The beach may be the main attraction in Malibu, but there’s plenty to do in this gorgeous California town away from the surf, too.
From wine tasting and horseback riding in the mountains to lobster rolls by the pier – and some ancient Greek sculptures in between – here is our list of the best things to do in Malibu.
Hang out at the Malibu pier
The unofficial heart of Malibu is the historic Malibu Pier. First built in 1905 as a private port for local mogul Frederick Hastings Rindge, who owned most of the land now within Malibu’s town limits, the pier today is a popular spot to eat, shop and people watch. Malibu Farm has a restaurant at each end of the pier: the casual cafe overlooks the water while the dining room is just off the entrance near Pacific Coast Highway. Guests can browse for surf gear or beachy gifts at The Ranch at the pier’s end, as well as rent rods and buy bait for fishing. Make sure to watch the surfers at Surfrider Beach next to the pier as they cruise down the lines of the three-point break. During the summer, the pier can get crowded and parking is always tough – though it’s universally a quieter and more laid-back experience compared to the busy Santa Monica Pier down the coast.
Paddle board off the Malibu pier
Since surfing at the pier is only recommended for advanced surfers (or those with a local friend), stand-up paddle boarding is the next best thing. You can rent boards from Malibu Surf Shack directly at the Pier, starting at $45 for a two-hour board rental and $115 for a one-hour lesson that includes a board, paddle and wetsuit. You can also opt to take a paddle-board tour around the pier with a guide who will point out historical spots and marine life.
Stop in at Zuma Jay’s Surf Shop
On the off chance you need surf gear during your visit – or if you just want some cool swag to bring home – pay a visit to the legendary Zuma Jay’s Surf Shop near the Malibu Pier on PCH. As one of Malibu’s oldest surf shops, it’s stocked with all the essentials, from boards to wetsuits. Not a surfer? You can nab a sweatshirt for chilly Malibu evenings or pick up a new pair of flip-flops. Chances are Zuma Jay himself (real name: Jefferson Wagner) will be there to regale you with his surfing adventures.
Grab a lobster roll at Broad Street Oyster Company
When you’re this close to the ocean, a hankering for seafood is only natural. At Broad Street Oyster Company, you can indulge in oysters, caviar, shrimp cocktails, ceviche and the restaurant’s famous lobster roll – which is made with Maine lobster and can come topped with caviar and fresh uni. Located in the Malibu Village retail center, just a quick walk from the pier, Broad Street offers a relaxed vibe, with a tiki-hut bar and eclectic nautical and surf decor. Avoid the line that forms out front by ordering online for takeaway.
Go wine tasting
Malibu isn’t just for beach lovers. In the Santa Monica Mountains, about 20–30 minutes from the coastline, you’ll find Malibu wine country, with a handful of vineyards surrounding the border of Malibu and Agoura Hills. The easiest way to explore the area is by going on a Malibu Wine Hike, a 2.5-mile tour that ends with tastes of local vintages. But you don’t have to trek into the mountains to sample the goods: Rosenthal - The Malibu Estate Wine Bar and Patio near Topanga Beach serves the full range of its Rosenthal and Surfrider wines, all grown in Malibu within four miles of the ocean.
Pick up a curry at Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine
Even on the hottest days, the hot green curry from Cholada Thai Beach Cuisine on PCH somehow tastes refreshing. This little surfside shack near Topanga Beach is a favorite spot among locals for quick but tasty food. Aside from the curries, Cholada serves traditional Thai favorites like pad thai, steamed and fried wontons, glass noodles, gai yang barbecue chicken and sweet mango with sticky rice. When they’re in season, order one of the fresh coconuts on offer and drink up.
Hike to the old M*A*S*H set
Hollywood is an hour away from Malibu – but television and movie-making history can be found deep in Malibu Creek State Park. The Crags Road trail offers a moderate, 2.5-mile hike to the set of the hit 1970s sitcom M*A*S*H, where you’ll find a few of the trucks and the mess tent that were used during the show. Along the way, you’ll also go past a spot that served as the backdrop for the 1968 Planet of the Apes movie. The trail is long but easy to manage as it only has a slight elevation. If you want a more challenging hike, the park has several other trails to explore.
Visit the Malibu Hindu Temple
If you’ve made your way to Malibu Creek State Park, take a moment after or before your hike to admire the intricate architecture of the towering Malibu Hindu Temple. Built in 1981, the structure is dedicated to the Hindu god Venkateswara, and it’s one of the largest of its kind in the United States. The temple is open on the weekends from 10am to 5pm; visitors are most welcome, so long as they abide by a few rules.
Check out the antiquities at the Getty Villa
Near Pacific Palisades is the Getty Villa, oil baron J. Paul Getty’s former home that has served as an art museum since the 1970s. The original location of the Getty Museum, the villa today complements the Getty Center in Brentwood with exhibitions of art from the ancient world. Indeed, inspired by an ancient Roman site, the villa recreates the layout and feel of a first-century-BCE residential complex, complete with expansive gardens, reflecting pools and ocean views. A 450-seat outdoor Greek theater hosts frequent outdoor performances. Though entrance to the villa is free, a timed ticket is required. Parking is available for a fee.
Take surf lessons at Zuma Beach
It would be a shame to come to Malibu and not give surfing a try. Beginners or first-timers can head to Zuma Beach, where Malibu Makos offers private surf lessons right where the waves lap the shore. Aside from teaching you the basics of surfing and helping you catch a wave, the instructors also give tips on ocean safety and environmental stewardship. And don’t fret about renting surf gear: surfboards and wetsuits are included.
Go for a horseback ride
Waves aren’t the only thing to ride in Malibu: in the Santa Monica Mountains hugging the coast are scenic trails for horseback riding. Malibu Riders offers tours for beginners and expert riders through Zuma Canyon as well as within Malibu Creek State Park. The guided tours are usually about an hour to an hour and a half, but you’ll need to arrive 45 minutes beforehand to prepare for the excursion. Connemara Ranch also offers private ocean-view rides in the hills above Paradise Cove, while High Horse Malibu takes riders on private trails through Latigo Canyon.
Stop in at the Malibu Farmers Market
Every Sunday from 9am to 2pm, regional vendors set up tents in the library parking lot near Malibu’s Civic Center selling fresh produce, proteins, snacks, flowers, home goods, vintage clothing and more. The small size of the market makes it easy to maneuver and to browse essentials or souvenirs. Just remember to bring your reusable bags. For up-to-date vendor information, follow the market’s Instagram or Facebook accounts.
See the September 11 flags at Pepperdine
Every September, Pepperdine University installs its Waves of Flags along Pacific Coast Highway in remembrance of those killed in the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. A flag for each victim is planted in the grass of the campus facing PCH, with the display lasting about three weeks. The display was started by students in 2008 and has since become a meaningful tradition for locals and visitors as well. While the flags can be seen from PCH, visitors can enter the campus to see the flags up close.
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