Famous for beautiful beaches and hosting many celebrity homes, Malibu is a town in Los Angeles County just north of the city that makes for a true California seaside paradise. This place has a laid-back and chill aura, making it a perfect holiday destination for people who want to take a break from their busy lifestyles.
Malibu is quite spread out, stretching along a large portion of the coastline tucked between the Santa Monica Mountain Range and Santa Monica Bay. This creates perfect conditions for a lovely Mediterranean climate and gnarly surfing waves. Interestingly, surfers and residents refer to this city as “The ‘Bu.”
From hiking trails in the rugged mountains behind it to water and beach adventures along the beautiful Malibu coastline, there is a ton of outdoor fun to be found in the area, as well as many unique tourist attractions around town. Malibu is a great addition to a Los Angeles trip for anyone who likes nature, relaxation, luxury, and great food – or a main destination on its own!
If you’re planning to visit both Malibu and Los Angeles, consider staying in a central location, like the star-studded town of Calabasas. It’s convenient to both cities and a great place to explore on its own, too.
If you’re looking for the best places to visit in Malibu, read on to see what we’ve found to be the best stops. If possible, don’t make Malibu a simple afternoon stop – as you’ll see, there is enough to do to warrant as much time as you have in this scenic town.
Show Table of Contents
- Things to Do in Malibu, California
- 1. Point Dume State Beach & Zuma Beach
- 2. Malibu Lagoon State Beach & the Malibu Pier
- 3. Adamson House
- 4. Malibu Lagoon Museum
- 5. Malibu Country Mart
- 6. The Getty Villa
- 7. Malibu Hindu Temple
- 8. Malibu Creek State Park
- 9. Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach: El Matador, El Pescador, and La Piedra
- 10. Nicholas Canyon Beach & Chumash Village
- 11. Solstice Canyon
- 12. Wine Tasting and Vineyard Visits
- 13. Dine at Malibu’s Most Popular Restaurants
- 14. Point Mugu State Park
- 15. Scuba Diving
- 16. Whale Watching
- 17. Escondido Falls
- 18. Rock Climbing
- 19. Paragliding
- What is there to do in Malibu at night?
- Is Malibu expensive to visit?
- What are the best Malibu beaches?
- How do I spend a day in Malibu?
- Most significant landmark – El Matador State Beach
- Best park – Malibu Creek State Park
- Best free activity – The Getty Villa
- Best activity for kids – Surfing & Paddleboarding
- Best activity for adults – Wine Tasting & Vineyard Tours
- Best food – Neptune’s Net
- Best nightlife – Duke’s Malibu
- Best place to stay – The Surfrider Malibu
Things to Do in Malibu, California
1. Point Dume State Beach & Zuma Beach
We’ll start with one of the most iconic spots in Malibu: Point Dume State Beach and the adjacent Zuma Beach. If you look at a map of the area, Point Dume is the peninsula that juts into the ocean right in the center of Malibu. At the tip, there’s a rocky cliff, and on either side, a sandy beach.
Hiking the scenic trails around the bluffs that make up the point is an easy and all-season activity that reveals spectacular ocean views. It’s especially a great place to relish the sunset over the Pacific.
To the west, you’ll see the long, golden sand stretches of Point Dume State Beach and Zuma Beach just past it, where long waves roll in consistently. To the east, you’ll see the narrower and cliff-backed Big Dume Beach and its rocky shores.
These spots of long, soft sand are ideal for fishing, swimming, diving, and exploring tide pools. You can often see wildlife like whales and sea lions playing offshore.
Western Point Dume State Beach and Zuma Beach are a surfer’s paradise thanks to the consistent sets. This, along with many other beaches along the Malibu coast, makes it a great place to take surfing lessons or rent a stand-up paddleboard and try to catch a wave.
Many visitors like to stay right on or near Point Dume Beach for its variety of Malibu coastal adventures and overall central location. The Malibu Country Inn is one of the most highly-rated hotels in town and is ideally located on Westward Beach, with easy access to the sand and the point.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Calabasas, California
2. Malibu Lagoon State Beach & the Malibu Pier
A bit further east down the Pacific Coast Highway is another quintessential Malibu beach: Malibu Lagoon State Park. Its beach is commonly referred to as Surfrider Beach, too, and it hosts the famous Malibu Pier.
This is where the Pacific Ocean meets Malibu Creek, and the backwater is an estuary for migrating birds. The flow into the sea creates some excellent surfing conditions due to the buildup of sediment and rocks on the seafloor, and the place holds some important history for the surfing community.
On the east side of the beach, the Malibu Pier iconically extends over the water and hosts a number of shops and restaurants. The pier is perfect for experiencing great views of the surrounding shore and for fishing as well.
