View of El Matador Beach in Malibu, California from the top of the cliff looking down at the gorgeous rock formations
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A Guide To The 5 Most Beautiful Beaches Of Malibu, California

The beaches of Malibu are some of the prettiest in all of Southern California! If you are headed to Los Angeles, make sure to plan some time to explore the best Malibu beaches as they will take your breath away…

The beach community of Malibu is made famous by many movies and shows that have been filmed here over the years. Plus, it is home to many celebrities and luxury homes that are jaw-dropping as they have a front-row view of the ocean.

The Malibu Pier is very pretty with brown wooden flooring and white painted railing with benches and a small Silverstream trailer that sells food.

Visiting Malibu is the perfect excuse to jump in your car and spend the day or weekend on a road trip to see the top beaches in Malibu!

Where Is Malibu?

Malibu and its many stunning beaches are about 45 minutes to an hour west of downtown Los Angeles and 25 minutes north up the coast from the Santa Monica Pier in California.

Known as having some of the best beaches in Los Angeles, Malibu stretches over 21 miles of coastline that hugs the Pacific Ocean. Don’t expect a big town or an obvious aha, we made it!

A large rock with a pointed tip like an arrow sits right along the shoreline with the water brushing the golden sand at El Matador State Beach which is one of the best beaches in Malibu.

As you leave the hectic city of LA or Santa Monica behind and drive up the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), there isn’t a whole lot to see beyond the beaches and Santa Monica mountains.

But that’s the beauty of it to escape the urban chaos and slow down to appreciate the abundant nature!

The town of Malibu is quite small and charming with most of the beaches listed near the town or north of it.

The Malibu Pier is located just one mile south of town. So, if you see the pier, then the town will be on your right ahead.

Note: If you are looking to take an epic road trip further up California’s coast, then explore The Epic California Big Sur Road Trip!

How To Get To Malibu

To visit the beaches of Malibu, you will need a car as there is no other way to really enjoy this region otherwise.

If you are flying into Los Angeles at the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), then I recommend renting a car there.

Once you have rented your car, head north on the 405 Freeway, then west on the 10, and then hop onto Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1 north up to Malibu. From LAX it should take about an hour depending on traffic.

Stunning view of Malibu's coastline along the Pacific Ocean in California.

From Orange County, the drive to Malibu is about 1 hour and 30 minutes. Or if you are coming from San Diego International Airport, the drive is around 2.5 to 3 hours by car.

To find the best rates on your car rental, explore here!

Tip: Make sure you have a full tank of gas before you start out on this road trip. There are not many services other than in the town of Malibu itself.

Malibu Pier Address: 23000 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

How Much Time To Spend in Malibu?

You can easily make visiting the beaches of Malibu a full-day trip from anywhere in Los Angeles.

But if you want to unplug with a good amount of beach time and combine some hikes or wine tasting then 2-3 days is ideal.

Tip: If you would like to do a combo of wine tasting and sightseeing, the Malibu Sightseeing & Wine Tasting Tour takes you around in a cool vintage VW bus!

View of the beach, coastline and the ocean in shades of blues and greens from the Malibu Pier in California.

Beach Hotels in Malibu

Unlike most cities, Malibu is a small town along a thin strip of land snug between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Mountains. There won’t be a ton of huge hotels but in my opinion, that is a plus…

Escape the city life of LA and relax as you fall asleep to the crashing waves. All of these hotels are on the beach with the exception of Calamigos Guest Ranch. The bonus to staying there is access to lots of hiking and wine tasting nearby.

Malibu Beach Inn

The Surfrider Malibu

Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club

Malibu Country Inn

A closeup view of a huge rock formation that has a small arch at the base from the waves eroding it over time in Malibu, California.

Beach Trip Essentials

 

A gorgeous section of a Malibu beach with golden sand and a number of small to medium sized rocks in the shoreline.

Best Beaches Of Malibu

I’ve listed the beaches starting from the north and making our way down south to the Malibu Pier. But you can see any of these beaches in any order you want!

1. Leo Carrillo State Beach

The 1.5 miles of beach known as Leo Carrillo State Beach is one of Mailbu’s northern beaches that is quite popular. It was named after the actor Leo Carrillo who was popular for not only his acting but his love for nature.

Numerous movies and shows were filmed here over the years such as Gidget, Beach Blanket Bingo, Grease, The Karate Kid, and The Craft. It is a beautiful sandy beach that has rock formations, sea caves, and tide pools. Or just take a swim to cool off in the Pacific Ocean!

The rocky outcrop, lifeguard tower and crashing waves on Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu, California.

When you have had enough of napping on the beach and it is low tide, you can explore the sea life in the tide pools. The tide pools and sea caves can be found in the rocky section.

