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Best Things To Do in Malibu

AOL PICK from our Editors
The main reason to go to Malibu is to chill. Prepare to spend hours watching the tide change and contemplating your dinner plans, because while the city has its share of diversions, they’re not enough to keep you running around from sunrise to sunset. For that, you’ll need to venture into nearby Santa Monica and Venice or spend some time in Los Angeles. To embrace Malibu is to realize that the high point of every day is watching dolphins play in the Pacific. Embrace the pace: unplug, breathe deeply and do very little.

Venice Boardwalk

Neighborhood: Venice
Let’s make one thing clear: The Venice Boardwalk is not for everyone. It has a seedy traveling carnival kind of vibe, complete with freak shows and cheap chili-dogs and people trying to scam you out of five bucks. But it’s also a one-of-a-kind experience. Where else can you see steroid-fueled weight lifters pumping iron at Muscle Beach, surfers, skaters, tattoo artists, caricaturists, head shops, street performers, hare krishnas, drum circles, hippies hawking handmade jewelry, x-rated T-shirt shops, tarot-card readers, bikini-clad roller skaters, and a shuffleboard court, all in one 3-mile stretch of beach? Go with a sense of humor and limited funds, and leave the kids behind. More kid-age-appropriate fun can be found at the Santa Monica Pier or the Third Street Promenade.

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Venice Boardwalk  

Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum

Neighborhood: Central Malibu
If we can know anything about the former Adamson House owners, it’s that they liked tile—a lot. Called the Taj Mahal of Tile, every room in this Spanish-style mansion, designed in 1929 for Rhoda Rindge Adamson and her husband, Merritt Huntley Adamson, is tricked out in vibrant handcrafted ceramic, made by the once-thriving Malibu Potteries. There’s even a tile dog bath and a ceramic Persian “rug,” complete with fringed edges. Today, the Adamson House is a state park containing the most comprehensive collection of Malibu Pottery tiles in existence. Before the house opened to the public in 1983, an adjacent garage was converted into the Malibu Lagoon Museum, which showcases documents, photographs and artifacts from Malibu’s days as a ranch town. Don’t use up all of your oohs and ahhs in the house. The grounds have been restored to their 1930s grandeur with rose bushes, century-old trees and tiled fountains that overlook the saltwater Malibu Lagoon, home to 200 varieties of birds throughout the year. The last tour of the house is at 2:30PM, 2PM on Saturdays, but the grounds stay open until sunset.

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Adamson House and Malibu Lagoon Museum  

Park Place Stable

Neighborhood: North Malibu
Located on a 1,000-acre swath of private property 4 miles from the PCH, Park Place Stables can offer what few other horseback-riding outfits can—privacy. While other trail rides will lead you into nearby state park land (nothing to sneeze at, mind you), Park Place has its own private trails with bird’s eye views of the Pacific Ocean and picturesque promontories over the canyons and valleys. And because it’s private property, you’ll never run into a random mountain biker or hiker the entire time. Horses are paired to the skill of each rider, so beginners and expert equestrians can take the guided trek together. Call for prices, which recently were around $75 per hour.

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Park Place Stable  

Santa Monica Pier

Neighborhood: Santa Monica
There is no shortage of reasons to visit the Santa Monica Pier. Take it from the four million visitors who descend on the 1,600-foot historical landmark every year. There’s the stunning 1922 carousel with 44 hand-painted horses inside the Looff Hippodrome, an aquarium, arcade, street vendors and free outdoor movies in the summer. But our favorite draw is Pacific Park. The amusement park looks out over the Pacific Ocean and Catalina Island and features a steel roller coaster, a stomach-wrenching gondola ride that drops you more than 150 vertical feet, and the country’s first and only solar-powered Ferris Wheel, which gives you a view of the coast from 130 feet above sea level. Containing more than 160,000 energy-efficient LED lights, the ride is a veritable light show at night.

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Santa Monica Pier  

Malibu Wineries

Neighborhood: The Canyons
Back in the mid-1800s, before Napa and Sonoma had stolen the crown, Malibu was the place for California wine. Today, a handful of wineries run by wealthy entrepreneurs, movie moguls and restaurateurs aim to reclaim Malibu’s glory days. Sun-drenched days, cool ocean breezes and a variety of soils make local wines, like the ones from Cielo, Cornell, the Malibu Vineyard and Rosenthal, resemble the juicy varietals of France’s Rhone Valley. You know you’re not in Wine Country, because there aren’t organized tours to Malibu wineries. But you can taste almost everything the region has to offer at Cornell Winery and Tasting Room, or take home a bottle from Malibu Village Wines in the Malibu Country Mart.

