The best beaches in Malibu, California and what to know about each one before you go to maximize your fun in the sun.
It’s hard to believe the bustling city life of Los Angeles is only 40 minutes away from the beach oasis of Malibu. With just a short drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), you’ll find pristine Southern California beaches and stunning cliffside views.
As you drive into Malibu you’ll see a sign that boasts “21 miles of scenic beauty” and every bit of that is true.
The beauty of Malibu’s cliffs, rocky shores, hiking trails, and comfortable temperatures make it the perfect vacation spot for any beach enthusiast.
Malibu is probably most famous for being a celebrity and influencer hot spot and a place where many of them call home.
You’ll definitely get a sense of that upscale lifestyle as you tour the local restaurants, elite shopping areas, and spas, and you might even bump into your favorite star while exploring the city and its beaches.
The Malibu beach scene is truly one of the best in the world, but some may find it hard to navigate their way around all of the hidden nooks and pocket-beaches. Some of the access points are not that obvious so it’s important to do your research.
This guide to the best beaches in Malibu will help you make the most of your time in this coastal city and take out the guesswork to find the best beach for you.
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Malibu Lagoon State Beach
Best for: Fishing, birdwatchers, pier explorers, history buffs, grabbing lunch.
Parking: Entrance at Cross Creek Road or State Beach lot on the west side of Malibu Creek Bridge. All-day parking is $12.00 or $3.00/hour.
Amenities: Restrooms, lifeguard, nearby hiking trails, museum, picnic tables, tide pools, and two restaurants near the beach.
The Malibu Lagoon State Beach is an area that includes the Malibu Lagoon, Malibu Pier, and Surfrider Beach and is one of the most iconic spots to visit in Malibu.
Starting where the Malibu Creek meets the ocean, the Malibu Lagoon is a unique wetlands estuary area for over 200 species of native and migrating birds. It also has a pretty cool garden area for those who want to smell the flowers.
Before you end your time at Malibu Lagoon State Beach, make sure to check out the Adamson House to get a taste of Malibu’s history.
This gorgeous Spanish Colonial home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a California landmark. Take a tour of the house to catch a glimpse of California living from the late 1920s, with most of the original decor, unique tile work, and furniture still in place.
Lastly, Malibu Pier is a “must-see” and one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Malibu. Its unique double white towers and long wooden planks have been featured in quite a few famous Hollywood films throughout the years.
And if you’re looking for a bite to eat, you won’t want to miss the Malibu Farm Cafe at the end of the pier. You might even spot a celebrity grabbing lunch.
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Best for: Surfing, fishing, kayaking, scuba diving, swimming, beach volleyball.
Parking: There are only 90 parking spots available so get there early. All-day parking is $12.00 per car or $3.00 per hour. Cash or card accepted. Free parking on the PCH if you can find a spot.
Amenities: Fishing Pier, lifeguard, showers, volleyball, museum, accessible features.
Malibu Surfrider Beach is located directly between the Malibu Pier and the Adamson house, right on the Pacific Coast Highway. It’s part of the Malibu Lagoon State Beach and takes up about a mile of gorgeous Pacific coastline.
As you may have guessed from the name, Malibu Surfrider Beach is one of Malibu’s surfing hotspots that really became popular after being featured in a few surfing movies from the 1950s and 1960s.
Today, Surfrider Beach is known worldwide as THE best beach to experience the summertime “point” surf. You can tell how popular it is by how busy this place gets in the summer and on the weekends.
If you aren’t much of a surfer, this is still a cool place to visit and a great place to dig your toes in the sand to watch the incredible surfers or walk to the pier or Adamson House.
Although there are separate surfing and swimming areas at the beach, the swimming area is rather small and a bit rocky so it probably wouldn’t be the best beach if you’re looking for a good swimming spot in Malibu.
Best for: Beach wheelchairs, Swimming, body surfing, windsurfing, surfing, body boarding, whale watching, sunbathing, beach volleyball.
