12 Best Things To Do In Malibu: Sun, Surf & Seafood

Every weekend, Malibu’s sun-soaked beaches and secluded coves draw hundreds of sun-seeking day trippers from L.A. and it’s not hard to see why. White sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and miles of sparkling ocean beckon year-round.

Mugu Sand Dunes In Malibu

This dreamy beach community is a major USA bucket list destination for out of state folks and foreigners who want to experience the southern California lifestyle. It’s also an obligatory stop on all California coast road trips.

Malibu’s famed 27-miles of coastline offer plenty of beaches to take your pick from. Whether you’re looking for a beach to learn how to surf or a stretch of white sand to sunbathe, you are bound to find a beach that is right for you! But there’s more to Malibu than beaches. This rugged coastal destination also offers state parks, awesome hiking trails, hidden waterfalls, impressive canyons and gorgeous mountain vistas. And of course there are multi-million dollar mansions here too.

But although Malibu is full of millionaire and probably billionaire residents, this is not Beverly Hills. Meaning, don’t feel the need to get red carpet ready to dine at a restaurant or to spend a day at the beach because Malibu folks don’t care about fashion as much as residents living in the 90210 area code.

Seriously, most of the rich people that live here could easily be mistaken for a homeless person. If they didn’t just hop out of a two-hundred thousand dollar vehicle, you would likely never know the difference. Of course if you need pictures for your Instagram feed, then by all means go ahead and dress to impress.

And incase you’re wondering how likely it is to spot a celebrity in Malibu, the chances are pretty high. I live nearby in Calabasas therefore spend quite a bit of time in the “bu” whether it’s to hike or stop for coffee, and I’ve run into a few famous folks. Names you might recognize include Pauly Shore, Kevin Dillon and Kourtney Kardashian. I’ve even had a nice conversation with Caitlyn Jenner at Starbucks (who by the way is very down to earth).

However don’t visit for the celebrity sightings because there are so many cool attractions and things to do in Malibu that are much more worthy of your time. Here are my favorite things to do in Malibu. The following recommendations include iconic attractions and classic activities that should not be missed!

Best Things To Do In Malibu, California

1. Have breakfast at Malibu Farm Cafe

Malibu Farm is a casual restaurant on Malibu Pier that is frequented by both Malibu residents and tourists. Whether you stop by for breakfast or brunch, it’s the perfect place to start your Saturday or Sunday morning.

There are actually two Malibu Farm restaurants here; a full-service restaurant at the start of the pier with a large menu and specialty cocktails, and a counter service cafe at the end of the pier with a limited menu.

Obviously the biggest draw of both restaurants are the picturesque ocean views. Whichever restaurant you choose to dine at, you’ll be able to enjoy your meal whilst looking out over Malibu’s stunning coastline.

I’ll be honest though. The menu is very overpriced which is not unexpected for Malibu, but I wouldn’t say the quality of the meals here match the prices charged. But at the end of the day, you are also paying for the “Malibu experience”.

If you don’t want to overspend, you could always opt for an espresso or a juice instead of a meal and save your appetite for elsewhere. Or better yet, skip the non-alcoholic beverages for a Bloody Mary or Frozè (frozen rosè) to kick off your weekend.

2. Take a stroll along Malibu Pier

Malibu Pier

Famous for its iconic white towers and rough hewn planks, Malibu Pier is a favorite destination among visitors to Malibu. This beloved historic pier dates back to 1905 and has since become Malibu’s most recognizable landmark.

Take a stroll along the pier and enjoy sweeping views of Malibu’s scenic coastline and glistening ocean. Watch surfers catch a couple of waves at adjacent Surfrider Beach and if you’re lucky, you may even spot a pod of dolphins riding the waves too. This is also one of the best places in Los Angeles to catch a sunset, so if you can stop by in the evening you really should.

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Malibu, grab a rod rental from Ranch At The Pier and cast a line. Fishing from Malibu Pier is a great way to spend a few hours in Malibu and you may even be fortunate enough to hook a halibut or mackerel. Ranch At The Pier which is located at the end of the pier can also hook you up with bait and essential tackle.

The Malibu Farm Restaurant and Cafe are both located on Malibu Pier so if you’re famished after a few hours of fishing, grab yourself a table and enjoy a meal with iconic views.

3. Enjoy dramatic coastal views at El Matador Beach

El Matador Beach In Malibu

Malibu offers twenty-seven miles of scenic coastline and there are plenty of beaches that will beckon as you make your way up the Pacific Coast Highway. Some of the beaches in Malibu worth spending the day at include Latigo Beach, Zuma Beach, El Pescador State Beach, and Leo Carillo State Beach.

