By Katie McElveen

All of Malibu’s 30-or-so beaches are beautiful, but each has its own personality. Here are a few of our favorites, along with suggestions nearby for food or fun.

Point Dume

Point Dume Beach in Malibu, California
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There’s a reason this dramatic, cliffside beach looks familiar: it’s been featured in more than two dozen television programs and films, from Beach Blanket Bingo in the 1960s to, more recently, The O.C., The Big Lebowski and Entourage. Bring the family: it’s a great spot for a family portrait. Beyond enjoying glorious vistas, you can hike, swim or search for starfish in the warm tidal pools scattered about the rocks.

Nearby: When you’re ready to eat—but not leave the beach—walk along the shore or drive to Paradise Cove, Malibu’s only toes-in-the-sand restaurant, for tropical drinks, burgers and salads.

Zuma Beach

Zuma Beach in Malibu, CA
Photo Credit: USA Today 10 Best

Point Dume’s sophisticated sibling is where locals go for sun and fun. There are plenty of concessions, free street parking, beach volleyball and enough wave action for surfers. Swimmers take note: rip currents can be strong.

Nearby: Perched on a hillside just off a twisty road, Kristy’s serves wood-fired pizza, steamed fish with Asian seasonings and great bloody Marys, all with a view of the ocean.

Malibu Lagoon State Beach

A top spot for birdwatching, this wide beach (with its pretty lagoon) is located where the Malibu Creek meets the ocean. Take a guided nature walk, stroll along the boardwalk or learn about Malibu’s history at the on-site Adamson House Museum, which is located in a 1929 Spanish Revival manse.

Nearby: Celebrities love the shops and restaurants at Malibu Country Mart, a pet-friendly lifestyle center located just across the street from the beach. There’s also a playground for kids, studios for drop-in yoga and barre classes and addictive gelato from Grom. Note that parking attendants are on hand to make sure you don’t park in the lot and head to the beach.

El Matador State Beach

El Matador State Beach in Malibu, California
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Known for its stunning rock formations and sea caves, El Matador is one of three beaches within Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach. It’s not the easiest beach to reach—the road winds, the sign is small and the staircase leading down the 150-foot-tall cliffs is steep–but the natural splendor is worth the effort. If you can, plan your trip for low tide, when it’s easier to explore the rugged landscape.

Nearby: Malibu Café at Calamigos Ranch

Like the fanciest outdoor living room you’ve ever experienced, this quirky al fresco restaurant charms with crystal chandeliers hung from massive oak trees, awnings composed of dozens of colorful umbrellas hung upside down and huevos rancheros, lobsters and braised short-ribs served on aluminum baking pans.

Leo Carrillo State Park

Leo Carrillo Beach in Malibu, CA

Rugged and boulder strewn, this far-flung beach is filled with a zoo-worthy array of creatures including octopuses, seals, sea otters and hermit crabs. Bring water shoes to explore the rocks, and a camera to catch waves crashing over the rocky outcroppings.
Nearby: Celebrate the Malibu Coast AVA—it’s America’s newest—with a wine tasting at the Rosenthal Wine Bar & Patio, which serves flights, glasses and bottles in a garden patio across the street from the ocean. There’s live music most nights and beyond cheese and crackers, food available at nearby food trucks.