The beach town of Malibu is one of Southern California’s crown jewels. With so many great spots for travelers, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t miss all the best things to do in Malibu, CA.
Located just off the Pacific Coast Highway and nestled within the majestic Santa Monica Mountains, Malibu features beautiful beaches, delicious dining, and countless parks and hiking trails for you to enjoy. It’s an outdoor enthusiasts’ paradise, with the added bonus of being one of the most glamorous places in California. If you’re the type who enjoys fine dining and world-class museums but also loves challenging hikes through the mountains, Malibu should be next on your list!
So, ready to plan an unforgettable trip but aren’t sure what to do in Malibu? Armed with this helpful guide for the best places to visit in Malibu, CA, all you have to do is pack your bags!
Best places to visit in Malibu, CA
Malibu beach may be known for the many celebrities who call the area home, but Zuma Beach is actually one of the best beaches in Southern California.
The area is particularly popular for families thanks to the soft sand, beautiful coastline, amenities, and the fact that it’s located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Zuma Beach has fun play areas for kids, snack bars, picnic tables, bathrooms, and lots of lifeguard stands.
Close to Trancas Canyon Park, Zuma Beach is the perfect place to enjoy being immersed in nature after a day at the beach. For outdoorsy types, the nearby Zuma Canyon Trailhead is great for hiking.
Point Dume State Beach
Rocky coves, towering cliffs, and a beautiful sandy beach, it doesn’t get much better than Pointe Dume State Beach in Malibu, California. Take in the stunning views of Santa Monica Bay and the north Malibu Coast as well as vistas of the Santa Monica Mountains. You can even spot Catalina Island far-off in the distance from the cliffs.
The area’s many hiking trails are some of the best places to hike in Los Angeles, so you can get out and enjoy that famous SoCal sunshine. To access Big Dume Beach, the main beach at Point Dume State Beach, you’ll begin at a trailhead, just across from the nature preserve, and descend down a steep staircase towards the crescent-shaped beach.
From there you can walk to other magical spots like Paradise Cove and Little Dume Beach. There are great tidal pools to explore at low tide. If you’re visiting between February and April you might even get lucky and spot a whale. It’s the perfect place to escape the city and enjoy the magnificent coastal landscape.
Santa Monica Bay
There’s a reason why Santa Monica Bay is home to some of California’s most glamorous and elite. It attracts more than seven million visitors each year and is one of the best places on the entire West Coast to view incredible sunsets.
Some of Los Angeles’ most famous beaches are nestled within Santa Monica Bay including Malibu Lagoon State Beach, Santa Monica State Beach, and Dockweiler State Beach. There are multiple piers and great fishing year-round. It’s also a popular location to surf due to the gradual shore break and consistent waves.
From Los Angeles, it’s best to plan a whole day trip to this area alone so you have plenty of time to explore and take in the stunning views. If possible, pack or rent a bike, and check out all of the beaches via the 22-mile bike path that runs along the sandy shorefront.
Malibu Pier is an iconic SoCal landmark and an incredibly popular and lively spot for visitors from around the world to enjoy.
There are a variety of delicious restaurants and food carts that include seafood and organic Califresh options like Malibu Farm Restaurant, serving up delicious meals made with fresh local ingredients.
Shopping along the pier is an amazing experience and a great place to pick up some fresh Cali fashion to take home with you.
You can try sport fishing right off of the pier, or rent stand-up paddleboards from the nearby surf shack. Even if you just spend the day wandering around and taking photos of this classic Southern California spot, you’ll be so glad you visited Malibu Pier.
Adjacent to the world-famous Surfrider Beach, Malibu Pier is often viewed as the soul of SoCal surf culture. It’s featured in countless movies and is located in the very heart of Malibu, making it one of the most popular beaches in Southern California.
Within the Santa Monica Mountains you’ll find Solstice Canyon. Located just off of the Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu, Solstice Canyon is the perfect place to spend the day immersed in the natural beauty of California.
There are a variety of trail options with views of both the coast and canyon from the Rising Sun Trail, stretching across the eastern edge of the canyon. The trails are well-maintained with tons of little offshoots, allowing you to adventure to less explored spots.
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A small waterfall, an old stone sanctuary with the statue of the Virgin Mary, and the ruins of a burnt-down mansion are just some of the interesting sights you might stumble along on a hike through Solstice Canyon.
Malibu Country Mart
For the best shopping in Malibu, head to Malibu Country Mart. Located in the middle of the Malibu Civic Center, this destination provides the high-end shopping experience that you’d expect in Malibu. It’s located right next to the ocean and boasts sustainable and eco-friendly practices.
With a variety of upscale boutiques, restaurants, and high-end salons, you’ll get to experience a taste of the luxurious Malibu lifestyle. Spend an afternoon enjoying a tasty lunch before browsing the shops.
Malibu Creek State Park
With 15 miles of trails running alongside the water, Malibu Creek State Park is a great spot to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a relaxed day outdoors. There are so many things to do at the state park that you might even consider staying for a night or two at the campground.
Activities at Malibu Creek State Park include fishing, bird watching, mountain biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, fishing, and, of course, hiking along the stunning trails. The landscape varies greatly. The trails will take you through volcanic rocks, gorges, pristine lagoons, oak, and sycamore forests, rewarding you with views of Malibu Canyon and the Las Virgenes Valley.
