In the opening scene of the film La La Land, drivers and their passengers break from a traffic jam on the freeway and burst into a song and dance about yet another sunny day in Los Angeles. Aside from the musical interlude, the scene got two things right about Los Angeles: sun and traffic. 

Los Angeles has long been ridiculed in pop culture for its byzantine freeway system and notorious traffic. Even though the city has made some strides in public transportation, getting around is best done with a car. In Malibu, this is especially true as the area is very spread out, with mountains and beaches separated by the always busy Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). 

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Hail a ride from the airport

While taxi cabs and budget shuttles are available from Los Angeles International Airport, the more popular way of catching a ride when you land is through a ride-hailing app such as Uber or Lyft. At LAX, the airport has created a special pick-up zone for ride-hailing and taxi services called LAX-It. This requires taking a free shuttle from the airport’s arrivals level to the rideshare parking lot, then ordering your ride from there. 

The shuttles run frequently from every terminal, even late at night, and finding your ride is easy to do thanks to designated pick-up zones. The cost varies by the time of day and the type of ride, but expect to spend about $40-$50 for a ride to Malibu. 

Los Angeles Metro Line 534 bus on the road
The 534 Metro Bus makes several stops along the Pacific Coast Highway © Getty Images

Load the TAP app on your phone to take public transportation

The 534 Metro Bus, part of Los Angeles’ Metro public transportation, goes from downtown Santa Monica to Malibu with several stops along the PCH, including Trancas Canyon, Point Dume and the Malibu Pier. The trip costs $1.75 one way. 

Before you hop on the bus (or the subway or light rail), download the TAP app to your phone. This is the Metro’s fare card, similar to New York City’s Metrocard. While you can still purchase physical TAP cards at Metro stations and even onboard the buses, the app makes it easier for you to load, reload and scan your cards. It also provides detailed directions and timetables, although the Metro website’s Nextrip service has more reliable arrival times. 

Keep in mind that public transportation in Los Angeles might be more economical and sustainable, but it isn’t always the fastest way to travel. Buses are usually stuck in the same traffic as the cars on the freeway and on the streets. So you’ll still have to factor in the traffic when you schedule your day. 

There are 3 beaches that provide specialty wheelchairs

Not many of Malibu’s beaches have wheelchair ramps that extend onto the sand. But there are three beaches that do provide specialty wheelchairs: Zuma Beach (between parking lots #3 and #4), Point Dume (at the wheelchair locker), and Malibu Surfrider (at the lifeguard garage). These are available first-come, first-served. There are also designated disabled parking spaces in all of the beach parking lots. 

Renting a car is always a good idea

If you plan on driving a lot or making road trips from Malibu, renting a car is a better option. There are plenty of rental car agencies at the airport as well as throughout Los Angeles. But if you only need a car for a day or even just a few hours, consider Zipcar, a car-sharing service that has a location at Pepperdine University. You’ll need a valid driver’s license to sign up, and once approved you can rent a car for as little as $10 an hour. 

People waiting outside Blue Bottle Coffee at Malibu Country Mart
The restaurants and shops at the Malibu Country Mart are easily walkable  © Laser1987 / Getty Images

Walking is the easiest way to get around at Malibu Pier

In some parts of Malibu, it’s easiest to just walk. At the Malibu Pier, you can walk to the restaurants and shops at the Malibu Country Mart and the Malibu Village. Crossing the PCH here is also a little less daunting than it can be at other major intersections. Similarly, it’s easy to walk between Point Dume and Zuma Beach and to a little shopping center across the PCH. 

Cyclists love Malibu

The coastal views along the PCH and the rugged terrain in the mountains make Malibu a cyclist favorite. But taking two wheels on the highway should be reserved for only the most competent (and confident) cyclists because there is no dedicated bike lane and the highway traffic can be fast. If you want to rent a beach cruiser and hit a beach path, it’s best to do that in Santa Monica where you can ride the path for nearly 22 miles down to Torrance. (Just remember, you’ll have to bike or find a way back.) 

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