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Malibu might be California's only seaside town whose residents are as famous as its beaches. This photogenic slice of sand and surf fits firmly into the Los Angeles ethos: It’s beautiful, breezy, and irresistible. Here, celebrity homes and beachfront retreats have overlooked one of Southern California's most pristine coastlines since the 1930s. As Malibu has grown in status and fame, it has added flashy see-and-be-seen restaurants but somehow still retains the quaint charm of a small town. Its 20 square miles contain more than three dozen beaches, and choosing the right one is important. If waves and tan lines aren’t your thing, however, Malibu is hemmed in by the Santa Monica Mountains, which beckon trail runners, hikers, and wild animals.
Malibu is located near the western edge of Los Angeles County, 18 miles west of Santa Monica, on the iconic Pacific Coast Highway. The most convenient airport to fly into is Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which is 29 miles away. Expect it to take approximately one hour to make the trip by car due to frequent traffic in the area. Taxis and rideshares are both available at this busy airport; there’s also a bus that takes approximately two hours. Oxnard Airport (KOXR) is a smaller airport served by a few commercial flights, but its location 30 miles to the north means you can reach Malibu in 40 minutes by car.
Malibu's weather is flat-out gorgeous. Thanks to its Mediterranean climate, almost any time of year is a good time to visit. If you're looking for the classic golden sun and swimsuit weather, then July through September are the ideal months to visit, with average highs in the mid-70s Fahrenheit but plenty of days rising into the 80s. This is peak season, so be sure to book well in advance. The coldest months are December through February, with temperatures often dipping into the 40s, though you'll still get rogue warm days. Winter is often pleasant enough for you to take advantage of the local bluffs and mountains, but summer and fall are best for water sports.
The long, craggy bluff jutting into the Pacific Ocean known as Point Dume has become a Malibu icon. It's an ideal perch from which to watch the sunset or, from December to April, spot migrating gray whales. The preserve is connected to a state beach that's popular for swimming, scuba diving, and long scenic walks. Point Dume also abuts another not-to-be-missed Malibu attraction: Zuma Beach.
One of the most notable beaches in Malibu delivers a one-two punch: prime beach real estate and a cafe with ocean-view seating that is nearly as coveted. People line up early to stake out a table. To the east is a row of Malibu mansions clinging to coastal bluffs, and to the west, a stretch of sandstone cliffs tailor-made for sunset strolls.
At 150 feet tall, Escondido Falls is one of the tallest waterfalls in Southern California, and the trail leading up to it offers a refreshing shady break from worshipping the sun. The waterfall’s three tiers cascade down a series of limestone ledges. To reach it, tread the 3.8-mile moderate trail from Winding Way East. The reward will be worth it.