I enjoy just exploring on foot. You cannot see much when driving around in the car, but yet I know they are neccessary at times. I will always just park and get my walking maps out every time. Most historic downtowns will have a walking map of some kind. So get out and enjoy!
The Santa Monica Visitor Center
1920 Main Street, Suite B
Visitor Information Cart
Third Street Promenade
Between Santa Monica Blvd. and Arizona Avenue
Visitor Information Kiosk
1400 Ocean Ave.
On the park side of the street
You will have the best sceneries if you have a bike rather than by car. You can hop from beach to beach, and without having to share the road with cars. CAreful with the sand though, it makes the riding a bit slick...