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What do do in Malibu: the Best Beaches and Tourist Activities

June 3, 2021 /
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Warning: Due to COVID 19 some information in this article (e.g. operating hours) may not be up-to-date.

27 Miles of Scenic Beauty. These are the words on the wooden sign that welcomes visitors to Malibu, affectionately renamed “The Bu'” by the locals. This impressive greeting is consistent with the reputation of this city along the Pacific Coast Highway northwest of Santa Monica in Los Angeles County. And here we are, in another “top destination” on the Southern coast of California.

After visiting Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Santa Monica, Venice Beach, and Long Beach, it would be impossible not to also go to Malibu, a pearl on the Pacific Ocean that is the place of residence by many celebrities from the world of cinema, entertainment, sports, and music. These residences arouse a certain curiosity, but this is not the only reason that you should visit Malibu, because there is much more to discover in this coastal city of about 13,000 inhabitants. Because of its beaches and the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains, you can easily forget how close Malibu is to Los Angeles. When you are in Malibu, it seems that you are in another world, another dimension where nature is the main protagonist.

Malibu: Where Is It?

Malibu is a city in Los Angeles County located between Santa Monica and Santa Barbara, which are two other well-known tourist destinations. The best way to reach it is by car, because it will give you complete freedom to organize your day and to choose the attractions and beaches that interest you most (For more information, I recommend our article about renting a car in Los Angeles)

If you are departing from Santa Monica, you will head north on the Pacific Coast Highway. You will probably find traffic (We knew this before we made our trip on the Pacific Coast Highway; we were warned), but the sun, the palm trees, and the view of the ocean make the drive much more pleasant.

The Beaches in Malibu

Please note: We have made local inquiries about Malibu’s coastline and we discovered that it is not just made up of private property. There are beaches or parts of them that are accessible to visitors and to residents who do not have property near the coast. However, it must also be said that there is a bit of tension, since some of the owners of the villas support prohibiting visitors from accessing the beaches in front of their homes. In fact, a California law states that the shoreline is public and therefore, every beach in the area is accessible to everyone. Diatribes and signs of private property (more or less legitimate) aside, there are still miles of beaches left for those who are ready to head to the beach with a bottle of sunscreen in their hands. But it was necessary to confirm beforehand, because the fines are no joke! So you must read the signs carefully and understand where you can enter. For more information about what has been briefly explained here, we suggest that you consult this pdf and study closely the diagram at the top right entitled Where is the public beach?

If your idea of a coastline is a natural, almost primordial environment, many beaches in Malibu reflect this concept, while others are only slightly affected by the presence of houses close by. The houses built further away on the cliffs in certain sections of the coast do not subtract from the charm of the beaches. The list of beaches is long and preferences are subjective, so when you are thinking about planning your trip on the coast along the Pacific Coast Highway, our advice is that it is worth stopping in places where you are attracted by a particular view and where it is possible to access the beach.

malibu beaches In many cases, you can simply park along the highway and avoid paying for parking, but you must be extremely careful when crossing it!!! During our trip, we departed from Santa Monica and “invested” three days to explore this beautiful coastline.

Whatever you decide to do and whatever section of the coastline you visit, make sure you are on the beach before sunset, which is definitely the most spectacular time of day to be on the beach.

Topanga Beach

Topanga Beach MalibuOut of all of the beaches in the Malibu area, Topanga Beach (18700 Pacific Coast Highway) is the closest one to Los Angeles. It is frequented by surfers and it has a nice promenade near Pacific Palisades. On the eastern end of the beach, you can dine at the excellent Mastro’s Ocean Club (18412 Pacific Coast Highway).

Carbon Beach

Carbon Beach MalibuCarbon Beach (22466 Pacific Coast Highway). After years of litigation with the owners of the villas near this beach, a central public access point was opened in 2015 in addition to the access points at both ends. It is officially called Carbon Beach West Access, but it creates some confusion about the existence of another access point to the west. Instead, many call it “Ackerberg Access” as a sign of gratitude to a certain Mrs. Ackerberg, who fought for this public entrance, which, by the way, has no fences or railings.

