Most of the gay bars in greater LA are clustered in a few areas, all of them a good 20 to 40 minutes away from Santa Monica and Venice by car: West Hollywood, Silver Lake and Los Feliz, the San Fernando Valley, and the city of Long Beach. However, there is wonderful exception right along hip Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Roosterfish ((1302 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 310-392-2123), which has drawn a loyally offbeat, eclectic crowd since it opened many years ago. It's an excellent place to grab drinks after hanging out at the beach or before dinner in the area, or even for late-night cocktails, pool, and hobnobbing.
Don't let this news leave you thinking you won't see gay people partying around Santa Monica and Venice - it's just that most of them are hanging out at the bars in some of the hipper restaurants and hotels around the area (see above), as well as mostly straight but gay-friendly hangouts like the Hideout, a quirky old former speakeasy that was a gay bar many eons ago and still has something of a family following because of its location near the gay area at Will Rogers State Beach; and the festive and quite trendy Otheroom, which is in Venice right by the aforementioned Roosterfish (you may know the Otheroom from one of its four other locales - in Miami Beach, and NYC's West Village, TriBeCa, and SoHo neighborhoods). Another hot spot is the sexy High Rooftop Lounge at the gay-popular Hotel Erwin - one of the most enjoyable spots in California to watch the sunset (if you're hungry afterward, enjoy dinner in the hotel's excellent restaurant, Hash).
As arts and cultural venues go, Santa Monica's famous Highways Performance Space and Gallery regularly presents queer-themed material among its edgy, provocative works.
If you're in the southern reaches of L.A.'s coastal region, you might also consider dropping by Dolphin Bar (1995 Artesia Blvd., 310-318-3339), an easygoing neighborhood hangout that's the only real GLBT option around Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Torrance, and Hermosa Beach. For a lot of folks, once they're this far down the coast, they just keep venturing south to Long Beach, which is home to several very fun gay nightspots, including Club Ripples, Silver Fox, and Hamburger Mary's (to name a few).