Before we visited Malibu, we thought it was an upscale, luxury beach town reserved mostly for celebrities and surfers. But we were pleasantly surprised by how peaceful, quaint, and laid-back this city is. Don’t get us wrong, we saw plenty of extravagant homes nestled in the cliffs and a fair share of high-end cars. However, we found Malibu to be a rather welcoming small town with a close-knit community.
During our week in Malibu, we were surprised to find so many free activities to enjoy during the day. While there’s plenty of opportunities to spend money at the boutique shops and five-star restaurants, exploring the free and fun outdoors is much more our style. We hope that the next time you’re in Malibu, you enjoy these 5 activities that are easy on your wallet and good for your body, mind, and spirit!
1. Take a hike!
With Topanga to the east and the Santa Monica Mountains to the north, Malibu offers an abundance of hikes with waterfalls and breathtaking vistas. We hiked both Solstice Canyon and Escondido Falls and enjoyed them because of their accessibility, ease, and scenery. An important note about Escondido Falls is that there are actually three tiers to the waterfall. The first tier is easy to get to and very beautiful. However, the third tier is supposedly the real show stopper, but it requires much more effort. You’ll need good hiking shoes in order to hike through the mud and pull yourself up using a rope. We had our dogs with us and weren’t able to hike past the first tier, but this site has helpful information about hiking to all three tiers.
2. Watch the sunset every day.
These photos speak for themselves. Point Dume and Leo Carrillo are hands down the best spots to view the sun setting in Malibu. Point Dume requires a little extra walking/hiking so give yourself some extra time. We made friends with a seal at Leo Carrillo which was an added benefit. These are popular spots for photographers so make sure to get there a little early to claim your “spot”.
3. Go for a stroll on the Malibu pier.
Dusk is the best time to visit the pier because as the sun is barely glowing, the lights along the posts go on, and the whole place transforms into quite the romantic spot. Malibu Farm Restaurant and Cafe are at the start of the pier and offer great ambiance if you’d like to sit and enjoy dinner with a view. We just walked the pier and sat on a bench, which was free and equally as wonderful.
4. Check out Paradise Cove Beach.
No surprise, you can’t visit Malibu without enjoying some beach time. The whole city stretches along 21 miles of the Pacific Coast Highway, so there are plenty of beach areas to choose from. We enjoyed that Paradise Cove Beach was more private, featured yet another gorgeous pier, and was home to the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe, where you can sit and enjoy lunch with your toes in the sand. We recommend parking along the PCH and walking down Paradise Cove Road to avoid costly parking fees (be careful crossing the road!). Also, most of the cove is private and only accessible by paying a daily fee, however, there’s plenty of public space to enjoy for free. I could imagine it gets pretty crowded in the summer months, though.
5. Take a scenic drive.
We love to explore local breweries in each city we visit. But, when we hopped in the car to check out some breweries in the Westlake Village area, we weren’t prepared for the spectacular views along Kanan Road! The drive is filled with such beautiful lush mountain and valley views that you won’t want it to end. In case you also want to know, the breweries we went to were Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.(huge selection of great beer and fun atmosphere) , Five Threads Brewing
We loved the Kanan Road drive so much that we planned another drive the following day and ended up at the Malibu Cafe. The Malibu Cafe was much more than just your typical cafe – it’s an experience! It’s like an outdoor playground for adults! Along with their “country kitchen and bar”, there’s a pond with paddleboats, a variety of yard games (even outdoor pool and life-size connect four and chess) surrounded by beautiful trees with chandeliers in them and creative seating options. We were blown away by how fun this place was, but also blown away by the prices and the valet-only parking…but hey, when in Cali, right?
Bonus: Malibu was the only coastal, Southern California city that we noticed an abundance of free parking along the PCH. You can pretty much just pull off anywhere along the highway and park for the day! So this could be especially useful for you fellow RVers.
Do you have any other free activities that you can recommend while in Malibu? Tell us about them below!