Since this beautiful beach is about 1.5 miles long, the new central access point is convenient. There are over seventy VIP houses on this beach, which is why Carbon Beach is commonly referred to as “the millionaires’ beach” and also one of the main reasons why Carbon Beach is so popular.

Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Malibu californiaMalibu Lagoon State Beach (23200 Pacific Coast Highway) is located on the lagoon formed by Malibu Creek before flowing into the ocean. There is a parking lot at the intersection of the Pacific Coast Highway and Cross Creek Road. There are dirt trails that are ideal for hiking and bird-watching opportunities.

Part of the coastline near the pier is known as Surfrider Beach (23050 Pacific Coast Highway). This beach with perfect waves has been transformed into the first World Surfing Reserve, the first protected area in the world where you can surf during the winter. Because this beach is dedicated to surfing, boogie boarding and bodysurfing are not permitted here. However, you can still enjoy the sunshine and it is mesmerizing to watch the surfers. You can park along the highway or at the entrance of the Adamson House (23200 Pacific Coast Highway).

Dan Blocker Beach

Dan Blocker Beach (also known as Corral State Beach, 26000 Pacific Coast Highway). Here you can try the famous Ahi burger (tuna burger) at the Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market and Patio Café (25653 Pacific Coast Highway) where “the fish is always fresh” (so they say). Then if you cross the Pacific Coast Highway, you will arrive at the Malibu Beach RV Park campsite.

Escondido Beach

Escondido Beach MalibuEscondido Beach (27200 Pacific Coast Highway) is a sandy beach south of Point Dume dotted with vegetation and houses on the water. You can access Escondido Beach via a long staircase west of Geoffrey’s Malibu Restaurant (27400 Pacific Coast Highway) where there are some parking spaces, actually, very few, or you can also get there by crossing the bridge over the Escondido Creek near 27148 Pacific Coast Highway. Many divers like to come to this area.

Paradise Cove

Paradise Cove MalibuParadise Cove (28128 Pacific Coast Highway) is a picturesque bay surrounded by cliffs. We think it is important to mention that there are tanning beds and a restaurant, which can be good for some and a downside for others, depending on what you want. If you are looking for a long and quiet beach, this is not for you, but in our opinion, it is worth coming here anyway.

Little Dume Beach and Big Dume Beach

Pirate's Cove Malibu
Pirate’s Cove

Little Dume Beach (Whitesands Place) is located on a small bay. When conditions are optimal for surfing, it is full of surfers. Otherwise, it is generally a great place for a scenic walk under steep cliffs where million-dollar residences are perched. The only public access points are at Paradise Cove Beach and Big Dume Beach, and then from there you have to walk a bit on the shore.

Big Dume Beach (29245 Cliffside Dr, also known as Dume Cove Beach) is the main beach of Point Dume State Beach (Cliffside Dr & Birdview Ave), where there are headlands, cliffs, rocky coves, and a wide access point. People come here to swim, surf, dive, and fish.

The beach has the shape of a crescent moon and to get there you must walk through a small nature reserve and along a long steep staircase, then from there, there will be trails that lead to Point Dume, a popular spot for watching grey whales during migration from February to April, but it is also one of the best and most beautiful places to climb the rock and jump into the water.

At 29245 Cliffside Drive, there is a small parking area with 12 spaces (here you can park for up to 2 hours and is usually full). But that’s not all! You can access the beautiful hidden beach of Pirate’s Cove under the viewpoint at Point Dume; you have to “earn it” by passing behind the rocks of the nearby Westward Beach, which create a sort of wall, but it’s absolutely worth it. Watching the adventurous climbers scaling the rocks is a sight to behold.