However the most impressive beach in Malibu would have to be El Matador Beach! This beautiful beach features rugged sandstone cliffs that plunge dramatically into the ocean. There are also huge sea stacks that line the beach shoreline.

This secluded beach is perfect for sunbathing, strolling and picnicking. The interesting rock formations also make this a great beach for photographers, and in fact, this is a popular beach for photoshoots.

4. Discover La Piedra Beach

Best Beaches In Malibu

La Piedra State Beach is another beautiful beach in Malibu that is one of my favorite beaches to visit when I want to escape the crowds. Even though this beach is just north of popular Zuma Beach and El Matador Beach, it doesn’t receive as many beach-goers.

One of the reasons this beach isn’t as heavily visited as other beaches in Malibu is because it does require some effort to reach. In order to reach La Piedra, you have to hike down a sandstone cliff to a bluff that overlooks the ocean, and from there you need to climb down a small ladder to get on the beach.

Getting to La Piedra is an adventure and that’s part of this beach’s charm. Take your time on the way down to enjoy the shrubs and wildflowers that can be found on the bluff trail. If you’re planning to spend a few hours here, don’t forget to bring enough water and snacks because the nearest grocery store is back near Zuma Beach.

This beach is great for sunbathing, swimming, surfing, and tide-pooling. If you are hoping to go tide-pooling, be sure to visit during low tide. You will likely come across crabs, mussels, sea stars, and anemones.

La Piedra State Beach sits between El Pescador State Beach and El Matador State Beach. There is a small parking lot off the Pacific Coast Highway. On weekdays, you are likely to have the shoreline all to yourself!

5. Learn how to surf at Surfrider Beach

Surfrider Beach In Malibu, California

Surfrider Beach is one of the first places where modern surfing culture developed. The legendary point break became a popular surf spot in the 1950s and today, it is one of the most popular surfing beaches in Los Angeles famous among surfers for its long right-hand break.

There is no better place to learn how to surf than this world-renowned beach! So if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at surfing, be sure to organize a surf lesson during your trip to Malibu. It’s one of the best beaches for beginners to learn how to surf because most of the time the waves are gentle and rolling.

A surf shop across the road from Surfrider Beach offers board and wetsuit rentals along with lessons, but if you’d prefer to organize your lesson in advance, check out the private surfing lessons offered on Viator here.

6. Hike to Solstice Canyon Waterfall

Solstice Canyon Falls In Malibu

The Solstice Canyon Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in Los Angeles, and certainly the most popular hike in Malibu! It is a two-mile out and back hike that leads to a beautiful waterfall and several rock pools.

This hike is unique, not only because it features a waterfall (waterfall hikes in Southern California are very rare), but also because there are ruins from an old ranch house that can be visited at the end of the hiking trail.

If you enjoy hiking, be sure to add the Solstice Canyon Trail to your Malibu itinerary! It is very easy and suitable for young children and hikers of all fitness levels. Trust me, you won’t work up a sweat on this hike.

But if you do want to work up a sweat, I recommend adding on the Rising Sun Trail to complete the Solstice Canyon hike as a loop. The Rising Sun Trail is a little bit more strenuous climbing up to the top of a mountain where you’ll see amazing ocean views!

>>Read: How To Hike To Solstice Canyon

7. Hike to Escondido Falls

Escondido Falls In Malibu, California

This is another hike in Malibu that leads to a mossy three-tiered waterfall! The hike to Escondido Falls starts out along a paved road before reaching the official trail at 0.8-miles. You’ll then meander under shade through sage, chaparral and oak plant communities until the trail reaches the end of the line at the first tier of the hidden waterfall.

If you’re feeling adventurous, follow the uphill path from the grotto at the lower falls up to the second and third tier of Escondido Falls. The third tier which is the most impressive, drops 150 feet and is the tallest waterfall in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Now keep in mind that the trail to the upper falls is very steep climbing 150-feet in about 1,500 yards. It is also very slippery and made up of loose rocks so be sure to wear shoes with good grip if you think you want to hike to the very top of Escondido Falls.

8. Visit Malibu Creek State Park

Malibu Creek State Park

Malibu Creek State Park is an 8,000 acre wilderness preserve that is home to picturesque rolling grassy hills, impressive mountain peaks, and serene woodlands filled with gorgeous oak trees. This stunning state park which is often referred to as the “Yosemite of Southern California“, offers miles of hiking, biking, and horse riding trails for outdoor lovers.

There are a number of great hiking trails in Malibu Creek State Park, but the best trail here is the Rock Pool & Century Lake Trail. It is an easy 4.4-mile trail that will take you to a hidden oasis where you’ll find a gorgeous rock pool surrounded by lush trees.