Parking: 8 parking lots (2000 spots) with paid parking–Metered spots $.25 per 10 minutes. Free spots available along the PCH if you can find a spot. $3 (6am-9am), $6 (9am-4pm), $3 (4pm-close). Meters $.50 per 15 min. (90 min. max) Summer/weekend rates are raised to $8 (9am-4pm) and $15 on Summer Saturday/Sundays.
Amenities: Beach wheelchairs, picnic tables, concession areas, restaurant, showers, kids play area, accessible features.
Zuma Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Los Angeles County and also one of the largest.
It takes up 1.8 miles of coastline and has long, wide sandy areas that make it much more comfortable than some of the smaller pocket beaches in Malibu.
The reason why it has so much space is that it doesn’t have any homes between the sand and the Pacific Coast Highway.
There are two concession areas located on each end of the beach and easily accessible restrooms. This makes Zuma Beach one of the best beaches in Malibu to enjoy yourself without a lot of planning or packing.
If you want a hassle-free Malibu experience, I highly recommend this place. If you plan on swimming, just be aware of the strong rip currents that can develop here.
Zuma Beach is also one of the few beaches that rent out beach wheelchairs for those that need additional assistance but still want to enjoy their time at the beach.
This is such an incredible amenity for those that might otherwise not get to feel the waves crashing against their feet. The wheelchairs are free to use and are first-come, first-served.
Point Dume State Beach
Best for: Whale watching, rock climbing, swimming, surfing, scuba diving, tide pooling, fishing.
Parking: On Cliffside Drive there is a free parking strip for about 10 cars. There is another lot at the end of Westward Beach Road. Cash or cards are accepted, $3 (6am-9am & 4pm-close) or $6 (9am-4pm); summer weekday rates are raised to $8 (9am-4pm) and $15 on summer weekends. Meters are $0.50 per 15 min (90 min max).
Amenities: Not much, just some nearby hiking trails.
Point Dume State Beach is a rocky bluff area southeast of Zuma Beach that sticks out into the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the top beaches in Malibu for rock-climbing with some incredible views.
On a clear day when standing on top of the bluffs, you might even be able to see all the way to Catalina Island.
If you want to enjoy those postcard panoramic views, this is the place for you. Point Dume State Beach has it all – bluffs, rocky coves, and large sandy areas.
Pull up a chair and sit on top of the bluffs for a spectacular sunset and one of the best views in Malibu.
If you’re visiting during the winter, you can sometimes spot whales from the cliffs. December through mid-April is migration season for the California gray whale and they will often be seen in packs breaching the water in this area. Point Dume State Beach is one of the best beaches in Malibu to whale watch.
Topanga State Beach
Best for: Water sports, windsurfing, fishing, scuba diving, sunbathing.
Parking: 96 parking spaces located right on the Pacific Coast Highway just west of the Topanga Canyon Boulevard intersection. There are free spots directly on the PCH if you can find a spot. Rates are $3 (6 am-9 am and 4 pm-close) and $6 (9 am-4 pm). Summer weekday rates are $8 (9 am-4 pm) and $15 on summer weekends. Meters are $0.50 per 15 min (90 min max).
Amenities: Beach wheelchairs, lifeguards, showers, picnic tables, accessible features.
Located right next to the Pacific Palisades neighborhood, Topanga Beach is the closest beach to Los Angeles proper.
And if you’re looking for some fun away from the sand, the greater Topanga State Park around the beach is a huge 14,000-acre wilderness area with trails and camping spots.
Topanga State Beach is a very popular surfing spot due to the shape of the beach and the way the waves wrap around the sandy point.
However, if you’re not a surfer, this isn’t an ideal place to swim since the waves break over the top of coral reefs and sharp cobblestones.
If you’re like me and love to spot celebrities, be sure to hit up Mastro’s Ocean Club. This restaurant is a celebrity hot spot and regular Kardashian family dinner zone. If you want one of Kim’s favorites, be sure to order the Signature Warm Butter Cake.
Also, this is another beach that rents beach wheelchairs to those that need assistance getting down to the water.
Best for: Looking at fancy houses, celebrity spotting, beach walking, sunbathing.
