So, you’re looking for things to do in Malibu? You won’t have to look far, that’s for sure. This gorgeous town of sun-kissed beaches, bodies, and surfing spots is one of the most happening in the LA area. Gracefully sits under the craggy peaks of the Santa Monica Mountains, blessed by salt-filled breezes and writhed in the scents of pine forests, yew, and chaparral. Meanwhile, its palm-speckled boulevards are the stomping ground of A-listers. Folk from Hollywood and beyond flock to enjoy the chic villas, the elegant boutiques, and the accomplished fining-dining scene (more on Nobu Malibu later!).
Everything from legendary coastal lookouts like Point Dume to fun-filled Malibu wine safari outings, cool treks to cutting-edge museums is on the menu for travelers. At just a short 30-minute drive from Santa Monica and the coastline of the City of Angels, you wouldn’t want to miss all that on your jaunt to SoCal!
Cue this guide to the top 10 things to do in Malibu, California. It got the ins and outs of what’s hot and where to go. There is something for adventurers and relaxation fanatics alike. It ranges from vineyards to rock-ribbed shores, from surf breaks to slick haute cuisine spots. Without further ado: Let’s get stuck in…
Hike the stunning length of Point Dume
Like the hull of a beached ship, the jagged front of Point Dume juts out into the Pacific. It bisects the long sand strips of Zuma and divides up the shoreline of California in grand fashion. The best way to experience it all is to hit the hiking trails that weave and wiggle over the top. They aren’t terribly long, but the journey is much more about enjoying the sweeping views…
Talking of the views, they unfold with great arcs of gold-tinted sand that run to the north-west. You can watch the waves crashing against the cliffs, too. And it’s possible to see pods of basking sea lions on the pebbly coves immediately below. A lot of people will rock up to Point Dume when the sun is dipping low. That’s because the sunset shows glow an ethereal red and ochre over the headlands and hills in the distance. They are some of the most stunning Malibu has to offer.
Over the years, Point Dume has also made a name for itself as a filming location. The proximity of many a big-shot Hollywood studio has seen to that. So, as you wander, be sure to see if you can spot some of the sets used in Planet of the Apes or the Big Lebowski. A nearby parking lot is the best place to leave the car. Entry is free but there’s a fee for vehicles.
Attend the Malibu Film Festival
Calling all celeb spotters – the Malibu Film Festival is hot property on the LA calendar. It takes place each year in the winter (around January or February). The event is held in a whole host of different venues across town, from the Malibu Civic Theatre to the chic seaside eatery of the Little Beach House Malibu. There are workshops and award ceremonies aplenty to enjoy.
Attendees are treated to regular screenings of all sorts of movies. There are usually works by both accomplished directors and more up-coming figures in the industry. Oh, and you’ll want to keep the eyes peeled for those familiar faces and beautiful people the whole time. The week sees Malibu fill to bursting with celebs from across the spectrum.
Wild encounters and sweet tipples on a Malibu Wine Safari
The mountains that rise and fall just behind Malibu are famed as one of the most accomplished grape-growing regions in the vicinity of LA. That’s great news for travelers who were on the hunt for a real Californian wine experience. And while there are plenty of age-old vineyards and cellar doors to consider, there’s really nothing quite like the Malibu Wine Safari.
This unique day excursion is run by the folk at the Saddlerock Ranch. A onetime avocado farm, it’s now one of the best-known places to sample the region’s tip-top Cabernet Sauvignon produced under the Semler Malibu Estate Vineyards label. But there’s also much more to see and do at the site than drinking, which is where the Malibu Wine Safari comes in. That enthralling experience involves game drives over the ranch acreage to meet the long-necked giraffes, friendly alpacas, and zebras. You’ll do all that in open-top safari trucks. And only then is it onto the tasting itself.
There are a number of different Malibu Wine Safari packages out there. The most popular costs around $185 per person, including a four-hour day out with a five-course meal. Other options include a pizza tour with wood-fired pies to match the white sparkling, and custom tours that are suitable for groups of up to 20.
Hit the shops at the Malibu Country Mart
Shopping and LA are a match made in heaven, and the fever for hitting the tills has spread to Malibu too. Yep, of all the things to do in Malibu on this list, a visit to one of the area’s strip malls or chic precincts is probably the one that’ll have you feeling most like a local!
For real local-style shopping outlets, you want to be certain to hit the Malibu Country Mart. Find it sat between the five-star villas and rising Santa Monica peaks just north of the Malibu Lagoon. There, it unfolds like a unique village center. There are no high-rise blocks or dominant department stores. Instead, you get a medley of roadside cafes and cute emporiums.
In short, the Malibu Country Mart is a fine place to people watch. But it’s also perfect for stretching the credit card on cool Californian beachwear, arts, crafts, and designer threads!
Go on an adventure in the Malibu Creek State Park
Just one of the many parks that make up the vast Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Malibu Creek State Park is surely worth a special mention. That’s because any adventurers heading along the Pacific Coast Highway are bound to love what it has to offer. But there’s also something for film buffs and wildlife lovers to boot, making it a versatile choice among all the things to do in Malibu.
