One Week in Malibu- Best Things to Do in Malibu

Malibu, the famous beach town north of Los Angeles,  has mansions perching on the cliffs and surfers bobbing on the breaks.  But what really makes Malibu unique is its stunning natural wonders.  Forget the tarnished glitz of Hollywood and the cheesy landmarks of Beverly Hills, the things you do in Malibu make you wonder why you didn’t spend your whole vacation here.  From some of the best beaches around to hiking trails with waterfalls, and a little bit of wine tasting to wind down, there’s more than enough for an unforgettable week.

Stretching for more than 30 miles along the Pacific and Highway One, Malibu has achieved almost mythological status among California beach towns. Hollywood stars and top athletes live in oceanfront homes here and enjoy front-row seats for surfing and unforgettable sunsets.

This One Week in Malibu Itinerary highlights all the unique beauty of the Malibu area.  You begin and end this trip in Los Angeles.

Day 1 – Santa Monica

Arrive in Los Angeles and head north from the airport to Santa Monica. A great place to spend your first night, Santa Monica, has a wide, uncrowded beach, a signature pier topped by carnival rides and restaurants, and outstanding shopping at Third Street Promenade and the fancy Santa Monica Place shopping center (great for rooftop dining with ocean and city views). If you have time and want to see Beverly Hills, follow the Santa Monica Boulevard northeast to where cars with tinted windows pull up to Chanel and other deluxe boutiques along Rodeo Drive.
Santa Monica Pier

Day 2 – Surfrider and Zuma Beaches

Drive to Malibu, get yourself settled in and head out to see some of the best beaches in the U.S.  First head to Surfrider Beach, just off the Malibu Pier, to take in the surfers. What is commonly referred to as “Malibu Beach” is comprised of the Malibu Lagoon, the Malibu Pier, and the area that is referred to by locals as “Surfrider” Beach. Although all of these areas are adjacent to each other, each element of Malibu Beach offers visitors a totally unique beach experience. Malibu Lagoon is comprised of 22 acres of wetlands, gardens, and sandy beach, while Malibu “Surfrider” Beach has almost a mile of ocean frontage with 0.7 acres of property, and famous Malibu Pier is a great place for saltwater fishing.Considered to have some of the most perfect waves anywhere, Surfrider beach was named the first World Surfing Reserve. 

Surfrider Beach and Malibu Pier

Next head to nearby Zuma Beach which is a sun magnet for locals and families. Zuma is the ultimate Southern California beach: white sand, wide, and extends for miles.  Zuma Beach has 1.8 miles of beach frontage with 105 acres of property.  There are eight parking lots with approximately 2,000 parking spaces.  Food stands are located at either end of the beach. Other amenities include restrooms, restaurants, showers, volleyball nets, and a bus stop. Beach wheelchairs are also available.

That’s all for today, but we’ll visit some more beautiful beaches before our one week in Malibu is finished!

Zuma Beach

Day 3 – Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area

On Day 3 of our One Week in Malibu, leave the ocean behind just for one day and head inland a short distance where you can  hike through hills and canyons, filled with spring wildflowers and even waterfalls, on trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.  The 2018 Woolsey Fire did substantial damage to National Recreation Area to the north of Malibu.  But many of the trails were not affected by fire, or have been re-opened y the National Park Service since the fire. The trails and parks are open except for Peter Strauss Ranch, Rocky Oaks, and Arroyo Sequit. More than 500 miles of trails intertwine among the Santa Monica mountains, including the 67-mile Backbone Trail, a footpath that makes it possible to backpack for a week in L.A.’s wilderness. There are plenty of shorter trails also. In Solstice Canyon, an easy walk will take you along an oak- and sycamore-shaded creek to a picturesque waterfall and the Roberts Ranch stone ruins. From the Circle X Ranch trailhead, climb 3,111-foot Sandstone Peak, the highest point in the recreation area, where you have a great view of the Pacific and of downtown’s skyline.

Solstice Canyon
Solstice Canyon

For a cool guided experience, take one of the two-hour Malibu Wine Hikes on the rolling terrain of Saddlerock Ranch vineyard. Or take the Giraffe hike which includes a stop at a giraffe enclosure where guests will get to feed, pet and take pictures with Stanley the celebrity giraffe.  All hikes include a wine tasting.

Day 4 – Back to the Beach

Head back to one of Mailbu’s great beaches for another great day of swimming, snorkeling or surfing.  Point Dume, on the northwest end of Santa Monica Bay, offers some great scenery and great beaches.  The Point is surrounded by picturesque white sand beaches and sparking blue water. The area is protected by Point Dume Natural Preserve, a California State Park. Trails on Point Dume’s bluffs lead to two overlooks, one at the top of Point Dume. Additional trails access the two beaches on opposite sides of the point. Big Dume Beach a.k.a. Dume Cove Beach is the main beach. Dume Cove’s crescent-shaped beach faces southeast from the east side of Point Dume. Access to the beach is via a walk across a small bluff-top natural preserve and down a long steep staircase.

Point Dume

Day 5 – Museums and Shopping

TripAdvisor rates the The Getty Villa as the number one Thing to Do in Malibu.  the Villa is the original home of the Getty Museum, which opened in 1974.  The museum focuses on Ancient Greek and Roman Art. Admission to the Getty Villa is free, but you must get a timed-entry ticket before you visit.  For more modern art, check out the 30 historic surfboards on display, some dating back to the 1910s, at the Surf Museum at Pepperdine University’s Payson Library.

Getty Villa

If you’re in the mood for some shopping and dining browse the shops at the Malibu Country Mart, an upscale retail center.  This casual outdoor shopping and dining center attracts a mix of both locals and tourists strolling through after a day at the beach. Restaurants range from take out sandwich shops to upscale eateries, while the retailers mostly sell L.A. essentials: designer jeans and $100 T-shirts. You can 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.

Afterward, grab a bite at Malibu Farms, the organic café and restaurant that sits right on the pier. Or browse the fresh catches—and try one of the famed ahi tuna burgers—at Malibu Seafood, right across from Dan Blocker Beach.

Day 6 – Last Day at The Beach

On Day 6 of our One Week in Malibu head to what many consider to be the must see beaching the Malibu area.  Further out from Malibu is El Matador State Beach. Small, beautiful and dominated by rocky outcrops, El Matador looks not unlike a European beach. The beach features some massive rocks and sea caves you can explore.  A trail descends through rock formations on the face of the bluff, then stairs take you the rest of the way to the beach. There are no lifeguards or other facilities, but it’s a great beach to explore.

El Matador State Beach

Day 7 – Back to Los Angeles

Our one week in Malibu is already over, time to head back to LA for your flight back home.  If you’ve got some time check out Venice Beach or Manhattan Beach which are not far from the LAX Airport.

Tip – If you have more time and want to explore Los Angeles, see our One Week in Los Angeles, Burbank and Pasadena itinerary.

2 thoughts on “One Week in Malibu- Best Things to Do in Malibu

  1. Great post! We have an upcoming trip planned. If you only had time for one beach in Malibu, which would you do?

    1. Zuma. It’s a classic.

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