LAX Airport Layover Sightseeing

los angeles layover sightseeing

Long layovers through Los Angeles International (LAX) are increasingly common for those traveling between North America and Asia/Australasia. While the city center is challenging to access relative to other major American airport-city combos, if you’re faced with a layover of over six hours at LAX, you may just want to attempt it since the airport isn’t exactly designed for transit passengers. During this period, you can either head to the beach or into the heart of Hollywood to soak in the glamour and uniqueness of this west coast city. Details on what to do and how to do it follow in the guide below.

Airport Overview

The massive LAX is another institution in American air travel. The nine separate terminals can be a mission to navigate – as can transfers into the city center. As such, those faced with a LAX layover of less than six hours might be better suited to staying in the terminals. Restaurants make for great spaces to people watch, while rotating photography and art exhibits better give you a taste of the city itself. For more information on the airport itself, check out our Los Angeles Airport Guide.

Sightseeing Options

Below are a few essential sights.

Santa Monica Beach

santa monica pier

Santa Monica Beach is the most accessible major beach from the airport within Los Angeles. Here, you can happily spend a few hours outdoors as you gaze out onto the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding mountains. Restaurants, a small amusement park, an outdoor shopping mall and countless street performers provide loads of entertainment as you wander the pier and the shoreline. It also happens to be extremely convenient that the LAX FlyAway service makes a direct connection between here and the airport. Should however you be faced with less time, Marina del Rey is a beach located even closer to the airport – it just happens to be a little less ‘classically Californian’.

Time Required: We would recommend a minimum of an hour for an easy stroll along the beach. More time is of course required should you wish to have a sit-down meal or do more extensive shopping. This does not include travel time to and from the airport.

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required. Remember to factor rush hour traffic and security wait times into your travel time estimates.

Hollywood

hollywood

It would be hard to visit LA without making it to Hollywood Boulevard and its countless iconic landmarks. While again the connection time between the airport is a bit more convoluted, once you make it you will be steps away from the Hollywood sign, the Kodak and Dolby theaters and of course, the Walk of Fame. With a bit of extra time, you may want to pop into a few of the famed restaurants and museums, which include Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Odditorium or the Musso and Frank Grill.

Time Required: To cover most of the major sights that line Hollywood Boulevard, we would recommend a minimum of two hours – plus transit time. Remember to factor rush hour traffic and security wait times into your travel time estimates. This estimate does not include transport to and from the airport.

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.

Howard Hughes Promenade

If you find yourself with just barely enough time to leave the airport, the Howard Hughes Promenade might be the best place to visit. This shopping center is the closest outdoor mall to LAX (15 – 30 minutes), and it offers up some excellent shopping opportunities. The Nordstrom Rack outlet store is one of the most visited shops, given its incredible deals on name brands. The mall also has a movie theater and a number of restaurants. Of course if you are a serious shopper, you may want to head further into the city to explore the celebrity-filled Robertson Boulevard, or the famous Rodeo Drive.

Time Required: Shopping at Howard Hughes Promenade requires a minimum of an hour – plus transit time. Add on additional time should you wish to sit down at a restaurant, or really dive into the shops and discounts!

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.

Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

rodeo drive

Interested in seeing all the highlights of LA, rather than just picking a single one? The Hop On - Hop Off option may be your best bet. Starlines runs four different routes throughout LA, covering major sights in Hollywood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Century City. Some of the most famous stops include Rodeo Drive, The Farmer’s Market & The Grove, China Town, the La Brea Tar Pits and the Chateau Marmont hotel. The beauty of these tours is that they enable you to jump off and explore various sights at your own pace while providing seamless connections between all the major destinations. There are few easier ways to check off that city bucket list on a layover.

Time Required: Each route lasts approximately two hours, assuming you do not get off. Be sure to factor in additional time for exploring the various sights, and perhaps a bit of shopping and eating. Tickets can be purchased for 24, 48 or 72-hour windows.

How to Get There: Unfortunately, public transit does not easily connect the airport to the points of the tour, so your best bet is to take a taxi to one of the stops somewhere in the city on your particular tour.

Transportation

LAX is connected to Los Angeles through a number of private and public transit options.

Public transit options include:

  • Bus (Metro Bus Center): The free “C” shuttle connects passengers to the airport bus termin al from the LAX Shuttle and Airline signs at each Arrivals Hall. From the Bus Center, you can board buses from several companies that service the broader Los Angeles region. For schedules and rates: LA Metro Transit Information
  • Light Rail (Aviation Station): To reach the city’s light rail line, passengers must board the free “G” shuttle service at the LAX Shuttle and Airline sign in the arrivals hall. From there, you can take the Green Line into the suburbs, where you can connect onto the lines that run into downtown LA.

Private transit options include:

  • LAX FlyAway (Arrivals Halls Island, ‘FlyAway’ Sign): Regularly scheduled round-trip bus routes between LAX and key locations in the city (Expo, Union Station, Van Nuys, Westwood, Santa Monica and Hollywood).
  • Taxi (Arrivals Halls): Connects LAX to the city center – but be wary of traffic!
  • Shared Ride Van: Shared taxis are run by Prime Time and Super Shuttle and allow you share a ride with those traveling to the same destination for a reduced price.
  • Car Rental: A number of rental companies have stations in the Arrivals Hall of LAX terminals. Shuttles are then organized out to the off-airport rental car terminal.

Before You Go: Layover Tips

Now that you are motivated and excited for your mini layover vacation, just make sure to check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.

  • Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
  • When is your next flight’s check-in time? Make sure you double check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
  • What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for long security wait-times, so be sure to do a bit of research in advance and factor that into your overall time-budget.
  • What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, be sure to confirm whether your luggage is checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Visit out Los Angeles Airport Guide for information about Luggage Storage.

Other Useful Resources

Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly:

2017 airport survey