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.



Where Is Malibu?

Malibu Sea View

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.

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

Zuma Beach At Sunset

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.


Where to Park at Zuma Beach?

You have plenty of parking options available. The largest parking lot is situated at the southern end of the beach and offers around 2,000 spaces, while there are also smaller lots located along the beach, including at the northern end. It's advisable to arrive early during peak season, weekends, and holidays to secure a parking spot as they tend to fill up quickly. Parking fees are applicable, and prices may vary depending on the time of year and the day of the week. If you don't mind walking, there are also some free parking spots available along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), but they can be limited. So, make sure to plan accordingly.


Restaurants Near Zuma Beach

One must-try spot is the Malibu Farm Cafe, situed 10 miles from Zuma Beach, where you can enjoy fresh and organic food while taking in stunning ocean views. Another favorite is the Sunset Restaurant and Beach Bar, much closer from the Zuma Beach, which serves up an extensive seafood menu with a side of beachside ambiance. If you're looking for something a little more upscale, Mastro's Ocean Club and Nobu Malibu are both highly-rated restaurants located along PCH with breathtaking ocean views. And for those who prefer to bring their own grub, there are plenty of picnic tables and grilling areas available on the beach.


Best Hotels at Zuma Beach

Some of the best options include the Malibu Country Inn, which is just a short drive from the beach, and for $260 offers cozy rooms and a breathtaking view. The Malibu Beach Inn is another (pricier though) option, situated right on the beachfront and offering luxurious 400sq.ft accommodations with fireplace, balcony and stunning ocean views for $800. Another hotel in the area is the Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club, which features rustic-chic cabins and a private beach club.


Surfing at Zuma Beach

Whether you're a seasoned pro or a beginner, you'll find waves that suit your skill level. This beach is a favorite among surfers, and you'll see why as soon as you paddle out. Check out Surf Captain to get the latest surfing conditions at Zuma Beach.

The best time to hit the waves at Zuma Beach is during the fall, winter, and early spring when the waves are consistently larger. However, if you're new to surfing, the summer months are a great time to learn, as the waves are smaller and more manageable. But be warned, the surf can be treacherous at times, especially during winter when the waves can be massive and powerful.

To ensure everyone's safety, designated surfing areas at Zuma Beach are marked by yellow buoys. Stay within these areas and keep an eye on the changing surf conditions. If you're new to surfing, it's a good idea to take lessons from one of the surf schools or rental companies located nearby. Malibu Makos offers surf camps from June to August.

Zuma Beach can get crowded, so it's essential to be respectful of other surfers and beachgoers. Keep in mind that everyone wants to catch a wave, so share the stoke!


#2: Carbon Beach

Carbon Beach Malibu

Image Source:, Carlos Bastia

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 and anyone can access it, the dream homes completely block out the beach, so it's not always easy to find an access point, but there are two entryways, a West Access and an East Access point that lead directly to the beach.


What Celebrities Have an House at Carbon Beach?

The identities of many of the residents are not publicly disclosed, but some well-known residents of Carbon Beach over the years have included Hollywood celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, David Geffen, and Larry Ellison, among others. It's important to respect the privacy of the residents and to avoid intruding on their properties or taking photos without their permission.

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.

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.


Where to Park at Carbon Beach

Carbon Beach in Malibu, California does not have any public parking lots, so parking can be difficult, especially during peak hours or summer weekends. Visitors may have to park on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and walk to the beach. However, there are a few options for parking near Carbon Beach. One option is to park at the Malibu Lagoon State Beach parking lot, which is located just north of Carbon Beach. Another option is to park at the nearby Malibu Country Mart and walk to Carbon Beach. Arrive early to secure parking and avoid traffic congestion.


#3: Point Dume State Beach, Malibu

Point Dume State Beach

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.

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.


Where to Park At Point Dume?

There are several parking areas available, the main parking lot is located at the bottom of the bluff, just a short walk from the beach. This lot can accommodate up to 100 vehicles and is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Additionally, there is a small parking area located at the top of the bluff, which provides access to the headland trails and scenic overlooks. This lot can accommodate up to 25 vehicles and is also open daily from sunrise to sunset.

During peak season, weekends, and holidays, parking at Point Dume State Beach can fill up quickly, so it's recommended to arrive early to secure a spot. There is a fee to park at the beach, and prices can vary depending on the time of year and the day of the week.

There are no designated parking areas for RVs or oversized vehicles. However, there are several nearby parking options available for larger vehicles, including the nearby Zuma Beach and Malibu Bluffs Park.


#4: Malibu Surfrider Beach

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.


#5: Paradise Cove Beach

Paradise Cove Beach

Image Source: CNTraveler

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

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.


#7: El Matador Beach

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 waterproof 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.