Malibu is the most famous of SoCal hotspots, and its easy breezy lifestyle offers a welcome break from the LA rat race. There are urban conveniences plus large swathes of wild California to explore in between swimming and surfing seshes at the likes of Zuma Beach. And one thing's for sure—the Pacific Coast Highway will take you places. Road trip via the PCH with Miley Cyrus's hit Malibu playing in the background, and you'll be sandwiched between memorable coastal vistas and jaw-dropping mansions en route to the best attractions.
There's not much you can't do at Malibu Pier, the hub of this coastal town. Keen to go whale watching? That can be arranged. Hungry? Malibu Farm Restaurant is a popular bistro offering fresh, organic food and ambiance in spades. You can also test your core by stand-up paddle boarding, attempt fishing, or take a walk and watch the skilled surfers at Surfrider Beach enjoy First Point, one of the world's best breaks. Summer is busy here but not as crowded as Santa Monica pier.
The industrialist J. Paul Getty took a keen interest in art and relics of the past. You can find the oil magnate's carefully curated collection and burial place at the Getty Villa near Malibu's southern border. The museum was built in the 1970s to look like an ancient Roman country villa and houses thousands of artifacts from the Mediterranean in dozens of rooms. Think statues, gems, and vessels, some of which date back to 6,500 BCE, and conjure up ideas of long ago cultures, wars, and religions. Today the building is home to a UCLA Master's Program in Archaeological and Ethnographic Conservation, and the rose garden is delightful too. You'll need to book tickets and parking online before you go. Be sure to take advantage of a free tour for fascinating insights and to make the most of this family-friendly outing.
Malibu is a nature lover's utopia and a landscape artist's dream. Solstice Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is excellent for hiking, whatever your fitness level. You can also see the ruins of some historical houses and spot acorn woodpeckers and red-tailed hawks. Escondido Falls is worth a visit, and avid hikers might want to take on the spectacular 67-mile Backbone trail.
Dairy farm entrepreneurs May and Frederick Rindge, who used to own most of Malibu's land, opened Malibu Potteries in 1926, and their new business created elaborate themed ceramic tiles. When their daughter married, they built Adamson House in a Spanish Colonial Revival style for her and filled it with some of the company's best work, including a 60-foot tiled 'Persian carpet.' Designed by Stiles Clements, this California Historical Landmark is close to a century old, with highlights beyond the compelling interior and exterior tile work. Look for the concrete posing as stenciled wood on the dining room ceiling and the fabulous views of Malibu Pier.
In the mood for retail therapy? Head to Malibu Country Mart and the Malibu Lumber Yard for high-end boutiques, tasty to-go food options, and a side of celeb spotting. If you don't get lucky down at Billionaire's Beach, this is the place to bump into stars. On Sundays, car enthusiasts are in for a treat. The parking lot crams with super cars and hot rods, and the vehicles are a sight to behold.
Grocer Fred Roberts commissioned 'Tropical Terrace,' a Polynesian-style house in the 1950s. The Solstice Canyon home was also known as the Williams house and featured in Architectural Digest. Architect Paul Revere Williams was the first African American to join the American Institute of Architects, and he incorporated numerous fire safety features into the design. The elements proved too strong for human innovation, and in 1982 the house was razed.
The ruins, including a bomb shelter, bathtub, and fireplaces, are currently accessible to the public, and the perennial waterfall nearby is a bonus. In addition, the Keller house ruins are half a mile away in Solstice Canyon.
First-time visitors must visit the cliffs and coves here for a bout of R&R. You can go swimming and diving and see gray whales from shore in spring or savor the views of the bay and Santa Catalina Island from the high lookout point. The rock climbing opportunities here are great for beginners, and film aficionados will recognize this seaside location from multiple movies and TV series.
Malibu Creek State park is also in the Santa Monica mountains, but it deserves to be mentioned because it's known as the 'Yosemite of Southern California.' There are plenty of wildlife spotting opportunities and 35 miles of hiking trails for your ambling pleasure. The campgrounds are peaceful and close to safe swimming holes if you have an RV or are keen to haul a tent out of your attic. Pack your s'more paraphernalia and watch the original Planet of the Apes (1968) or M*A*S*H episodes filmed here, or book a horseriding adventure and relish the burst of wildflowers around March.
Near Malibu Creek in Calabasas, the Hindu temple with its Dravidian architecture has tranquil vibes and honors Shiva and Venkateswara. Weddings liven up the place, and you might catch the colorful festivities if you're lucky. Shoes aren't allowed, so wear socks if you want a good look without singeing your soles.
Malibu residents know how to indulge. You, too, can dine at Hollywood fave Geoffrey's or fancy Nobu. There's fresh-as-can-be ocean bounty at Malibu Seafood. Rustic Neptune's Net is biker central, Tra Di Noi is Italian food done right, and the shellfish at Paradise Cove Beach Café is satisfying after a walk on the beach.