How To Spend a Day in Malibu, California

El Matador State Beach is a beautiful stretch of coast in Malibu, California
El Matador State Beach is a beautiful stretch of coast in Malibu, California | Shea Salisbury / © Culture Trip
Photo of Kalena McElroy
24 June 2019

Infamous Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) traffic aside, Malibu is a laid-back beach community with lots to explore. From the ocean to the canyons, one day just isn’t enough time to do everything, but if 24 hours is all you have, here’s how you should spend it.


Go for an early hike

Although it’s most famous for its gorgeous beaches and surf spots, Malibu also boasts mountain trails for all levels of hikers. Start the day off at Solstice Canyon or the adjacent Corral Canyon Trail. Both take less than two hours to complete and easily wind through the Santa Monica Mountains just off the PCH. There are wonderful views of the coastline and canyons along the way, and Solstice has the added waterfall and ruins to explore.

A hiker explores the Santa Monica Mountains, California | © Sydneymills / Shutterstock

Stop for lunch at Malibu Seafood

Dine on fresh-caught fish just across the street from the Pacific Ocean at Malibu Seafood. This local hotspot is owned by commercial fishers and is part restaurant, part fish market. Choose from dishes like the popular squid steak sandwich, seafood cocktails or flaky grilled fish of your choice, and make sure to check the daily specials. Seafood lovers should also make a stop at the fish counter to get a fresh fillet to throw on the grill later.


Hit the waves

You can’t visit Malibu without spending some time at the beach. There are so many gorgeous beaches to choose from, but Zuma, El Matador State Beach and Carbon Beach should be at the top of your list. If water sports are more your style, head to one of the many surfboard rental shops and join the line-up. For a little extra, many rental companies like Radfish Malibu will even drop off and pick up your board from any beach in the area.

People relax at El Matador State Beach, Malibu, California | Shea Salisbury / © Culture Trip


Fall in love with the Getty Villa

The Getty Museum’s sister property, the Getty Villa, is technically located next to Malibu in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood, but it is more than worthy of a visit. The alluring property contains ancient Roman and Greek art and features a peristyle garden with panoramic views. Fortunately, the Roman-style villa and exhibitions are free to visit.

The Getty Villa features a peristyle garden | © 2010 J. Paul Getty Trust

End the day with a drink at Moonshadows

Grab a cocktail, listen to the rolling waves and watch the sun dip slowly below the Pacific at Moonshadows. The upscale restaurant has one of Malibu’s most picturesque and coveted views. An eclectic cocktail menu complements dishes like Santa Barbara uni risotto, barbecued octopus, and surf and turf. There’s no better place to unwind after a long day in the California sun.

Malibu’s Point Dume offers incredible views | © lukas bischoff / Alamy Stock Photo

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