Travel Guide: Malibu California
Here’s your one-stop-shop to Malibu California.
Malibu aka “the ‘Bu” is LA’s first born son back from his gap year, surfing the gnarly waves with his sun-kissed locks and dashing good looks. He’s a hit with celebrities, athletes and trust-afarians alike, looking for the quieter life, full of organic wine, dressed in designer beach-chic driving the newest, most pimped-out Mercedes G-wagon there is.
Doesn’t that just sound like the life?
Malibu has always had a big appeal for us islanders. The laid back California lifestyle seems to be epitomised in Malibu, and yet we’d never fully committed to make the modest drive out from LA to the sandy coastline, til now. (Minus a g-wagon).
How To Get To Malibu Califoria
In my head (perhaps thanks to my staple shows like Million Dollar Listing and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills…classics you might say) Malibu was a big, painful and tedious commute from LA.
And with this millennial research I’d continually warned my husband that we better be prepared for LA traffic en route to Malibu. We’d decided to commit to two nights in Malibu regardless and for that we were rewarded! After an airport rental car pick up, we never really saw LA traffic and the short, direct 28 miles from LAX to Malibu was pretty dreamy. Something I was grateful for having suddenly become the holiday driver thanks to Stefan’s expired driver’s licence (a late discovery at the car rental *insert eyeroll*). “God, LA traffic…” became the running joke of the weekend, til we actually found LA traffic in funnily enough…LA.
For those of you who haven’t been to Malibu, we can’t recommend it enough. Here’s our recommendations on where to stay, eat and play for a weekend in the ‘Bu!
Where To Stay In Malibu California
The Surfrider Hotel ($$$): Thanks to some super kind hosts, Travis and Kelly, we got a chance to check out The Surfrider Hotel and it was even better than I imagined it would be. Transformed from a 1950s motel, The Surfrider is modern beach house with that classic SoCal coastal style that will make you feel instantly relaxed the moment you step inside. The decor is incredible, as is the Roof Deck where you can enjoy bites and drinks with a breathtaking view. The hotel is closed to the public but we were grateful for a sneak peek!
Nobu Ryokan ($$$): While Malibu has long had a shortage of places to stay, that’s all changing now and a prime stretch of PCH is getting a modern update with the arrival of the Nobu Ryokan (a new hotel concept for the brand), just a few yards up the street from its namesake restaurant on Carbon Beach. Here, the intimate 16-room hotel is done up in a minimalist Ryokan-style. This translates to wraparound terraces, floor-to-ceiling windows meant to maximize ocean views, and teak, bronze and limestone detailing.
Little Beach House ($$$): If you’re a Soho House member then you might be lucky enough to stay at this fabulous beachfront abode that sits right next to Nobu (although you do have to apply in advance). Beautiful decor, private beach access and Soho-House-cool-factor built in, obviously.
The Native Hotel ($$): Another hotel to check out is The Native Hotel, which used to be the Malibu Riviera that dated back to 1974. Similarly to The Surfrider, The Native gets major style points with its beach house charm! Where the two really differ is The Native’s more ‘minimal’ room amenities and obviously the price. The rooms do not have TVs and in replacement of AC, there are retro fans. This, no doubt, contributes to the ‘charm’ of the establishment but it might be better to go in the cooler months of the year! This would be a really great place to get away and disconnect.
Air BnB ($-$$): As Stefan and I were embarking on a month of travel, we had to stick to a budget and opted for a $100/night Air BnB about 3 miles from Malibu Pier. It’s important to note there isn’t really a downtown or centre to Malibu but the Malibu pier is as close as you’ll get. We’d recommend using this as your base in terms of where to book.
Where To Eat In Malibu California
Malibu Farm Cafe ($) - This laid-back, instaworthy cafe is located at the end of Malibu pier. The food is super delicious, all fresh, organic and straight from the restaurant’s farm - One Gun Ranch. We went for brekkie and enjoyed barista coffee, herbal tea, yummy eggs with incredible seasoned veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes, arugula etc) and some healthy juice shots to set us up for the day. It was the perfect start to our time in Malibu and a definite must-try for breakfast or lunch in Malibu.
