hustle and bustle of the big city.

Finally, the exhibitions at the Griffith Observatory are often very interesting and free.

Griffith Observatory

The best place to see the Hollywood sign is at Griffith Park; there are multiple hiking trails on Mount Hollywood that start in the Observatory parking lot.

What are the best vantage points to see the Hollywood sign without hiking?

The best spots to see the famous “Hollywood” without having to make physical efforts are: Griffith Observatory, Lake Hollywood Park, Hollywood Reservoir, Hollywood & Highland Center, Mulholland Drive and North Beachwood Drive.

Los Angeles in stopover

This neighbourhood of Los Angeles is a 30-40 minute drive from LAX when there is no traffic. By subway, you must take the green, blue and red line to reach the Walk of Fame and count 90 minutes.

From Griffith Observatory, the public transit ride back to LAX takes just under 2 hours.

Los Angeles Sigle Hollywood

Day 2: Santa Monica & Venice Beach

After a day of visit centred on the cinema and the stars, we change of atmosphere by going to the seaside. Los Angeles is associated with Hollywood and big sun, surf and beaches; the most iconic spot is Santa Monica and Venice Beach.

You can start with lunch and a stroll along the Third Street Promenade, a pedestrian street full of great restaurants and cafes.

Los Angeles Santa Monica
Los Angeles Santa Monica

Later, the Santa Monica Pier is emblematic of this part of Los Angeles with its rides; the Ferris wheel is operated with solar energy! It’s a must-see even if you’re not interested in amusement parks; the carnival atmosphere is excellent, and there are plenty of sweet treats to be had… the kids love it!

Santa Monica Ferris

Another particularity of Santa Monica is that it is the last stop on the famous Route 66 that crosses the United States from Chicago.

For art lovers, the Getty Center is an unusual and impressive museum.

Santa Monica Route 66

After a morning in Santa Monica, you can take a walk along the Ocean Front Walk to Venice Beach and its Boardwalk, which are very different from Santa Monica. This part of Los Angeles is more hipster and… weird, but interesting!

Venice Beach
Venice Beach
Venice Beach
Los Angeles in stopover

Santa Monica is only 20 minutes from LAX or about 1 hour by public transportation; the number 3 bus runs directly to the Aviation/LAX station every 15 minutes.

Another alternative for a more casual, local Los Angeles “beach” stop is at Manhattan Beach, a 10-minute Uber ride from the airport.

Day Three: Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles is huge and has several districts; you’ll need to spend more than a day getting around. This neighbourhood will be especially pleasing to people who love urbanism and art.

City Hall is a beautiful building for architecture enthusiasts, and its observatory is accessible free of charge.

Afterwards, two concert halls, the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, are worth a visit, even if it is only to look at the building from the outside.

Walt Disney Concert Hall

The Grammy Museum also offers several interactive exhibits related to all genres of music.

Then the Grand Central Market is another Los Angeles must-see; here, you can find many local produce stands and counters to eat or snack at low prices.

Los Angeles in stopover

The station in the heart of downtown Los Angeles is Union Station, which takes about an hour to get to from the airport, and can be reached by subway on the green and gray lines. You will need about 20 minutes by car if there is no traffic.

Day 4: Malibu

After several days in the hustle and bustle of the big city, a short roadtrip to Malibu on the Pacific Coast Highway is definitely recommended. Malibu is a suburb of Los Angeles. Of course, it is preferable to rent a car to enjoy it fully and at your own pace.

Laguna Beach

This roadtrip starts from Santa Monica, and you will head to the northwest of Los Angeles. The first stop at the Malibu Pier is ideal for admiring Santa Monica Bay and the mountains in the background. There is also a beautiful little beach around a lagoon at Malibu Lagoon State Beach and Surfrider Beach for surfing enthusiasts.

Right next to the Malibu Lagoon, there are several small restaurants and stores where you can eat without breaking the bank. Then, the Malibu Country Mart is known as a place to spot celebrities. Indeed, many celebrities own a house or villa on the waterfront in Malibu.

Los Angeles Malibu

Then, Zuma Beach is a good spot for surfing, and El Matador Beach offers a breathtaking landscape with its rock formations, cliffs and caves.

A little further down the road, you can find Neptune’s Net, an iconic seafood restaurant. We can recognize this establishment the first film of Fast & Furious.

Beautiful and romantic El Matador State Beach in Malibu, Southern California
Beautiful and romantic El Matador State Beach in Malibu, Southern California

Finally, you will complete the Malibu tour when you reach Point Mugu. Actually, Point Mugu is in another county, but it is the last point of interest on this roadtrip where you can rest at the beach or go hiking in the surroundings.