Dogs are welcomed on a leash but only in one section of Leo Carrillo Beach which is north of lifeguard tower 3. Dogs are welcomed at the nearby campgrounds but not on the surrounding trails.

Tip: If you want to see where Leo Carrillo lived, you can read more about it in my post 25 Fun Things To Do In Carlsbad, California and visit his ranch!

Address: 35000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Parking: Parking is $12.00 per car for the entire day or you can pay for 1 hour at $3.00 or 3 hours for $9.00.

2. El Matador Beach

The first time I looked down from the cliffs and saw El Matador Beach my jaw dropped and all I could say was wow! If you are short on time and can only make it to one beach in Malibu, make it to El Matador!

Although all the beaches of Malibu are spectacular, El Matador is just plain and simple, ridiculously beautiful. What makes it stand out?

Looking down at one of the biggest rock formations on El Matador State Beach in Malibu from the top of the bluff.

Standing on El Matador Beach looking at the waves crashing against large rock formations and birds perched on top.

When you park, you are at the top of high bluffs or a cliff that has an insane view looking down not only at the beach but up and down the coastline and the Pacific Ocean.

What you will quickly notice are the striking and unusual rock formations that are scattered along the beach. You will feel like a kid exploring every nook and cranny that this unique beach spot has to offer!

A couple standing on the shoreline in the distance with both large rock formations and small ones as the waves splash the sand and rocks.

Looking south from the top of the bluff and admiring the gorgeous coastline of El Matador State Beach and its rocky formations on a sunny day.

Some rock formations have small arches within them and others provide the perfect photo backdrop.

There were a few model photoshoots going on while visiting. It’s no surprise as it is a well-known photoshoot area for the pros especially at sunset.

Myself wearing a red dress sitting on a rock among larger rocks at El Matador State Beach in Malibu, California.

Make your way down the steep winding stairs and don’t forget to pause every now and then to take in the different vantage points!

Note: No dogs are allowed on the beach. Restrooms located at the top near parking.

Address: 32350 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Parking: Currently you need to pay $8.00 to park at the automated machines with a credit card. There are also picnic tables available. Open from 8:00 am to sunset.

3. Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach is a long and wide white sandy beach that is a beautiful 1.8-miles of coastline. Unlike El Matador, access to Zuma is very easy as you can walk out onto the sand from the parking lot.

A light blue lifeguard tower on the sandy and wide Zuma Beach is one of the biggest beaches in Malibu

Remember the 1990s show Baywatch with the infamous David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson? If you were a fan then you will be happy to know that many scenes of Baywatch were filmed at Zuma Beach.

There are lifeguards on duty but real ones! Not the Baywatch version where they come running in slow motion to rescue you…

Light blue lifeguard tower on Zuma Beach in Malibu looking north up the coast and palm trees in the background.

Zuma is known to have strong rip currents so take caution and check with lifeguards if you are concerned. And don’t be surprised if you see a pod of dolphins passing by as they do make an appearance at times!

If you are a more active beachgoer and want to get in some cardio, join in on one of the beach volleyball games going on.

Notes: There are restrooms and food concession stands. No dogs are allowed.

Address: 30000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Parking: If you are lucky, you can find a parking spot for free on the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) but do read signs to confirm.

Otherwise, there is plenty of parking but there is a fee that really ranges depending on the time you spend and the season. Open from 6:00 am to 10:00 pm.

4. Malibu Lagoon State Beach

This location is really home to two awesome beaches, Malibu Lagoon State Beach, and slightly to the south is Malibu Surfrider Beach.

The Malibu Creek empties into the lagoon which then flows into the Pacific Ocean and divides these two beaches.

Myself walking on the beautiful and long beach with many luxury houses located on the beach.

Looking south at Malibu Lagoon State Beach is a quiet wide beach with several expensive houses lining it.

After parking, make your way along the serene trail to the beach passing through the Malibu Lagoon. Keep your eyes spotted for various birds in their natural habitat.

Once you get to the beach and look north, that is Malibu Lagoon State Beach with views for days. You might also notice very expensive beach houses that line this pristine stretch of sand.

Standing against wooden poles looking out at the Pacific Ocean while standing on Malibu Lagoon State Beach.

If you go south, this section is known as Malibu Surfrider Beach which runs down to the Malibu Pier. Surfrider’s is pretty famous as a surfing hot spot so if you want to catch a wave this is the beach for you.

This is one of those beaches that is perfect for going on a walk where the ocean kisses the sand!

Notes: Dogs not allowed on the beach or trails, just the parking lot which doesn’t really make a lot of sense…

Address: 23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Parking: There is a fee to park of $12.00 per car for the entire day or you can pay for 1, 2, or 3 hours instead. Open daily from 8:00 am to sunset.

5. Malibu Pier

Although the beach at the Malibu Pier isn’t as wide as some of the other ones mentioned, it is a must to visit.

