Getting Lost on the Pacific Coast
The first post-collegiate summer in LA was a collision of changes, not the least of which was the realization that designated vacation breaks were a thing of the past (along with air conditioning and the occasional stipend). With a 3-day weekend on the horizon, however, there seemed to be respite ahead with the discovery of Malibu, a right turn on the Pacific Coast Highway that felt a world away. Since those days, she’s become a familiar friend, offering weekend escapism and a slowed down vibe. With over 20 miles of unspoiled beaches and a quirky mashup of old school surftown meets Hollywood glitz, it’s a place worth getting to know. Here’s how Gather spends a day in Malibu.
Up and At ‘Em
People say nobody walks in LA but hiking is an entirely different matter – one Angelenos take very seriously. There are dozens of trails and all have their diehard devotees but nothing quite beats an ocean view finish at the end of an hour of sweat equity. The Solstice Canyon and Zuma Canyon trails are breathtaking. Plus, they get big bonus points for being breakfast-adjacent (these rewards warrant making it to the finish line).
Tucked into an unassuming shopping center off of Heathercliff Road are Lily’s, Cafecito Organico and Sunlife Organics – a trifecta of eateries devoted to delicious morning sustenance. This is as true blue Malibu as it gets so while you won’t be light on celeb sightings, this spot is all about tasty simplicity and genuine R&R. We like to pack a stack of reading and our pups and stake out a central, sunlit patio table equidistant to real cane cappuccinos, dragon bowls and breakfast burritos.
Malibu is famous for its beaches, and with good reason. From craggy cliffs to multimillion-dollar beach houses on the sand, there’s plenty of seaside eye candy to make logging some towel time here worth your while. The dramatic boulder-strewn El Matador is one of Malibu’s most beloved (and least crowded) stretches. For Gatherers of the canine variety, Leo Carillo is the only beach in the area that allows dogs. And if sharing sand with architectural icons is more your speed, Carbon Beach is not to be missed. For scenery of a more raucous sort, pack a picnic at Malibu Kitchen for an afternoon at Malibu Family Wines. Great bands, vino and a stunning canyon setting – what’s not to love?
As you may suspect, Malibu showers diners with an abundance of fresh seafood options. Reel Inn is classic tongue-in-cheek Malibu with its checkered tablecloth picnic benches, walk up order counter and vast hot sauce collection. But dishes like simply grilled halibut or classic fish tacos are nothing but seriously tasty. If you like your catch of the day with a side of surf action, grab a front row seat at Neptune’s Net, a longtime Malibu mainstay. At the edge of Malibu’s pier is the Malibu Farm Pier Cafe, a particularly special spot for a midday munch. Gaze out at the Pacific expanse over rosés by the glass or a house beer and crab cakes. And perched high above the PCH din and through a lovingly tended rose garden is Kristy’s. Grab a table on the patio and marvel at the bouiganvillea-dotted ocean view between bites of woodfired pizza.
Gifts + Mementos
As with most things, malls are better when done outdoors and Malibu Country Mart is up there with the best of them. Just off PCH and flanked by a wetlands preserve, this is a place you’ll be inclined to linger. Leave room in your carry on for easy, California casual pieces from James Perse and Madison or eye the interiors at The Malibu Colony Co. and Room at the Beach. Make a point to stop at Diane Krön’s divine choco-heaven K Chocolatier for her signature K Truffles (or maybe a bite from her Liquors collection if it’s happy hour). We don’t quite know how she does it but the results are addictive. Further up the road is Malibu Beach Supply Co. at the edge of the Malibu Pier. An eclectic offering of local goods in a whitewashed “under the sea” shack with a dedicated Malibu Barbie corner is always worth visiting.
You’ll know your Malibu day is easing to a close when the sky starts to glow. Our dinner picks prioritize front row seats at the ensuing light show. Splashy, scene-y and bold, Nobu packs a punch that’s a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. We like to start with too many orders of the mini tacos and one of the signature cocktails. And just down the road at the beginning of the Malibu Pier is the oh-so-special Malibu Farm Restaurant. Featuring fresh, garden-to-table fare and a swoon-worthy aesthetic, the Gather team just can’t get enough. If you’re feeling like taking in a movie at the cutest little theater there is, The Malibu Twin is for you. Pop over for a tasty margarita at Cafe Habana or tapas and vino at Taverna Tony after you’ve enjoyed your show.