Where to Stay And Things To See In Malibu Beach
The famous coastline known as Malibu California stretches about 27 miles between Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Santa Monica and Decker road near the Ventura County line. Most of these beaches face south rather than west, with the exception of aptly named Westward Beach near Point Dume.
Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll see the Santa Monica Mountains rising on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Much of the way, the ocean view is blocked by beach homes backed right up to the highway. This is the area notorious for movie stars, fires, floods and mudslides.
Some of the beaches are wide and sandy, while others are so narrow, the surf splashes practically right up to the backs of these houses. There is also no shortage of tidepools and rocky coves.
There is no real “downtown” to Malibu California, but there are a few shopping centers with cafes, restaurants and shops where people congregate. Besides the tightly packed beachfront houses, the local residents also live in the mansions in the hills where glorious views abound.
The Beaches In Malibu
Malibu California covers a lot of coastline and that means a lot of beach. Much of it is very narrow, with houses so close to the water, but there are designated beaches that are much larger, such as Zuma Beach. Surfrider Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach are more central, near the pier.
Malibu beach encompasses a whole variety of gorgeous beaches to explore. Leo Carrillo State Park (beach) is at the farthest western end, near the Ventura County line. Here you’ll find trails, tidepools and camping facilities. Very interesting rock formations distinguish the scenery here.
Moving east, towards Santa Monica, you’ll come to Nicholas Canyon County Beach, accessible from the parking lot up on the bluff above. People surf and dive here.
Where Decker Road meets PCH is El Pescador State Beach. More unusual rock formations, or sea stacks, are out in the water here and at the next two beaches. El Pescador is narrow and sandy, with picnic tables up on the bluff. La Piedra State Beach has similar features. The next beach is El Matador State Beach. Here, there is a larger pay parking lot, with a stairway and trail down to the beach.
Next, you’ll be separated from the water by a residential neighborhood. Broad Beach Road goes through this area, from which you can access the beach from special access points between the houses. You are allowed to go on the beach at the end of the path or steps as long as you don’t trespass onto private property, or get too close to the back of the homes. Below the high tide line is safe.
Zuma Beach County Park is the Malibu beach with a noticeably wide sandy beach. Facilities abound, with showers, restrooms, dressing rooms, snack stands, volleyball nets, swings and a large pay parking lot.
Next is Point Dume State Beach. You’ll find sandstone cliffs and tidepools. The Point Dume Headlands are nearby, where there are some hiking trails. The beach area which faces west is called, you guessed it, Westward Beach.
If you don’t mind paying a hefty fee for parking, Paradise Cove is a lovely spot, though small. Surfing is prohibited here. Near Malibu Cove Colony Drive is Escondido Beach where people dive. The next beach is Corral State Beach, a.k.a. Solstice Beach. There is a narrow sandy strip on the beach and street parking.
Now Malibu Road veers off PCH through another neighborhood. Here you can find more public stairways marked by blue and white trash cans.
Just past Malibu Canyon Road, Malibu Lagoon State Beach is home to an estuary, the lagoon, the historic Adamson House and museum and the Malibu pier. Also here, Surfrider Beach is a famous surfing spot. This area is probably what is thought of when people say “Malibu Beach”.
If you keep heading east on PCH past the pier, there are more public access stairways to the beach. Just keep an eye out for the blue and white trash cans. Further down is Las Tunas State Beach, which is a narrow beach, with both sandy and rocky areas. Beware of the rusted metal groins under the water if you go swimming.
Topanga State Beach lies at the end of Topanga Canyon Boulevard. You can park in the pay lot, or if you don’t mind a hike, you can park for free up along Topanga Canyon Boulevard (but check the signs).
Now that you know what your Malibu beach options are, pick the one that sounds best to you and go have a spectacular day!
Where To Stay
If you want to stay in a Malibu hotel or motel, there is only a handful to choose from along Pacific Coast Highway. Some are right on the beach, such as the Casa Malibu Inn.
Or you might want to rent a beach house. (You never know who could turn out to be your next door neighbor.) See Malibu California vacation rentals on TripAdvisor.
Another option is camping. Read here about Malibu campgrounds.
Places To Hike
Though the Pacific Ocean is the main attraction, Malibu California has plenty of other natural beauty to explore. There are several hiking trails to enjoy in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Malibu Creek State Park is inland, up the Malibu Canyon Road and features 15 miles of trails through the hills and along the stream.
Charmlee County Park, Corral Canyon Park, Arroyo Sequit and Circle X Ranch all have trails and nature centers.
Other areas with hiking trails include: Malibu Springs, Zuma/Trancas Canyons, Lower Zuma Canyon, Castro Crest and Solstice Canyon.
Special tip: If you go to the end of Malibu Canyon Road, you’ll end up at Malibu Bluffs County Park, which has a parking lot, playing fields and a public restroom. If you go to the other end of the fields, there are a few unmarked trail heads which go down through the bluffs to a residential street below. The scenery is stunning.
Once down on the street, look for one of the public access gates. There you can go between the houses onto the sand and straight into the cool, blue sea for a dip, or maybe take a barefoot walk along the shoreline before heading back up to your car.
The Getty Villa
Not to be confused with the newer Getty Center Los Angeles up in Brentwood, the Getty Villa is on Pacific Coast Highway just north of Sunset Boulevard. It has undergone several years of renovation. It is world renowned for its collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities. The villa’s visiting hours for the public are Wednesday through Monday 10-5.
The Adamson House
This historic house located near the pier and lagoon is open for tours Wednesday through Saturday, 11-3. Gorgeous tiles from the Malibu Potteries are plentiful throughout. They also offer a garden tour on the first Friday of the month.
The Malibu Lagoon Museum adjoins the house and exhibits historical artifacts and information about the area. For more information, call 310-456-8432.
Getting To Malibu
There are basically three ways to get to Malibu California. Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), or PCH as it’s usually called, is the main access route through the whole area.
From the San Fernando Valley, you can meander through the Santa Monica Mountains from Highway 101 via Los Virgenes or Topanga Canyon. Los Virgenes turns into Malibu Canyon Road and lands you closest to the center of things such as the pier, the shopping areas, Pepperdine University, and Surfrider Beach.
From the south, Sunset Boulevard ends at the Pacific, so if you don’t mind a long, scenic, winding drive, you can take that to the coast and turn right at Pacific Coast Highway.
Alternatively, from Los Angeles you can take the 10 freeway out to where it ends in Santa Monica and head north/west from there on PCH.
From the north, which is Ventura County, you can drive along the coast all the way from Ventura, enjoying miles of coastline along Pacific Coast Highway.
Once you see the pier, you know you’re pretty much there.