The Malibu Pier was built in 1905 and has that vintage feel painted in white and its two small towers at the end of it. You quickly imagine how it was considered the Riviera of America.

Walking out on Malibu Pier in Malibu, California.

Beautiful blue Pacific Ocean looking south from the pier.

In each direction, you are met with breathtaking views of California’s coast that is an attraction in itself!

Looking north of the pier you have excellent surfing at Surfrider’s and to the south, you have Carbon Beach. Carbon Beach happens to be known as Billionaire’s Beach for its quite wealthy and famous residents.

Two white small towers at the end of the pier.

Malibu Farm Restaurant on the Malibu Pier is an excellent farm-to-table restaurant.

At the beginning of the pier is one of my favorite Malibu Restaurants, The Malibu Farm Restaurant. It has not only superior farm-to-table food but the ocean view ambiance seals the deal.

Sit back with a drink, some food, and just take in the ocean air…

Address: 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Parking: There is a parking lot at the pier, across the street, and free parking on PCH if you can find any. Parking in any of the lots will vary per season but expect to pay from $10 to $20 per day.

Best Time To Visit Malibu

Southern California is fortunate enough to have exceptional weather year-round. But if your focus is spending time on the beach, the best months to visit are from July to November.

After that, March and April can be pretty nice too but just a little cooler. Although there can be some great beach days in May and June, typically these two months are very overcast and foggy on a daily basis.

In May and June, the sun usually doesn’t pop out until noon or 1:00 pm if at all. We locals call it “June gloom”.

And don’t rule out January and February as there can be some beautiful days to enjoy the beaches without the crowds. January and February tend to get the most rain but it still isn’t much compared to other states.

Looking down at the largest rock formation at El Matador Beach with people taking photos and enjoying the sunny beach day.

Other Things To Do In Malibu

Hiking

Want to get in a little exercise with incredible ocean views? All of these hikes are easy to moderate and scenic being so close to the Pacific Ocean. And a few even have waterfalls which is a bonus!

The easiest way to figure out how to access these trails is to download the AllTrails app.

  • Tuna Canyon (3.8 miles, moderate)
  • Solstice Canyon (3.2 miles, moderate and has waterfall)
  • Ocean Overlook Trail in Charmlee Wilderness Park (2.6 miles, easy)
  • Zuma Ridge Trail (5.6 miles, moderate)
  • Escondido Canyon Trail (3.7 miles, easy, and has a waterfall)

Tip: If you want to hike to the Hollywood Sign in LA, then read my post The Best Ways To View The Hollywood Sign!

A tiny silver airstream trailer on the Malibu Pier that sells food.

Wine Tasting

If you are a wine lover and want to try some local wines that Malibu has to offer, there are many to try!

Most do not have tasting rooms but at Cornell Winery, you can taste wines from several local wineries in one spot! A few other options are listed below.

If you would rather do a combo of wine tasting with sightseeing, the Malibu Sightseeing & Wine Tasting Tour takes you around in a cool vintage VW bus!

  • Cornell Winery & Tasting Room (29975 Mulholland Hwy, Agoura Hills, CA 91301)
  • Rosenthal Estate Tasting Room (18741 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265)
  • Cielo Winery (31424 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265)

 

A delicious sandwich and quinoa salad from Malibu Farms Restaurant on the Malibu Pier.

Where To Eat In Malibu

Malibu Farm Restaurant (New American): Stunning ocean view with awesome farm-to-table food on the Malibu Pier.

  • Address: 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Duke’s Malibu (Hawaiian/Seafood): Ocean view with excellent food and drinks.

  • Address: 21150 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Café (Seafood): It might not be fancy but this shack has incredible fish and chips, clam chowder and more!

  • Address: 25653 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Geoffrey’s Malibu (Seafood): Delicious seafood with fantastic ocean views.

  • Address: 27400 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Tramonto Bistro Malibu (Italian): Tasty Italian food with a Tuscan vibe and across the street from the beach.

  • Address: 22235 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Nobu (Japanese): High-end restaurant on the beach known for its sushi but hard to get reservations to.

  • Address: 22706 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Country Kitchen (American/Mexican): Great breakfast burritos to start your day or take down to the beach and enjoy.

  • Address: 21239 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Paradise Cove Beach Club – I would come here for drinks and the view (on beach) and go elsewhere for food.

  • Address: 28128 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Have a great time exploring the spectacular beaches of Malibu!

Got Travel Insurance?

