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11 Best Beaches in Malibu, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Mar 16, 2022

Malibu is for beach lovers. It’s a coastal city of LA County, nestled between the Santa Monica Mountains and the saltwater. The city officially encompasses 21 miles of oceanfront, but the coast extends farther in either direction. And alongside historic villas, celebrity mansions, and several notable seafood joints, it’s these beaches that give Malibu its postcard status.

The Malibu coast faces south, and its eastern and western limits display a variety of beachscapes. Tide pools and sea caves define some of these city and state beaches, while surf breaks and lifeguard towers also add to the mix. The one constant is usually the weather, which is lovely throughout the year thanks to a Mediterranean climate.

Another constant is the crowds that tend to gather. Some beaches in Malibu, like Zuma Beach, have all the room needed to host gatherings of nearly any size. But finding a parking spot at other beaches, like the photogenic El Matador State Beach, is a bit like playing the lottery. Arriving early never hurts on a Malibu beach excursion.

Find your next slice of paradise with our list of the top beaches in Malibu.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Malibu Lagoon State Beach
Malibu Lagoon State Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Malibu Lagoon State Beach encompasses several iconic landscapes of Malibu. Alongside the confluence of Malibu Creek and the ocean, where a dynamic wetland intermingles with the beach, the Malibu Lagoon State Beach is also home to the famous Surfrider Beach and the Malibu Pier.

The lagoon area of the state beach has a separate parking area at the Cross Creek Place and PCH intersection. Here, a trail circles the wetlands with interpretive information along the way, ending at the lagoon beach. This wetland and wide beach are popular spots for birds and wildlife enthusiasts.

Farther east, the state beach also encompasses the long crescent shore surrounding the Malibu Pier. This shoreline is home to Surfrider Beach, long credited for bringing surfing to Southern California. And Surfrider is still a popular break today. The pier itself offers a fantastic view of the coastline, as well as seafood dining at the Malibu Farm Restaurant.

Malibu Pier, Malibu Lagoon State Beach
Malibu Pier, Malibu Lagoon State Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Malibu Lagoon State Park is also home to the historic Adamson House, next to the beach between the lagoon and the pier. This Spanish Colonial Revival-style home dates to the 1920s and the city’s early history. Docent tours of this historic abode provide insight into this history and access to the interior and landscaped grounds.

2. El Matador State Beach

El Matador State Beach
El Matador State Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

El Matador is one of the three beaches that make up Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach in western Malibu, and it’s the most popular. Jutting from its shore are several scenic rock formations that capture the eye. These photogenic features have played a significant role in the beach's growing popularity.

And the beach’s beauty isn’t overrated. The unique trail down the eroding bluff side, including a final staircase descent, overlooks the entire beach, providing quite the view. Down on the shore, sea stacks and sea caves invite all types of exploration.

Visitors can head south or north on the shoreline for extended beach walks. The best time to visit is low tide when most formations aren’t underwater. Consult a tide chart before any long walks on the beach.

Trail down to El Matador State Beach
Trail down to El Matador State Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

El Matador Beach is less than five miles south of Leo Carrillo State Beach. Road signs point the way to the dirt parking lot off the PCH, but they are easy to miss if you're new to the area. The parking lot itself is small, especially based on the beach’s popularity. Early morning is usually an excellent time to find a parking spot.

3. Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach
Zuma Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Zuma is a Los Angeles County Beach and one of the largest in Malibu. The beach is west of Point Dume and stretches for nearly two miles next to the Pacific Coast Highway. Thousands of parking spots are available along this beach, with free parking options along the PCH.

Zuma Beach almost feels more like the shoreline near Santa Monica. The beach is expansive, with no big houses at the backend of the sand, like much of the Malibu coastline. Concessions are available at either end of the beach, and restroom facilities are throughout.

The expansive nature of Zuma Beach makes it popular for all types of ocean activity, including spreading out a towel and lounging. The gently sloping shore also makes the beach ideal for walking in the surf. Bodyboarding, surfing, and swimming are also popular, though anyone entering the ocean should be aware of potentially strong riptides.

4. Topanga Beach

Topanga Beach
Topanga Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Topanga Beach is the farthest eastern beach in Malibu, meaning it's the closest to Los Angeles. It’s a famous stretch of sand for several reasons, though, and not just its approximately 25-mile driving distance from LA. Topanga is also well-visited thanks to its shape and southern orientation, creating perfect surfing conditions.

Other popular activities at Topanga Beach include scuba diving and snorkeling, and spotting wildlife in the adjacent Topanga Lagoon. The shore at Topanga is quite rocky next to the water, so it’s not an ideal swimming destination.

The parking area is right off the PCH, with just under 100 spots available. Parking along the PCH is also a possibility. Either way, this area sees crowds on the weekends. It’s a short walk down some stairs to reach the beach, where restrooms and outdoor showers are available.

5. Leo Carrillo State Park

Sunset at Leo Carrillo State Park
Sunset at Leo Carrillo State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Leo Carrillo is a fantastic state park on the western outskirts of Malibu. It features canyon hiking trails and two sections of scenic shoreline. It's also home to a popular campground, with over 100 sites available. The rocky outcropping known as Sequit Point separates the park's north and south beaches, with several tide pools and sea caves to explore.

South Beach at Leo Carrillo is accessible by walking through a tunnel under the PCH near the state park entrance. A large day-use parking area sits next to this tunnel entrance, which itself is a hundred feet or so from the entrance to the park’s Canyon Campground.