Westward Beach

Westward Beach MalibuWestward Beach (7103 Westward Beach Rd – reference address also for Pirate’s Cove parking lot) is a long and wide beach that stretches for about 3 miles with cliffs around it. There are lifeguards and restrooms on the beach. Close to Westward Beach, there is also The Sunset Restaurant. You can easily access the beach from the Westward Road parking lot by taking the trails that lead to Point Dume Natural Preserve.

Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach MalibuZuma Beach (30000 Pacific Coast Highway), located on the northern side of Malibu, is ideal for families and is popular among locals; it is one of the most beautiful beaches on the California coast and because there are no houses built around it, it is a great place to relax in a “natural” setting.

There are volleyball courts on this beach so that you can exercise and you also have the option to sunbathe. Zuma Beach has restrooms and picnic areas in addition to lifeguard stations to ensure the safety of those who venture into the strong currents.

Broad Beach

Broad Beach (also known as Trancas Beach, 31200 Broad Beach Rd) is a long public beach. The houses built on the beach must be constantly protected from beach erosion. During the winter, it is not possible to walk on the sand because it is covered by high tide.

In the summer, on the other hand, it is more feasible to take a walk on the beach. Surfers head here when conditions are favorable. The public access point is between the houses next to 31344 and 31200 Broad Beach Rd. Another way to get to the beach is to walk north of the parking lot near Zuma Beach.

El Sol Beach

El Sol Beach (33550 Pacific Coast Highway) is a public beach in Malibu. However, it can only be accessed via the coast at low tide or by boat, because some homeowners opposed the construction of a public staircase despite the fact that funds had been gathered for the project. But it is worth going here if you love quiet and charming places.

El Matador

El Matador MalibuHere (32215 Pacific Coast Highway) the ocean is rough and it’s not advisable to go for a swim, but the scenery on the beach where there are gorges and boulders is extraordinary. The sunset is phenomenal, so plan well so that you can get there at the right time. The beautiful arched rock formation called Rock Arch is quite picturesque. There is paid parking. From the parking lot, you will walk on the path and then descend the staircase (a bit steep) to the beach.

North Beach / Leo Carrillo State Beach

Leo Carrillo MalibuAs far as this beach is concerned, it is “a 3 for 1” starting from Leo Carrillo State Park (35000 W Pacific Coast Highway) that you must enter to access the other beaches. At the entrance of the park, there is a paid parking lot and there is also a small visitor center (that is not always open).

This park reaches as far as Leo Carrillo State Beach. It is beautiful at sunset and divided as follows: North Beach, a wide beach that is family-friendly and dog-friendly (make sure to keep the dogs on a leash!), Sequit Point, a rocky area with tidal pools and caves that is easy to explore at low morning tide and South Beach, a beautiful sandy beach that also has tidal pools created by low tide. If you are near North Beach, we recommend that you check out Staircase Beach, a narrow beach well known to surfers (40000 Pacific Coast Highway).

Point Mugu State Park

At Point Mugu State Park (9000 W Pacific Coast Highway), located west of the Santa Monica Mountains, there are 5 miles of coastline with cliffs, beaches, sand dunes, hills, two river canyons, and wide grassy valleys. There are also several hiking trails.

More Things to See in Malibu

The Malibu Pier

Malibu things to doThe enchanting beaches and the proximity to the studios in Los Angeles have made Malibu the perfect location for movies, TV shows, and music videos, such as Ironman, Hannah Montana, The O.C., and Two and a Half Men.

A short distance from State Lagoon Beach, you will find Malibu’s beautiful pier (23000 Pacific Coast Highway), which is much less crowded than other piers in California. It’s the ideal place for a relaxing walk while admiring the cliffs and multi-million dollar residences, but here you can also stop and watch patient fishermen adopt various techniques to catch fish. And when you get to the end of the pier, it’s worth stopping for a while to look at an unobstructed view of the ocean.

