Marveling at Malibu
Live a day—or a weekend—in the life of a Malibu local.
Malibu is just over the hill, but when you’re sipping a mai tai at The Sunset Restaurant on Zuma Beach, watching snowy plovers skittle about on the sand and the sun sink slowly into the ocean, you could be a million miles away. And you didn’t have to battle the travelers and wait in lines at LAX to get there.
Not quite a staycation but not a major expedition either, a day or two in Malibu is good for the soul. The fresh sea breeze, the outdoor activities, the good and healthy food and great shopping make Malibu a top tourist destination for foreigners—and the perfect getaway for Angelenos. Sitting on the beach is a terrific way to while away the day, and celebrity-sighting is a sport here.
But the city offers so much more. Here are some carefully cultivated tips from in-the-know locals on how to make the most of a visit to their hometown.
Gidget did it, why don’t you? Learn to surf in Malibu. There are several outfitters who will set you up with a board, a wetsuit and an instructor, but the best are the Malibu Surf Shack, overlooking Surfrider Beach, and Drill Surf and Skate, further north at Trancas. Both operations offer instruction on mastering stand-up paddleboards; the Surf Shack also offers kayaking tours. Book lessons in advance.
|Malibu Surf Shack
22935 Pacific Coast Highway
|Drill Surf and Skate
30745 Pacific Coast Highway, #20 Building D
Some of the best shopping in Los Angeles is at the Malibu Country Mart (everything from Calypso St. Barth to Ron Herman to Letarte Swimwear), but it’s also home to a Malibu institution. John’s Garden, serving sandwiches, salads and soups since 1975, makes a killer BLT. On toast, of course.
3835 Cross Creek Road | 310-456-8377 | johnsgardenmalibu.com
Years ago, Helene Henderson served occasional farm dinners, sourced with what she raised and grew in her home garden. Now she’s bringing locally grown produce and organic foods to Malibu Farm, her restaurant on the Malibu Pier. Locals start their days here with a fried egg sandwich and a Caffe Luxxe latte. The healthy salads—tossed with produce from Larry Thorne Family Farm, Maggie’s Ranch, 1 Gun Ranch and Malibu Farm—are topped with sesame seeds or grilled salmon, steak or chicken. The coconut-tofu rice dish couldn’t be healthier—or tastier.
23000 Pacific Coast Highway | 310-456-1112 |
Mangia Italian Countryside Eatery
Enjoy a wood-fired pizza under the colorful umbrellas that dot the charming Mangia courtyard at the recently renovated Trancas Country Market. Antonio Alessi, who also owns the classic Tra di Noi restaurant at the Malibu Country Mart, brings his talents further north with this cozy spot.
30745 Pacific Coast Highway, Suite R4 | 310-457-4500 | mangiaeatery.com
Perched on the beach, hovering over lapping waves, Nobu Malibu—hands-down— is the city’s glamour spot. Enjoy chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s perfect sashimi, stylized ceviche, classic black cod with miso and rich Japanese Wagyu beef—while being wooed by the beauty of the ocean (and your dining partner).
22706 Pacific Coast Highway | 310-317-9140 | noburestaurants.com/malibu
The Sunset Restaurant
Life doesn’t get better than dining at The Sunset Restaurant overlooking Zuma Beach. In this crisply decorated and well-run favorite, you’ll delight in ordering a glass of chardonnay and an order of fried oysters. The grass-fed burger (with caramelized onions and aioli) is perfection. They have fabulous brunch too.
6800 Westward Beach Road | 310-589-1007 | thesunsetrestaurant.com
It’s on the wrong side of the highway, but that doesn’t stop the locals from meeting at V’s for some of the best cooking in town. Chef Shawn Davis’ extensive menu featuring portobello fries, flatbreads with Brussels sprouts or wild mushrooms, gluten-free pizzas and pastas, and sautéed diver scallops has locals coming back for more.
22821 Pacific Coast Highway | 310-456-3828 | vsmalibu.com
Grab a smoothie or a glass of seasonal kombucha (available on tap here) and sip while you shop for a picnic on the beach at this independently owned gourmet grocer. On the weekends tri-tip, grilled on-site, makes for a great sandwich. The store (within the Trancas Country Market) features locally-made products worth bringing home: Malibu Mary’s Bloody Mary Mix, Malibu Honey (made from the flowers in the Santa Monica Mountains), Zuma Organic Spices and vino from a dozen local wineries.
