18 Epic Things to See & Do in Malibu On Your Southern California Road Trip

The beach town of Malibu is one of Southern California’s crown jewels. With so many great spots for travelers, it’s easy to fill your vacation itinerary with all the fun 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.

One of the most glamorous places in California, Malibu is a paradise for culture lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike, with a list of tourist attractions covering all the bases. Enjoy fine dining and cocktails at the town’s top-notch restaurants and bars. Add a dash of culture to your holiday with a visit to world-class museums like the Getty Villa. Or enjoy challenging hikes through the mountains and picture-perfect ocean views in state parks sprinkled around the beach town.

So, ready to plan an unforgettable trip but aren’t sure what to do? Arm yourself with this helpful guide to the best places to visit in Malibu, CA, and pack your bags! 

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Zuma Beach

Malibu Beach may be known for the many celebrities who call the area home, but Zuma Beach is often touted as one of the best beaches in Southern California. Located just off the Pacific Coast Highway, Zuma Beach is popular with families thanks to its soft sand, beautiful coastline, and excellent amenities.

Zuma Beach

Visiting Los Angeles Country with the kids? Zuma Beach offers fun play areas for children, along with facilities like snack bars, picnic tables, bathrooms, and lifeguard stands. Pull up to the volleyball nets to enjoy a game of beach volleyball to beautiful ocean views. Or enjoy the blue sky and perfect weather by going swimming in the Pacific Ocean waters. (Keep in mind that the surf and riptides can be strong here; be sure to check conditions before heading out.)

Besides swimming, Zuma Beach is also a popular spot for water sports like body surfing, surfing, and windsurfing. If you happen to be visiting in winter, keep on the lookout for grey whales embarking on their annual migration.

After a day at Zuma Beach, outdoorsy types can immerse themselves in nature at Trancas Canyon Park. For hikers, nearby Zuma Canyon Trailhead and Zuma Ridge Trailhead are some of the area’s top destinations for a hiking adventure. 

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.

Point Dume State Beach

The area’s many hiking trails are some of the most popular 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 for nature lovers 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 most beautiful places on the West Coast to view incredible sunsets.

Santa Monica Bay

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 ideal to plan a whole day trip to this area 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

The heart of the beach town, Malibu Pier is one of the most iconic SoCal landmarks and is an incredibly popular and lively spot for visitors from around the world to enjoy. 

Malibu Pier

Built up an appetite on your adventure? A variety of delicious restaurants and food carts dot the pier. The eateries here 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 Hollywood movies and is one of the most popular beaches in Southern California.

Solstice Canyon

Within the Santa Monica Mountains, you’ll find Solstice Canyon. Located just off the Pacific Coast Highway north of Malibu, Solstice Canyon is the perfect place to spend the day immersed in the natural beauty of California. 

Solstice Canyon

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. With so many things to do at the state park, you might even consider staying for a night or two at the campground. 

Malibu Creek State Park

Activities at Malibu Creek State Park include fishing, bird watching, mountain biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, and, of course, hiking along the stunning trails and paths. The landscape varies greatly. The hiking trails will take you through volcanic rocks, gorges, pristine lagoons, and oak and sycamore forests, rewarding you with views of Malibu Canyon and the Las Virgenes Valley. 

While you’re in the area, save time to check out the Malibu Hindu Temple. Located on Las Virgenes Canyon Road, the route between Malibu and Calabasas, the temple features stunning South Indian architecture that’s sure to catch your eye. On weekends and holidays, visitors can enjoy fresh vegetarian food prepared in the temple’s kitchen building.

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. 

Adamson House Museum

Take in the incredible Mediterranean Revival 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 for Adamson House. 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: This park includes free Wi-Fi throughout. Malibu Bluffs Park can even be rented for private parties or company picnics. 

Leo Carrillo State Park

Travelers with dogs 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. (And their pups!)

Leo Carrillo State Beach

Nearby Sequit Point has tide 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.

Hikers can spend their time at Leo Carrillo State Park wandering along plenty of hiking trails through the hillside. If you want to make an evening of it, the part includes a large campground where you can pitch a tent and camp out under the stars.

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. 

Malibu Lagoon State Beach

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.

After a day of swimming and surfing, venture into town to enjoy dinner and drinks Malibu style. Wine lovers can duck into the Malibu tasting room of Strange Family Vineyards for a wine tasting extravaganza. Foodies can savor a taste of the Mediterranan at on the patio of Taverna Tony, an authentic Greek restaurant that offers some of the town’s finest food.

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. 

Point Mugu State Park

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 at Point Mugu State Park through river canyons and grassy meadows 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. 

El Matador Beach

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; El Matador Beach has some of the most beautiful views in the region!

Westward Beach

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

Westward Beach is located at the southern end of Zuma County Beach, just off 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.

Escondido Falls

A hike to Escondido Falls is one of the must-do 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 in total. 

Nicholas Canyon Beach

If you’re looking for 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

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 mountainland 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 most popular 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 at 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. 

Getty Villa

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 in the interior of the building, including ancient artifacts and a collection of art from Roman and Greek cultures.

As an added bonus, admission to The Getty Villa is free but requires a reservation of your entry tickets.

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17 Fun Things to See & Do in Malibu On Your California Vacation


Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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