You can eat in one of the most popular restaurants, at Malibu Farm, a restaurant and bar that serves organic food. Located at the end of the pier, its motto is “from the pier to the table”. And it couldn’t be more true! You can also enjoy a meal at other interesting restaurants near the pier, or you can sit at picnic tables or on benches and look at surf “shows” and wonderful sunsets.

Getty Villa

What do to in malibuWe have mostly looked at the beaches in Malibu, but if you have time, you shouldn’t stop there. There’s much more to discover starting from the Getty Villa (located in the Pacific Palisades District), which resembles an ancient Roman villa displaying about 45,000 pieces of Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art dating back to the period from 6500 B.C. to 440 A.D. In 1954, oil tycoon Paul Getty created an art gallery in his house in Malibu, but after a few years, the space in the house was no longer sufficient for the entire collection. This gave rise to the decision to build a villa nearby to exhibit his work.

Getty Villa, one of the Getty Museum‘s locations, was opened in 1974 and is located at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway – Pacific Palisades, between Malibu and Los Angeles. Many visitors come here to see one of the most important pieces: The Fano Athlete (The Victorious Youth), a life-size bronze nude. Except on Tuesdays, Christmas Day, and Thanksgiving, you can visit the museum and admission is free. The Getty Museum is open from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, but we recommended that you book in advance. Please note that private parking costs $15 and “only” $10 after 3:00 pm. Otherwise, you can opt to reach the property by using public transportation.

California Surf Museum

Malibu turist attractionsIf you are more interested in beach-themed activities, you can find contemporary masterpieces at the California Surf Museum (inside the Pepperdine University’s Payson Library), where 30 historical surfboards are exhibited, some dating back to the early twentieth century.

It is said that California’s universities are the most beautiful in the world, so we recommend that those interested in visiting campuses go to Pepperdine University, which is located in the hills of Malibu. The view from up there is spectacular and there is also a beautiful terrace.

Solstice Canyon

places to visit in malibuSolstice Canyon (3455 Solstice Canyon Rd, near Dan Blocker County Beach) is a trail through the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains with wonderful views of the ocean and a wide variety of plants and wildlife. The canyon is also famous for its perennial waterfalls. The trail in the Solstice Canyon, once inhabited by the Chumash tribe, would be about 6 miles long, but it is also possible to do shorter hikes on this trail.

Malibu Wine Hikes

Malibu Wine Hikes (32111 Mulholland Hwy) allows you to take a spectacular scenic tour of the vineyards enriched by potential encounters with wildlife along the way and wine tasting at the end of the day. It is important that the driver be sober on the way back, since the road is winding and dark in the evening.

Adamson House

top 10 things to do in malibuAdamson House (23200 Pacific Coast Highway). This beach house, which belongs to the Adamson family, is built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style and still has the original furniture from the early 1900s. It is not a home inhabited by a wealthy family; rather, it is a historic house open to visitors and is a rare testament to the lifestyle of the time it was built.

The property on which it is situated is one of the most idyllic places on the ocean in all of Southern California. Located near the Malibu Pier between the famous Surfrider Beach and the lagoon, the house boasts an exotic mix of Spanish and Moorish influences, with beautiful displays of decorative tiles, hand-carved doors, and frescoes.

Shopping in Malibu

If you’re in the mood for shopping, head over to two chic shopping malls located next to each other (you may even find one or two local celebrities): The Malibu Lumber Yard (3939 Cross Creek Rd) and the Malibu Country Mart (3835 Cross Creek Rd) where the first GROM on the West Coast was recently opened. This is a renowned Italian chain of ice cream and frozen yogurt shops and it is fitting that it would be located here in Malibu, since grom also means “young surfer”.

The design of the two malls doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of Malibu, but inside the shops are inviting and refined and there are excellent restaurants including excellent Italian and Chinese cuisine. We also recommend the Point Dume Plaza Shopping Center (29169 Heathercliff Rd) where you can enjoy a nice outdoor atmosphere while you can shop and eat.