30745 Pacific Coast Highway, Suite 24 | 310-457-2828 | vintagegrocers.com
There are more than a dozen wineries in Malibu, many of which offer tours and tastings. Here are two top-notch experiences:
|Malibu Family Wines
Owned by the Semler and DeJoria families, Malibu Family Wines is located up Kanan Dume Road in the hills above Malibu and offers live music throughout the week and on the weekends. Bring a picnic, buy a bottle of Saddlerock chardonnay or Semler syrah, and enjoy the afternoon. Get there early to get a spot at
a picnic table.
31740 Mulholland Highway
|Malibu Wine Safari
Try some of Malibu’s best wines—and see
some llamas, zebras, water buffalo, pigs and
ponies!—while touring a 1,000-acre vineyard
in an open-top jeep. You’ll make stops to
feed the animals and sip some fine wines.
An unusual experience, to be sure, but an unforgettable one.
Entertaining for the whole family.
32111 Mulholland Highway
Throughout the year, on the fourth Sunday of every month, the Santa Monica Audubon Society hosts bird-watching excursions with experienced birders at Malibu Lagoon. Plan your visit around one of them. In the summer, you can see up to 40 species—during migration almost twice that many. Adult walks around the lagoon and up the beach begin at 8:30 a.m. and finish around 11:30 a.m. Visits geared toward children last about an hour and start at 10 a.m. Binoculars are supplied.
Get Some Culture
The Getty Villa, J. Paul Getty’s replica of a Roman villa at the northern end of Pacific Palisades, is a must-see for the architecture, gardens and views as much as for the changing exhibitions. Bring a picnic or eat at the Mediterranean-inspired café.
Tickets to the museum are free, but parking is $15. Advance timed-entry tickets are required.
The Getty Villa | 17985 Pacific Coast Highway | 310-440-7300 | getty.edu
For a taste of Malibu history, tour the Adamson House, the restored Spanish colonial revival home that’s still decorated as it was in the 1930s. Built on prime property left to Rhoda Rindge Adamson by her father (who, in 1892, had bought most of what we now call Malibu for about $10 an acre), the house boasts an impressive display of the famous Malibu Potteries tile. The adjoining museum reveals how Malibu has changed, from its days as home to the Chumash Indians to Adamson’s family’s ranching pursuits to modern-day celebrity life. Open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
23200 Pacific Coast Highway | 310-456-9575 | adamsonhouse.org
There are numerous hikes throughout the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu, but one of the most pleasant is the 2.8-mile Zuma Canyon trail that meanders through open brush, crosses a stony creek bed, then carries on under the shade of native oaks and sycamores. The views are spectacular. On your way down from the hike, stop at Zuma Canyon Orchids at the trailhead to admire the gorgeous specimens. You might be inspired to bring one home. The hike’s trailhead is at the end of Bonsall Drive, one mile west of Kanan Dune Road.
Zuma Canyon Orchids | 5949 Bonsall Drive | 310-457-9771
You could spend an entire day at the Malibu Country Mart shopping at exclusive stores like Ralph Lauren and Oliver Peoples, eating top-notch Chinese or Greek food, and relaxing over coffee in the courtyard. Great trendy fashions and people-watching.
3835 Cross Creek Road | 310-456-7300 | malibucountrymart.com
Malibu Riders offers various trail rides throughout the Santa Monica Mountains, all offering different experiences. Pass through Ronald Reagan’s former ranch; trot through the old movie set of a Western town; ride alongside babbling streams; and be on the lookout for deer, coyote, bobcats and native wildflowers. Breathtaking ocean views are a highlight. Children 6 years old and up are allowed on most rides.
Malibu Riders | 818-510-2245 | [email protected] | maliburiders.com
Malibu Beach Inn
Located on the exclusive Carbon Beach, known for its white sand and showbiz mogul residents, the inn is a magnet for Hollywood types. (It was once owned by David Geffen.) A luxury hotel with ocean views and the sounds of lapping waves as a backdrop, the Malibu Beach Inn is ideal for a romantic overnight.
22878 Pacific Coast Highway | 310-456-6444 | malibubeachinn.com
Sycamore Canyon Campground
For a completely different—but entirely lovely—experience, pitch a tent just steps from the Pacific Ocean at Sycamore Canyon Campground in Point Mugu State Park. Stroll to the beach or head off for one the many hikes that wind around the area and into Boney Mountains State Wilderness Area.
9000 W. Pacific Coast Highway | 310-457-8143 or 800-444-7275 | parks.ca.gov
To truly experience Malibu like a local, rent someone’s home.
Accommodations range from RVs to expansive villas.