Los Angeles in stopover

If you want to walk around Malibu during your layover in Los Angeles, it takes about 1.5 hours to get directly from the airport to Point Mugu.

This roadtrip is still quite good while waiting for a connection, as you can rent and return the car at LAX. It’s an excellent opportunity to stretch your legs at the beach with breathtaking scenery!

Los Angeles: other points of interest

It is certain that the itinerary proposed below is very condensed and does not include everything, but I tried to group as many attractions as possible.

If you have more time, the following sites are also worth a visit:

  • Hollywood Bowl
  • Dodger Stadium
  • Union Station
  • Park Exhibition
  • Capitol Records
  • Disneyland
  • Universal Studios Hollywood
Los Angeles

Finally, here are the best viewpoints in Los Angeles:

  • Griffith Observatory
  • Ascot Hills Park
  • Hollywood Bowl Overlook
  • Baldwin Hills Overlook
  • Vista Hermosa Park
  • Runaway Canyon Park
  • Skyspace LA
Los Angeles Vue

Where to eat in Los Angeles?

Los Angeles has no shortage of good restaurants; with a mix of multi-ethnic neighbourhoods like Little Tokyo, Thai Town, Koreatown, Little Armenia, etc., it’s very easy to find meals for every taste and budget!

Here are my recommendations, by sector, based on the itinerary suggestions in the previous section of this article.

Hollywood & Beverly Hills

Here are the restaurants I recommend in Hollywood & Beverly Hills:

  • The Griddle Cafe: great selection of all-day lunches
  • In N Out Burger: iconic chain in Los Angeles and California
  • Nate n Al Delicatessen: very large sandwich with an affordable New York style for a quick lunch
  • Spago of Beverly Hills: famous restaurant with a very diversified and often changing menu

Santa Monica & Venice Beach

Here are the restaurants I recommend in Santa Monica & Venice Beach:

  • 26 Beach Restaurant: a small breakfast restaurant with a bohemian soul
  • Blue Daisy Cafe: traditional lunches
  • The Butcher’s Daughter: vegan restaurant
  • Elephante: Italian with a sea view
  • Noma: excellent sushi restaurant

Downtown Los Angeles

Here are the restaurants I recommend in Downtown Los Angeles:

  • Grand Central Market: huge open-air market with many small vendors
  • Guisados: very good tacos
  • Bestia: Italian restaurant known to be frequented by celebrities


Here are the restaurants I recommend in Malibu:

  • Neptune’s Net: the food is ordinary, but this restaurant is a classic where you have to stop when doing a roadtrip in Malibu.
  • Malibu Seafood: succulent and very fresh seafood
  • Nobu Malibu: very famous and delicious Japanese restaurant with the possibility of eating à la carte or in Omakase, but quite expensive
In N Out

What activities to book in Los Angeles?

For movie lovers, there is no better place to get away from it all than Los Angeles. First of all, the stars are everywhere in town and it is not uncommon to see them when you have lunch in a restaurant.

For my part, I spotted Keanu Reeves on the bus (!) and Julie Roberts in the Warner Brothers Studios parking lot. However, don’t expect to see any celebrities; Los Angeles is huge.

Studio visits

In Los Angeles, tours of production studios are very interesting; it is impossible to go on film sets when they are in use, but these tours give a good idea of what is happening behind the scenes in Hollywood.

These are so large that they have their own separate zip code! For example, Warner Brothers is located in Burbank on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

I had the chance to discover the studios of Paramount, Sony, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers. This one was my favourite by far; the famous Warner Brothers Stage 24 is the set of Friends, and you can still visit the filming site in this building.

Los Angeles Stage 24

Live filming

The majority of the shows are filmed in Los Angeles. So, it is possible to get tickets when there is an audience like for The Late Late Show with James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel Live, the finale of Survivor or a sitcom, for example.

Show avec publique

These tickets can be obtained by raffle, among other things; for years, I have been subscribed to the Seat Fillers and more newsletter, which offers me opportunities to attend some events in Los Angeles. However, these invitations are often last minute; I got this message only 4 days before the shooting date!

LA Survivor

So the strategy here is to subscribe and hope to receive this kind of email and cross your fingers that it fits well with our stay in Los Angeles or be ready to buy a flight to get there quickly!

Organized tours

Then, since Los Angeles encompasses a vast area, I booked a tour of the city on Viator to cover several areas, such as Rodeo Drive and the star mansion district.

If you have little time (like on a stopover for example), these organized tours can be a good way to optimize your day.

You can check the activities to book in Los Angeles with our partner Viator:

Where to stay in Los Angeles?

In the case of a stopover in Los Angeles, I suggest you choose a hotel in the vicinity of the airport; the traffic is terrible in the metropolis and public transportation will take you a long time.