South Beach has several rugged features that catch the eye, including the massive sea stacks of Sequit Point to the north. These boulders are best explored at low tide when sea caves and tide pools reveal themselves. And heading south, the crescent-shaped beach extends to Nicholas Canyon Beach. This entire long stretch is popular for sunbathing and surfing.

On the other side of Sequit Point, North Beach is wider, with even more sand to explore. This long stretch of beach has an adjacent linear parking lot, accessible with a short drive from the state park entrance. Parts of this beach are dog-friendly, though all canine companions must stay on leash.

Official site: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=616

6. Carbon Beach

Carbon Beach, seen from Malibu Pier
Carbon Beach, seen from Malibu Pier | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Carbon Beach encompasses approximately one mile of the thin coastline east of the Malibu Pier. Luxury oceanfront homes sit at the highwater mark at the backend of the beach, giving the sand its nickname, Billionaire’s Beach.

Carbon Beach is only accessible at low tide. Newly installed access points make it easier for the public to enjoy the beach. Currently, three main access points on the east, west, and central part of the beach lead down to the sand. Visitors must park on the PCH to access these small passageways between homes.

The Carbon-La Costa Beach Access is the farthest east access point on Carbon Beach. And as the name implies, it also lends access to the similarly skinny La Costa Beach.

7. Big Dume Beach, Point Dume

Big Dume Beach, Point Dume
Big Dume Beach, Point Dume

Point Dume, toward Western Malibu, offers some of the most rugged and scenic stretches of coastline in the city. Point Dume Natural Preserve encompasses this south-facing point, offering hiking trails and whale-watching vantage points. And on either side of Point Dume, two beaches invite exploration.

Big Dume Beach, also known as Dume Cove Beach, is east of Point Dume. It’s most accessible by hiking across Point Dume and down a long set of stairs. These stairs lead to the wide crescent beach with plenty of room to explore. Farther east along the sand, the beach turns into Little Dume Beach and eventually hits Paradise Cove.

West of Point Dume is Westward Beach. This beach also serves as the southern half of Zuma County Beach. It features similar amenities, including lifeguards on duty and volleyball nets. Westward Beach is also the easiest spot to find parking for visiting any part of Point Dume.

8. El Pescador State Beach and La Piedra State Beach

El Pescador State Beach
El Pescador State Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

El Pescador and La Piedra are two of the three beaches that make up Robert Meyer Memorial State Beach in western Malibu. The famous El Matador State Beach is the third beach, and all three are worth the pull-off from the PCH.

El Pescador and La Piedra are less-crowded destinations compared to El Matador State Beach. Still, their dirt parking lots fill to capacity, especially on the weekends. These parking areas have portable toilets but few other amenities.

Both beaches aren’t quite as long as El Matador, but there’s plenty of room for walking or finding a place to lay a towel down, especially during low tide. Visiting either beach involves a steep walk down a dirt trail studded with stairs. Sturdier footwear than flip-flops is recommended for this descent.

9. Thornhill Broom Beach

Thornhill Broom Beach, Point Mugu State Park
Thornhill Broom Beach, Point Mugu State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Thornhill Broom Beach is part of the five-mile stretch of coastline encompassed by Point Mugu State Park. It’s one of the park's longest beaches, though it’s not very wide, and the best time to visit is during low tide. The beach is incredibly scenic, with the Santa Monica Mountains providing a breathtaking backdrop.

There’s no designated parking for Thornhill Broom Beach, and most visitors opt to park on the side of the PCH. The beach is excellent for a photo-op or putting a chair down and enjoying the scene. Across the PCH from the beach, a massive dune invites uphill exploration and a steep ride back down.

South of Thornhill Broom Beach, the Sycamore Canyon Campground at the state park offers over 40 campsites for tents and RVs. This popular campground is within walking distance of Sycamore Cove Day-Use Area on the coast and the same proximity to a sprawling network of hiking trails.

10. Dan Blocker Beach

Corral Canyon, above Dan Blocker Beach
Corral Canyon, above Dan Blocker Beach

Dan Blocker Beach is a long stretch of sand approximately halfway between Malibu Lagoon State Beach and Point Dume. It’s also known as Corral State Beach and is today operated by the county. The beach has a few amenities, including restrooms, picnic tables, and lifeguards on duty during the summer months.

The beach isn’t as popular as other stretches of sand in Malibu, making it the right choice for those looking for a bit of solitude. However, the PCH runs close to the beach, and traffic noise is usually present.

Parking on the side of the PCH is the most common way to access Dan Blocker Beach. Alternatively, visitors can park on the other side of the highway at the Sara Wan Trailhead, next to Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Patio Cafe. This trailhead also lends access to the 2.5-mile round-trip into Corral Canyon.

11. Beaches South and North of Malibu

Santa Monica State Beach
Santa Monica State Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The California Coast doesn’t end in Malibu. Several beaches invite exploration north and south of the Santa Monica Mountains, and while some may argue that Malibu has the prettiest beaches, others vie for attention.

The rest of Santa Monica Bay, south of Malibu, has many beaches to explore. The most noteworthy, or at least the most well-lit at night, is Santa Monica State Beach, bisected by the amusement park rides on the Santa Monica Pier. And while this popular spot is a central point of attraction, it’s only one of many of the best beaches near Santa Monica.

The many beaches near Ventura are also worth the short drive north of Malibu. From iconic waves at places like Surfers Point at Seaside Park to the palm-tree paths lining Oxnard Beach Park, it’s all vacation territory on this side of the coast.

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