Parking: Look for parking spaces along the Pacific Coast Highway but be careful not to block any garages or driveways. There is also parking at the shopping center’s second floor at 22601 Pacific Coast Highway.
Amenities: No facilities, this is a residential area.
Carbon Beach is also known as “Billionaire’s Beach” for a reason. It’s lined with some of the most gorgeous homes in Malibu, mostly owned by the Hollywood elite and the very wealthy.
Fun fact: Leonardo DiCaprio owns a gorgeous beach house on this strip of Malibu.
The homes are packed in tightly and the length of this public beach is only one-mile long. At high tide, there honestly isn’t even much sand to walk on, but it’s still a beautiful beach to visit with all the multi-million dollar homes to ogle nearby.
There has been controversy surrounding Carbon Beach for years, mostly because those wealthy homeowners want to keep the public away from the beach to maintain their privacy.
But the unique thing about the California Coast is that EVERY beach in California is open to the public up to the mean tide level. This means that unless you’re on private property you’re allowed to be there.
The California Coastal Commission has succeeded in creating three public access points to Carbon Beach. To find them, look for the big blue signs on the access gates.
- Eastern access (aka David Geffen Access because it’s next to his house)
- 22126 Pacific Coast Highway is the address of the gate.
- West access (aka Ackerberg Access)
- 22466 Pacific Coast Highway is the address.
- Zonker Harris access – named after the Doonesbury comic strip character created by Garry Trudeau. Garry was a public beach access advocate. This is the westernmost access point.
- 22664 Pacific Coast Highway is the address of the gate and there’s a ramp here that leads to Carbon Beach.
Best for: Walking on the beach, surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing, tide pooling, looking at nice houses.
Parking: Limited parking spaces on the shoulder of Broad Beach Road. Free Parking is also available nearby.
Amenities: No facilities.
Broad Beach is a long and narrow public beach that sits in front of a neighborhood of gorgeous Malibu beach homes, which are constantly fighting erosion and the fear of being swept away.
You’ll want to explore this secluded beach during low tide, or you might not have any sand to walk on.
Broad Beach is not usually very busy but it’s one of the best beaches in Malibu for surfers, bodyboarders, and windsurfers.
The beach is right up against another great Malibu beach, Lechuza Beach, which is separated by tide pools.
This is another reason to explore the beach during low tide, it gives you the chance to explore the tide pools to find some tiny ocean critters in their natural habitat.
There are public access stairs between homes next to 31344 and 31200 Broad Beach Road. You can also access this beach by walking north from the northernmost parking spaces at Zuma Beach.
TIP: This is the closest beach to the “21 Miles of Scenic Beauty” sign if you’re hoping to get a selfie.
Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach
The Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach is located directly between the Leo Carrillo State Park and Pointe Dume State Beaches.
This gorgeous beach is made up of several pocket beaches that are considered some of the best beaches in Malibu and tend to get very crowded.
As you drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll spot signs for the beaches: El Pescador, La Piedra, and El Matador.
Parking in this area can be a real challenge, but if you have the patience to wait it out it’ll be worth your while. Each of these three beaches has a unique personality and special features to explore.
El Matador State Beach
Best for: Photography, beach exploring, cave exploring, sunbathing.
Parking: Small parking lot at the top of the bluffs, you might have to wait in line. $10 for the entire day. Free street parking if you can find it.
Amenities: Picnic tables.
If you are looking for one of the best beaches to take photographs at in Malibu, El Matador Beach is the perfect location. The sea caves, rock arches, and sea stacks along the Pacific Coast will make for an epic Malibu photoshoot.
Keep your eyes open for the little brown sign that marks the parking lot between Broad Beach and Decker Canyon.
You’ll have to hike down a 150-foot staircase to get down to the beach trail, but the journey will be worth it once you see those epic Malibu views.
El Pescador State Beach
Best for: Tidepooling, sunbathing, beachcombing.
Parking: El Pescador Beach Parking Lot- $8.00 daily rate max.
