Malibu is one of those places that’s been on my travel wish list forever. We finally had the chance to visit this year on our trip to California, and it pleasantly surprised us! If you’re thinking about visiting this magical town, here are some things to know before you go.
where to stay when visiting malibu
We initially looked at airbnbs in Malibu, but realized that:
- most were quite far from the beach, and
- accommodations in this area are expensive (it is home to countless celebrities, after all)
We stayed in the neighbouring town of Santa Monica, which was less expensive, allowed us quick access to the beach, and was only a 20 minute drive into Malibu.
traveling in and out of malibu
You’ve likely heard about the crazy traffic in the LA region, and it’s no different for Malibu. The Pacific Coast Highway runs through this area, and it’s really the only straightforward way to get in and out of the city. While it only took us 20 minutes to drive into Malibu from Santa Monica early in the morning, the same drive back in the afternoon was an hour and a half. Be sure to book travel time into your day if you expect to drive in or out of Malibu during peak hours.
For an alternate route in or out of Malibu, I recommend driving up through the Santa Monica mountains. They are truly stunning, and the drive is equally as magical as driving along the coast!
where to eat in malibu
There are a few restaurants in Malibu (hello Nobu and Malibu Farm!) but there aren’t that many restaurants. We had reservations at Malibu Farm for dinner, but hadn’t checked out any options for lunch. We kind of assumed there would be a bunch of cafes around Malibu Pier, but there weren’t.
We ended up going to Malibu Country Mart and had the best açai bowls of our life at Sunlife Organics. This shopping area was within walking distance of Malibu Pier, though there’s also ample parking if you drive in. There were a bunch of other restaurants here, as well as at Trancas Country Market, which is further north along the PCH.
If you’re hoping to eat at one of the popular restaurants in Malibu, I suggest making a reservation a few days in advance. We had a reservation at Malibu Farm and it was everything I dreamed it would be and more! Eating dinner on the pier was a pretty spectacular culinary experience.
what to do in malibu
I assumed Malibu would be like any other beach town: full of beach shops and cafes and places to sit and have a coffee. But it was nothing like that. Malibu truly feels like it’s for locals, and, aside from Malibu Pier, it doesn’t feel touristy at all. The beaches are chill and filled with surfers, and the town is pretty quiet (even during a weekend day). Around dinner time, it did get busier, but during the day it felt quiet and serene.
Here are some things to check out in Malibu:
- Walk Malibu Pier – there’s a super cute shop at the end, as well as Malibu Farm + Cafe. If you like fishing, there are areas you can set up your rod for a couple hours.
- Explore the beaches – there are so many beaches in this area that have very different vibes. Our favourite was El Matador State Beach. Note: Malibu is not very walkable, so you’ll probably want to drive from beach to beach.
- Grab a bite at the markets – again, we loved Malibu Country Mart and Trancas Country Market. You could easily spend a few hours grabbing lunch, wandering through the shops, or sitting in a couple adirondak chairs and people-watching.
- Go for a hike – we didn’t hike at all, but again, the Santa Monica mountains are incredible. If we ever get to go back, we’ll be sure to hike more in this area.
- Surf or paddle board – there are spots to rent surfboards and paddle boards in the area. Join the locals in the water!
Overall, Malibu was one of the most magical spots we’ve visited. We loved that it was quiet and felt so intimate; it’s truly a relaxing place to spend the day.