The jet was about 10 minutes away from landing at the Santa Monica Airport when the pilot reported smoke coming from an instrument panel, Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said in a statement.
The pilot made a "quick, steep, but safe landing" at 6:23 p.m. at Van Nuys Airport in the San Fernando Valley, McLear said.
City fire crews met the jet on the runway. There were no flames and no one was injured.
Schwarzenegger tweeted about the incident, calling it "a little adventure," and posting a link to a photo of the jet parked on the runway on his Twitter feed.
"All's ok, though," he tweeted.
After landing, the governor exited the jet and headed to his Los Angeles-area home, McLear said.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said a business jet reported smoke in the cockpit and was diverted to Van Nuys Friday evening.