Just outside urban Los Angeles is one of Southern California’s most picturesque coastlines and coveted cities: Malibu. Here, the numerous star-studded residents hide out in their canyon-side estates, while down at the beach, surfers and dolphins ride gentle waves. Make the drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and discover all the things to see and do in this laid-back paradise.
You haven’t truly visited Malibu if you haven’t seen it from atop a surfboard in the ocean. Radfish Malibu, created by former professional surfer Tony Radfish, provides lessons to those not quite ready to charge the Southern California breaks. Rent a board and paddle out to one of the many famous surf spots, such as Zuma Beach or County Line. You’ll feel like the queen of the ocean when you catch your first wave. When you’re out of energy (which might be sooner than you think – surfing is a full-body sport), head back to the shop to invest in some new threads.
Named after Native Hawaiian Olympian and master waterman Duke Kahanamoku, this seaside restaurant-bar features island-inspired dishes such as coconut shrimp and furikake ahi tuna. After a long day at the beach, sip on a tropical cocktail while overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Duke Malibu’s Barefoot Bar. It’s most popular on weekday evenings for its aloha hour when it offers beer and food specials. The restaurant is also well worth a visit, with its hula pie – a confection comprising macadamia-nut ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate sauce – a common favorite.
For healthy, locally sourced bites and sweeping ocean views, stop for lunch (or brunch) at the Malibu Farm Restaurant. You’ll find it right at the entrance of the Malibu Pier; the counter-service-only Malibu Farm Cafe is at the end of the pier. This popular waterfront restaurant prides itself on its sustainable farm-to-table menu, which is worth the usual long wait for a table. The open-face omelet and a rainbow mimosa selection, featuring orange, kale-apple and watermelon, are highlights.
Visit the historic Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum for a bit of California history and ecology. The impressive Spanish Colonial Revival-style mansion is surrounded by manicured gardens that slope down to the sandy beach. Sentiments of old California are present in the colorful tile work, decorative fountains and detailed frescoes that fill the estate, which is a National Historic Site, California Historical Landmark and a California State Park.
Each spring, gray whales make their way past the Malibu coast during their annual migration. View these enormous mammals up close, alongside pods of dolphins and sea lions, with Malibu Coastal Adventures. The whale-watching tours leave from Malibu Pier during whale season, which is typically between February and April. Be sure to bring your camera for this activity because you’ll want to capture this moment forever.
There are a few campgrounds in Malibu, but none are as peaceful as Malibu Creek State Park. The campground lies within a secluded canyon surrounded by hiking trails, swimming holes and wildlife. All fitness levels can enjoy the trails, and you may even recognize the terrain from Planet of the Apes (1968) and M*A*S*H, both of which were filmed here. It’s just a short drive from here to the coast, so you can still see the beautiful ocean.
A trip to Malibu isn’t complete without eating seafood. This spot has been serving hungry diners since 1972 and is owned and operated by commercial fishers, ensuring the freshest and tastiest fish and seafood. There may be a line on busy days, but it’s worth the wait. Popular dishes include fish and chips, fish tacos and clam chowder. Also, don’t forget to take a photo of the establishment’s eye-catching sign right on the PCH.
Sometimes, you just have to hit the shops, and this outdoor mall has one of the most enticing setups possible – right opposite the ocean. You don’t even need to brush the sand from your feet before whipping out your credit card. With a mix of independent boutiques, designer shops and more commonplace offerings, Malibu Country Mart offers a mixture of the useful, the special and the downright irresistible. Parking is very convenient, and you can head back to the beach afterward.
Additional reporting by Alice Johnston.