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Malibu is quintessential California. It’s beautiful beaches and swaying palm trees. It’s bronzed surfers and celebrity homes. It’s chic shopping, hip restaurants and local seafood spots.
Whether you are going to Malibu for the day, the weekend or an entire week, we’ve got you covered with the best things to do in Malibu, California!
FAQs: What To Do In Malibu
Before we jump into our list of things to do in Malibu, CA, let’s cover some of the basic facts about Malibu.
Where is Malibu?
The city of Malibu, CA is known the world over, but you might be wondering, “Malibu is located where, exactly?”
The southern California beach town is nestled between the ocean and the mountains along a 20-plus-mile section of the famed Pacific Coast Highway.
The beach community – one of the poshest in the United States – is located northwest of Los Angeles on a stretch of south-facing Pacific Ocean coastline. As such, the PCH runs east-west through Malibu, rather than north-south as one may assume.
To help you get oriented, we include a Malibu map (with sight locations tagged!) at the end of this article.
Looking for more things to do on PCH? Use our guide to an Epic California Coast Road Trip!
Where to go in Malibu?
In our list of things to do in Malibu we highlight what to see, do and eat from end- to-end.
Not a typical city by most any definition, the area that makes up Malibu is not particularly well-defined. The closest thing to “Downtown Malibu” is the commercial area around Malibu Country Mart and the adjacent concentration of sights at the city’s famous pier.
How Far is Malibu from LA?
Los Angeles is only about 30 miles away from Malibu (depending on where in LA you’re coming from!). That said, the Los Angeles-Malibu drive takes about 1.5 hours, due to limited routes and the relentless California traffic.
How To Get To Malibu?
The best way to get to Malibu from Los Angeles is via Interstate 10 to Highway 1 (aka PCH). Alternatively, visitors can travel an inland route from LA to Malibu via the 101, then cut south over to Malibu through the Santa Monica Mountains.
Can I Take a Day Trip to Malibu?
Yes, absolutely! A Malibu day trip is an excellent way to explore the Pacific Coast. Using our list of cool things to do in Malibu, you could plan a perfect one day in Malibu, CA!
Do I Need a Rental Car for Malibu Sightseeing?
As much as we love using public transportation instead of renting cars, a car is really necessary to see the sights in Malibu.
The best places to go in Malibu are spread apart and there are limited buses (especially on weekends). While it is possible to get to Malibu without a car, it is better to plan ahead and find a great deal on a rental car. Use our tips for finding the best car rental deal!
Visitors who don’t want to rent a car and find that public transport is too limited can instead opt to join a tour. We feature top Malibu tours at the end of the blog post.
Where Can I Park in Malibu?
One of the reasons that driving to Malibu is such a drag is that parking is problematic. Parking along PCH is possible – and free! – but only if you get there early or are extremely lucky and just happen to pull up when someone else is leaving.
That said, most Malibu sights and attractions – and even most beaches – have paid parking lots.
Wherever you park, be aware of posted signs and rules of the self-pay machines. Parking in front of someone’s driveway or staying just a few minutes too long can get your car towed or ticketed in a hurry.
Where Is the Best Place to Stay on a Malibu Vacation?
Just like finding a parking spot, finding an affordable place to stay in Malibu can be a real struggle. At the end of this article, we provide tips on the best accommodations in Malibu.
7 BEST THINGS TO DO IN MALIBU, CALIFORNIA
Whether you are looking for things to do in Malibu with kids or planning a romantic Malibu weekend getaway, you can use our list to plan the perfect trip!
Save, Pin or Bookmark this Malibu Visitors Guide so that you can easily access it as you plan your trip to California!
#1 Walk Down the Malibu Pier
Walking the Malibu Pier is the #1 item on our Things To Do Malibu list. The pier is one of the most popular, most loved and most recognizable Malibu tourist attractions.
Built in 1905, the wooden-planked pier has a long history as an icon of the region. Originally built to accommodate shipments of produce and other goods, the pier opened to the public in 1934. Throughout the years, ownership changed, shops opened and closed – as did a slew of various restaurants.
Regardless of the changes, still today the best Malibu Pier things to do are taking in the stunning ocean and coastline views. Visitors can stroll the length of the pier scanning the water for dolphins or watching the surfers at the adjacent Surfrider Beach.
