A gorgeous, 23-mile stretch of beach north of Los Angeles and Santa Monica Beach, Malibu has been an exclusive enclave since the 1920s, when Hollywood celebrities first built homes here to escape the heat in the valley.
In 1957, Frederick Kohner wrote a novel about his teenage daughter, Gidget, and by the time the movie came out in 1959, every kid in the country wanted to go surfing in Malibu. Recognizing the allure, Chevrolet named its new model the Malibu in 1964.
Today, Malibu still attracts mega-stars, beach bums, and surfers. And a walk through the famous Malibu Colony is often rewarded with celebrity sightings.
There are lots of fun Malibu California things to do, but the top Malibu attraction is the beach — or rather beaches. There are at least a dozen to choose from. Toward the northern end of Malibu, Zuma Beach is huge, has tons of parking, lifeguard stands, changing rooms, and concessions. If you’re planning a day at the beach with the whole family, Zuma is your best bet.
For fewer crowds, try the sandy coves known as El Matador, La Piedra, or El Pescador. It’s a hike getting down from the steep cliffs to the beach. But once you’re there, you can explore sea caves, tide pools, and relatively private patches of sand.
At Point Dume State Preserve, you can hike a trail high above the beach with fantastic views. During migration season, you might even spot whales offshore.
If you want to have a meal with your toes in the sand, head for Paradise Cove. The restaurant is a popular spot for lunch, dinner, and mojitos, and the adjacent trailer park is home to celebrities, producers, and high-tech millionaires. Parking is expensive if you don’t have a meal.
If you want to try your hand at surfing, Surfrider Beach next to the Malibu Pier is the place. There are separate areas for surfing and swimming and lifeguards will point you in the right direction.
The top cultural attraction in Malibu is The Getty Villa. Built by J. Paul Getty in 1974 to house his collection of ancient art, the museum is modeled after a Roman villa in Herculaneum. The complex underwent a $275 million renovation in 2006, and today, it’s a beautiful place to spend a morning or afternoon. You’ll need to make reservations in advance to see the world-class collection of Greek and Roman statuary and artifacts.
The other museum worth touring is Adamson House. Built as a private residence in 1930, the house is in the Moorish style and is noted for its exquisite tilework made by Malibu Potteries. There’s a pool and bathhouse, beamed ceilings, original furnishings and carpets, and lovely grounds.
When you’re through touring the house, you can take a stroll out on the 780-ft. Malibu Pier, which reopened in 2008. You can grab a burger at Ruby’s at the end of the pier, or have a leisurely lunch at the Beachcomber.
The climate in Malibu is hospitable to grapes, and there are now several wineries in the area. Rosenthal Estate can only be toured by appointment, but they have a tasting room on the Pacific Coast Highway. With plenty of picnic tables, music on weekends, and pretty grounds, Malibu Wines is a great place for a picnic.
Shoppers won’t want to miss the Malibu Country Mart, where high fashion names like John Varvatos, Ralph Lauren, and 7 for All Mankind keep locals looking stylish.