Malibu is a beautiful stretch of coastline with accessible beaches and miles of hiking in the canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains. You can also enjoy a nice glass of California wine and great seafood with a priceless view…and the view alone makes Malibu one of the most desirable places in the world.
Though Malibu has a reputation for being expensive, it is a nature lovers paradise, accessible to all. You can hike, surf, swim, sun, paddleboard, or simply walk the beaches and trails.
These are my 5 top reasons to visit Malibu any time of year.
1. 22 Miles Of Beautiful Beaches
Malibu has 22 miles of beautiful beaches. One of the best known is Zuma, a great beach for surfing, sunning, and walking, as it slopes slightly downward. Zuma is also close to Jay’s surf shop, a good spot to check out women’s wetsuits for surfing and swimming as well as fun clothes for men and women. Zuma is one of the few beaches that doesn’t have a row of expensive housing between the beach and Pacific Coast Highway.
Pro tip: The parking lot is huge but in the summer you will need to get there early or look for parking on the street.
Latigo Beach, just a little east of Zuma, is a nice beach for walking or just to hang out. I did see one surfer but I imagine he is quite experienced due to the rocks there.
I had a great time exploring the tide pools at Latigo. Beds of mussels and barnacles covered the rocks, and sea anemones were everywhere. I also saw a small crab. If you love tide pools, Leo Carillo Beach is another good one to explore.
Pro Tip: Be sure to park on Pacific Coast Highway and walk toward coastal access. sign. You’ll have to navigate some stairs but there are not too many and they are not steep.
Point Dume is another famous Malibu beach. Also known as Westward Beach, the location is sheltered by tall cliffs making it feel very isolated. This beach was used to film the final scenes of Planet of the Apes. If you’re not familiar with the movie or that scene, a scale replica of the Statue of Liberty was buried in the sand, implying that the world had been blown up. It’s not the greatest movie but that final scene hits the mark.
Point Dume Nature Preserve is a small but lovely state park, where you’ll find coastal bluffs and ancient dunes. In the spring the dunes are covered in this gorgeous yellow coreopsis. Be sure to hike to the top of the dunes for an incredible view of Santa Monica Bay– if it’s clear you can see all the way to Catalina Island. This is also a good spot for seasonal whale watching.
I had so much fun discovering Malibu beaches that I drove an hour and a half round trip every day for a week. The drive through Malibu Canyon is scenic, too.
Pro tip: I used an app called Our Malibu Beaches which I wish I had discovered a long time ago. The app is very informative including directions, parking, and details such as what kind of activities are best for each beach.
2. Hiking In The Canyons
Did you know that just there is a huge wilderness area just a stone’s throw from Los Angeles? Yep, the Santa Monica Mountains. Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains is a great way to spend time in nature. There are over 500 miles of trails, some with coastal views. You will find hikes for all levels of fitness…there’s no need to worry about your level of physical fitness.
I did the Solstice Canyon Hike which had three trail options of varying difficulty. Since I had never hiked there before I chose the scenic trail; It is also offered the most shade. The total distance in and out is only about two miles.
The Solstice trail includes the ruins of two homes that burned in two different fires. Some signs tell the background of each house. The bigger ruins are the Robert’s Ranch House, designed by architect Paul Williams. There is also a small waterfall and abundant greenery including Birds of Paradise.
Pro Tip: Turn off of Pacific Coast Highway at Corral Canyon Rd. The entrance is off to the left before a curve in the road. There are a few parking spots at the entrance to the canyon but they fill up early. Drive on back to a larger lot. You’ll come to a small crossing that seems like you should not actually drive over it, but do it! This is a popular spot and it does get busy. Always be sure to check for the possibility of wildfires in the area before you hike into the hills.
3. Hike The Ruins Of Famous Movie Sets
There have been and still are so many movies and commercials filmed in and around Malibu you could spend a couple of days or more visiting film locations. One of the best places to visit is Malibu Creek, State Park. The first movie filmed there was in 1919. Over the years hundreds of movies and some TV shows have been filmed. 20th Century Fox used to own 2000 acres in what is now the park, just for shooting films. How Green Was My Valley was Foxes’ Academy Award winner and was filmed there. With Toby McGuire and Reese Witherspoon, Pleasantville was the last production filmed at Malibu Creek State Park.
4. Wine Tasting in Malibu
If you’re not feeling especially athletic check out the wine tasting options at Malibu Village. Summer Somewhere is a family-run Malibu tasting room located inside the iconic Fred Segal boutique. Their flagship wine is a Provencal-style rosé. A blend of Grenache and Cinsault, it’s dry and crisp, and will definitely remind you of summer. Summer Somewhere sources fruit from winegrowers in Santa Ynez and other Central Coast wine regions. They focus on vineyard sites that advocate organic growing practices. They also produce a Grenache, Pinot, Viognier and Gruner Veltliner. There are wine club and shipping options if you don’t live in the area and want to make sure you’re always reminded of Summer Somewhere.
Across the street is the Strange Family Vineyards tasting room. Strange wines are made with fruit from their estate vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills. They produce Pinot Noir and Chardonnay plus sparkling wines. There is seating both indoors and outside and in addition to wine they have a lot of fun merchandise. Who doesn’t want a shirt that says Strange Malibu?
5. Eat Delicious Food
After wine tasting walk over to Broadstreet Oyster Company. They don’t have views of the beach but they serve one the best dang lobster rolls anywhere. At the time I was there all the food was to go, but there were picnic tables outside.
Malibu Ranch serves fresh farm-to-market food in a casual setting on the Malibu Pier. They actually have two places, the cafe which is open for counter service, and the restaurant close to the entrance. The menu includes some very California-Esque items like tofu tacos and green avocado quesadillas, salmon Nicoise salad, and roasted chicken. Overall the menu is fresh, healthy and the atmosphere can’t be beaten.
When in doubt, head to Duke’s Malibu. Duke’s a tradition in my life. Duke’s serves good food for a reasonable price and has some of the best beach views.
Would love any updates on spots along Pacific Coast Highway between now and Sept 10
This article covers most of the things I did in the spring of 2021 so it’s pretty current. The Malibu area hasn’t changed a lot. I do have a new article I wrote about wineries in the Los Angeles area but aside from these that are near the highway, the others are in downtown Los Angeles. If you care to read it it is on Matador Network, 6 Los Angeles Wine Tasting Experiences. Thanks
Planning on a drive from San Diego to San Francisco in a few weeks. Thoroughly enjoyed your articles on Malibu and other stops along the way. Would love any updates