Other places you must see at Malibu Creek State Park include the MASH filming site, Malibu Lake, and Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area Visitor Center which is located in the adjacent King Gillette Ranch.

9. Feast on fresh seafood at Malibu Seafood

You’ve no doubt heard about flashy Nobu and famous Neptune’s Net, but in my opinion Malibu Seafood is the best seafood restaurant in Malibu. The establishment’s consistently long lines to order food prove how terrific this establishment has stayed over the years.

They serve a variety of seafood sandwiches, clams, steamed mussels, Dungeness crab, sea scallops, swordfish, mahi mahi, halibut, and more. Food here is always excellent whether you order steamed, grilled, or fried seafood. You could even take home fresh catch and cook it yourself. Personally, I love their fried oyster sandwich!

Whether you stop in for lunch or dinner, you are likely to be waiting in a long line but I assure you it is worth the wait!! The staff here are great at getting through the vast amount of customers very quickly.

10. Visit the Sandy Dunes on PCH

The giant Sandy Dunes at the far northern end of Malibu is a fun roadside attraction that you must stop and see! These rather tall sand dunes were created by “Aeolian transport” which is the first process of coastal dune formation that involves the movement of sand particles behind and parallel to the shoreline.

I recommend hiking to the top of the sand dunes to enjoy amazing views of the ocean and California coastline. The hike up is slow-going but totally worth it! If you’re lucky, you may see see dolphins, sea lions or sea otters frolicking in the glistening ocean.

Once you’re done enjoying the views, you’ll need to get back down. This is the fun part! Most people love to run down the dunes really fast. Some people even bring their sandboards and slide back down.

The Sandy Dunes are located on PCH across the road from Thornhill Broome Beach. Driving north up Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll see the sand dunes on the east side after passing Sycamore Cove Beach and before reaching the entrance to Thornhill Broome Campground. 

11. Camp at Malibu Beach RV Park

Best Things To Do In Malibu, California

Did you know you can camp in Malibu? Malibu Beach RV Park which is just three miles north of Malibu Pier offers RV and tent sites that come with phenomenal ocean views.

The campground is located on the Pacific Coast Highway. There are 35 tent sites with picnic tables that sit atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Dan Blocker Beach. There’s also clean bathrooms with shower facilities, wifi, and a convenience store.

So if you’re looking for something unique to do this weekend, consider organizing a camping trip in Malibu! Spend the day at the beach and then head back to your campsite to enjoy an epic sunset. Fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves and wake up to the smell of salty air.

12. Take a mini road trip on Pacific Coast Highway

Malibu Vanlife

Do you love road trips? If you answered yes, you should plan a mini-road trip along Malibu’s stunning coastline! It’s a fun drive with lots of great places to stop and see.

The drive between Santa Monica and Mugu Rock (at the far end of Malibu) is only 40-miles so the drive can easily be completed as a day trip from Los Angeles. However, this road trip could also be turned into a weekend getaway as there are several campgrounds along the way.

Begin your drive north from Highway 1 in Santa Monica and stop at whichever beaches you seem the most drawn to. Visit some of Malibu’s top attractions like the Getty Villa, Malibu Pier, and Point Dume. Stretch your legs on one of the many hiking trails in Malibu. Drive as far north as Point Mugu to see the distinctive Mugu Rock, a large rock formation that was formed when Pacific Coast Highway was built. End your day with a fresh seafood dinner at Neptune’s Net or Malibu Seafood.

Where To Stay In Malibu

The Surfrider Malibu – Surfrider Malibu is a four-star hotel located on the iconic Pacific Coast Highway directly across the road from Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach. This 20-room boutique hotel features a guest-only restaurant and rooftop bar. Check rates at Surfrider Malibu.

Calamigos Ranch – Calamigos Guest Ranch is a luxury guest ranch hidden in the Malibu Hills. The lavish accommodations are situated on a 250-acre property and feature private cottages and bungalows. Check rates at Calamigos Ranch.

Cambria Hotel – The Cambria Hotel is an affordable luxury hotel located near Malibu Creek State Park. The property is situated on four acres and features an outdoor pool and onsite restaurant. Check rates at Cambria Hotel.

Campgrounds In Malibu: If you’re the adventurous type and would prefer to camp, there are surprisingly a few places to go camping in Malibu. Your options include Malibu Beach RV Park, Malibu Creek State Park, Leo Carrillo Beach Campground and Thornhill Broome State Beach.

Vacation Homes In Malibu: There is no shortage of vacation homes in Malibu! In this neighborhood you’ll find multi-million dollar beach house rentals, smaller beachfront bungalows, hidden mountain homes, and even affordable stays like this cozy trailer in the Santa Monica mountains. See vacation homes in Malibu here!

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