The pier also hosts two of the town’s most popular eateries – Malibu Farm Café and the Malibu Farm Restaurant. The restaurant sits at the beginning of the pier and offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner with full service and great views. The café is at the end of the pier and has grab-and-go options that are simple but absolutely delicious.
3. Adamson House
Address: 23200 East Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
While in the Malibu Lagoon State Beach area, you can also visit an interesting piece of local history on the shore. The Adamson House is a grand beach house that overlooks Surfrider Beach and the lagoon, designed in 1929 and now showcasing many beautiful historical artifacts.
The house is a famous landmark in Malibu and part of the National Register of Historic Places. It was built by Rhoda Adamson, the co-founder of one of Southern California’s largest dairy companies, who used it as a vacation residence and later a main home. It’s often called the “The Taj Mahal of Tile” because of its extensive use of ornate, Mediterranean-style tiles, and this beautiful attribute is largely what brings visitors to see it.
When Rhoda died in the 1960s, the state seized the property with plans to turn it into beach parking; however, its uniqueness and historical attributes saved it. Today, it’s a museum that allows you to step back in time and see one of the most coveted pieces of California’s coast and a beautiful Spanish-Moorish piece of architecture from a unique point of view. Inexpensive guided tours take place just a few days per week, so be sure to check the website before going.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Eureka, California
4. Malibu Lagoon Museum
Address: 23200 East Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265
But wait, there’s more – your ticket to the Adamson House includes a visit to the Malibu Lagoon Museum just next door! In fact, the building was once the Adamson family’s five-car garage on the estate.
Rather than focusing on the beautiful architecture, artwork, and family history, this museum goes back a bit further in time to the land’s true original inhabitants – the Chumash tribe. It starts with their origins in the region and details the time of Spanish California, before presenting the birth of modern Malibu.
Exhibitions include the building of the Malibu Railroad, the 50-room Castle on the Hill, the nearly two-decade legal battle over the Malibu Highway, the local dam, and many more important parts of the town’s past. Tours take place on the same days as the Adamson House, and as your ticket is combined, it’s an easy addition.
5. Malibu Country Mart
Address: 3835 Cross Creek Road Malibu, CA 90265
Malibu is a playground for the rich and famous, and that’s reflected at its most popular shopping center, Malibu Country Mart. It’s just across the bridge from Malibu Lagoon State Beach and occupies a full six acres in the Malibu Civic Center.
This high-end boutique mall is more of a lifestyle center than anything. Luxury retail, dining, services, and entertainment are scattered around its beautifully-manicured facilities. If you’re in the market for a $200 t-shirt or a $20 smoothie, you’ll find plenty of them here – along with more reasonably priced garments from places like Brandy Melville or coffees from Starbucks.
You don’t need to buy anything to enjoy the atmosphere here, as the outdoor space is dotted with sculptures and gardens. It’s also a prime spot for celebrity spotting. Plenty of Hollywood’s hottest do their shopping here or stop by for a meal.
For easy access to Malibu Country Mart, the beaches and museums of Malibu Lagoon State Beach, and the Malibu Pier, consider a stay in one of the town’s most iconic hotels – The Surfrider Malibu. This luxurious getaway even offers free surfboards and stand-up paddleboards for guests and couldn’t be closer to many of Malibu’s top attractions.
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6. The Getty Villa
Address: 17985 East Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Of all the mega-mansions in Malibu, the Getty Villa is one that just may impress you the most. Besides being an absolutely stunning residence that’s almost too much to believe, this historic estate hosts tens of thousands of artifacts from Greek and Roman history.
The villa is located on 64 acres on an eastern Malibu hill, stretching from near the sea up to higher elevations in the Santa Monica Mountains. It belonged to J. Paul Getty, the extremely wealthy oil tycoon who built it in the mid-1950s. He wanted the mansion and its adjoining gallery to be built in the style of ornate European palaces and to preserve pieces of art and history within it.
The estate hosts more than 40,000 antiquities, paintings, sculptures, and other artifacts from ancient Greek, Roman, and Etruscan civilizations. They date from 6,500 BC to 400 AD, and around 1,400 are on display. More of J. Paul Getty’s collection is on display in the other museum in Brentwood.
Four different gardens are maintained around the property and are planted with native Mediterranean plants that the Romans were known to cultivate. Sometimes, live performances and events are hosted in these and other places around the property.
This is a totally free attraction, making it an excellent place to explore on any trip to Malibu. Note that a time slot reservation is required. History buffs, however, might enjoy a personal guided tour through the grounds with a knowledgeable expert.
