7 Things to do in Malibu, California | Bucket List Guide

things to do in malibu

The best things to do in Malibu, California!  Discover the most picturesque beaches, celebrity hot spots, and natural hidden gems.

When you want to escape the hustle and noise of Los Angeles, head up the Pacific Coast Highway to explore the spectacular cliffside shoreline of Malibu, California.

It’s hard to believe this laid-back coastal town is only 40 minutes away from the big city lights of LA.

Malibu might be most famous for being the place that many celebrities call home. It is an exclusive town with a lot of privacy hedges and million-dollar homes nestled on the Pacific Ocean.

If you’re lucky, you might even run into a celebrity as you explore the city.

Nicknamed “the ‘Bu” by surfers and locals, Malibu residents will boast that they have “21 miles of scenic coastal beauty” for all to enjoy.

This photogenic coastline is loaded with little nooks of pocket beaches that will dazzle your senses. The climate is consistently comfortable and usually stays between 76 F and 49 F degrees year-round which makes it perfect for beach time.

These are our picks for the best things to do in Malibu, whether you’re visiting for the first time or you’re a local.

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zuma beach in malibu california

Head to the Beach

Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach is one of the largest (1.8 miles) and most popular beaches in Los Angeles County known for having long, wide sandy areas and excellent surf.

If you plan on taking a swim, know that the water here tends to be a little cooler than the other Malibu beaches.

You’ll be comfortable at the family-friendly Zuma Beach with easy access to restrooms, two food concession areas located on each end of the beach, and eight parking lots with 2000 parking spaces to accommodate the crowds.

One of the best things about Zuma Beach is that they have beach wheelchairs available for beach enthusiasts who may need additional assistance enjoying the sandy shores.

zuma beach - a family-friendly beach in malibu

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Surfrider Beach

Surfrider Beach takes up about a mile of California coastline and is a little less than an acre of land. This beach has some of the best surfing and swimming in Malibu and was made popular by surfing movies of the 1950s and 1960s.

The beach is also part of the Malibus Lagoon State Beach area which houses an estuary for over 200 species of native and migrating birds. So if you’re a fan of birdwatching, this is one of the best places to visit in Malibu after you’re done with the beach.

Just note that the swimming areas at Surfrider Beach are limited and there are only 90 parking spaces available so it can get a bit crowded in the summer months.

Point Dume State Beach

The features of Point Dume State Beach are likely what you picture when you dream of those gorgeous panoramic cliffside views in Malibu. This beach has it all – cliffs, rocky coves, tide pools, and large sandy areas.

If you drive to the end of Westward Beach Road, you’ll find yourself on a cul-de-sac which is the access point to the Point Dume Nature Preserve. On a clear day, you may even be able to see out to Catalina Island in the distance.

TIP: If you are visiting between December and mid-April, be sure to hike up to one of the Malibu cliff sides to watch for the California gray whales during their migration season.

point dume state beach - cliffside beach in malibu

El Matador Beach

Get ready to be in awe of the caves, sea stacks, and arches that make this area a very popular Malibu spot to take photos.

Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach is made of a few smaller pocket-beaches along the west end of Malibu. As you drive down the Pacific Coast Highway, you will see clearly marked signs naming: El Pescador, La Piedra, and El Matador.

You don’t want to miss El Matador Beach. It’s a popular Malibu spot and one of the best places to watch the sunset in town.

el matador beach - best place to watch the sunset in malibu

Paradise Cove Beach

Paradise Cove is a public beach that is located in front of the locally owned, Paradise Cove Beach Café. Be sure to make a pit stop at this family-owned gem to enjoy the best beachside dining in Malibu.

This cool café gives off the ultimate Southern California beachy vibe with all of the wooden Adirondack chairs, palm trees, and thatched umbrellas. You might even recognize the building once you arrive, it has been featured in many beach scenes in Hollywood movies.

Enjoy dipping your toes in the Malibu sand while munching on some delicious cinnamon French toast and a BBQ pulled pork benedict, or while sipping one of Bob’s Fresh Fruit Boba Rum Drinks.

TIP: Ask them about their picnic packages for a unique lunch on the sand.

Go Hiking in Solstice Canyon

Solstice Canyon sits inside the picturesque Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and offers several options for hikers at all different fitness levels. This is also a great spot for avid bird-watchers.

Enjoy a beautiful hike on the popular 3.2-mile Solstice Canyon Loop. This trail takes you past a waterfall (although a very small one) and the oldest existing stone building in Malibu.

Another option in Solstice Canyon is the 3.7-mile Escondido Falls Trail. This is a fun hiking trail that takes you through a residential area before opening up into shaded paths and then to a waterfall that may or may not have flowing water depending on the time of year.

Lastly, the Grotto is a cool rocky area along the Santa Monica Mountains that is found at the halfway point of the 3-mile Grotto Trail.