Malibu Burger Co ($) - Although we didn’t get to try it, we heard good things about this pretty burger joint and it’s approved by our dreamy traveller Gwynnie at Goop - '‘Leaning heavily on local ingredients, Malibu Burger Co delivers on that satisfying craving we all have for a burger, but with the healthy-ish option to build-your-own bowl if you wish. Aside from classic beef and bison cheese-topped burgers, there are lighter options like pesto kale grilled cheese and tuna wasabi burgers”.
Malibu Farm ($$) - Malibu Farm is a gorgeous go-to restaurant for a more sophisticated lunch or dinner. You can watch surfers and stand-up paddleboarders on iconic Surfrider Beach, plus the white sangria is perfectly refreshing on a hot day. Super fresh, healthy meals and beautiful decor. Enjoying a zucchini pizza on the porch while you watch the sun set is pretty much as California as it gets.
The Sunset Malibu ($$) - This little beachfront gem is located a short drive from Malibu pier and provides a relaxed, family-friendly spot for any occasion. Stefan and I enjoyed our first meal here and it was incredible. Happy hour is generous running from 3-9 with killer sunset views as the name suggests. We enjoyed some seriously fresh seafood including oysters and tuna tartare coupled with a scrummy kale and brussels salad and truffle mac and cheese. A must try for a SoCal easy and delicious meal overlooking one of Malibu’s more private beaches.
Nobu ($$$) - With our month of travel ahead we couldn’t justify a meal here (and frankly weren’t that organised to even have a chance) but we did have a good snoop and the place is stunning! Goop says “There are now 32 outposts of Nobu worldwide —and they draw a devoted tourist-y crowd — but the Malibu location, positioned on a bluff overlooking the ocean, is worth braving the crowds. The backdrop offers the kind of sweeping views that people are happy to have for something big and festive like a rehearsal dinner, plus the food is reliably good.”
Where To Play In Malibu California
Surfrider Beach (Sites) - Malibu “Surfrider” Beach is part of Malibu Lagoon State Beach, which also comprises the Malibu Lagoon and the Malibu Pier; and it’s beautiful! Enjoy sandy beach walks, a dip in the sea or even a surf lesson all from this beautiful centre of Malibu.
Malibu Village (Shopping) - Just a short drive from the “centre” of Malibu is Malibu village, a gorgeous collection of beautiful shops perfect for the shopping addict in all of us. You’ll find most of the brands you’ll need and beautiful boutique shops to get your SoCal vibe on. Something for everyone here and the perfect pit stop.
Pepperdine University 9/11 Flag Memorial (Sites) - On the drive “out” of Malibu you’ll be sure to notice Pepperdine’s Alumni Park display of 2,977 flags to commemorate the lives lost in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. Each year the Waves of Flags display features flags for each life lost in the 9/11 attacks represented by a flag of their home nation.
Adamson House (Sites) - This immaculately preserved 1930’s Moorish-Spanish-style villa serves an important purpose in the community: to educate visitors about the history of Malibu, going all the way back to the 18th century when the land was home to the Chumash Indians. You can see the entire house, with its elaborate tile work and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean during a one-hour guided tour, and if you visit on a Friday, save some time for a tour of the gardens as well. (Its’ history and idyllic setting also make the property a coveted wedding venue.) Also on site is the Malibu Lagoon Museum, offering an even deeper dive into Malibu’s past. We didn’t have time to do the tour although we got to be nosey neighbours from the beach and the house looks spectacular!)
Zuma Beach (Sites) - One of Malibu’s go-to beaches, Zuma is also one of the most impressive in scope, stretching close to three miles along the coast. It’s usually pleasantly un-crowded, too, leaving plenty of room to spread out. It’s also home to a great break for beginner surfers as well as a meeting spot for paddle boarding classes. For kids, there’s a junior lifeguard program during the summer.
Surf Lessons (Activities) - Surfrider, Sunset Beach, and Point Dume are probably the most talked-about surf spots along the Malibu coastline, but you don’t necessarily need to be a pro to surf them (for Point Dume, you do need to have a key though, unless you paddle over from one of the adjacent beaches). Fortunately, LA is packed with surf instructors.
Canyon Drives (Activities) - If you’re looking for some thrill-seeking drivings, why not try out some of the Canyon drives. We were staying on Latigo Cayman, a 3 mile nearly vertical drive (must to my sheer terror behind the wheel!) that had some truly stunning views. The landscape feels like a ranch meets the coast, and the views at the top are so worth the hairpin turns!