While some associate Malibu with mansions perching on the cliffs and surfers bobbing on the breaks, we tie the city to L.A.'s most stunning natural wonders. Forget the tarnished glitz of Hollywood and the posh landmarks of Beverly Hills; these things to do in Malibu make us question why we don't spend every single weekend in the waterfront city. From some of the best beaches around to hiking trails with waterfalls—and a little bit of wine tasting to wind down—we've rounded up our favorite things to do in Malibu.
The 16 best things to do in Malibu
Make the drive past Will Rogers and Surfrider beaches and you'll be rewarded with a clean, wide patch of sand and surf at Zuma. This Malibu beach accommodates crowds with plenty of on-site parking (pay at the lot or park for free along PCH) and lifeguards on duty. Directly to the south, you'll find Point Dume State Beach, with both hikers and climbers scaling its iconic namesake rock face.
This striking 1929 Spanish-style building sits, along with the Malibu Lagoon Museum, inside the confines of Malibu Lagoon State Park. The major attraction at Adamson House is the array of decorative tiles manufactured at the once-celebrated but now-closed Malibu Tile Works. The guided tours allow visitors access to much of the property.
Small, beautiful and dominated by rocky outcrops, El Matador looks not unlike a European beach. Wear shoes and don't bring too much gear; the western Malibu beach is only accessible via a steep gravelly path. There are no lifeguards or other facilities, but it's the perfect spot to spread your towel in the cupped hands of the rocks—just watch out for high tide when sand comes at a premium. Arriving early or staying late should reward you with a memorable dawn or sunset.
A visit to Malibu Wines is almost a rite of passage for Angelenos. It's easy to see why: the picturesque vineyard and tasting room boasts plenty of lawn space for picnicking (you can bring in food, but no alcohol); themed events include Friday-night karaoke, Sunday yoga and mimosas and Thursday movie screenings; and the pours behind the bar are fast and plentiful.
In 1974, oil magnate J. Paul Getty opened a museum of his holdings in a faux villa on a Pacific Palisades clifftop. Eventually the decorative arts and paintings were moved to the Getty Center, and the villa was closed for conversion into a museum for Getty's collection of Mediterranean antiquities. Today, there are roughly 1,200 artifacts on display at any one time, dated between 6,500 BC and 500 AD, and organized under such themes as "gods and goddesses" and "stories of the Trojan War." Even if you're not interested in the art, the palatial courtyards and manicured gardens are worth the visit alone.
With dramatic gorges, open pastures, lush forests, hidden pools and jagged peaks, Malibu Creek is simply one of the most stunning spots in Southern California. The Santa Monica Mountains space is filled with scenic trails and, since this is still L.A., a bit of silver screen history: you can spot remnants of the M*A*S*H set and splash in the rock pool that was featured in Planet of the Apes.
There’s not much filming beyond engagement photos going on anymore at this former film studio, which fell out of commercial favor by the mid-1940s. But it was Paramount’s location of choice in the '30s for Westerns, and, thanks to the National Park Service, its wooden town structures still stand today. The ranch is by far the most scenic studio you’ll encounter, with its rolling grasslands—occasionally cut with remnants of an old racetrack—set against the Santa Monica Mountains. Tour the hillsides on horseback with an excursion through Malibu Riders.
This casual outdoor shopping and dining center attracts a mix of both locals grabbing lunch in wetsuits, celebrities pretending they don't want to be seen and tourists strolling through after a day at the beach. Restaurants range from take-away sandwich shops to upscale eateries, while the retailers mostly sell L.A. quintessentials: designer jeans and $100 T-shirts. Make sure to also check out the adjacent Malibu Lumber Yard, a virtual extension of the Country Mart, with additional shopping and dining options but in a more modern setting.
While the deep-fried seafood here is tasty enough, Neptune's Net is worth a visit for its postcard-perfect location. With a colorful front porch that dates back to the '50s and a ceaseless stream of bikers, the water-adjacent spot beckons motorists making their way along PCH. Take your bites across the street and watch the kite surfers at County Line Beach sail by.
Leo Carrillo State Beach has the best of both worlds: a well-equipped stretch of sand plus seclusion and scenic beauty. Longboarders can paddle out for mellow waves—it gets no more than chest-high at this point break—while nature lovers can explore tide pools on the rock-dotted coastline and a nearby trail. Groups can make use of the on-site camping grounds, picnic area, RV lot and token-operated showers. And don't forget Fido: This is one of the rare beaches where dogs (leashed) are allowed to roam.
Though Malibu in name only, this Hindu temple is technically in Calabasas, tucked away in the Santa Monica Mountains. Dedicated to god Venkateswara, the temple holds regular services and special events year-round. Hungy? The kitchen serves tasty vegetarian eats on weekends. The breathtaking space is also available for hire.
Those seeking escapism and romance may want to seek out another beach, but the payoff for fighting the crowds here is enjoying a stretch of sand deemed a World Surfing Reserve made famous by Gidget and other surf legends. The quintessential Malibu beach, the prime location makes for great people-watching and three point breaks make this a perennial hot spot for both long boarders and short boarders.
This is one of the biggest waterfalls in Southern California: a two-tiered, 150-foot cascade that pours down a series of limestone rocks covered in bright-green moss. You’ll start on the approximately 3.8-mile journey from Winding Way East, a private road in the Malibu hills that takes you uphill past ocean-view estates. Be prepared to crisscross streams and for some serious rock-hopping.
It’s easy to imagine yourself in a post-apocalyptic paradise while on this lovely Malibu hike. Expect to wind through the ruins of two properties on the 2.5-mile hike; eventually you'll make your way to a 30-foot waterfall that makes up for its modesty with a series of natural pools that invite exploration.
Can't tear yourself away from the beach?
If you're looking for one of the best hotels in Los Angeles, why not find one on the beach? At these hotels on the beach you'll find ocean breezes, crashing waves and maybe the occasional stray Venice Boardwalk weirdo. From secluded spots along the best beaches in L.A. to swanky suites in Santa Monica, these are the best hotels on the beach.