Malibu is like the super-duper ridiculously good looking laid back cousin of the busy version of Los Angeles.
All the beaches and hiking and food… but far fewer people.
Depending on where you’re coming from in L.A. you may have a bit of a drive to get there, but cruising down PCH while admiring the views of the glistening ocean and rolling waves will make it all worthwhile.
From nature excursions to horseback riding and surfing to going on a wine safari, there’s plenty to see and do in Malibu, and hopefully this brief rundown will help get you started.
Enjoy the list!
1. The Grotto Trail
The Grotto Trail is a relatively easy three-mile (round trip) hike that leads to a grotto and waterfall. If you want a hike without the work and a nice payoff at the end this is for you.
2. Escondido Falls
The Escondido Falls trail is famous for the 150-foot fall, the tallest in the Santa Monica Mountains. However, because of the drought it’s not likely you’ll find much water there during the hotter seasons but it’s a fun hike and you can still get some great shots among the boulders.
3. Solstice Canyon
Solstice Canyon is a picturesque trail featuring a year-round waterfall and Instagram-worthy views of the ocean. The trail also leads to what remains of a stone cottage destroyed by a wildfire; it’s believed to be the oldest existing stone building in Malibu.
4. Malibu Creek State Park
Malibu Creek State Park is a family friendly park with 15 miles of trails and a few swimming holes. It’s also the site of TV shows including Planet of the Apes and M*A*S*H and you can still view some of the old cars from the set if you stay on Crags Road. Like Escondido Falls, the water level is low but the swimming holes are deep enough to dip into.
5. Mishe Mokwa Trail
The Mishe Mokwa Trail leads to Sandstone Peak, the highest peak in the Santa Monica Mountains and a favorite among hikers. Go on a clear day for the best views and head out early as it’s a 6-mile trail but trust me, it’s worth it. Along the trail there are a few attractions including the Split Rock, Balancing Rock, and Inspiration Point (stop and take it all in). There’s a summit register where you can sign your name or write an inspirational quote (it’s very Reese Witherspoon in Wild).
6. Go Horseback Riding with The Malibu Riders
Explore Malibu in a whole new way riding horseback through Zuma Canyon. The ride is an hour long and provides amazing views of the ocean. Go on a clear and sunny day to take full advantage of the scenery.
7. Visit the Amazing Beaches…
If Malibu has one thing in spades it’s natural beauty and nowhere is that more evident than the ocean. If you visit early in the morning when whales migrate (Dec.-Jan, April-May) you’re likely to see a gray whale or two plus dolphin pods and seals. I suggest coming before 10:00am for whales but you’ll likely see dolphins and seals throughout the day.
The beauty of this coastal city is that you can visit different beaches and enjoy a different experience.
Below are some of our top picks.
Leo Carrillo is a 1.5 mile beach with tide pools and caves plus a dog friendly zone (on-leash). It goes without saying that Surfrider beach is famous for being an ideal place to ride the waves but if that’s not your thing you can always walk along the pier and enjoy a meal at Malibu Farm or visit Adamson beach house or the Malibu Lagoon Museum (more info below). El Matador State beach is favored among those who like to explore the caves and rock formations that have become trademark features but be prepared because you’ll have to walk down a 150-bluff (there are stairs). For a truly laidback experience where you can just lay in the sand and take a dip in the ocean, Zuma beach is a local favorite. Paradise Cove is one of the most famous beaches in Malibu because it’s private and you’re allowed to bring alcohol (just no hard liquor) though it’s also notorious for its $40 parking fee (unless you pay a minimum of $30 at the cafe then it’s $6). If you’re up for the novelty of it and budget accordingly you get to enjoy a private beach experience so there’s that.
Oh and don’t forget about Point Dume / Westward Beach…
8. Malibu Coastal Adventures
If you want to go all out and really embrace the Malibu way then you gotta do more than just swim or sun bathe. Malibu Coastal Adventures offers paddle boarding, surfing lessons and whale/dolphin watching boat excursions.
9. Go Shopping at the Malibu Country Mart
If you’re going to spend the day out anywhere you’re bound to want to stop and shop. Malibu Country Mart has a laidback vibe but it’s definitely a spot to hit up if you’re willing to splurge on upscale brands (7 for All Mankind, L’Occitane, John Varvatos etc). If you’re looking for treats though, Grom Malibu is celebrated for their gelatos, Malibu Kitchen stocks plenty of sweet treats though I’m partial to their paninis while Taverna Tony‘s Greek restaurant features live music and belly dancers. Parking is plentiful (a rarity in L.A.) and as an outdoor shopping center you still get to enjoy that Malibu sunshine.
10. Go Scuba Diving
Malibu Divers offers beginner’s courses for scuba diving. (Note: Depending on the experience you select the lessons maybe span multiple days).
11. Malibu Family Wines
Malibu Family Wines hosts multiple activities including Yoga & Mimosas, Sips & Giggles comedy night and Movie Night (July-October) but you can always keep it simple and come with your own cheese platter and blankets for a nice picnic.
12. Go on a Wine Safari
Malibu Wine Safari is as exotic as it sounds with a little vino and a slew of exotic animals. The trip takes you around the 1,000 acre vineyard that’s home to alpacas, zebras, giraffes, and even bison which you can feed!!! Carrots, pellets, and bananas are provided along with two tastings of locally-sourced vino.
[RELATED: The 15 Best Wine Bars in Los Angeles]
13. Visit the Adamson House
Adamson House is a national historic site near Surfrider Beach built in 1929. The home is small but full of unique touches like hand- carved doors, hand painted frescoes and beautifully crafted details in every room. The docent (only available for tours) happily shares the history of the home and the family that built it. While photography is not allowed inside you can photograph and roam the garden area.
14. Spend a Day at the Getty Villa
The Getty Villa (technically in the Pacific Palisades but let’s not be technical) is a work of art onto itself modeled after a Roman country house from the first century in Italy. The Villa houses ancient Greek and Roman art and has four gardens with Roman models and, for an additional sense of authenticity, plants from the ancient Mediterranean. (Note: Admission is free but timed-entry tickets are required and parking is $15)
15. Upscale Dining Options
If you want to splurge and indulge than this is the place. The restaurant serves up fusion cuisine (Japan x Peru) and is known for their signature dishes of black cod with miso and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño. There are Malibu-specific items including ribeye with truffle butter and crispy Maui onions so come for the food and linger for the ocean view.
This is the ultimate upscale Malibu dining experience. It’s oceanside, intimate and they’re famous for their lively and delicious brunch but whenever you decide to go make sure you order the baked brie in puff pastry.
16. Casual Dining Options
It’s an unassuming eatery along PCH so it’s fresh food that’s literally from across the street. My personal favorite is the fish and chips but you really can’t go wrong with any of the seafood dishes and the ocean view.
In case the name didn’t give it away, this eatery -established in 1956- prides itself on serving up fresh seafood. Get the basket to share (or for yourself, not judging) and the clam chowder because it really is as good as they want you to think it is.
Malibu Farm (Cafe & Restaurant)
It’s organic and fresh and they serve grilled chocolate cake, what else is there to say? This eatery is right on the pier so staying to watch the sunset is a must.
Know of any fun things to do in Malibu we missed? Let us know in the comments below!