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Getty Villa

Neighborhood: Pacific Palisades

In all fairness, the Getty Villa isn’t located in Malibu, though most people will tell you that it is. It’s a little poetic license that riles the denizens of Pacific Palisades, where the museum actually sits atop a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Originally designed after a 1st-century Roman country house, complete with Venetian plaster walls and terrazzo floors, the Getty Villa reopened in 2006 after a $275 million facelift. It now sports an open-air pavilion, 450-seat outdoor amphitheater and an underground auditorium. The gardens have been planted with fruits and herbs native to the ancient Mediterranean. The permanent collection contains 44,000 Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities, dating back to 6500 B.C., and it has been dogged by controversy. In 2007, the J. Paul Getty trust agreed to return 40 reportedly looted artifacts to Italy, including a prized statue of the goddess Aphrodite. Admission to the museum and all exhibits is free, but you must reserve a ticket online or by telephone before you go.

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Getty Villa  

Zuma Surf & Swim Training

Neighborhood: North Malibu

In 2008, LA Weekly crowned Kai Sanson of Zuma Surf & Swim Training the best surf instructor in L.A. No slight praise in a part of the world where 10-foot swells is a justifiable reason to call in sick. But what makes Sanson so special--and, let’s face it, the whole crew at Zuma Surf & Swim--is experience. And we don’t just mean how to read a wave or get up on the board or a look-way-cool-holding-your-board kind of experience. Sanson knows how to survive, which comes in handy when you’re pinned under crashing waves after that inevitable digger. With more than a quarter century of instruction and lifeguard know-how under his belt, no matter what happens out there, you’re going to live. Sanson’s brother Brett, an EMT and Malibu lifeguard for 12 years, is as much of a gem. It’ll run you $120 for 90 minutes, including wetsuit and board. Lessons are generally at Zuma, Broad Beach or Santa Monica.

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Malibu Country Club

Neighborhood: North Malibu
In 1977, a group of Japanese monks, claiming golf was a tribute to God, were allowed to build a golf course in the pristine canyon north of Point Dume. While we don’t recommend you bet your soul on that 18-hole dogma, we understand if the Malibu Country Club inspires you to genuflect. Quiet and secluded, this public track undulates with the canyon’s natural hills and valleys, which means it can be tricky, even for experienced golfers. Expect to use an arsenal of shots from tee to green. The grounds are well-maintained, carts are equipped with GPS and the pace of play is blissfully swift (a full round usually takes about four hours). There isn’t a driving range, but if you need to warm up, there are practice putting and chipping greens and a batting-cage-sized practice station. It’s $75 for 18 holes during the week, $100 on weekends.

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Malibu Country Club  

Malibu Coastal Cruises

Neighborhood: South Malibu

These 90-minute boat rides from the Malibu Pier to Point Dume allow you to experience the natural beauty of Malibu up close and personal. A naturalist leads some of the tours, explaining a little about the history and geography of Malibu and pointing out the dolphins, sea lions, brown pelicans and cormorants you’re likely to see along the way. The 46-person fiberglass boat allows every person to have a seat (and an unobstructed photo). There are two tours on Friday, starting at 4:30PM and 6:30PM, and four on Saturday and Sunday at 12:30, 2:30, 4:30, and 6:30PM; $25 per person.

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Malibu Pier

Neighborhood: South Malibu
The 780-foot Malibu Pier is just that—a pier. Built in 1905 to ship off local grains, fruits and produce, the pier still feels a little utilitarian. Unlike its flashier cousin in Santa Monica, this pier has neither a carousel nor neon lights. It does, however, have fishermen. After loading up at Wylie’s Bait & Tackle (18757 Pacific Coast Highway, 310-456-2321), they wait on the benches for their daily catch of red snapper, halibut or barracuda and watch wetsuit-clad surfers bob on their boards at the adjacent Surfrider Beach. There’s a bait shop and a gift shop where you can catch a fishing or sightseeing tour. For a snack, head to Ruby’s Diner, a hamburger and milkshake joint, or the Beachcomber, which serves seafood favorites like clam chowder and crab cakes, with live music on the weekends. Plans are in the works to add a surf museum and a beach equipment rental shop.

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Malibu Pier  

Pepperdine University

Neighborhood: Central Malibu
In 2007, the Princeton Review crowned Pepperdine University one of the country’s top three most-beautiful campuses. No kidding. Sitting on 830 acres of land—most of which is untouched and undeveloped canyon—with rolling green lawns overlooking the aquiline Pacific Coast, it makes you wonder how anyone gets any studying done. While the campus is a great place to take a walk or lie back on the grass and watch the clouds, inside, the school has diversions, too. During the academic year, catch a performance at the Center for the Arts or poke around the Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art. In addition to a permanent collection of modern art by artists like Ed Moses, Julian Stanczak and Mary Corse, the museum plays host to temporary shows, a couple of which have been Roy Lichtenstein and Fashion and Finance.

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Venice Canals

Neighborhood: Venice
Originally designed to mimic its Italian namesake, Venice, California, has its own picturesque canals. Once home to beatniks and bohemians (Jim Morrison lived here in the 1960s), the canals underwent a complete restoration in the early 1990s, including new sidewalks and canal banks. Today single-family cottages sporting white picket fences and rose bushes sell for more than $2 million. It’s the perfect place to take a stroll and to watch residents navigate their rowboats through the tranquil water. Every December, locals turn out to cheer the brightly decorated boats in the Venice Canals Holiday Boat Parade.
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