The famous coastline known as Malibu California stretches about 27 miles between Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Santa Monica and Decker road near the Ventura County line. Most of these beaches face south rather than west, with the exception of aptly named Westward Beach near Point Dume.
Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, you'll see the Santa Monica Mountains rising on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Much of the way, the ocean view is blocked by beach homes backed right up to the highway. This is the area notorious for movie stars, fires, floods and mudslides.
Some of the beaches are wide and sandy, while others are so narrow, the surf splashes practically right up to the backs of these houses. There is also no shortage of tidepools and rocky coves.
There is no real "downtown" to Malibu California, but there are a few shopping centers with cafes, restaurants and shops where people congregate. Besides the tightly packed beachfront houses, the local residents also live in the mansions in the hills where glorious views abound.
Malibu California covers a lot of coastline and that means a lot of beach. Much of it is very narrow, with houses so close to the water, but there are designated beaches that are much larger, such as Zuma Beach. Surfrider Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach are more central, near the pier. More about the beaches.
If you want to stay in a Malibu hotel or motel, there is only a handful to choose from along Pacific Coast Highway. Some are right on the beach, such as the Casa Malibu Inn.
Or you might want to rent a beach house. (You never know who could turn out to be your next door neighbor.) See Malibu California vacation rentals on TripAdvisor.
Another option is camping. Read here about Malibu campgrounds.
Though the Pacific Ocean is the main attraction, Malibu California has plenty of other natural beauty to explore. There are several hiking trails to enjoy in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
Malibu Creek State Park is inland, up the Malibu Canyon Road and features 15 miles of trails through the hills and along the stream.
Charmlee County Park, Corral Canyon Park, Arroyo Sequit and Circle X Ranch all have trails and nature centers.
Other areas with hiking trails include: Malibu Springs, Zuma/Trancas Canyons, Lower Zuma Canyon, Castro Crest and Solstice Canyon.
Once down on the street, look for one of the public access gates. There you can go between the houses onto the sand and straight into the cool, blue sea for a dip, or maybe take a barefoot walk along the shoreline before heading back up to your car.
Not to be confused with the newer Getty Center Los Angeles up in Brentwood, the Getty Villa is on Pacific Coast Highway just north of Sunset Boulevard. It has undergone several years of renovation. It is world reknowned for its collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities. The villa's visiting hours for the public are Wednesday through Monday 10-5.
This historic house located near the pier and lagoon is open for tours Wednesday through Saturday, 11-3. Gorgeous tiles from the Malibu Potteries are plentiful throughout. They also offer a garden tour on the first Friday of the month.
The Malibu Lagoon Museum adjoins the house and exhibits historical artifacts and information about the area. For more information, call 310-456-8432.
There are basically three ways to get to Malibu California. Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1), or PCH as it's usually called, is the main access route through the whole area.
From the San Fernando Valley, you can meander through the Santa Monica Mountains from Highway 101 via Los Virgenes or Topanga Canyon. Los Virgenes turns into Malibu Canyon Road and lands you closest to the center of things such as the pier, the shopping areas, Pepperdine University, and Surfrider Beach.
From the south, Sunset Boulevard ends at the Pacific, so if you don't mind a long, scenic, winding drive, you can take that to the coast and turn right at Pacific Coast Highway.
Alternatively, from Los Angeles you can take the 10 freeway out to where it ends in Santa Monica and head north/west from there on PCH.
From the north, which is Ventura County, you can drive along the coast all the way from Ventura, enjoying miles of coastline along Pacific Coast Highway.
Once you see the pier, you know you're pretty much there.
View the Malibu coast in a larger map
Full disclosure: Some links on this page may go to TripAdvisor.com, from whom I do receive a small commission. I think they have a really cool site with useful reviews and price comparisons.
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