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Los Angeles Itinerary: Plan The Perfect 5 Day Trip To LA

Los Angeles is a vast city with a population of over 12 million and over 20 counties. It’s the home of Hollywood, palm tree silhouettes at sunset, and one of the most iconic skylines in the world.

With so many things to do and all the variety of terrain that Los Angeles consists of, planning a short trip can seem overwhelming. If you only have five days in Los Angeles, this is the guide for you!

I’m going to break down ways you can make the most of your five day trip to the city of angels.

We will look at everything you need to know; like how to get around LA, the best places to stay, and the best things to do to for an incredible Los Angeles 5-day itinerary.

View over Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory - Photo by Khurum Khan on Scopio

View over Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory – Photo by Khurum Khan on Scopio

How to get around Los Angeles

With famous pictures of LA showing cars piled up on freeways bumper to bumper, you probably guessed that most people in Los Angeles navigate the city by car. If that was your guess, you guessed correct.

While cities such as New York feature populations that lean heavily on public transportation, LA is not one of those cities. The development of the city’s public transport has taken years and hasn’t amounted to much so far.

Burbank and LAX airport will have multiple car rental services that can accommodate you with a vehicle.

If you’re someone who likes to hunker down at your hotel and not venture out too far, consider Uber or Lime Scooters if you don’t feel like renting a car.

You’ll see enough people riding electric scooters around to feel comfortable getting one yourself.

Driving in Los Angeles

Driving in Los Angeles – photo by ScubaOtter

5 epic days in Los Angeles

Even though this itinerary is limited to five days, you’ll be able to get a feel for the identities that different parts of LA have.

My suggested five days in Los Angeles is the following:

  • Two days in Downtown Los Angeles
  • Three days in Santa Monica
Sunset at the famous Santa Monica Pier - Photo by Stefan Obermeier on Scopio

Sunset at the famous Santa Monica Pier – Photo by Stefan Obermeier on Scopio

Los Angeles itinerary – How to spend 2 days in Downtown LA

Downtown Los Angeles is centrally located in the city’s geography, which makes it an excellent area for visitors to experience both Downtown and the other regions the city has to offer.

East and West Los Angeles are two different sides of the LA coin.

West Los Angeles often represents the LA we see on TV. Downtown and East LA offers something unique with a booming arts district, rooftop highrise bars, Staples Center for significant events, and more.

Here is a list of some of the most fun activities Downtown LA has to offer:

Nightlife

Nightlife is most likely Downtown LA’s highlight. Downtown LA is flooded with popular bars and clubs that fit any personality. Rooftop bars make it easy to catch downtown views and strike up a conversation with others.

For a rooftop bar experience, hotels such as The Standard offer stellar high rise view with amenities such as pools and outdoor furniture.

Hidden bars such as the Slipper Clutch in Downtown LA continue to show how unique LA bar culture can be.

Beautiful beach sunsets in LA

Beautiful beach sunsets in LA – photo by ScubaOtter

Staples Center

Staples Center is the premier entertainment arena in Los Angeles and is located downtown. Check the Staples Center calendar if you’re in the mood to catch a sports game or go to a featured show.

Best Downtown LA Food: Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market is a bustling and historical venue for fresh local food. My favourite part about visiting Grand Central Market is the number of options you have.

When walking through the Grand Central Market, you’ll find a variety of cuisines that range from Asian to Mexican, and much more.

Events are regularly held at Grand Central Market in the lower level. All of the vendors at Grand Central Market have a specialised niche and provide fresh food daily for visitors.

Delicious food from Grand Central Market in LA

Delicious food from Grand Central Market in LA – photo by ScubaOtter

Best Downtown LA Day Activity: Arts District

Los Angeles’ Arts District has been rising steadily in prominence in the last decade. When visiting Downtown LA’s Arts District, you’ll find unique restaurants, independent galleries, and small shops.

The Arts District is also a great place to view some of Los Angeles’ acclaimed murals.

View over Los Angeles from the Hollywood sign - Photo by Sarah Czajkowski on Scopio

View over Los Angeles from the Hollywood sign – Photo by Sarah Czajkowski on Scopio

Where to stay in Downtown LA

With so many things to do in Los Angeles choosing a well location hotel is key. We’ve listed below some options of places to stay in Downtown LA for every budget.

Luxury: Freehand Los Angeles – If you want to treat yourself, this is the place to do so. This artsy hotel has a fun vibe, cool interior decor and a rooftop pool where you can relax and enjoy the city skyline.

Click here to book your stay at Freehand Los Angeles!

Mid-range: City Center Hotel Los Angeles – This cute hotel is located right in the heart of Downtown LA. It’s nothing fancy but perfect for someone looking to be centrally located and a bit more privacy than a hostel dorm.

Click here to book your stay at City Center Hotel Los Angeles!

Budget: Freehand Los Angeles – Surprised? This fancy hotel also offers dorms! The dorms have the same cool vibe, as well as the rooftop pool access, and are much more affordable if you’re looking to save a bit.