For those who do not have the necessary equipment to practice water sports, Malibu Surf Shack is the right place to rent what you need. Here in this local establishment, the staff gives surfing and kayaking lessons and organizes exploratory paddleboard and kayak tours of the area.

Where to Eat in Malibu

We should point out that Malibu is a calm residential area that seems to quiet down after sunset even though parties and events take place in the villas. One place where you can spend a pleasant evening in Malibu is Moonshadows (20356 Pacific Coast Hwy). If you go during the day, you will have a view of the ocean while at night, it is lit by blue lighting. Plus, does it get any better than having dinner or an aperitif with music and the waves of the sea in the background?

Remember the already mentioned Geoffrey’s Malibu (27400 Pacific Coast Hwy) in Escondido Beach and we also recommend Café Habana (3939 Crosscreek Rd) at Malibu Lumber Yard. Did you know that one of the owners of Café Habana is Cindy Crawfords husband?

Duke’s Malibu (21150 Pacific Coast Highway) is dedicated to Duke Kahanamoku, a surf legend, swimming champion, and actor who was a lifeguard in Malibu in his youth and taught surfing. On Carbon Beach, the Carbon Beach Restaurant (22878 Pacific Coast Highway) at the Carbon Beach Inn has a terrace and a romantic atmosphere. The view of the ocean from the terrace is breathtaking.

Where to Stay in Malibu

Malibu Beach Hotels
Malibu Beach Inn

It’s not impossible to stay overnight in Malibu for an affordable price. We wish to point out two economic alternatives. The Malibu Country Inn (6506 Westward Beach Rd) sits on a point where you can admire the garden, the ocean, or the mountains. The M Malibu (22541 Pacific Coast Highway) is very close to beaches, shops, and restaurants. Rooms have balconies with partial ocean views.

We also want to mention the Malibu Beach Inn (22878 Pacific Coast Highway), located on the so-called “Billionaire Beach”, which has undergone a major renovation that could affect our portfolio. The luxury rooms and suites have incredible views of the beach. Let’s not forget the Malibu Beach RV Park (25801 Pacific Coast Hwy), where you can have a great camping experience in an RV, trailer, or in a tent in an enviable location with palm trees, and views of the ocean and mountains.

Events in Malibu

An important event in the city is the Malibu Arts Festival (Pacific Coast Highway & Civic Center Way), the annual arts festival that has been taking place for over 45 years. This two-day event during the last weekend in July is considered “one of the most beautiful outdoor art festivals in the nation” and more than 200 highly talented painters, sculptors, artists, and photographers exhibit their work. Of course, there is no shortage of dining options.

Famous Residents of Malibu

The following are some of Malibu’s famous residents: Mel Gibson, Richard Gere, Whoopi Goldberg, Barbara Streisand, Pierce Brosnan, and Julia Roberts. Are you hoping to go on a celebrity beach hunt in Malibu? We’d like to make one thing clear: it’s not easy to meet celebrities. Almost everyone prefers to sunbathe and relax in their villas, some of which can be seen on the hills or cliffs behind the beach. For those interested in seeing VIP residences, Starline Tours offers the Malibu Stars’ Homes Tour.

More information on the Malibu Stars’ Homes Tour

Stroll along the beach, bask in the sun, marvel at the acrobatics of surfers, sip on a cocktail at sunset, enjoy an excellent dinner in front of the ocean, and listen to the sound of the waves. All of this evokes peace, relaxation, poetry… all of this is Malibu.

 


Our Tip:
Looking for accommodations for your trip from California to other parts of the Southwest? Read our guide that contains reviews of hotels and strategic tips for finding accommodations near major attractions: Where to Stay: Our Tips for the SouthWest Area

Marianna Licia e Paolo

There are two passions that we share: photography and traveling, especially in the United States.

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