Adamson House Museum
The Adamson House Museum is a historic house and garden that’s rich with Californian history. Located between Surfrider Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach, the property includes the original Spanish Colonial-style home of the Adamson family, who owned a huge portion of the area where Malibu is now located.
Take in the incredible architecture and tile work that evokes the spirit of old California in a way that no other property can. You can take guided tours of the house and gardens and then visit the Malibu Lagoon Museum, included in the entrance fee. The entire area is a National Historic Site and California State Historic Landmark.
Malibu Bluffs Park
The six-acre Malibu Bluffs Park includes two baseball diamonds, a soccer field, a large playground, trails for running, and picnic tables to enjoy a packed lunch. There’s even a whale-watching station!
If you need to catch up on work or check your email, fear not because this park includes free WiFi throughout. The whole park can even be rented for private parties or company picnics.
Leo Carrillo State Park
Travelers with pups in tow, rejoice! Leo Carrillo State Park allows for fun with the whole family, four-legged friends included. This dog-friendly, family-friendly stretch of coastline in Western Malibu is a favorite among locals and tourists alike.
Nearby Sequit Point has tidal pools and caves to explore at low tide, and North Beach offers prime secluded beach spots where you can carve your own little slice of paradise for the day.
With a large campground and plenty of hiking trails through the hillside, Leo Carrillo State Park is well worth a visit.
Malibu Lagoon State Beach
The river meets the sea at Malibu Lagoon State Beach. Enjoy hiking along a relaxing beachside trail with incredible views before arriving at the mouth of the lagoon. This particular lagoon is an excellent place to enjoy birdwatching.
The Malibu Lagoon State Beach connects with the famous Surfrider Beach, so you might want to consider renting a board and trying to catch some of the long breaking waves that attract surf enthusiasts from around the world.
Point Mugu State Park
With five miles of pristine shoreline, you should definitely add Point Mugu State Park to your itinerary. The area includes more than 70 miles of hiking trails where you can take in the epic views of the Santa Monica Mountains.
Explore the river canyons, rocky hills, and cliffs, or relax near coastal sand dunes while you soak up the California sunshine. You can hike for hours through the river canyons and grassy meadows that are scattered with oaks, sycamores, and walnuts. After your hike, cool off by playing in the waves, body surfing, or fishing.
El Matador Beach
One of Malibu’s best-kept secrets, El Matador Beach is well worth a day trip. There’s so much to explore at this Malibu beach, including epic rock formations and sea caves. Located between Point Dume and Leo Carrillo, El Matador is marked by only a small sign and a tiny parking lot.
After descending a steep staircase, you’ll find yourself on one of Malibu’s most beautiful beaches. Enjoy the views of towering rock formations in every direction, silhouetted against the epic Pacific. It’s a photographer’s dream come true and a perfect place to find a secluded spot of sand to relax the day away.
Make sure you stay for sunset as El Matador Beach has some of the best in the region!
If you’re in search of a great beach with the added comfort of on-duty lifeguards and glamorous fine dining experiences, Westward Beach is the spot for you.
Westward Beach is located at the southern end of Zuma County Beach, just off of the Pacific Coast Highway. Built up an appetite? Enjoy a delicious meal on the waterfront at the Sunset Restaurant, located smack in the middle of Westward Beach.
A hike to Escondido Falls is one of the best things to experience around Malibu. Begin at the Winding Way Trail in one of Malibu’s most ritzy areas, and hike through the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains until you reach the towering 150-foot falls.
There are two options for your hike, a relaxing and shady stroll to the base of the falls, or a challenging upper trail that leads you to the top, featuring some extremely steep drop-offs.
The entire journey will take you a couple of hours depending on your pace, and is about four miles total.
Nicholas Canyon Beach
If you’re in search of a popular beach spot to soak up some Cali vibes with the locals, head to Nicholas Canyon Beach. The local surfers refer to this beach as Zeros or Point Zero because it has a perfect point break. It’s an awesome spot to surf, boogie board, swim, or even try out wind sailing.
Nicholas Canyon Beach features plenty of picnic areas and is often scattered with tasty food trucks, so there’s no need to pack a lunch!
Tuna Canyon Park
Need to detach from the city buzz? With more than 1,255 acres of preserved mountain land located between Topanga and Malibu, Tuna Canyon Park might be just what you’re looking for. Somewhat off the beaten path, the park is an awesome place to escape the crowds and enjoy some quiet time surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains.
Among the best things to do in Malibu, CA, is to soak up amazing views of the Pacific Ocean from the 1,500-foot ridges or along one of the many amazing hiking trails of Tuna Canyon Park.
When you’re all finished up at Tuna Canyon Park, head back down to reality and cool off in Las Tunas Beach, one of the area’s top public beaches.
The Getty Villa
To round out your California trip itinerary with some historic education, stop by The Getty Villa. Located in the affluent neighborhood of Pacific Palisades, the museum is dedicated to the arts and culture of Ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria, with over 4,000 years of ancient art.
The museum itself is housed in a re-created Roman country house located at the eastern end of Malibu. Enjoy the relaxing gardens, as well as all exhibits, including ancient artifacts and art from Roman and Greek cultures. As an added bonus, admission to The Getty Villa is free, but it does require a reservation.