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50 Comments

    1. El Matador is so gorgeous and my favorite too! Such a diverse and pretty coastline to explore. 🙂

  1. The wine tour in the vintage VW bus sounds like it would be really popular. The farm-to-table restaurant looks incredible! Very helpful tips 🙂

    1. The Malibu Farm Restaurant is so yummy plus you can’t go wrong with an ocean view like that! 🙂

  2. I recently drove through Malibu and would have loved to have had your post as a reference! Saving for the future. Thank you for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome! At least now you have a reason to go back and spend some time at any of these awesome beaches! 🙂

  3. I LOVE this guide! The El Matador beach is gorgeous….OMG! I had no idea about it. Next time I am driving Malibu I need to add a couple of os stops along the way. Thanks for sharing all these amazing beaches.

    1. I’m glad to introduce you to Malibu’s beaches especially El Matador! It is crazy gorgeous and worth stopping next time you are nearby! 🙂

    1. I haven’t been to Portugal yet, but I agree from the photos it does resemble the beaches in Malibu! So beautiful you could just enjoy the view for days… 🙂

  4. These beaches look incredible! El Matador Beach looks especially stunning, but I love that adorable beach hut at Zuma Beach! I’ve never visited Malibu but it looks like paradise! I hope I get to visit one day. Thanks for the great guide!

    1. El Matador is the star when it comes to beaches and is for sure jaw-dropping! Each beach has its own unique look which I hope you get to see one day! 🙂

  5. I love that there are some hiking options as well as all those beautiful beaches (I’m not good at lazing on a beach aaaaall day.) But these malibu beaches look perfect for photography, walks as well as swimming.

    p.s. my grandad used to LOVE baywatch – I’d totally have to call him from zuma beach!

    1. Haha, yes the beaches are the star of Malibu but between hiking, wine tasting, and eating you won’t get bored! 🙂 Ah, that is too funny that your grandad watched Bay Watch. I loved it too! He would definitely enjoy a call and photo from Zuma Beach then!

  6. Amazing set of beaches! I don’t know too much about Malibu so it’s great to have this guide with me for when I plan my trip there.

    1. If you love beaches, Malibu is a wonderful place to explore and relax at! 🙂

    1. Yes, spending time at a beautiful beach in Malibu is a treat and the perfect escape! 🙂

  7. Wow Malibu looks incredible! I didn’t get to go there when I went to California but would love to visit next time.

    1. Oh definitely spend time at the beaches in Malibu next time your in LA as they are pretty awesome! 🙂

  8. I’ve never been to Malibu and only really heard about it from the TV. It looks as beautiful as I would have imagined. I’d love to visit someday.

    1. So many shows and movies have been filmed at the beaches in Malibu which makes them intriguing to see beyond their beauty. I hope you get to see them one day when visiting California! 🙂

    1. Haha you are so right! Since you can’t see it from the road, it would be easy to pass it and miss out on all the cool rock formations. 🙂

  9. These beaches look gorgeous. I would have to visit one when I’m in Malibu. Such a great guide for beach lovers.

    1. Thank you! Yes, the beaches of Malibu are here and waiting when you make it to LA! 🙂

  10. Beautiful! I have never been to the Pacific Coast in California. I have only experienced it in Oregon and Washington States. The Malibu beaches look amazing. Thanks for all the restaurant tips too. Hope to get there one day.

    1. Oregon and Washington have gorgeous coasts too, just colder! Hopefully, you can make it to California one day and enjoy the beaches in Malibu. 🙂

  11. I would love to explore these beautiful beaches! My favourite one is El Matador Beach with all the crazy rock formations on it 🙂

    1. Haha too funny! I loved Malibu Barbie when I was young too. This summer in July, August or September would be a great time to visit! 🙂

  12. So many awesome beaches! I think it’s hard to pick a fave one without actually visiting. Hopefully, one day soon I can visit and decide in person!

    1. It is hard to pick one favorite as they are all stunning. Now you have a great excuse to visit to pick your favorite! 🙂

  13. You know I love a good beach and these Malibu beaches are beautiful. The rock formations of El Matador beach are stunning. Hope I can visit one day and see them for myself.

    1. Great pick as El Matador Beach is so pretty and unique for its huge rocks. Yes, I hope you get to come visit one day too! 🙂

  14. You’ve brought an early summer to me Vanessa! I’ve not been to the beach since last July, but it doesn’t compare to Malibu’s beaches. My favourite is El Matador, I agree that it’s simple but it looks beautiful. The pier is so iconic looking too, I’m sure I’ve seen it in a film!

    1. I’m glad to bring some beachy summer vibes to you! The pier is simple yet with a classic vintage feel that is a lovely spot to hang out and get some food or drinks on. El Matador is a dreamy beach for its rock formations that make it fun to explore and take photos at! 🙂

  15. I’ve heard the Malibu has some amazing beaches but I’ve sadly never been. El Matador looks like my favourite too. Love the dramatic scenery!

    1. You will have to come visit one day! The coastline in Malibu is very dramatic and part of the appeal! 🙂

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