Best Things to do in Malibu for a First Time Visitor

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Looking for the best things to do in Malibu? You’ve come to the right place! When you think of Malibu, what comes to mind? Sunny beaches, surfers catching some waves, dreamy oceanfront homes inhabited by celebrities? It’s true, Malibu has all of these, plus more! 

There are lots of fun things to do in Malibu, from enjoying one of the local beaches, to visiting historic Malibu attractions and driving along the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. If you’re visiting this beautiful city for the first time, and are not sure what places to visit or things to see in Malibu, keep reading on to get the scoop on everything you will need to know while exploring some of the best things to do in Los Angeles!

Best Things to See in Malibu

Malibu Pier

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For incredible views of the coastline, as well as an array of fun things to do in Malibu, head over to the Malibu Pier. This historic pier dates back to 1905, when it was used as a point to shuttle agricultural products to vessels, as well as receive various items.

Today, it boasts restaurants, shops, fishing, and boat tours. One highlight is Malibu Farm, which is a wildly popular restaurant and bar on the pier where you can enjoy local cuisine while looking out at the ocean where you might spot surfers or even dolphins!

The Malibu Pier is also home to some of the most fascinating surf culture stories from Southern California including ‘Gidget’ the female surfer who would trade homemade sandwiches for surf lessons in the 1950s, this true story has been popularized by her own father, Frederick Kohner a famous screenwriter that has been featured not only in a novel but a tv series and film. It is said that Kathy Kohner, aka Gidget, is seen to this day on the pier with a flower in her hair – so keep your eyes peeled for the real-life Gidget while you’re here!

The Malibu Pier is one of the top things to do in Malibu, so make sure to check out this iconic landmark.

The Getty Villa

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Editorial credit: Roka / Shutterstock

One of the most stunning places to visit in Malibu is the Getty Villa. This museum is located on the site of the original Getty Museum, which was adjacent to J Paul Getty’s home in 1954, a famous oil tycoon who had a deep appreciation for the arts.

The Getty Villa building was created to resemble a Roman country house and on display you can expect to see an impressive collection of over 44,000 antiquities from Greece, Rome, and Etruria that date back from 6,500 BC to 400 AD. Not to mention traveling exhibitions to explore and beautifully manicured outdoor gardens to walk around. The property is as awe-worthy as the collections on display here.

For the art, there are plaques that allow you to give yourself a self-guided tour, or you can take a guided tour. There are several dining options throughout the property and a store where you can snag a souvenir.

The Getty Villa has free admission, all you need to do is set up a timed-entry reservation and you’re ready to visit this Malibu attraction and one of the most famous museums in Los Angeles.

Adamson House Museum

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Editorial credit: Gerry Matthews / Shutterstock

If you’re a fan of history and architecture, another one of the best things to do in Malibu is check out the Adamson House Museum.

Located by the Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach, the site on which the property is located was once where the Chumash Native Americans lived until the late 18th century. In 1929, married couple Rhoda Rindge and Merritt Huntley Adamson built a Mediterranean Revival beach house on the land, which the resident and estate would eventually become the Adamson House Museum.

Guests can tour the Adamson House and marvel at the Spanish and Moorish details as well as the exquisite tiles, hard-carved fixtures, and intricate ironwork. As a matter of fact, the house has been nicknamed the ‘Taj Mahal of Tile” because of its extensive and beautiful collection of tilework by Rufus Keeler, a local master ceramicist. 

The Malibu Lagoon Museum, located on the same property as the Adamson House as they both are within the Malibu Lagoon State Beach park, provides historic and educational information about the Chumash Native Americans. This National Historic Site is one of the best things to do in Malibu, so make sure to include this spot on your schedule!

Saddlerock Ranch

The one thing you must bring with you to Saddlerock Ranch is your camera. This picturesque Malibu attraction showcases sweeping vineyards amongst the backdrop of the California hills. When walking around the ranch, you will find caves with pictographs done by the Chumash Native Americans, which are so well-preserved that they have been studied by archaeologists.

