Small and dominated by rocky outcrops, El Matador my not fit your typical idea of an afternoon on the sand—but it’s far and away SoCal’s most beautiful beach. Wear shoes and don’t bring too much gear; the western Malibu spot is only accessible via a steep gravelly path. Spread your towel in the cupped hands of the rocks—just watch out for high tide. Arriving early or staying late should reward you with a memorable dawn or sunset. El Matador and nearby El Pescador and La Piedra beaches collectively form the Robert H. Meyer Memorial Beaches. Consider walking down to Lechuza for a less dramatic but less busy stretch of sand.
Good for: nature lovers, dates
Parking: parking lot $3 per hour, $10 all day (free with library card pass); street parking free (watch for “no parking” signs)