Close to LA, but a World Away: The 7 Best Beaches in Malibu, California 

by Eileen Strauss on May 22, 2022



Malibu is synonymous with sandy beaches, surfing, and  the warm California sunshine. Some of the prettiest beaches in all of Southern California, Malibu is less than an hour from LAX, but it seems like a world away.  

Known for having some of the best beaches in the Los Angeles area,  Malibu stretches over 21 miles of coastline  hugging the Pacific Ocean. 

The Malibu beach community has been made famous by the entertainment and fashion industries that use the Pacific as a backdrop to many photo shoots and film productions. Home to many of LA’s rich and famous, Malibu is also a prime destination for surfers, divers, swimmers, and sun worshippers. 

If you haven’t been or even if you have and you just need a place to get away from it all, submerged in beachside bliss, Malibu is the place for you.   



Malibu Beaches



Where Is Malibu?



Known for having some of the best beaches in the Los Angeles area,  Malibu stretches over 21 miles of coastline  hugging the Pacific Ocean.

Malibu is about an hour west of downtown Los Angeles, 25 minutes north of the Santa Monica Pier, 1.5 hours from Orange County, or 2.5 hours from San Diego by car.  To visit the beaches of Malibu, you will need a car as there’s really no other way to get there.

If you fly into the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), rent a car and head north on the 405 Freeway, then west on the 10, and then hop onto Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) or Highway 1. 



CaliCase Plays in the California Surf



As you leave LA behind and drive up the PCH there isn’t a whole lot to see beyond the beaches and Santa Monica mountains. But that’s the beauty of escaping the city’s pollution, drama and crowds—to slow down, take off your shoes, and take in the beach ambiance that hits you the moment you hit the town of Malibu.

Malibu is a small and charming town with quaint shops, farm-to-table eateries, a scenic pier, rugged cliffs, jaw-dropping homes, and an abundance of sandy beaches. From calm lagoons to barreling waves, Malibu isn’t just beautiful, it’s a great destination for adventure lovers of everything “surf.”

While one inch of coastline is more awesome than the next, we’ve listed the top 7 beaches below. 





#1: Zuma Beach 


Just 10 miles north of Santa Monica, Zuma Beach seems like a world away. The 1.8 miles of beach frontage, just around the corner from Point Dume State Beach, is  easily accessible to the hiking trails of the state park. This south-facing beach attracts many visitors on summer weekends but is relatively quiet during the week.

A popular spot for beach volleyball, nets are set up along the stretch of beach for casual games with friends, but be sure to bring your own  ball.  The shallow water and gently sloping sand make it a good place for swimming and body surfing. Zuma is known for occasional dangerous riptides and rough surf, but lifeguards are on duty in the summer months to monitor conditions.

Parking: There are eight paid  lots around Zuma with nearly 2,000 parking spots or you can park for free on Highway 1.






#2: Carbon Beach 


Nicknamed “Billionaires’ Beach,” Carbon Beach is lined with mansions that will take your breath away.  While you don't have to pay to visit the beach, 

The dream homes completely block out the beach, so it’s not always easy to find an access point, but they’re there so keep your eyes peeled. There are two entryways, a West Access and an East Access point that lead directly to the beach. 


Barry Manilow's Malibu Mansion

Barry Manilowe’s Carbon Beach Mansion


At high tide, the beach is mostly underwater so be sure to time your visit to avoid being pushed off the beach by the rising seawater. It’s a good idea to keep your belongings in a waterproof dry bag, just in case. And of course, protect your phone with a waterproof phone case. 

To experience what it’s like to live on Carbon  Beach but can't quite afford the down payment for a mansion, the Malibu Beach Inn is right on the water and lets visitors live like billionaires during their stay. 

Parking: The best thing to do is to try to find a spot on the PCH, but there are paid lots nearby. 


CaliCase Hits Southern California Beaches


#3:  Point Dume State Beach, Malibu


It's easy to forget that you're just a few miles from the busy L.A. metro area when you’re on Point Dume because of the rugged scenic headlands, rocky coves, and offshore rock formations that can be seen while relaxing on the sandy beach at the foot of the high cliffs. On a clear day, you might catch a glimpse of Catalina Island or the Channel Islands just across Santa Monica Bay.

