Malibu brings to mind celebrities living in beautiful beachfront homes with fancy sports cars parked in the driveway. But it turns out that this small town also offers an array of activities -- mostly outdoor ones -- that are accessible to everyone. Miles of canyon trails, long stretches of sandy beach, and plenty of dining opportunities make Malibu a great place to spend a day even if you aren’t rich or famous.
Here are eight reasons to consider a visit to Malibu.
1. You Can Relax On Beautiful Beaches
Malibu offers 27 miles of beachfront to explore, so whether you prefer to sun on the sand or get in the water, you’ll definitely enjoy spending time here.
If you’re hoping to get a glimpse of some of those impressive beach homes, head to Carbon Beach, also known as Billionaire’s Beach. You’ll find parking along the Pacific Coast Highway or near the Malibu Pier.
Fans of The O.C. or Baywatch will want to check out Paradise Cove Beach. Several television shows and movies have been filmed on this small beach. With an on-site restaurant and beach rentals available, this is the place to go if you want to relax in comfort. Reserve a lounge chair, order a cocktail, and appreciate the ocean view. Parking is available for a fee.
Surfers -- or anyone who enjoys watching them -- should head to Topanga Beach. With over a mile of oceanfront, there’s plenty of space here to relax. In addition to surfing, this is a great spot for scuba diving and windsurfing. Paid parking is available in the nearby lot.
Malibu’s most famous stretch of sand is Zuma Beach, a popular spot for Angelenos to hang out on a sunny day. The shallow water and gently sloping sand make this beach ideal for wading, swimming, and bodysurfing. Free parking can be found on the street, but paid lots are also available.
2. You Can Learn To Surf Or Paddleboard
If you’ve always wanted to learn to surf, there is no more beautiful location to do so than Malibu. And fortunately, there are plenty of experienced companies ready to help.
If you like the idea of being on the water but don’t want to surf, other options include stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking. Malibu Surf Shack offers rentals and tours for both of these activities.
3. The Canyons Are Perfect For Hiking
Malibu is part of the 156,000-acre Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a vast space perfect for hiking. In fact, nestled in these hills are some of the most popular hikes in Los Angeles County.
Malibu Creek State Park offers 15 miles of waterside hiking plus the opportunity to see the site where the television show MAS*H was filmed. The park also boasts historic sites from the 19th century, most notably the Sepulveda Adobe. It’s hard to believe that downtown Los Angeles is just 30 minutes away!
For a hike with an ocean view, head to the aptly named Ocean View Trail in Zuma Canyon. This trail has a 750-foot elevation gain, so it’s a good workout, but the views of Zuma Beach make it worth the effort.
If your goal is to see a waterfall, then head to the Escondido Falls Trail. This 3.7-mile round-trip hike will take you past two waterfalls and ultimately to the tallest falls in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Pro Tip: If hiking the trails through Malibu’s canyons isn’t for you, consider exploring them on horseback instead. You can take a ride through Zuma Canyon with Malibu Riders or Connemara Ranch and enjoy the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains along with ocean views. Schedule a ride in the spring, and you may also see the wildflowers in bloom.
4. The Getty Villa Is A Unique (And Free) Art Museum
The Getty Villa alone is worth the trip to Malibu. Built by J. Paul Getty, the structure is a replica of the Villa dei Papiri, which was rediscovered in the 1750s in Italy. Here the focus is on ancient art, from the end of the Stone Age to the fall of the Roman Empire. Even better? This world-class museum is free!
Surrounding the Getty Villa are four gardens: the Outer Peristyle, Inner Peristyle, Herb Garden, and East Garden. Be sure to take time to stroll these lovely gardens, which feature more than 300 varieties of plants and flowers.
Free docent-led tours of the gardens, the Getty Villa, and the special collections are available and will definitely enhance your visit.
5. The Malibu Pier Is Lots Of Fun
To get the absolute best view of Malibu, you’ll need to walk along the Malibu Pier. Look out over the vast Pacific Ocean, or appreciate the rising Santa Monica Mountains. Built in 1905, this pier has served as a shipping hub and a U.S. Coast Guard Lookout Station, and today it’s a fun destination for locals and visitors alike. There are a few small shops to explore as well as restaurants for when you get hungry.
6. You Can Go On A Wine Safari
Malibu Wine Safaris lets guests taste wine and tour a collection of exotic animals including giraffes, zebras, bison, alpacas, and more. Most of the animals are brought to this 1,000-acre property after retiring from movie careers. The result is one of the most unique wine-tasting venues anywhere in the world.
Choose from eight different tours, including a pizza-and-wine tour, a mimosa brunch, and a falconry tour. Or for something more active, you can book a wine tasting and hike. There are a wide variety of wines to sample, and all are sourced from local vineyards. Tours last from 1 to 2 hours and should be booked in advance.
7. You Can Enjoy Delicious (And Reasonably Priced) Seafood
Malibu offers many opportunities to indulge in fresh seafood while enjoying ocean views. Some of these experiences are pricey, but there are more affordable options as well.
One of the best-known places to eat in town is Malibu Seafood. Parking is limited, and the lines can be long, but it’s all worth it when you bite into a shrimp cocktail, fish and chips, or a scallop sandwich. While waiting for your food, grab a seat at one of the picnic tables and soak in the ocean views.
Neptune’s Net has been an institution along the Pacific Coast Highway for more than 60 years. And even first timers may recognize this place, since it’s been featured in a variety of movies, including The Fast and the Furious. Locals recommend ordering the seafood sampler or fish and chips. This place gets pretty crazy during the lunch hour, so try to arrive early.
Reel Inn isn’t as well known as the two previously mentioned spots, but it’s also a great place for tasty and affordable seafood. What’s especially impressive here is the large selection of fish and seafood, including lobster, mahi-mahi, calamari, sea bass, and more. And with both indoor and outdoor seating, this is a good option no matter the weather.
8. It’s Rich In History
Long before Malibu became celebrity central, it was home to the Chumash people and Spanish settlers. You can learn all about the area’s history at the Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum.
The museum houses a collection of rare artifacts and photographs from the town’s history. Built in 1929, the Adamson House is on the National Register of Historic Places and features extensive use of ceramic tiles from Malibu Potteries. Surrounding the house are beautiful gardens that have been maintained in their original 1930s style.
The admission fee includes entrance to the museum, house, and gardens, and guided tours are available Wednesday through Saturday.