Then, for several days in Los Angeles, it will depend on your interests and what you plan to do in the city; establishments near a metro station are usually a good option.

The iconic hotels

In Los Angeles, there are some hotels that are famous, very glamorous and frequented by famous people. These establishments have retained their original Hollywood charm and can often be seen in movies; a visit to their restaurant or lounge can be a great way to experience them for less.

  • The Beverly Hills Hotel
  • The Beverly Hilton
  • Fairmont Miramar Hotel
  • Sunset Tower Hotel
  • Château Marmont
  • The Hollywood Roosevelt
  • Millennium Biltmore
  • Bel-Air Hotel

For me, staying at The Beverly Hills Hotel is part of my bucket list in Los Angeles; this facility is probably the most historic and takes us all the way back to the silent movie era with Charlie Chaplin.

Los Angeles Beverly Hills Hotel

The points strategy at these hotels will be primarily with travel points applicable to purchases. The majority of these establishments are independent or cost a lot of points.

For example, The Beverly Hilton hotel costs 127,000 Hilton Honors points for one night versus USD 378; a valuation calculation can pay off by choosing the proper method of paying either in points or cash.

Hotel hilton

The best credit card to have in your wallet if those hotels in Los Angeles are in your sights is the Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Cardthe economy of conversion fees from foreign currencies by 2.5% and earning 6X points on this “travel” purchase is not a small return.

Finally, this card offers a generous bonus to new customers, and you can use Scène+ points to pay off your purchase.

Marriott Bonvoy

Around LAX, there are a lot of hotels, many of them from the Marriott Bonvoy chain. I’ve often helped myself to a free night certificate in this place during my stopovers in Los Angeles.

LAX Marriott

If you have several days to spend in Los Angeles, I advocate a place like The Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites, Los Angeles, which is central and where you can burn Marriott certificates.

Los Angeles Marriott

Indeed, it is an excellent use of the certificates offered by the Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card and Marriott Bonvoy® Business American Express®* Card This hotel costs around $420 (USD 323), while the certificates are an annual benefit of these credit cards when renewed by paying $120 and $150 for the respective annual fees.

With two of you, you could each take these cards and earn four free night awards for a total of $540 (2 cards with fees of $120 each and two cards of $150) instead of paying $420 per night! That’s a significant savings for a stay in Los Angeles!

Then these credit cards also offer very generous welcome bonuses!

Best Western

A good alternative (or complement) to Marriott Bonvoy is within the Best Western program; there are many of the chain’s hotels in Los Angeles and the points prices are affordable.

Best Western LA
Best Western LA 2

Plus, for those new to the points hunt, the Best Western Rewards® Mastercard is one of the easiest to get; it has no annual fee and gives you 20,000 Best Western points on your first purchase! So it’s very easy and fast to get a free night for your stay in Los Angeles. With two people, that’s two nights that add up fast!

How to get to Los Angeles for less?

Los Angeles Airport is one of the largest hubs in North America, so you have several options for getting there on major Canadian airlines.

Air Canada, Air Transat and WestJet provide direct flights to major cities across the country as shown on Flight Connections.

Liaisons canadiennes Los Angeles

If you’re flying Air Canada, be on the lookout; if you’re travelling in business class or plan to use eUpgrade credits, choosing your plane can pay off in an ful-flat seat for that trans-continental flight!

Los Angeles Choisir son avion

With travel points

Flights to Los Angeles vary greatly depending on the time of year; you can find flights for under $500 as well as over $1000.

From experience, Air Transat often offers the best prices for direct flights from Montreal. To save on this kind of airfare, you’ll need travel points that can be applied to your expenses; in other words, points that can be used to reimburse any airfare purchase, such as NBC Rewards points from National Bank’s World Elite Mastercard®.

Vols Los Angeles Site de Transat
Vols Los Angeles Site de Transat

If you want to use NBC Rewards points to save on your Air Transat flight to Los Angeles, it’s best to use the National Bank booking platform.

Points BNC

In fact, the prices are similar to what you can find on the company’s website and you can redeem your points on your travel purchase. By doing so, you benefit from a better redemption rate and earn bonus points. These low rates usually don’t include a baggage allowance, but you can use your $150 annual credit to get a refund on these fees!

Then, by doing so, you will benefit from your credit card’s excellent travel insurance!

By purchasing your tickets on the NBC Rewards platform, you can redeem 30,000 points for $300 in credit. With the other option of getting refunded when you purchased on the Air Transat website will require 36,000 points to get the same $300 credit.

With Aeroplan points

When cash prizes are more difficult to digest, it may be more advantageous to use Aeroplan points.