If you enjoy wine, they offer various Malibu Wine Hikes around the property, which in my opinion is a must. Visiting Saddlerock Ranch is one of the top things to do in Malibu, be sure head here on the weekends for their wine and beer garden!

Zuma Beach & Point Dume

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Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll find that beaches are perhaps one the best things to do in Malibu. The coastline here is some of the most gorgeous in Southern California and Zuma Beach and Point Dume are some of the best beaches in Los Angeles to visit!

At Zuma Beach you can enjoy almost three miles of sand and surf to play in. There are snack stands and restrooms dotted throughout Zuma Beach, making for a pleasant beach day thanks to the facilities here.

A perk of coming to Zuma Beach is the close proximity to Point Dume, which counts Iron Man and Planet of the Apes as films that have been shot there. A highlight of Point Dume is Pirate’s Cove, which contains a tucked away beach in a little cove. Zuma Beach and Point Dume are two places to visit in Malibu that you won’t want to miss, especially if you’re looking for a gorgeous beach day.

El Matador State Beach

El Matador Beach in Malibu

One of my absolute favorite places to visit in Malibu is this beach right here. El Matador State Beach is the place to visit in Malibu for a picnic by the ocean or walk along the rugged coastline and ooh and ahh at the rock formations.

There are picnic tables at the top of the bluff, right by the parking lot. You can bring some drinks and bites to enjoy while gazing at the sea. Once you’re done, you can follow the trail and stairs down to the beach. There, you’ll find caves, rocks, and sea stacks. This is a great place to add to your list of things to see in Malibu, as this is a popular spot for photographers to get stunning imagery.

Leo Carrillo State Beach

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It’s no secret that some of the best Malibu attractions are the beaches. Malibu really does have some of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Southern California. 

And if you’re debating whether you want to spend time at the beach, or do some hiking, put Leo Carrillo State Park on your list of things to see in Malibu. Here, you’ll find the aptly named Leo Carrillo State Beach, which is home to tidepools, coastal caves, and reefs to explore.

Some popular activities here include swimming, surfing, windsurfing, surf fishing, and beachcombing. And if you’re in the mood to hit the trail, this beach is in close proximity to back-country hiking. There is parking here, but note that there are accompanying fees. Leo Carrillo State Beach has great things to do in Malibu for entertaining daytime activities.

Malibu Surfrider Beach

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As the name suggests, Malibu Surfrider Beach is the thing to do in Malibu if watching surfers and enjoying a day at the beach piques your interest. And if you already know how to surf, you can catch a wave at this popular Los Angeles beach.

This beach offers almost one mile of ocean to swim, surf, or watch the locals catch some waves! There is also diving, fishing, and volleyball.

One thing to note is that the swimming areas here are limited. Malibu Surfrider Beach is off of the Pacific Coast Highway, and part of the Malibu Lagoon State Beach. There is a parking lot, as well as street parking. Surfing is an integral part of California beach culture, making Surfrider Beach a top thing to do in Malibu.

Las Tunas Beach

Las Tunas Beach is a great spot to get out and enjoy the ocean breeze and salty air. This beach is not as busy as other beaches in the area, and you’re more likely to find people fishing and scuba diving here instead of surfing or swimming.

While Las Tunas Beach is fairly easy to get to and is the southernmost beach in Malibu, there is a considerable amount of noise because of how close it is to the Pacific Coast Highway, something to keep in mind if you’re looking for something a little more tranquil. This is one thing to do in Malibu where you can get in a quick jaunt along the beach.

Escondido Canyon Park

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Hiking in the California terrain is one of the best things to do in Malibu, and Escondido Canyon Park is where to go. You can take the Escondido Falls Hike through the woodlands to Escondido Falls.