7. Malibu Hindu Temple
Address: 1600 Las Virgenes Canyon Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302
The Getty Villa is not the only building around here built in a style from far, far away and holding important pieces of heritage. The Malibu Hindu Temple is located back in the heights of the Santa Monica Mountains, technically in Calabasas but barely 10 minutes from the Malibu coast.
The temple was built in the traditional southern Indian style during the 1970s and has always served as an important place for followers of the Hindu faith. There are frequent gatherings, ceremonies, special events, and other special cultural programs. The grounds are full of places to picnic with friends or meditate in peace.
Even if this isn’t your faith, it’s still a lovely place to explore and learn a bit. The upper complex is dedicated to Lord Venkateswara, while the lower one’s presiding deity is Lord Shiva. Both areas contain numerous shrines to other deities, and the whole temple is one of the largest in the Western hemisphere.
This could be as simple as a quick stop on your way to or from the 101, which may be your route to Malibu from the San Fernando Valley area. It’s also among the excellent trails and nature of the Santa Monica Mountains if you plan to spend a day enjoying the backcountry of Malibu.
See Related: Things to Do in Red Bluff, California
8. Malibu Creek State Park
Address: 1925 Las Virgenes Rd, Calabasas, CA 91302
Just across the street from the Malibu Hindu Temple is the scenic Malibu Creek State Park, occupying nearly 8,000 acres of Santa Monica Mountains wilderness. Its ruggedness and network of trails have earned it nicknames like “The Yosemite of Southern California” and “the Crown Jewel of the Santa Monica Mountains.”
The area near the visitor’s center is where some of the most popular trails start. While exploring the park, you will come across oak savannas, tall grass plains, and beautiful peaks. One of its most frequented spots is the Malibu Creek Rock Pools, a swimming hole in the rocks filled by a flowing creek that’s both beautiful and refreshing after a short hike.
Before the park first opened to the public in 1876, 20th Century Fox Studios owned this land and used it to film movies such as The Planet of the Apes. You can also find a filming location for M*A*S*H* marked on Google Maps.
Malibu Creek State Park also has a wonderful campground if you’re looking to enjoy the mountains for more than a day hike. There is plenty of parking to use the park, but note that there is a small fee depending on how long you’re staying.
9. Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach: El Matador, El Pescador, and La Piedra
You probably won’t find the catch-all name of Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach on your phone’s map, but you will find its three individual pocket beaches: El Matador Beach, El Pescador Beach, and La Piedra Beach. These spots are in Western Malibu, just a few miles past Zuma Beach, and each is a sandy stretch below the bluffs.
El Matador State Beach is the most popular and one of the state’s most photographed. There are rock arches, coastal caves, dramatic cliffs, and more natural scenery to admire here. This California beach only has a few spots clear of rocks and good for swimming, but snorkeling, sunset-viewing, and lounging are lovely here.
La Piedra is next, moving west, and has the least sand access below the bluffs. The shoreline is rather rocky, but it’s very secluded and romantic, popular for picnicking or simply exploring the landscape.
El Pescador is on the western end, and as its Spanish name suggests, it’s a spot where you’ll see many lines cast from the beach. Besides fishing, the abundance of sand makes it a popular place for bodyboarding. When tides are low enough, it’s possible to walk between each of the beaches of Meyer Memorial State Beach – check the tides and try it!
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10. Nicholas Canyon Beach & Chumash Village
Address: 33850 CA-1, Malibu, CA 90265
Just past Meyer Memorial State Beach, you’ll come to another sandy stretch called Nicholas Canyon Beach. You might hear surfers refer to it as “Zeros” or “Point Zero.”
Nicholas Canyon Beach offers opportunities for many different activities, such as swimming, body surfing, and windsurfing – the latter being especially popular here. In addition, there are picnic tables, restrooms, and ample space for sunbathing and other activities. A large parking lot accommodates many cars, and in the summertime, you’ll find a variety of food trucks posted up here, making it a great beach for a picnic lunch or dinner.
Just beside the parking lot at the top of the bluff is another great attraction – the Wishtoyo Chumash Village. This is a recreated traditional village of the region’s ancient native people, complete with structures, canoes, tools, and handicrafts. It’s set up like a living outdoor museum, and you can visit it by appointment.
11. Solstice Canyon
Address: 3455 Solstice Canyon Rd, Malibu, CA 90265
For more hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Preserve, plan for a day in Solstice Canyon. This scenic part of the mountains is near Central Malibu and just minutes from the coast.
