Top 10 Family-Friendly Things To Do In Malibu, California

things to do in malibu with family

Los Angeles, California, is an astounding city - bright lights, great shopping, stars around every corner. It’s immortalized in song, on screen and in books - and it’s frequently where those songs are written and recorded, those movies made and those books written. In short, it’s a busy place, and can get kind of chaotic. So if you’re visiting, you may want to take a breath and go somewhere more sedate; somewhere Angelenos themselves go when they want to breathe a little. That place is Malibu - and if you go there, you’ll be losing out if you don’t check out these spots. Each is a spot that the whole family can enjoy, making it the perfect way to punctuate an Californian holiday. Read on to learn more about the best family-friendly things to do in Malibu!

1. Dive into history at the Getty Villa

Source: Photo by user Bobak Ha'Eri used under CC BY 3.0

Oil billionaire J. Paul Getty didn’t just hoard his money and spend it on more property - he put it to work establishing fascinating museums such as the Getty Villa, an educational centre exploring the wonders of the Greek, Roman and Etrurian cultures. This might not be what you’d expect from Malibu - but the place is about more than cocktails and beach parties, and this is an excellent place to leave the noise behind. Admission is always free, though car parking is 15 USD before 3 pm and 10 USD thereafter.

Getty Villa

Address: 17985 Pacific Coast Hwy, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272

Website: Getty Villa

2. Take in a sunset at El Matador State Beach

El Matador State Beach (23776434158)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Prayitno / Thank ... used under CC BY 2.0

If you time your arrival at El Matador just right, you’ll have the chance to witness one of California’s finest sights - the sunset over the clifftops that surround these small, golden patches of sand. Other beaches are more popular in the area, but that’s actually good news - the gorgeous rock formations and spectacular surroundings make it all the more special when it’s a little quieter.

El Matador State Beach

Address: 32350 East Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: El Matador State Beach

3. Take a walk along Malibu Pier

Malibu Pier 02
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Levi Clancy used under CC BY-SA 4.0

There are two piers in Malibu: one private, one public. The good news is, the public one is the historic Malibu Pier. Built in 1905, it’s an icon of the region - perfect for a leisurely walk. While on that walk you can enjoy healthy food at the Malibu Farm Cafe. Also, some great shops - clothes, gifts and spa goods, as well as a tackle shop if you fancy a spot of fishing, which you can also do from the pier!

Malibu Pier

Address: 23000 Malibu Pier, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Malibu Pier

4. Go on a wine hike

Okay, so the wine part of it isn’t for all the family, but the hiking more than makes up for it. Take a trip to Saddlerock Gardens, and you’ll get to go home with a bag of whatever you harvest. That’s not just wine, or grapes, either - there you’ll find fresh ingredients like kale, chilies and ripe citrus fruits, depending on the season. Best of all, you’ll get to do so among some of the finest scenery anywhere in California.

Hiking in Malibu

Address: 32111 Mulholland Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Malibu Wine Hikes

5. Marvel at the splendor of Solstice Canyon

Solstice Canyon Loop
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jeremy Miles used under CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the magical things about California in general is the geological wonders that have been created by its position over the San Andreas Fault. It has bestowed landmarks such as Solstice Canyon, for example, a national park which is full of hiking trails for the dedicated, the novices and everyone in between. Bring a second camera for this; you’ll need as many photos as you can manage!

Solstice Canyon

Address: 3455 Solstice Canyon Rd, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Solstice Canyon

6. Camp out in Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carrillo State Park, Malibu, United States (Unsplash)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user camadams used under CC0

Leo Carrillo State Park is another of Malibu’s wonderful natural locations, and it’s located on the coast alone the side of the famed Pacific Coast Highway. Bring a tent, rent an RV, do whatever you have to do in order to spend a night under the stars here. It’s named after a legendary actor from Broadway and TV - Carrillo played Pancho in The Cisco Kid - whose actions as a conservationist were influential in turning Malibu into the environmentally sound paradise it is today.

Leo Carrillo State Park

Address: 35000 W Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Leo Carrillo State Park

7. See the "Taj Mahal of Tile": The Adamson House

Adamson House, Malibu
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Los Angeles used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Owned once upon a time by the wealthy Adamson family, this house is a Malibu landmark and, while conspicuous consumption is something Malibu has come to represent, this house is far from the gaudy testament to wealth that you might expect. Built with extensive use of locally-sourced tile, the Adamson House and its view over the sea has become a must-see attraction for people all around the area; pay particular attention to the remarkable Neptune Fountain.

Adamson House

Address: 23200 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Adamson House

8. Shop 'til you drop at Santa Monica Place

Santa Monica Place ~ a Shopping Mall
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Prayitno used under CC BY 2.0

So it goes without saying that in an area that attracts the rich and famous - and Malibu does that, in spades - you’ll find the opportunity to do some shopping. In Malibu, the best place to do that is the mall at Santa Monica Place. As well as plenty of local boutiques dotted up and down the Highway, this is where you will find Bloomingdales, Barneys and Nordstrom among many others. There’s also an excellent Drybar if you’re in a makeover mood, as well as plenty of eateries.

Santa Monica Place

Address: 395 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Website: Santa Monica Place

9. Relax, then shop some more at Malibu Country Mart

If you feel that Santa Monica is a touch on the materialistic side - but still have a few dollars to spend - then Malibu Country Mart is a fine place to do so. It could even be the antidote to all the glitter of the more “glamorous” mall - the shopping here has more of an independent, boutique feel. Think of an upscale farmers’ market and you won’t be far off. You can relax and watch the world go by, and enjoy some fine dining - you could even go for a spot of acupuncture if the fancy takes you.

Malibu Country Mart

Address: 3835 Cross Creek Rd, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Malibu Country Mart

10. Hang Ten at Malibu Surf Shack

If you’re a sporty family, then it would be a shame to come to Malibu without giving surfing a go - and at Malibu Surf Shack you can hire the gear and book supervised lessons with some real experts. It might take a few goes to get any good at it, but there’s nothing to stop you trying out one of their other activities such as body-boarding or kayaking. They even offer tours of the Santa Monica coast, which is an excellent chance to see this fantastic part of the world from another angle.

Malibu Surf Shack

Address: 22935 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265

Website: Malibu Surf Shack

Take your family to Malibu - they'll never be bored!

Malibu strikes that difficult balance between being different enough from LA to represent a change, and enough like it to still be a thrill for Angelenos and those who love the city. But what you’ll really appreciate about being here is that, located right on the coast, you’ll be able to take a little time to yourselves and breathe in the uncomplicated, unhurried nature of the place.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Antonia Kelly is a freelance writer based in Leicester, UK and she enjoys European travel as well as road trips closer to home. Her favourite domestic destinations include Snowdonia and the Brecon...Read more

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