As you trek through the winding trail, you will be rewarded with the magnificent waterfalls that you can explore including Lower Escondido Falls and Upper Escondido Falls. Keep in mind, these waterfalls are some of the best in Los Angeles and largest in the Santa Monica Mountains and aren’t for the faint of heart as this hike does require some rock scrambling.

At Solstice Canyon, you can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, and even bring a picnic basket to have some bites while you traverse your surroundings.

This is one fun thing to do in Malibu that must be on your itinerary if you love being outdoors, especially since you’re rewarded with one of the very few waterfalls in Southern California!

Enjoy a Waterfront Meal

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With Malibu being right on the ocean, dining on the water is one of the top things to do in Malibu, and there are some really great options!

Nobu is a really famous Japanese restaurant and bar with an outdoor seating area that overlooks the ocean that often is frequented by celebrities.

For a fancy dining experience, Mastro’s Ocean Club is an upscale steakhouse nestled right on the water. Keep in mind this spot has a dress code, so don’t come dress too casually.

A staple restaurant in Malibu is Gladstones, which has been in business for almost 50 years and offers standard American fare. This is the perfect spot for lunch or brunch on the weekends right on the beach.

Duke’s, which is a nod to legendary surfer Duke Kahanamoku, is a fun restaurant offering brunch, lunch, and dinner with a gorgeous view.

Neptune’s Net specializes in serving seafood, in a ‘seafood shack’ setting on the ocean that’s ideal for lunch or an early dinner as they close at 8 PM. This Malibu spot is famous and a local institution known for its biker scene and has been featured movies and even video games including Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Movie buffs might recognize this Malibu eatery from the Fast and the Furious.

With a variety of restaurant options, oceanfront dining should absolutely be included on your itinerary of things to do in Malibu.

Malibu Hindu Temple

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One of the best things to do in Malibu is visit the Malibu Hindu Temple, which is situated in neighboring Calabasas. This Temple of the Hindu God Venkateswara was built in 1981 and is a great place to appreciate the Hindu religion.

When you visit the Temple, there are indoor and outdoor services that you can participate in or witness. Please note that while the general public is welcomed, there are established rules that need to be observed by all visitors, please visit their site and read and understand the rules before visiting which include dress code, food products that aren’t allowed on the property, and other general reminders that ensure you’ll be a respectful visitor. This is a fantastic thing to see in Malibu for a unique and special experience.

Malibu Creek State Park

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At the Malibu Creek State Park, you can indulge in a variety of fun things to do in Malibu as well as enjoy some of the most gorgeous views in the Santa Monica Mountains, it will be hard to believe you’re in Los Angeles. There are 15 miles of incredible views of vistas, valleys, and canyons. If you’re athletically-inclined, there is hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing. If you prefer less strenuous activities, there is fishing and bird watching.

A fun tidbit about the park is that it has an interesting history, in relation to Hollywood. The film Planet of the Apes and television show M*A*S*H were filmed here, and one of the popular trails/hikes is called the M*A*S*H site. This is a top thing to do in Malibu that you don’t want to miss, be sure to read this guide to help you plan the M*A*S*H hike!

Malibu Country Mart

When you’re ready for a change of scenery, the Malibu Country Mart is just a half mile away from the Malibu Pier. There are a variety of shopping, dining, and wellness establishments at this Malibu attraction.

For shopping, Ron Herman is a Los Angeles founded establishment that offers men’s and women’s fashions. For dining, head over to John’s Garden for fast casual healthy options. And perhaps if you’re in the mood for a fitness class, Pure Barre and 5 Point Yoga have got you covered. For a different change of pace from the beach, the Malibu Country Mart is one of the best things to do in Malibu.


With all of the tempting options for things to do in Malibu, are you ready to visit this beautiful city by the ocean? From the scenic beaches to the Malibu attractions rich in culture, there is no shortage of fun things to do and places to visit in Malibu. So pack your swimsuit, hiking boots, and casual attire, and get ready to explore this amazing destination, a great stop on any Southern California road trip.