From Montreal, Air Canada is the only operator authorized to fly to Los Angeles within the Star Alliance. As a result, you are subject to dynamic pricing on Aeroplan and it can be difficult to find good prices on points.

However, it is always possible to find an acceptable rate, especially if you plan ahead.

Los Angeles Vols Aeroplan
Los Angeles Vols Aeroplan
Los Angeles vol argent

In this example over spring break, a ticket from Montreal to Los Angeles costs 21,600 Aeroplan points + $82 tax compared to $970.

(970 $ – 82 $) ÷ 21 600 x 100 = 4,1 ¢

Following the valuation calculation, we can see that it is much better to choose to pay in points than in money; Milesopedia gives a value of 2 ¢ per Aeroplan point. So, the use of points is optimal in this case to get to Los Angeles.

Dynamic point prices are supposed to follow cash prices, but this is not always the case as we can see in this situation. The story’s moral: you must continually check the point prices + the cash prices and get out the calculator!

To get to Los Angeles with Aeroplan points, you could quickly earn them with the welcome bonus of the TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite* Cardthe bonus of this card even allows you to take your family of 4 on a trip for a week to Los Angelesif each adult applies to a card!

Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of being able to check in your luggage for free in case you get the urge to store on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles!

With a buddy pass

If you still have a Buddy pass, it can be used on all Air Canada flights in North America, so you can take advantage of it to treat yourself to a getaway to Los Angeles with your partner or friends!

You can use it to get to Los Angeles. Thus, your companion will have to pay only the taxes to accompany you.

So, to go to Los Angeles with a Buddy Pass according to the rate captured in the previous section:

You $791.99 $177.59
Your companion free of charge $177.59

Your flights to Los Angeles will total $1,147 or $574 per person.

How to get around Los Angeles?

Metro and bus

Los Angeles is not very well served by public transportation (bus and subway), but it is not imperative to rent a car either.

From the Los Angeles Airport, the Aviation/LAX station is your gateway to the city’s network. However, you will need to calculate at least 1 hour and 15 minutes and 2 line transfers to reach the center of Hollywood at the “Hollywood/Highland” station.

The first few times I went to Los Angeles, I travelled mostly by bus. So, it’s very doable though you will pay in time; I personally migrated to Uber on my most recent getaways and stopovers.

LA Métro

Uber and Lyft

A bus connects the airport to the Santa Monica Pier, but the trip will take you around an hour compared to 20-30 minutes by Uber. Similarly, to get to the Griffith Observatory from downtown, you can spend 45 minutes on public transit or 15-20 minutes by Uber.

Without a car rental, you can use Uber and Lyft to get from one corner to the other. Sure, it’s not the most economical way, but it’s the best car-free option in Los Angeles.

Here’s a sample fare for an Uber ride from LAX to Santa Monica Pier and from Hollywood to Griffith Observatory.

Uber 2

I often transit through Los Angeles on my way to Sydney or New Zealand; each time, I ordered an Uber to get to a spot and spent the 8-12 hours I had before catching my connecting flight.

Depending on the location, it cost me about US$50-60 for a round trip to LAX and I used my Scotiabank Passport™ Visa Infinite* Card to save on conversion fees.

Rental cars

When it comes to car rentals, I prioritize TD Rewards points, which are easily accumulated through the TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* CardMD welcome bonus. These points are best used on the Expedia for TD platform.

We can see here that the cost for a daily rental is $77 or 15,600 TD Rewards points; which happens to be cheaper than two Uber rides.

LA Voiture TD Primes

On the other hand, one should not neglect the parking fees which can add considerably to the bill. In fact, these costs can add up to more than US$20 per day if you walk around a lot.

Finally, traffic is terrible in Los Angeles, especially during rush hour between 6:00 am and 9:00 am and again between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm, so it is recommended that you spend the day in a corner of Los Angeles. It’s up to you to see if it’s optimal to rent a car for your stay compared to Uber, as driving or not driving in Los Angeles is also a personal decision!

Los Angeles trafic

A travel guide to Los Angeles

Don’t forget to pick up a Los Angeles travel guide from the Ulysse bookstore!

Here are two travel guides about Los Angeles:

Los Angeles stopover
Los Angeles Ulysses

Bottom Line

The city of Los Angeles is the perfect destination for a short getaway of a few days for a diversified trip: beach, city, roadtrip, Disneyland, good food, etc.

Although large American cities can be expensive, there are many ways to cut costs when you play your cards right!

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I'm Aline, an experienced traveller, a foodie at heart, an Avgeek, a photography enthusiast and an expert on credit card programs. I use Reward Points to travel on a budget and to save money on everyday life; writing about these topics allows me to share my passion and help you. ~ 7 continents and 75 countries ~

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