Eating at one of the Malibu Pier restaurants – either the Malibu Farm Restaurant or the Malibu Farm Cafe – is also highly recommended. Both dining establishments are located on the pier. Table service is available at the Malibu Farm Restaurant that is located at the start of the pier, while the more casual Malibu Cafe is perched at the end of the pier.
Other fun things to do in Malibu on the pier are fishing (or watching the fishermen) and shopping at the local shops set up along the pier.
#2 Soak Up the Rays on Malibu Beaches
Without a doubt, one of the best things to do in Malibu is to spend time on the sand or in the sea. The beaches range from long, wide sandy shorelines to secret beach alcoves to beaches dotted with unique rock formations.
All of the beaches in Malibu, California are open to the public without charge – which is why going to the beach is one of the best things to do in Malibu for free! That said, if there is no available parking on PCH, you will likely have to pay to park your car in a beach parking lot.
Malibu, CA Beaches
There are dozens of beaches in Malibu – so we are highlighting a few of our favorites!
Carbon Beach – nicknamed Billionaire’s Beach – is one of the best places to visit in Malibu to see stunning houses. Many Hollywood stars have lived (at least part-time!) in some of the famous Malibu homes on Carbon Beach.
To get to this Malibu beach, you will need to locate one of the two public beach accesses and park on PCH – as there is no parking lot for Carbon Beach. One is located just east of Nobu restaurant and the other just under a mile further east. The beach access location we prefer is marked on our Malibu, CA Map below!
Surfers are one of the best things to see in Malibu…and Surfrider Beach is the best place to watch them carve up the waves.
Perhaps the most famous Malibu, California beach, Surfrider Beach is officially known as Malibu Lagoon State Beach. The spot is favored by skilled surfers who can choose from the three distinctive point breaks caused by the Malibu Creek flowing into the lagoon and then into the ocean.
Leo Carrillo State Beach
Leo Carrillo State Park and Beach is one of the cool places in Malibu to visit – especially for nature lovers and those who like to escape the crowds.
At low tide, visitors can explore the many exposed reef tidal pools and caves along the rocky section of shoreline. Swimming, surfing and beach walking are also popular at Leo Carrillo Beach.
El Matador Beach
One of the top places to go in Malibu to see the stunning coastal landscape, El Matador State Beach features incredible monoliths and amazing rock formations along the small section of sand. While it is one of the best beaches in Malibu – especially for photography – avoid the beach at high tide when the sand practically disappears.
Part of the Robert H Meyer Memorial State Beach, El Matador has a convenient and affordable self-pay parking lot. To access the beach, visitors need to walk down a steep trail and several wooden steps.
A classic California beach, Zuma Beach is a must-see in Malibu. Extending for nearly 2 miles, the beach is great for walking, water activities and swimming (but be aware of strong rip currents). Zuma Beach is the best beach in Malibu to spend the entire day.
The white sand beach has the best amenities of all the Malibu beaches – including restroom facilities, showers, volleyball courts, lifeguard stations, picnic areas and restaurants. Visitors can park for free on the PCH, but there are an additional 8 Zuma Beach parking lots (for a fee) that can accommodate nearly 2,000 cars – plus there’s a convenient bus stop.
Point Dume State Beach and Big Dume Beach
Point Dume is a rocky bluff that dips south into the Pacific Ocean. The Point Dume Beach is an extension of Zuma Beach that follows the rugged coastline south along the western coast to Point Dume. Big Dume Beach is a more secluded beach tucked below the towering cliffs on the east side of the Point.
Both beaches offer sublime coastal views – and are connected by a network of hiking trails. In fact, hiking to the top of the Point Dume sand dune is one of the Malibu fun things to do for exercise!
More Malibu, California Beaches
Nicholas Canyon Beach, Westward Beach and Paradise Cove are other top beaches in Malibu, CA that you might want to include in your trip plan.
#3 See the Best Malibu Attractions and Museums
While many people flock to Malibu for the beaches, there are a few museums in Malibu worth visiting, too!