Perhaps you’d like to start with a little trekking? The trails here can whisk you past the carved Goat Buttes and by highland meadows where pines and oak trees grow. Maybe you’d prefer to get in the saddle? A web of maintained bridle trails is waiting for those who make for local stables. Or have you got the ropes and harness in tow? A couple of single pitch climbing ascents are on the menu to boot.
Movie fanatics might want to add in a stop at the Fox Ranch Movie Location. It’s been open to the public since the 1970s, showcasing sets from some seriously iconic 20th-century flicks. From M*A*S*H to the Tarzan movies to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, it’s hosted cameras for countless films.
Scuba diving & whale watching in Malibu
If there’s one defining feature of this town, it’s surely the Pacific Ocean. That great blue streak of water offers plenty of amazing things to do in Malibu, from surfing and swimming. But what about scuba diving & whale watching? Yep, that can be added to the itinerary, too…
There are now loads of scuba diving & diving schools that are just waiting to take you on scheduled dips to local sites. Whether you’re an expert or looking to complete that first PADI, they’ve got you covered. Dive locations abound, so you’ll never be short of places to strap on the bubble tank. Some of the most popular is located within the region’s aqua kelp forests. They are a unique habitat that has corals and octopi that change color! If you have time, sign up a whale watching tour that brings you out to the sea for an adventure.
Dine chic – from Nobu Malibu to Mastro’s Ocean Club
With so many A-listers and celebrities calling Malibu their home, it’s hardly a surprise that this corner of Cali is a hotspot for top-class cuisine. Yep, from the elegant villas of the Pacific Palisades to the palm-fringed roads around Point Dume, there are oodles to sample. In fact, the options range from cutting-edge Japanese sushi kitchens to luxurious seafood grills to all-American steakhouses.
One that really stands out from the crowd is Nobu Malibu. Bearing the world-famous name of Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, it’s a fusion, East Asian restaurant that promises to get you thinking. Prices might not below, but dishes are in the ilk of ribeye steaks with truffle sauces, palm puree-topped ribs, Maine lobster with wasabi – you get the idea.
Alternatively, there are spots like Mastro’s Ocean Club and the Carbon Beach Club. They bring more American influences to proceedings. Regional wines are served. There’s fresh Pacific seafood on the surf-turf menus. And the chefs tend to have a penchant for the simple style of grilling and BBQ that exists on the West Coast.
Watch the sunset and more at the El Matador State Beach
If you’re looking for things to do in Malibu that are a tad off the beaten track, the El Matador State Beach could be the ticket. This rugged, rocky stretch of Golden State shoreline is enough to take the breath away. Thankfully, it’s hidden away from the popular runs of Point Dume and Zuma. To get to it, you need to ride the Pacific Coast Highway westwards in the direction of the Charmlee Wilderness Park.
Particularly awesome at sunset and sunrise, the coastal reserve is set over a trio of coves. Each has white-tinted sand and water that’s aquamarine. But the real star of the show is the dramatic array of rock arches and bluffs that jut straight from the ocean. They create somewhere that’s truly amazing for budding photographers or romantic types.
Zuma Beach is a must!
If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about when it comes to California’s beaches, let Zuma be your guide. The iconic Baywatch series chose this stretch of sand as a backdrop back in the 1980s. The reason? It’s simply perfect. The sand is a mix of yellow and gold that glows reddish as the sunsets. The water is turquoise blue with a touch of cobalt. The waves lick relentlessly against the shore. It’s how you imagine Southern California to look!
Zuma Beach is easily accessed from Point Dume and the Pacific Coast Highway. A short walk to the sands from the top of the dunes is all that’s needed. Then, you can unfurl the towel and get a-sunbathing. Other activities on the beach include ocean swimming (just be careful of the strong rips) and kitesurfing.
Towards the south-eastern end of Zuma Beach is a section of sand known as Westward Beach. This is a tad wilder, with visions of the hulking Point Dume cliffs forever hanging overhead. There are often fewer crowds in these parts, though the water is rougher and not recommended for swimmers.
Go surfing at Malibu’s Beaches
Last but not least is that classic Californian activity: Surfing. Forget Laguna and Huntington Beach – some say it was Malibu that gave birth to SoCal surf culture. Yep, way back in the 60s and 70s, this was the stomping ground of longboarders and long-haired wave riders who came on West Coast pilgrimages inspired by Duke Kahanamoku himself.
It’s easy to see what all the fuss was about. A trio of majestic and well-sculpted point breaks rolls into each other from the edge of the Malibu Lagoon. Together they form the legendary Surfrider Beach. When the swell’s up, that’s one of the most popular points to hit the ocean on the whole highway. Why? Think hollow, rippable frames of water that drift neatly into a sun-splashed shoreline. It’s the stuff of surfing dreams; good for longboarders, shorties, and cruisy pros alike.
Of course, the perennially popular Surfrider Beach isn’t the only option. You can also wax up the board for rides on Zuma Beach. Or, you can whiz up to Topanga Beach, where the water is perfect for longer rides on longer boards.
Planning a trip to Malibu soon? Spice up your holiday in Malibu with a Safari Tour and enjoy the sunset while sipping on the local wines. Check here for more.
If you’ve been here, share with us your experiences, we love to hear from you!