Bikinis, surfboards and sea spray soak the mind at the mere mention of Malibu, California, but the beach is just half of the equation for this town that boasts 21 miles of Pacific Coast shoreline.
Hollywood’s hidden playground is just a 15-minute drive into the surrounding mountains, where endless outdoor adventures and a burgeoning wine country await.
Watch out for longboards while you cruise Pacific Coast Highway (PCH, to locals) en route to one of Malibu’s classic seaside eateries, whether it’s crab cakes and a Michelada tall boy at Neptune’s Net, teriyaki-touched island fare at Duke’s Malibu or a Maine Lobster Cobb Salad under the white umbrellas of Geoffrey’s. Locals love Malibu Seafood, where you can bring your own bottle of Dolin Malibu Estate Vineyards Chardonnay, grown just miles away, to pair with shrimp cocktails and ahi tuna burgers on the sunny patio.
There’s new culinary blood on the beach, too. Malibu Farm serves both casual, walk-up eats and sit-down, family-style cuisine on the pier.
If you just can’t leave the beach, even for wine, the Rosenthal Malibu Estate tasting room is right on PCH. Here, you can taste Bordeaux-style blends grown on the property of founder George Rosenthal, who planted grapes 30 years ago. At SIP Malibu Grapes, you can enjoy a wide swath of Malibu-grown wines from brands like Montage, Cielo, Rocky Oaks and Colcanyon, as well as craft beer and cider.
No modern Malibu trip is complete without a stop at Cornell Winery, the epicenter of the town’s wine culture. Owner Tim Skogstrom runs Cornell as a wine bar and a bottle shop that features plenty of Malibu brands. Support local cougar conservation efforts and buy a bottle of Seven Sons Vineyards Mountain Lion Merlot. Then head next door—watch out for wandering peacocks—and grab one of the few tables at The Old Place, a gathering spot and restaurant operated by the legendary Runyon family since 1970.
For eight decades, the Gerson family has cultivated an upscale summer-camp vibe in the oak forests along its Mulholland Drive property. In 2015, the ranch opened as the shabby-chic Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club that’s since become a favorite of Angelenos who seek a nearby retreat.
Slide from sashimi into your teak soaking tub at the Nobu Ryokan Malibu, a recently opened minimalist masterpiece. More modest budgets can find sleeping salvation at The Native Hotel, whose 1947 Malibu Riviera bones finished a major modernist upgrade last spring. Even better deals can be found at The M Malibu, just steps from the beach, and those who don’t mind a bit of sand on the pillow can camp up the coast at Leo Carrillo, Thornhill Broome or Sycamore Canyon state parks.
There are plenty of eclectic furniture stores, plant nurseries and retail experiences lining PCH, but there are two sunshine-filled mini-malls worth a leisurely visit, and they’re right across the street from each other. The Malibu Country Mart, which surrounds a large and bustling children’s playground, features more than 60 storefronts, including locally owned clothing boutiques for men and women, a chocolatier and plenty of jewelry, furnishings and stylish gift shops.
The nearby Malibu Lumber Yard houses more than a dozen businesses that range from peddlers of potted cacti and pocket crystals to celeb-loving styles by Intermix and Alice + Olivia.
Waving to a former TV-star giraffe and alpacas named Sarah, Jessica and Parker isn’t usually followed by sips of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. But that’s the menu at Malibu Wine Safaris, where the Semler family, who planted grapes in Malibu’s mountains in 1996, combines wildlife rescue with estate-grown wine.
Catch a wave-riding lesson with Malibu Makos Surf Club or rent gear from Zuma Jay’s. Those who seek a mellower, stand-up paddle experience can get lessons through Radfish, which also instructs thrill-seeking kite surfers.
4 Hour Getaway
Stretch your legs and touch Tinseltown with a hike along the many trails of Paramount Ranch. Part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, the park’s “Western Town” has served as a backdrop for several TV favorites from the 1950s to recent mainstays like Weeds, The Mentalist and Westworld. While you’re within the reserve, check out what remains of the original set of M*A*S*H. Keep an eye out for traces of the resident mountain lions, which are protected fiercely by conservationists.