A number of trails ranging from easy to strenuous can be enjoyed here. One of the most popular is the Solstice Canyon Trail, a casual walk along a shady path with plenty of picnicking spots along the way. For more of a challenge, try the Rising Sun Trail, which weaves its way through a few miles of elevation changes before revealing views of the Pacific Ocean below the green hills.
Another popular trail leading to a perennial waterfall also reveals some interesting remains of history. The Keller House, a stone hunting cabin built over a century ago, was badly damaged in recent wildfires but still stands as a relic of the recent past. The Roberts Ranch is another building along the way that was designed by one of the earliest prominent African American architects.
Solstice Canyon is a great place to enjoy some simple solstice, appreciate nature, and see beautiful wildlife in the Malibu area. A hike up here can be a great way to spend just a short morning before hitting the beaches or a full day on the trails.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Los Angeles, California
12. Wine Tasting and Vineyard Visits
You’ve surely heard of the prestigious wines of Napa Valley in Northern California, but did you know that the countryside of Malibu produces some of the best blends in Southern California? A day in the vineyards is a great choice when visiting Malibu for both beautiful scenery and tasty libations.
Just up the mountain from Central Malibu, you can find a variety of ways to enjoy the fields with Malibu Wine Hikes. They offer some very interesting ways to see the vineyards of big names like Malibu Family Wines, including 4×4 UTV tours, guided hiking tours, and even vintage Volkswagen bus tours.
Just around the corner, Rosenthal Estate Wines is another famous local brand with a lovely tasting room and tour. This Malibu food, wine, and beach tour makes it their last stop after a day of visiting some of Malibu’s other main sights. You can always stop by the Rosenthal Wine Bar & Patio, just minutes from The Getty Villa, for a quick sampling of Malibu wines with a view, too.
13. Dine at Malibu’s Most Popular Restaurants
There are a ton of iconic and very popular spots to eat and drink around Malibu. With the breathtaking coastal scenery, Pacific Ocean sunsets, and high-profile residents and visitors, there’s never a shortage of good food or cocktails.
One of the most famous is Duke’s Malibu, which will transport you from Malibu to the islands within seconds. If you’ve been to the Hawaiian Islands, you may be familiar with this casual bar and restaurant, named after surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku. Duke’s Malibu serves many delicious dishes like Crispy Coconut Shrimp and Poke Tacos, as well as its famous Hula Pie dessert, just minutes east of the Malibu Pier.
Closer to Point Dume, you’ll find Geoffrey’s – a luxury dining experience with an amazing view. That, along with its gourmet menu of delectable seafood dishes, has brought celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Lana Turner to its tables. The atmosphere is quite upscale, and it’s a popular spot for special occasions.
Another Malibu icon is Neptune’s Net, another casual spot on County Line Beach. Here, you’ll take favorites like burgers and sandwiches and fresh seafood like lobster and crab to picnic tables overlooking the ocean. You might spot this place in movies and shows like The Fast and the Furious, Point Break, and Gilmore Girls.
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14. Point Mugu State Park
The western part of the Santa Monica Mountains is covered by Point Mugu State Park, a vast nature preserve packed with hiking trails and outdoor activities. This park covers five miles of coastline and has more than 70 miles of trails through the rugged terrain behind.
On the coast, Point Mugu Rock towers beside the Pacific Coast Highway and marks a change in the coast from sandy to rugged and rocky. It becomes sandy again at La Jolla Beach and the adjoining Thornhill Broome Beach, which is backed by massive sand dunes that run up the mountain, which makes it fun to climb and catch views from.
The backcountry is packed with trails and viewpoints to be discovered. The creatively-named Scenic Trail is a relatively easy one with expansive views of the beach and sea below. The Ray Miller Trail and Overlook Trail are two more challenging options with major elevation changes across canyons and peaks.
Point Mugu State Park is also a great place for camping if you want to spend extra time in the great outdoors of coastal California. Popular campgrounds are found at Sycamore Canyon and La Jolla.
15. Scuba Diving
Address: 21231 CA-1, Malibu, CA 90265
Malibu may not have a marina – but that doesn’t mean you can’t go diving here. The local scuba center is Malibu Divers, and their office is just across the street from Duke’s Malibu.
If you want to add a license to your belt, Malibu Divers has certification programs ranging from first-timer open-water diving to professional qualifications. For already-certified divers who want to see what’s under the water off the Southern California coast, the team here can set up guided dives. Many of them depart from the beach to keep it simple, while wreck dives and deep-water excursions will take a boat out.
Groups of divers traveling together can set up exclusive charters, while those who are a bit rusty can take a quick refresher course before descending into the depths. Once in the water, you might wander through kelp forests, admire playing seals, or even grab giant lobsters – Malibu Divers can provide you with a permit for that last one!