Adamson House Museum
The Adamson House, built in 1929, is one of the top places to see in Malibu. The historic Spanish Revival beach house, which is part of the Malibu Lagoon State Park, features ornate tile and lush gardens on a perch that overlooks the Malibu Lagoon, Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Pier.
A small fee is required to tour the house interior, but visitors looking for free things to do in Malibu can take a self-guided tour of the grounds and view the exquisitely decorated exterior and read the many explanatory signs.
Malibu Lagoon Museum
One of the lesser-known attractions in Malibu, the Lagoon Museum features artifacts, photographs and documents that detail the history of the region. Informative displays share the story of the Chumash Indians and what it was like when Malibu was mainly a ranching community.
The museum is located next to the Adamson House. While we wouldn’t necessarily consider it to be one of the top Malibu things to see, the small museum offers a glimpse of the area long before it became the swanky beach town it is today.
The Getty Villa Museum
Featuring an extensive art collection housed in a stunning Roman country house replica, the Getty Villa is one of the top Malibu places to visit.
In addition to the ancient artworks – of which 1,200 are on display – visitors are free to roam the grounds, including the manicured gardens, reflecting pool and colonnaded walkways.
Entry to the Villa is free, although a timed entry ticket is required and there is a fee for parking.
Malibu Hindu Temple
Visiting the Malibu Hindu Temple is one of the most unique things to do in Malibu. The temple, which is located in the Santa Monica Mountains, was built in 1981 and ranks as one of the largest Hindu temples in the Western hemisphere.
The temple has appeared in popular movies and Britney Spears had her son blessed at the temple by Hindu priests in a 2006 ceremony.
While the temple is a place of worship, visitors are permitted during normal opening hours – just be sure to follow the rules (no shoes, no smoking, no loud talking or music).
#4 Go Hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains
Hiking is one of the top things to do in Malibu with family, friends or by yourself. The best places to hike in Malibu are on the many trails located within the Santa Monica Mountain Range (which is part of the larger Transverse Ranges).
The Backbone Trail is a 67-mile National Recreation Trail that traverses the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area from east to west.
One of the best hikes in Malibu is a short section of the Backbone Trail – from Mishe Mowka to Sandstone Peak (the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains). The challenging trail offers epic viewpoints and can be completed in a loop that also includes Inspiration Point. Read this post for more trail info.
Solstice Canyon Park
Considered by many to be one of the top hiking places in Malibu, Solstice Canyon features a network of trails that lead to waterfalls (usually only after it rains) and to the remains of abandoned structures (like the Keller House and The Roberts Ranch).
The most popular trek is the Solstice Canyon Trail – which connects to other well-trodden trails, like Rising Sun and Sostomo Trail. Use this official park guide for more information.
More Parks in Malibu, CA
There are numerous fantastic Malibu parks for hiking!
Malibu Creek State Park has popular trails that range from 2 to 7 miles in length – including the famed MASH Hike, which features filming locations from the classic television show.
Located on the west end of Malibu, Point Mugu State Park is another excellent park – but for more advanced hiking. Hiking to Mugu Peak is a strenuous 6.5-mile hike and features incredibly scenic views.
Want to hit the trails on two wheels? Join a fun Mountain Biking Adventure Tour! The tour is led by a professional guide – and the bikes are electric mountain bikes, making it a perfect outing for beginners or advanced cyclists.
#5 Partake in the Best Malibu Activities at the Beach
If you are looking for Malibu beach things to do that extend beyond the typical sunbathing, beach walking and swimming, you are in luck! There are an array of water sports and beach activities to do in Malibu.
One of the top beach activities in Malibu, surfing is woven into the local culture. Surfers have been riding the waves in Malibu since the 1920s – and visitors to Malibu can experience surfing as well.
If surfing is on your Malibu to-do list, it is best to do a little research first – as surfing in Malibu is serious business. Novice surfers should consider taking a surf lesson before paddling out on their own.
Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Another one of the fun Malibu beach activities is Stand Up Paddle Boarding – or SUPing. The coastal views from the water are incredible and the secluded coves are ideal for paddle boarders.
SUPing is one of the fun Malibu things to do with family, friends or couples. Reserve your SUP in advance!
