June 19, 2023

Make the Most of the Coast

What to do — with one day — in Malibu


At the risk of making the Malibu Pier the best place to do just about everything, it really can’t be overlooked that it is one of the best places to enjoy in Malibu, and the sunrise is no exception. With luck, the morning fog will fade, offering unfettered views of the eastern sun rising over the skyline of Los Angeles and reflecting golden light across the Pacific Ocean to the south of Malibu.

From the east side of the pier, the sunrise is unobstructed, with south-facing beachside homes catching the golden light like hundreds of twinkling waking eyes. From the west side of the pier, the iconic form with its many legs walking out into the Pacific Ocean provides additional character to the warming visuals. The west side also offers the vibrance of early-morning surfers catching waves or paddleboarders heading out.

If you want some elevation, Encinal Canyon Road on the west end of Malibu takes you closer to the sky with plenty of locations along the twists and turns to catch beautiful sunrise views.

If you want peace and quiet, but still want to be near the ocean for sunrise, head head over to the Point Dume Nature Preserve for a gentle hike along the cliffside dirt trails to the point.

View from Paradise Cove Beach Cafe.


The community of Malibu awakens with the traffic up and down PCH buzzing shortly after sunrise, and your hunger may begin rumbling. Before heading to the beach, you might want to pick up breakfast. If you want the beach-and-breakfast combo, head over to Paradise Cove Beach Café where you will get heaping platefuls on a secluded beach. Make sure to get your parking pass validated after breakfast before leaving the cafe, or if you plan on making Paradise Cove a habit, ask them about their “Keys to Paradise” program to get a lifetime pass — it’s an real key to paradise. Tell them What to do in Malibu sent you.

If you want something nearer the pier, you have plenty of choices. Head right onto the pier for fresh breakfast at the Malibu Farm Pier Cafe for the opening table at 9 a.m. — only on Saturday and Sunday is the pier cafe open by 8 a.m. or come back by reservation for a farm-to-table dinner and a sunset at the Malibu Farm Restaurant.

Other favorites just around the corner include Kristy’s, Marmalade Cafe and OLLO with signature dishes that will leave you talking about breakfast all day. Before you even get to the beach, you will have had to make some tough decisions.

Whole Foods Malibu at The Park


Speaking of tough decisions, with 21 miles of coast, Malibu is dotted with amazing beaches where you can find the party, or find the solitude.

If you had breakfast at Paradise Cove Beach Café, you can just stay and make a day of it at Paradise Cove. Reserve lounges with umbrellas for couples or palapas for large groups up to 18 people and treat yourself to a luxurious escape at the beach and enjoy the secluded area. Get additional perks with “Keys to Paradise” from the cafe, get VIP service, and never pay for parking.

Or head west and find the sprawling, tranquil retreat of Leo Carrillo State Park, ideal for families and their furry companions. With generous, convenient parking adjacent to the beach, access to the calming shoreline is an easy jaunt.

Between North Beach and the Southern portion of Leo Carrillo beach lies the rocky Sequit Point. Here, children can explore fascinating sea caves and tide pools at low tide, discovering the mysteries of the ocean in a serene, natural setting under their parents’ watchful eyes.

Stretching north from North Beach,the peaceful shoreline extends to Staircase Beach.This narrower stretch of sand is a bit more remote, offering a quiet haven that often attracts surfers seeking solace in the rhythm of the waves.

When the sun starts to head west, you may want to plan your sunset. There’s one beach you’ll see in pictures later, and kick yourself for missing out on it — El Matador State Beach. Tucked away beneath stunning cliffs that play peekaboo with the Pacific, El Matadoris a showstopper. It’s like Mother Nature’s own rock concert, with huge rock formations popping up along the shore. Did you remember to fill your ice chest at Vintage Grocers or Whole Foods? Roll out a picnic blanket on the hilltop and watch for dolphin acrobatics from above, or if you’re feeling adventurous, ride those gnarly waves. Just be ready to tackle a steep flight of stairs to get to the beach, but hey, it’s like a mini-workout before the fun.

Don’t miss out on exploring the secretive caves snuggled into the cliffs — it’s like something out of a pirate story. If you’re up for a stroll, you can enjoy your sunset heading to Lechuza Beach or San Juan Leighton Beach from El Matador.Let’s just say, at El Matador State Beach, there’s never a dull moment.

View from Carbon Beach Club at Malibu Beach Inn.

Night cap

To close out the evening, Carbon Beach Club at Malibu Beach Inn beckons as a charming balcony retreat. Gaze out over the pulsating waves and lively marine life of the Pacific Ocean under the setting sun in the shadow of the Malibu Pier. 

Drawing culinary inspiration from both the Pacific and Mediterranean coastlines, Carbon Beach Club is devoted to using only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients from One Gun Ranch and neighborhood farmers’ markets, meticulously crafted into delightful seasonal land and sea menus, with masterful beverages mixed at the bar with artisanal provisions. Complementing these creations is an exquisite wine list, curated from vintages across the globe — a selection that has garnered us the prestigious Wine Spectator® Award seven years running.

So, whether you opt to dine al fresco on the oceanfront terrace, suspended directly over the majestic Pacific Ocean, or choose to cozy up fireside under a soft blanket, the stunning ocean vistas will enhance your dining experience, offering the perfect capstone to an evening spent in this seaside paradise. And cap it all off with an evening walk on the beach under the pier. Covering 21 miles of paradise is too much for just one day, but we hope this gives you the information needed to craft a day you will never forget and one that will make your friends and family jealous as you share images throughout the journey. You can pack a hundred photos into this trip, and much more remains undiscovered in Malibu, so come back for more.

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