The sun is shining, the air is salted with the ocean breeze, and the roads are wide open. The stage is set for a meandering afternoon drive, and there’s no better place to spend the day cruising around than the Malibu area.

With its stunning shoreline vistas and surrounding mountains, canyons, and parks to wind through, Malibu is rife with dreamy destinations to explore by car. Each located within an hour of Malibu Beach Inn, ideally located on the Pacific Coast Highway just east of Malibu Pier, here are five of our favorite drives in our corner of paradise. 

Point Dume to Point Mugu Rock

Zooming west along the Pacific Coast Highway between Point Dume and Point Mugu Rock, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the ocean and Malibu’s most iconic beaches. There are several places to pull over and take in the beauty, and top among them is El Matador Beach. Just six miles into the drive, the renowned destination is known for its otherworldly seaside arches and coves. See it in its full glory at sunset, when the sky glows purple, fuchsia, pink, and orange.

Both Point Dume and Point Mugu Rock are well-known destinations along the Pacific Coast Highway. The limestone cliffs of Point Dume form a long bluff and mark the northern end of Santa Monica Bay, the perfect backdrop for a selfie or two. Point Mugu Rock looks like something you’d see in a sci-fi film: an almost vertical ridge of volcanic rock towering above the highway, mirroring the steep hills bordering the other side of the road.

Topanga Canyon Boulevard to Mulholland Highway

Malibu Creek State Park / Photo: Wasim Muklashy / Flickr

Starting south on the Pacific Coast Highway, wind your way up into the hills along Topanga Canyon Boulevard. The twisting road starts flat but quickly gains altitude, eventually leading into the funky community of Topanga Village. An artists’ enclave during the 1960s, the town is still a charming hideaway, replete with cute cafés and a handful of yoga studios and restaurants.

From there, veer west onto Topanga Canyon Road. The shady stretch is replete with sycamore and oak trees and becomes increasingly curvy as you approach the summit and start weaving down the other side of the mountain.

A left onto Mulholland Highway will take you all the way to Malibu Creek State Park and Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Both offer scenic city views and several rugged hiking trails, if you’re in the mood to stretch your legs.

Encinal Canyon Road

Hop on Encinal Canyon Road from the Pacific Coast Highway, just west of El Matador Beach, and snake your way north through Charmlee Wilderness Park. The 532-acre swath of undeveloped land features sweeping vistas of the ocean, hiking trails that weave through the desert brush, wildflowers in the spring and summer, and lovely picnic areas to take it all in. Continue climbing until you reach the top of the canyon as it winds around Point Dume. The ensuing view is nothing short of spectacular.

Decker Canyon Road

Photo courtesy Malibu Luxury Realty

Running parallel to Encinal Canyon Road, Decker Canyon Road is chock full of hairpin turns that immerse you in the landscape of tangled shrubbery, burly bushes, and pastoral farmland. It’s an exhilarating drive (not for the faint of stomach) — especially if you have a vehicle that lets you put the top down. It eventually merges into Mulholland Highway, allowing you to loop back down to the coast and enjoy a whole new set of views along the way.

Latigo Canyon Road

About five miles east of Point Dume you’ll find Latigo Canyon Road. Like Decker Canyon Road, it’s another twisting and turning ride featuring switchbacks and tight turns; also like Decker Canyon Road, it’s a scenic stunner that should not be missed. Pull over at the first 180-degree U in the road (about 1.5 miles from the Pacific Coast Highway) for a postcard-worthy view of the coast. 

Featured photo: Kay Röllig / Wikimedia