Fishing, Whale Watching and Cruises
Both fishing and whale watching can be done from the shore, but cruises to partake in these fun Malibu beach attractions are even better! There are several companies that offer services, but Malibu Coastal Adventures get consistently good reviews.
#6 Experience Malibu Shopping
Shopping in Malibu is an experience like no other! Focusing on stylish boutiques over massive malls, the retail centers are top tourist attractions in Malibu, California.
Malibu Country Mart, Malibu, CA
A Malibu must-see for fashionistas, the Malibu Country Mart is a shopping destination. Comprised of luxury stores and high-end restaurants, the outdoor shopping complex is a place to see and be seen. In addition to shopping, top things to do at Malibu Country Mart are celebrity spotting and weekend car shows.
The nearby Malibu Lumber Yard is another top end destination for shopping in Malibu, CA.
Malibu Surf Shop, Malibu, CA
With the popularity of surfing in Malibu, it’s no surprise that there is an abundance of surf shops. One of the classic things to do in Malibu, CA – whether you are a surfer or not – is to spend some time in one of these Malibu surf shops.
The Malibu Surf Shack, which is located near the pier, is one of the best shops in the city; in addition to surf supplies, they also offer kayak rentals.
Zuma Jay’s is another long-time surf shop in Malibu that has boards for sale and rent – and they sell apparel and other merch as well.
#7 Dine at Restaurants in Malibu
One of the best things about Malibu is the delectable and scrumptious seafood! We already mentioned Malibu Farm as one of the best restaurants in Malibu, but we want to cover some of the other delicious places to eat in Malibu!
Eat Fish Tacos at Reel Inn Malibu
Hands down, one of the best places to visit in Malibu for fresh seafood is the Reel Inn. The long-time fish shack serves up fresh caught fish with classic sides in a funky atmosphere.
Patrons start lining up before they unlock the doors – but the line moves fast with counter service ordering. Oh, and if you happen to be there on a Tuesday, ask about the Taco Tuesday specials!
Lunch at Neptune’s Net
A must-eat in Malibu, Neptune’s Net is another classic fish shack that has been cranking out excellent fish and chips and other fresh seafood since 1956. The casual eatery offers a huge menu and fun outdoor picnic tables right across the street from the beach.
Featured in movies and popular with celebrities and tourists alike, the line sometimes snakes out the door. Be patient; it’s worth it!
A Special Day at The Malibu Cafe, Malibu, CA
Tucked into the Santa Monica Mountains on the Calamigos Ranch, The Malibu Cafe impresses guests with a superb location and delicious fare. The festive grounds are perfect for celebrating a special occasion. Our tip: Go for brunch and stay for the lawn games!
Good Times at Duke’s Malibu
Named after the legendary Hawaiian waterman, Duke Kahanamoku, Duke’s is one of the fun places in Malibu for drinks with a view and a great meal. Right on the water, the eatery has a Hawaiian inspired menu that features seafood favorites and their famous Mai Tai cocktail. Save room for the Hula Pie!
Fine Dining at Geoffrey’s
One of the top places in Malibu to eat, Geoffrey’s is perfect for a romantic evening or special occasion. The upscale beachfront restaurant offers a range of seafood (with some land options, too!) along with spectacular ocean views.
Upscale Sushi at Nobu Malibu
The top-end, oceanfront establishment, Nobu offers an unforgettable dining experience. Serving impeccably plated sushi and other Californian fare, the stylish eatery is naturally frequented by celebrities. It’s best to make reservations far in advance!
MALIBU, CALIFORNIA MAP
Use this link to Google Maps for an interactive online version of our Map of Malibu, CA.
More Malibu Things To Do
We have highlighted the best things to see and do in Malibu – but there are a few more experiences and tours that you might want to add to your to-do list!
Ranching was once the most popular activity in Malibu – and there are a few surviving ranches in the mountains that offer horseback riding adventures.
Drink Local Malibu Wine
In the Santa Monica Mountains, small vineyards dot the hillsides. Cornell Winery and Cielo Farms are two excellent places to sip wine from the source.
Another fabulous spot for wine tastings and craft beer is Malibu Wines and Beer Garden – however, it is located quite a bit north of the Malibu coastline in West Hills. Many of the best Malibu restaurants – like The Malibu Café and Nobu – offer a selection of local wines on their menus, as well.
