While some connect Malibu with homes perched atop cliffs and surfers bobbing on the waves, we prefer to associate the city with L.A.’s most breathtaking natural beauties. Forget the tarnished sheen of Hollywood and the luxury photo ops of Beverly Hills; these things to do in Malibu make us wonder why we don’t spend every weekend in the coastal city.
We’ve picked together our favorite things to do in Malibu, from some of the nicest beaches to hiking paths with waterfalls—plus a little wine tasting and waterfront restaurants to wind down.
Just a heads-up that you’ll most likely need a car to see most of these locations. Malibu’s scenic features mostly follow the Pacific Coast Highway along the shoreline, which stretches from west of Pacific Palisades to the Ventura County border.
Best Places to Visit in Malibu
Here’s our travel guide to the 10 finest and most entertaining things to do in Malibu, California.
1. Zuma Beach and Point Dume
Make the journey via Will Rogers and Surfrider beaches to Zuma for a pristine, broad stretch of sand and surf. With lots of on-site parking (pay at the lot or park for free along PCH), and lifeguards on duty, this Malibu beach accommodates large groups.
Point Dume State Beach is directly to the south, with hikers and climbers mounting its renowned namesake rock face and wandering through seasonal wildflower fields atop its crown.
2. El Matador State Beach Attractions
El Matador is easily the most gorgeous area of shoreline in the country, small, lovely, and dominated by rocky outcrops. Wear shoes and bring only what you need; the western Malibu beach is only accessible through a steep gravel trail from a paid parking lot (but free parking is available with a library card).
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There are no lifeguards or other facilities, but it’s a great place to spread your towel in the cupped hands of the rocks—just be careful during high tide when sand is scarce. Arriving early or staying late should result in a magnificent sunrise or sunset.
3. At Malibu Wine Hikes, reward a two-mile walk with vino
Hike a two-mile loop around Saddlerock Ranch’s various terrain, with spectacular views of the Malibu surrounds along the route, and reward yourself with some wine to-go at the conclusion.
The Malibu Wines tasting room never reopened after the Woolsey Fire—the winery instead relocated its focus to a wine and beer garden in the Valley—so this two-hour, 21-and-up hike is pretty much your only choice for exploring the area.
4. Santa Monica Mountains
Malibu Creek is one of the most beautiful places in Southern California, with steep gorges, vast pastures, secret ponds, and rocky peaks.
The Santa Monica Mountains region is loaded with picturesque paths and, because this is still Los Angeles, a little silver screen history: you can spot singed relics of the MAS*H set and splash in the Planet of the Apes rock pool.
5. Attractions in Leo Carrillo State Park
Leo Carillo enjoys the best of both worlds with a long stretch of beach that is well-equipped and surrounded by stunning natural scenery. There are fairly peaceful beaches here, as well as a canyon full of campgrounds immediately across the street, stretching one and a half miles across the north tip of Malibu.
Longboarders can paddle out for gentle waves (nothing higher than chest-high at this point breaks), while nature enthusiasts can explore tide pools on the rock-dotted beach and a nearby trail. Don’t forget Fido: the northern section is one of the few beaches where dogs (on a leash) are permitted to roam.
6. Neptune’s Net Restaurants Seafood Ventura County
While the deep-fried seafood is excellent enough, Neptune’s Net is worth a visit for the picturesque setting. The water-side site beckons motorists driving along PCH with a colorful front porch dating back to the 1950s and a never-ending stream of bikers.
Take your meals across the street while watching the kite surfers at County Line Beach. (For great seafood in a somewhat less tranquil setting, check the deservedly popular Malibu Seafood.)
7. Take in the architecture of the Malibu Hindu Temple
Though named Malibu, this Hindu temple is really located near Calabasas, in the Santa Monica Mountains. The temple, dedicated to the god Venkateswara, holds daily services and special events all year. Hungry? On weekends, the kitchen provides delectable vegetarian fare. The stunning venue can also be rented.
8. Malibu Country Mart is a Beachfront Shopping
This laid-back outdoor shopping and dining complex draws a mix of locals in wetsuits, celebrities who pretend not to be seen, and tourists passing through after a day at the beach. Restaurants range from fast food to fine dining, while merchants generally sell L.A. staples like designer jeans and $100 T-shirts.
Check out and explore the adjacent Malibu Lumber Yard, a virtual extension of the Country Mart, as well as Malibu Village across the street, which is home to the best lobster roll in the neighborhood at Broad Street Oyster Co.
9. At Surfrider Beach, Wax your Surfboard
Those looking for relaxation and romance should go elsewhere, but the benefit of braving the crowds here is getting to enjoy a length of sand made famous by Gidget and other surf icons.
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The quintessential Malibu beach, the ideal location, and the three-point breaks make this a year-round hot destination for both long and short boarders.
10. Escondido Falls
This is one of Southern California’s largest waterfalls, a two-tiered, 150-foot cascade that spills down a succession of limestone boulders coated in bright green moss.
You’ll begin your 3.8-mile adventure at Winding Way East, a private road in the Malibu hills that leads uphill past ocean-view homes. Expect to cross streams and do some major rock-hopping.
Malibu is a picturesque city known for its beaches, natural hiking trails, and the numerous celebrities who live there.
There are so many places to see and go in the bright, sunny town, with a mix of laid-back attractions and upmarket luxury locations. With so many options, you may be unsure how to spend your time here or where to go first.