Day trip: Malibu, CA

Malibu in fall: Southern California's beautiful summer weather without the summer crowds
Jenny Price

Get into the great outdoors: Spend a whole day outside, and you’ll understand why the stars (the movie ones) are here—for the sea, mountains, sun, and sky.

Number of coastal miles: 27

Number of beaches: About 30

Locals call it: The ’Bu.

Unofficial town square: The Malibu Country Mart  outdoor mall and its new neighbor, the Malibu Lumber Yard.

Best place to pick up a picnic: John’s Garden takeout deli ($; 3835 Cross Creek Rd.; 310/456-8377).

Best catch: Malibu Seafood ($$; 25653 Pacific Coast Hwy.; 310/456-3430), a local fave with long outdoor picnic tables overlooking the ocean.

A shake with a view: Ruby’s Shake Shack ($; 23000 Pacific Coast Hwy.; 310/456-3443), at the end of Malibu Pier, offers a view of world-famous Surfrider Beach.

Best-kept lunch secret: The Godmother of Malibu ($$; closed Sun; 23847 Stuart Ranch Rd.; 310/456-3254) at the private Malibu Racquet Club is open to the public, serving fresh eats and lemonade courtside.

THINGS TO DO IN MALIBU

Hang out with the dolphins: Rent a sit-on-top kayak at Malibu Surf Shack, and get a seafarer’s view of the coast. You’ll glide past the hang-10 mecca Surfrider Beach, Carbon (aka Billionaire’s) Beach, and the star-studded Malibu Colony. Single kayaks $20/hour, $35/day; 22935 Pacific Coast Hwy.; 310/456-8508.

Get back in the saddle: The horseback trail rides from Park Place Stable traverse Malibu’s rugged meadow-and-mountain ranching country, with high peaks in every direction and ocean views around the bend. From $65/hour; 310/589-8845.

Where to eat an alfresco brunch: From PCH, wind up Kanan Dume Road to Malibu Café, an outdoor wonderland at Calamigos Ranch. The lawn is dotted with couches, and chandeliers hang from the trees. Play bocce or explore the pond in a Huck Finn–style raft. Order the heart-stopping lobster claw egg roll, a steal at $16. $$$; 327 S. Latigo Canyon Rd.; 818/540-2400.

Your own private beach: There are loads of beaches to pick from, but the 1/4-mile stretch from El Matador (4 miles east of Leo Carrillo State Park; $8 parking; parks.ca.gov) at Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach downcoast to secret Lechuza Beach is the most scenic, with sea cliffs, tidepools, and 30-foot rock formations topped with cormorants.

Make it an (outside) overnight: Sleep under the stars at Leo Carrillo State Park, with spacious shaded campsites, a store, and a beach across PCH with tidepools and sea caves to explore. $35; reservations recommended; 35000 W. Pacific Coast Hwy.; parks.ca.gov (info) or reserveamerica.com (reservations).

More outdoor adventures in Malibu

  • Take a hike: The easy 1½-mile (one way) Zuma Canyon Trail winds along a dry creekbed through a woodsy canyon. And while it’s only minutes from Malibu’s neighbor­hoods, it feels like back­country wilderness. From PCH, take Bonsall Dr. a mile to parking; nps.gov/samo or 805/370 2301.
  • Hit a secret beach: Ever heard of Latigo Beach? Or Big Rock, Puerco, Amarillo, or Escondido? Probably not. Most of Malibu’s beaches are lined with houses, but every California beach is public below the high tide line. They’re empty and beautiful—so while you can’t throw down your towel just anywhere, you can stay on the wet sand and explore. For access info and maps, visit www.coastal.ca.gov/access/accndx.html or laurbanrangers.com
  • Sip wine with a view: Laze about at Malibu Wines, a standout among the area’s prize-winning vineyards, just up the road from Malibu Café. The tasting room—a big, wide lawn—has wine-barrel tables, a scenic mountain backdrop, and a BYO picnic policy (with purchase). The atmosphere is as laid-back asthe Sauvignon Blanc is refreshing. Flights from $10; live music 7–9 Fri–Sat, 1–3 Sat–Sun; 31740 Mulholland Hwy.;818/865-0605.