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16. Whale Watching
If your time for a vacation falls during the winter and early spring months, that doesn’t mean Malibu should be off the table – a fascinating phenomenon takes place off the coast that can only be enjoyed between February and April. That’s the migration of California gray whales, and you can see these majestic, gentle giants from local whale-watching tours.
The whales travel every year to the warmer waters of Mexico, where they give birth. Then, in preparation for the warmer summer back up north, they travel up to 3,000 miles toward Alaska. They stay close to the coast, in the channel that it forms between Catalina Island and Santa Cruz Island, in order to avoid aggressive orcas.
Once again, Malibu doesn’t have a port to depart from, so these tours will have you heading to the nearby cities of Oxnard, Ventura, or Santa Monica for departure. Be sure to bring a great camera and an appropriate jacket for this one.
17. Escondido Falls
Up above the mansions of Central Malibu, there’s another beautiful spot to appreciate nature in the Santa Monica Mountains. Escondido Canyon Park has a scenic nature trail through its creek-lined canyon that leads to the popular Escondido Falls.
The hike is not particularly difficult, is well-marked, and has long been a local favorite. The falls are two-tiered and depend on recent rainfall – they can be an underwhelming slow drip or a rushing cascade. Somewhere in between is the sweet spot, as it allows you to enjoy the bright green plant life that grows in its path.
It’s a total of about two miles each way, so bring sufficient water and good shoes. Don’t forget to stop in the early part of the hike to enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific behind you.
See Related: Best Things to Do in Southern California
18. Rock Climbing
No, we’re not talking about a plastic wall in your local gym or recreation center here. You can actually scale real cliffs in the Santa Monica Mountains and on the rocky coast of Malibu, and you don’t even need prior experience.
There are several spots where rock climbing with an instructor is possible around Malibu. By the beach, you can scale one of the iconic cliff walls at Point Dume. In the backcountry, a spot called Saddle Peak is perfect for an adventure to a spot with panoramic mountain views.
All of the equipment you need is provided, including helmets, climbing shoes, chalk bags, and harnesses. Expert instructors will show you exactly how it works, and the adventure lasts about four hours. It’s a great feeling to try something like this in such an amazing place!
If you’ve explored Malibu on the coast, in the mountains, on the water, below the surface, and still want to top all that off, there’s only one option left – seeing it from above. Thanks to the high elevations that surround it and the natural beauty of the landscape, this is a great destination for paragliding, and you can try it with no prior experience.
This is a tandem glide, meaning you’ll be strapped to an experienced instructor who will handle the steering and safety. You’ll take off from the top of a bluff, high above the sea, or you can choose a motorized option that departs from the beach if the jump scares you. After that, you just get to enjoy the one-of-a-kind view and the feeling of the air as you soar through it.
You can reserve your spot online, and you’ll meet your instructor at a spot on the beach for a quick safety briefing. Bringing along a small camera, like a GoPro, is totally allowed, and you will definitely want to have it.
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What is there to do in Malibu at night?
While Malibu may have a reputation as a sleepy surfer town, it doesn’t shut down after dark. You won’t find the clubs and parties that you would an hour away in Los Angeles, but you will find casual beach bars with talented mixologists serving great cocktails and California wines, often with views of the sand or the night sky. Duke’s Malibu is one of the town’s most popular spots to kick back with a drink after a long day on the shore.
Is Malibu expensive to visit?
Malibu is known for being high-end and home to the rich and famous, so your trip can be one of ultra-luxury and high expenses – but it doesn’t have to be. Most of the hikes, beaches, and other things to do are free, while many tourist attractions only charge a nominal entry or parking fee. Mid-range and budget hotels do exist if you’re staying in town; dining is generally more expensive, though.
What are the best Malibu beaches?
This is a town that’s famous largely for its beaches, so there is no shortage of them to choose from. Zuma Beach and the adjoining Point Dume State Beach are excellent choices for lounging, adventuring, and surfing.
Malibu Creek State Park has similar fun, plus the famous Malibu Pier. El Matador State Beach is one of the most famous in California for its spectacular scenery.
How do I spend a day in Malibu?
If you just have one day, make the most of it by arriving early! Definitely stop by Point Dume and enjoy the views from its rocky clifftop, and take a walk on the beach below if you have time. Head over to the Malibu Pier for lunch and do some shopping and sightseeing in the area while you’re at it – the Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum don’t take long to visit if you’re there on a day they’re open. Visit El Matador Beach in the afternoon for some of the best photos of your trip, and perhaps stay for sunset.
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Woodrow is a travel writer who wants to do and see just about everything. He’s been to all 50 US states and is currently exploring destinations around Europe.