Click here to book your stay at Freehand Los Angeles!

Downtown Los Angeles

Downtown Los Angeles – photo by ScubaOtter

Los Angeles Itinerary – How to spend 3 days in Santa Monica

Splitting time between East Los Angeles in Downtown LA and West LA in Santa Monica will help you experience different opportunities the city has to offer.

Staying in Santa Monica makes beach access and day trips to desirable locations such as Malibu an easy task.

Here are my recommendations for your three days in Santa Monica:

Day Trip to Venice Beach

Venice Beach is located next to Santa Monica. The bohemian nature of Venice that came to fruition during the 1960s is still alive today.

Walking on the Venice Beach boardwalk gives you an excellent opportunity to browse vendors offering art, food, and custom clothing.

Visitors to Venice will often visit the canals. You’ll find the Venice canals offer a quiet reprieve from the hustle and bustle of LA life as people stroll the paths to enjoy beautiful views of water, homes, and plant life.

There are tons of dining spots in Venice to enjoy. I recommend the Rose Cafe on Rose Avenue near the Boardwalk for a killer brunch.

The canals of Venice Beach in LA

The canals of Venice Beach in LA – photo by ScubaOtter

West Hollywood

When people think of LA, ideas of Hollywood and entertainment usually come to mind first. While Hollywood is only part of LA’s identity, it is an essential piece of the city’s history and current economy.

Visiting West Hollywood from Santa Monica is manageable with both areas existing in the city’s western regions.

When visiting West Hollywood, you’ll find unique shopping opportunities, clubs, and a fine selection of bars and restaurants.

Many West Hollywood visitors enjoy catching a show at places like the Comedy Store on Sunset Blvd or browsing clothing boutiques on Melrose Ave.

If you’re visiting Los Angeles at Christmas, this is also one of the spots where you can find the coolest Christmas light decorations.

Views over West Hollywood

Views over West Hollywood – photo by ScubaOtter

Drive-up Pacific Coast Highway

Traveling up Pacific Coast Highway is a great day trip to take during your time in LA.

Since LA can be congested with high amounts of vehicle traffic, traveling outside of the city’s dense areas up the coast can be a nice reprieve from the hustle.

Cities such as Malibu are located in Los Angeles county and take an average of 30 minutes to drive to from as Santa Monica. There are lots of awesome things to do in Malibu, so be ready for an exciting day!

During a drive up Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll enjoy ocean and canyon views in areas such as Topanga. Try and make time to relax at a Malibu Beach such as Zuma or reach the peak of landmarks such as Point Dume.

Sunsets in Los Angeles

Sunsets in Los Angeles – photo by ScubaOtter

Where to stay in Santa Monica

Given you only have five days in LA you don’t want to waste them travelling back and forth too much. Here are some accommodation options in Santa Monica for every budget.

Luxury: Shutters On The Beach – If you’re looking to treat yourself, this is the perfect place to do so. Located right on the beach, this hotel has a beautiful pool, spacious rooms and epic beach views.

Click here to book your stay at Shutters On The Beach!

Mid-range: Arizona Apartment – This modern apartment is close to both the beach and main attractions of Santa Monica, perfect for two travellers who want a bit of privacy and freedom.

Click here to book your stay at Arizona Apartment!

Budget: HI Los Angeles, Santa Monica Hostel – If you want to save a bit, this hostel is a great option. It’s really close to the beach and in the heart of Santa Monica, with spacious dorms and lots of social common areas.

Click here to book your stay at HI Los Angeles, Santa Monica Hostel!

Iconic LA palm trees

Iconic LA palm trees – photo by ScubaOtter

Final thoughts on five days in Los Angeles

While five days is only enough to sample all of Los Angeles has to offer, this guide is intended to make sure you make the most of your trip.

Through exploring both East and West Los Angeles, you’ll be able to experience the different thrilling opportunities that LA has to offer.

We hope you find this guide useful in planning your own Los Angeles 5-day itinerary! If you have any questions just leave us a comment below!

Want to explore beyond Los Angeles? Check out these US travel guides:

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The Los Angeles skyline at sunset with text overlay saying "how to spend 5 days in Los Angeles"

About the author

ScubaOtter Blog | Instagram | Twitter

Austin Tuwiner is a 21 year old college dropout currently travelling the world. When not doing some type of work on his computer, you’ll find him playing with Bitcoin, diving, bouldering, or traveling. After discovering ways to make money online, he began running websites in some of the niches listed above.

Austin Jacob, author of Scuba Otter

Austin Jacob, author of ScubaOtter

LA Online Travel Agency

Monday 13th of September 2021

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TravAngeles

Tuesday 31st of August 2021

Hello,

I know you receive a ton of emails every day, so thought I should send you a quick follow-up for my email below in case it got overlooked.

I was wondering whether you’d be interested in referencing our article in your post?

We’ve also compiled a list of articles that we think would be a perfect fit for some of your posts.

Looking forward to hearing back!

Thanks