Amenities: Picnic tables.
If you’re exploring Robert H. Meyer Memorial Beach, El Pescador Beach is the easiest to access from the parking lot with the shortest hike of all three of the pocket beaches.
Explore the tide pools at low tide, there is one at each end of the sandy beach. This is also the only way to access a secret beach called El Sol Beach, which is located west around the rocks.
Best for: Beachside dining, cocktails, movie nostalgia.
Parking: Parking can be expensive at $35 Monday- Friday and $50 on weekends and holidays. If you purchase at least $30 at the café, you’ll get a much-reduced rate for four hours’ worth of parking; $8 Monday-Friday and $10 on weekends and holidays.
Amenities: Dining nearby and beach chairs.
This gorgeous location definitely looks like it’s from a movie set and, guess what?
It has been one of the most popular beaches for filming projects like Baywatch, Indecent Proposal, and Madonna, Britney, and Coldplay have all used this location in their music videos.
Paradise Cove Beach Cafe is a cool place to soak in all of the Southern California beachy vibes. You can literally eat and drink while dipping your toes in the sand – it really doesn’t get much better than that.
Be sure to sample the tasty signature, “Bob’s Fresh Fruit Boba Rum Drinks.”
Keep an eye on all the fun decor that has a beachy vibe with wooden Adirondack chairs, palm trees, surfboards lining the perimeter, as well as thatched umbrellas to sit under when you are getting a little too much sun.
If you’re looking for a little exercise after lunch, head east to walk alongside the gorgeous beach houses to Escondido Beach.
If you head west you’ll walk below tall cliffs on the way to Little Dume Beach and Big Dume Beach in Point Dume State Beach.
Local tip: Ask the hostess about their picnic packages if you want to experience their tasty food out on the sand.
Other Malibu Beaches to Visit
Malibu has over 30 beaches and each one has its own unique personality and vibe. We weren’t able to mention all 30+ in this article but I wanted to include a few other honorable mentions that you should try to see.
- Latigo Beach
- North Beach at Leo Carrillo State Beach
- Staircase Beach & Heavens Beach
- Westward Beach
- Lechuza Beach
Tips for Visiting Malibu Beaches
- All beaches in California are public beaches up to the mean high tide line – Do NOT fall for the “PRIVATE BEACH” signs that are posted all over Malibu’s residential areas. ALL beaches in California are public and you’re legally allowed to be there as long as you don’t venture onto anyone’s private property to do so. Some locals will go to great lengths and put up bogus signs to deter tourists. Be respectful of their privacy, of course, and be sure you’re not blocking any driveways or privately owned space when parking. Look for the brown Beach Access and Coastal Access signs to help guide your way.
- Parking can be tough – To be honest, finding a parking spot at some of these beaches can be challenging. Some ways to combat this are to arrive early, have a solid plan and research the area, and don’t be afraid to park legally on the Pacific Coast Highway. Parking on the PCH is free but spots fill up pretty quickly.
- Plan around tide times – Check out the Tide Pool Charts before you go so you know when high and low tide is. There are two high tides and two low tides each day. This is what you can expect from each:
- High Tide – High tide is important to be mindful of, especially in a place like Malibu where some of the beaches have a very narrow sandy area. The water can literally come up so high that you may not have space to walk comfortably. It can also be dangerous if you’re in a cavernous, rocky place and the water starts coming in at high tide.
- Low Tide – This is a great time to check out the little critters in the tide pools. Low tide is also the best time to take a walk on those narrow beaches.
- Dogs aren’t allowed at any Malibu Beaches – If you’re thinking of bringing your furry friend, you might want to leave them at home. None of the beaches in Malibu are dog-friendly and they police this regularly so you’ll receive a ticket and fine if they catch you with your pup.
Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rosie Queen is a travel blogger and creative writer who grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Since moving to Huntington Beach in 2019, she has been exploring every nook of Southern California and beyond with her adventure-seeking husband and adorable Golden Doodle, Indy. She’s obsessed with her dogs, color guard/marching band, national parks, and road trips.
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