Note: The popular Malibu Wine Safari (with Stanley the Giraffe and other exotic animals) has recently closed its doors. It is still possible to go on Malibu Wine Hikes – you can book your hike here!
Malibu, California Tours
Whether you are traveling without a car or just want the expertise of a local guide, there are several Malibu sightseeing tours that might appeal to you!
Celebrity Homes and Beach Tour
Set off on a tour of Malibu, CA in an open-air vehicle alongside a knowledgeable guide. On the half-day tour, you will see some of the best celebrity homes, filming locations and top Malibu sights – like the Adamson House, Surfrider Beach and Malibu Country Mart. Reserve your spot!
Coastal California Tour
This private coastal tour features the best of the California coastline! Your guide will pick you up at your accommodation – and then show you most iconic places from Muscle Beach in Venice to the famed pier in Santa Monica along with the highlights of Malibu. Find out more!
Vintage VW Tour
Embark on a hippie adventure in a 1972 VW van through Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains. See the top sights and enjoy the epic scenery with a guide to point out notable attractions. Book it now!
Things To Do Near Malibu
Travelers who make Malibu their home base will find that the city is conveniently situated to nearby attractions, too.
Pacific Coast Highway Drive
One of the best things to do around Malibu is to travel on the PCH. Go north to Santa Barbara for a fun day of sipping wine or just a little further to Solvang – a small town decorated in Danish-style architecture. Be sure to use our tips for Driving the California Coast!
Beaches to the South
Santa Monica, Venice and Manhattan Beach are three fun beach towns – each with a distinct vibe – that are just a short drive from Malibu.
The City of Los Angeles
LA is one of the United State’s most vibrant cities. Packed with museums, movie studios, sporting events and amusement parks, spending a day in Los Angeles is one of the best things to do near Malibu!
More Tips for Visiting Malibu
Now that you know the top things to do in Malibu, we have just a few final tips about where to stay and what to pack!
Where To Stay in Malibu
Compared to other California beach towns, there are relatively few hotels in Malibu. Since there are just a handful of Malibu hotels – it is difficult to find a budget option among them. That said, there is an RV park and a few camping options, as well.
The Surfrider Hotel, Malibu, CA
A 20-room boutique hotel, Surfrider is one of the top places to stay in Malibu. The award-winning, renovated 1953 beach house is located on the PCH across from the pier and dazzles guests with stylish décor and phenomenal views. Check rates and availability!
Malibu Beach Inn, Malibu, CA
Located directly on Billionaire’s Beach, the Malibu Beach Inn is a luxury hotel with an impeccable attention to detail. In addition to the sea-view accommodations, the hotel has an on-site restaurant and spa. Check rates for your stay!
The M Malibu
The M Malibu is a more affordable hotel in Malibu, CA. Located right on Pacific Coast Highway, the basic accommodations exude a retro, motel vibe. Check rates and availability!
Malibu Beach RV Park, Malibu, CA
Traveling in an RV or with a tent? Check out the Malibu Beach RV Park for full hook up sites and ocean view tent sites.
What You Will Need for Your Malibu Trip
We have covered just about everything you need to know to plan your trip to Malibu – but we have just a few final tips about what to pack! You can find all of our packing advice – including packing hacks and luggage tips – on our Travel Packing page.
Malibu Beach Basics
Because going to the beach is one of the top things to do in Malibu Beach, CA, you will want to make sure you are prepared…so pack your beach basics!
Also, if you plan on hiking, don’t forget appropriate footwear! Read all our tips for the Best Travel Shoes.
Malibu is incredibly photogenic! From the mountains to the shoreline, there is beauty in every direction. Rather than using your phone to capture the beautiful sights, upgrade to a real camera that takes high quality photos.
Whether you are spending long days at the beach or parking and walking to multiple sights, you will want to bring a day pack that can hold everything you will need.
I like to wear a comfortable backpack (or even a backpack/fanny pack combo) so that I am sure I can comfortably carry beach gear, my camera and car keys while out exploring all the best things to see in Malibu!
We Want To Know: What are your favorite things to do in Malibu? Is there anything you would add to our Best Things To Do Malibu list? Tell us in the comments below!
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