I love Malibu - This is a beach city in the Santa Monica mountains area of LA county.
If you have a day free, here is how you could plan a family day out:
Reserve table for brunch at 10:30 AM at Ollo
Morning at Zuma beach
Late lunch by Malibu Farm Pier watching surfer folks, drive around Pepperdine University and Malibu Lagoon, ice-cream for the kiddo at Le cafe de la plage Malibu
Sundowner at 5 PM at Geoffrey's Malibu (now we are adulting!)
Sunset at El Matador State Beach
Malibu is known for its beaches so the focus of your trip really should be spending time at the beach. Let's go over beach basics first.
When to Swim / Surf:
To plan your day, it is important to check for high and low tides.
You can also check this NOAA site.
For a walk on the beach, choose a Low Tide time
Remember to carry beach umbrellas, beach toys, towels, sunscreen, water, etc.
To check out tidal pools for marine life, plan to visit 2 hours before low tide or an hour after (according to swimguide.org)
Swimming in the ocean is best during the day
It is safest to swim during a slack tide, which is one hour preceding or after a low or high tide. Waves with shorter intervals are calmer. Ensure life guards are on duty
If you want to surf, waves are great in between low and high tides - you are looking for waves with longer intervals between them (according to swimguide.org)
Which beach should I go to?
Let's start here. Parts of the Malibu coastline are blocked by private homes. The law is that any part of the beach below the median high tide line is public property. I would recommend you spend at least half a day at the beach and come back to it for sunset. Here are the beaches in the area that you can consider.
Zuma Beach: If you are looking for a simple, quiet beach experience with family, Zuma Beach is the way to go. Parking is easy to find at the lot near the beach and there is also free parking on the road.
El Matador State Beach: The parking lot is tiny and the walk to the beach is steep but this beach is spectacular for 'Instagrammer' sunsets and has unique rock formations
Point Dume State Beach & Paradise Cove: Access to the beach requires descending a long stairway to the beach and a walk east from there will take you to the beautiful Paradise Cove. A good time to visit would be during low-tide! This is also a popular surfer spot. While the views are great and you may spot a whale or two (February through April), know that the stairway is closed occasionally. You can directly access Paradise Cove by visiting the Paradise Cove Cafe with paid parking
Leo Carrillo State Beach: This beach is family and dog-friendly. Parking is also easier. Between this beach and North Beach, there is a rocky area called Sequit Point with tide pools and caves which kids will enjoy during low tide..marine life and all!
Malibu Lagoon State Beach & Adamson House: There is a little bit of everything here. Parking is easier. If you want to see birds, this is where you go. If you are a history buff, check out the Adamson family house and its gardens and the Malibu Lagoon Museum. (It may be closed so you should check before your visit). There are small trails, bridges, marshland and tide pools to see. And then - there is Surfrider Beach which offers some of the best long-breaking waves which surfers love! [BTW, you should see surfers even from the pier if you that's what you rather do!]
Where to eat?
Taverna Tony has awesome Greek food and a ton of vegetarian and vegan options
Malibu Farm - This is a farm-to-table popular lunch spot with ocean views. After your meal, take a walk on the pier and watch the surfers do their thing. The best place to park for this restaurant is at the pier parking itself. ($15)
Ollo is right off Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) and there is ample parking there
Le cafe de la plage Malibu is a perfect brunch spot and has great ice creams too
Malibu Seafood has fresh food, affordable prices and has been around for ever! Yep, they have fish and chips ;)
Go to Broad St Oyster Co (in the Country Mart) for oysters and lobster, limited selection, may end up being pricey but probably worth it
Neptune's Net for its chowder, fried shrimp and beer selection
Cholada Thai is good for affordable Asian food - it is casual with beach vibes
Lily's has hearty Mexican and Salvadoran food, big portions
Looking for super fancy? Nobu Malibu is perfect for a special occasion, you might spot a celebrity while enjoying your sushi!
Geoffrey's has amazing views and is an institution. Great brunches and crab cakes
There are many other things that Malibu offers - and you should indulge if you have the time:
Wine tasting at Malibu Solstice Vineyard or the Rosenthal Winery
Hand-crafted ice cream at Le Cafe De La Plage
4 mile hike to the Escondido Falls
Rent a surf board or getting some coaching at Zuma Jay, Drill Surf & Skate or Malibu Surf Coach
Fly kites on Zuma Beach
Go shopping at Trancas Country Mart, Point Dume Village, Malibu Village or Malibu Lumber Yard
Pick up food at Lily's and enjoy eating on the beach!
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