This trailhead is located at the Circle X Ranch Visitor Center in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area. It has incredible views of Malibu and ends in a spot where you scramble through some boulders to reach the short waterfall and enclosed pool area.

solstice canyon - hiking spot in malibu california

Shop & Eat at Malibu Country Mart

After a long day of hiking and surfing, drive to the best seaside shopping destination in Southern California, the Malibu Country Mart.

This is a prime destination for upscale shopping, dining, celebrity spotting, and spa-life. The Mart is open from 10 am – 7 pm and has plentiful parking.

Grab a tasty and nutritious Acai bowl at SunLife Organics, buy a “California-chic” outfit at M. Fredric or Cynthia Rowley, or grab some sage and crystals at the Malibu Shaman metaphysical store.

For a unique high-end car washing experience, hit up the Malibu Car Wash where you might rub elbows with a local celebrity giving their Ferrari the royal treatment.

Tour the Adamson House Museum

The Adamson House is a gorgeous 1929 Spanish Colonial residence, estate, and gardens area that’s located along the Pacific Coast within the Malibu Lagoon State Beach Park.

Taking a tour of the Adamson House Museum is a great way to learn more about the history of this unique area of California and to get a close-up look at this gorgeous house. The interior still has most of its original furnishings and stunning tile work from the 1930s.

I highly recommend visiting this Malibu attraction during the holidays when you can check out the Adamson House and Pier decked out in vintage style holiday décor. They even have holiday tours led by docents with live holiday music and refreshments.

Tour the Adamson House Museum

Learn How to Surf or Standup Paddleboard

If you’re looking for a fun but challenging water activity, one of the best things to do in Malibu is to take surf lessons. Check out the Malibu Surf Coach, they have hour-long lessons starting at $100.

Looking for a more chill way to experience the Pacific Ocean? Standup paddleboarding, otherwise known as SUP, is for you. It’s also one of the best ways to experience the tranquility of the ocean and even see dolphins, whales, or seals up close and personal.

There are some basics that you should read up on, but once you master standing up on your board you will be ready to start exploring. The Malibu Surf Shack offers paddleboard rentals for $45 for two hours.

learn paddleboarding at malibu surf coach

Enjoy Lunch With a View at the Malibu Pier

Built in 1905, the Malibu Pier is the most recognizable landmark in all of Malibu, California. You will likely recognize its double white towers and long wooden pier from some famous Hollywood films.

This is one Malibu spot that is oddly a favorite of both fishermen and celebrities. To fish, you can rent a rod and grab your tackle at the Ranch at the Pier located at the end of the pier.

Also at the end of the pier, you’ll find the charming Malibu Farm Café. It doesn’t get much cooler than eating a fresh farm-to-table lunch with some of the best views in Malibu.

This counter-service café is typically open from 8 am to 4 pm Monday through Thursday and on weekends they are open from 8 am to 9 pm.

At the land-end of the pier is another nice dining spot that serves scrumptious seafood, the Malibu Farm Restaurant & Bar. This full-service hot spot is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset.

TIP: There are a lot of beautiful views to enjoy while dining near the ocean but the breeze can get chilly, so be sure to wear layers and bring a jacket.

enjoy lunch at malibu farm cafe

Visit the Getty Villa

The Getty Villa is a work of art unto itself and is the “little sister” to the world-famous Getty Center in Los Angeles.

Explore the ancient art exhibits, the stunning architecture of the Getty Villa, and the four gardens that blend Roman architecture and open-air spaces. Admission is free but parking will cost about $20.

Sign up for the 40-minute garden tour that takes you through a unique and very fragrant herb garden. In the garden, you’ll find a variety of fruit trees including pomegranate, apricot, fig, and pear trees as well as familiar herbs such as mint, basil, thyme, and sage.

TIP: If you are looking for unique things to do in Malibu, make a reservation for “Tea by the Sea”. The price is a bit steep at $44 per person, but the delicious tea party and meal inspired by the herbs, vegetables, and fruits that grow in the villa’s garden just steps away makes it a very cool experience.

visit the stunning getty villa

Tips for Visiting Malibu

  • Don’t be fooled by bogus “Private Beach” signs posted near Malibu beach trails. Every beach in California is open to the public up to the mean high tide level. What that means is you are legally allowed to be there as long as you don’t venture onto private property. Walking down from an adjacent beach is 100% legal.
  • There is an App for that. Download the “Our Malibu Beaches” app for planning your Malibu beach excursions. You’ll find insider info, details for parking, tips for finding those secret stairways, and navigating your way around all of the nooks.
  • Check out the fancy homes of Malibu – If you want to check out some of the most expensive homes in Malibu, head to Broad Beach. Be sure to explore during low tide or you may not have any sand to walk on, as this strip of beach is super narrow.

Where to Stay in Malibu

Get your FREE California Travel Planner – including printable checklists and my favorite two-week itinerary for the state. 


The Atlas Heart author - Rosie Queen

Rosie Queen

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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