Point Dume is a beach that has it all. Active beachgoers can explore the various hiking trails overlooking the ocean before taking a dip in the calm clear waters. Scuba divers can explore the underwater area known as the Pinnacles, one of the premier diving spots in the state. From December to March, visitors can often see gray whales during their annual migration right from the shore. But if you’d prefer to just relax in the sun, there’s no better place to go than Point Dume. 

And not only is it one of the largest beaches in Malibu, because it's split into Big Dume Beach and Little Dume Beach,  you can usually find a space, even on the busiest weekends. On weekdays, the park is blissfully uncrowded, making for the perfect escape from the city.

Parking: The small  lot closest to the entrance only has 10 spots and fills up quickly. There's a larger paid lot at the end of Westward Beach Road. From there, it's just a five-minute hike over Point Dume to the staircase that takes you down to the water.


 Malibu Surfing


#4: Malibu Surfrider Beach 


Surfrider Beach’s super long right-hand break is famous among surfers, but the water is often so full of them that they leave little space for swimmers.

At the northeast end of the beach is the Malibu Pier where fishermen hang out to enjoy the scenery while angling. After the beach, enjoy farm-to-table Californaesq dishes at the Malibu Farm Cafe. 

Surfrider Beach is part of Malibu Lagoon State Beach, but the State Beach parking lot is closer to the lagoon side than the ocean side. For surfers, it’s better to use the lot near the Adamson House or you can always park on the side of PCH. 



Paradise Cove, Malibu



#5: Paradise Cove


A small and famous beach located north of Malibu off of the PCH, Paradise Cove  is framed by bluffs that look out onto the open ocean.  Many tv shows including "The OC," "Baywatch,” “Beverly Hills 90210,” and "The Rockford Files" were filmed here, as were movies like  "American Pie 2" and "Beach Blanket Bingo."

The Paradise Cove Beach Cafe extends onto the beach, and all of its amenities including lounge chairs and  private terraces are available to rent. Because the restaurant opens onto the sand, this is one of the only beaches in the state of California that allows beer and wine on the beach. (Hard liquor is not permitted.)  

Parking: You can park in the restaurant’s lot for up to four hours at a discounted rate if you eat at the Beach Cafe, but all-day parking requires paying the full parking fee. You can also park for free if you head a little further up the road near the PCH.



 #6: Westward Beach


At the southernmost section of Zuma Beach, extending to Point Dume, is Westward Beach, known for being one of the top surf spots in surf-crazy Malibu. While you’re splashing in the ocean or lounging in the sand, you just might catch a glimpse (or two) of human-friendly and gentle bottlenose dolphins that swim close to the shore. 

When hunger strikes, The Sunset restaurant is right at the beach entrance with a full menu of fresh items to enjoy.  With a patio area that looks over Westward Beach and the Pacific Ocean, it's ideal for a cocktail at sunset.

Parking: Westward is technically a part of Zuma Beach, but because the Zuma parking lots are farther north, it’s better to use the Point Dume lot.




Malibu's El Matidor Beach



#7: El Matador Beach 


Commonly known as the "pocket beach, El Matador is a  stretch of sand cradled between two headlands. The Matador's pocket is full of incredible views with towering arches and rock formations, making it a trendy spot for photo shoots and nature lovers. 

If you arrive during low tide, you can walk toward the north end of El Matador to explore the caves only accessible when the water is low. The sunsets are magical with Instagramable and wallpaper-like views from the beach, so don’t go to El Matador without your waterproof camera or phone case! 

Parking: It’s easiest to access this beach by taking the exit off of Highway 1 to the El Matador parking lot where you can walk directly down the staircase to the beach.



Unlike most LA area cities, there are no huge hotels in Malibu, but the moderately sized beachfront inns and resort stay options are big on luxury and views that let you fall asleep listening to the crashing waves.  


You can easily make visiting the beaches of Malibu a day trip while vacationing in LA, but if you want to unplug and spend some real quality chill time at the beach, there are plenty of AirBnB’s, campgrounds, and hotels. Below are a few of the top rated inns and resorts, but there’s really not a bad place to stay in Malibu.  


Malibu Beach Inn

The Surfrider Malibu

Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club

Malibu Country Inn