The coastal town of Malibu is probably just as popular for its high-profile celebrity residents (just glance through the first few pages of any gossip magazine) as it is for sparkling beaches along a panoramic stretch of Pacific Coast Highway.

It was made famous by TV shows like Gidget, and the surfing movies of the 1960s. You can’t forget that the neighborhood is an affluent one (the breathtaking views and glimpses of Cher’s house will quickly remind you), but Malibu is a world apart from the city: all bonfires and bare feet and big wave surfboards.

And there’s definitely a good reason Angelenos will brave the bumper-to-bumper traffic on PCH on scorching summer days just to spend an afternoon at Zuma or Surfrider Beach. It truly is a breathtaking piece of paradise right here in Los Angeles.

Stop 1: Corral Canyon Trail Hike

The Corral Canyon Trail is part of the Santa Monica Mountains, and one of the easiest hikes to find in Malibu: it’s right off PCH, next to Malibu Seafood. The trail begins at a small creek, and then ascends into lush vegetation and spectacular views. You’ll come to a fork in the road pretty quickly – go left if you want to experience a longer hike (it’s a 2.5 mile loop) or right if you’re looking for something a bit shorter.

Insider’s tip: as you can see, dogs are allowed on this trail! Parking on PCH is free.

25653 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

Stop 2: Malibu Seafood

The very best part of the hike (at least for us!) is that we always end at Malibu Seafood for lunch. You can smell the fish and chips from the trail, which helps with motivation toward the end. And it truly is the perfect casual spot for lunch, with picnic tables, ocean breezes and really yummy food.

We ordered the Ahi Tuna Burger (which comes with perfectly thick fries) and the Fish and Chips (duh). You’re not just coming here for the views – our lunch was scrumptious. If you save room, they also have Beachy Cream ice cream sandwiches (with flavors like Key Lime Cowabunga).

Insider’s tip: the line can be long during peak hours, but it moves quickly. Order at the counter, get a beeper, and then pick up your food at the window to the left.

25653 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

Stop 3: Grom Malibu Gelato

If you’re at the beach, ice cream is always a must (right?!) Grom Gelato is an Italian chain, so you know it must be good, and it’s only one of two shops in the United States (the other is in New York).

We’ve heard many people wax poetic about the gelato in Italy, and those who have tried Grom swear it’s just as good. Our Chocolate Fondente cone was creamy and gorgeously rich, although perhaps slightly more expensive than a gelato in Florence (the small cone is $5.50) Totally worth it.

3886 Cross Creek Road, Malibu

Stop 4: Malibu Country Mart

Malibu may not be the shopping capital of Los Angeles, but the Malibu Country Mart is a great taste of the neighborhood, and just a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean (how many malls can say that?!) Some of our favorites include:

Room at the Beach – perfect furnishings for your cozy beach cottage (we all have those, right?) Here you’ll find chairs with coral backs, driftwood hearts and charming gemstone jewelry.

RRL & Co – this shop is ideal for the rugged cowboy in your life. The shop caters solely to men, with cool clothing, coffee table books and accessories. The Alabama Shakes were playing loudly when we walked in, so you know it must be good.

Life is Beautiful – we stumbled upon this pop-up art exhibit next to Grom Gelato. The space is currently open Wednesday-Sunday and by appointment only.

Marmalade Cafe – you’re going to need caffeine to get you through any good shopping session, and the lattes at Marmalade are strong. Don’t forget to pick something out of the counter cookie jars, too!

3894 Cross Creek Road, Malibu

Stop 5: Malibu Lagoon State Beach

Malibu Lagoon State Beach is directly across from the Malibu Country Mart, and overlooks the Malibu Pier. Within the confines of this state beach is the lagoon, and farther down, a series of tide pools. Although some sunbathers have complained about the copious amounts of kelp on the sand, this beach is perfect for kids (and the curious!) You are almost guaranteed to spot pelicans, and plenty of talented surfers.

Insider’s tip: Parking is $12, or you can park for free on PCH. Come early (or during the week) if you want to find a spot.

Stop 6: Adamson House

Look no further for your dream home – THIS IS IT!

We kid, we kid. Unfortunately, this gorgeous home and gardens is a historic house and not for sale, but spending an afternoon on its six acres is a delight. The Spanish Colonial home was built in 1929 by Rhoda Adamson and her husband and is known as the “Taj Mahal of Tile.” Guided tours are $7, but since we were there on a Sunday, we opted for the (free!) self-guided tour. While wandering the grounds, we found couples canoodling on benches and friends lounging on the grass, just enjoying the sunshine. They do weddings and events, too.

23200 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

Stop 7: Duke's Malibu

Duke’s Malibu is located right at the water’s edge, near Malibu Point. The restaurant is dedicated to Paoa Kahanamoku, best known as Hawaii’s “Father of Surfing.” The restaurant is huge, and has a decidedly Aloha vibe – this is the spot you want to come to relax and sip a Mai Tai. We cozied up to the Barefoot Bar, where we ordered the Poke Tacos and the Shrimp & Crab Salad (complete with avocado, corn and a creamy lemon dressing). The Fire & Ice Margaritas are SPICY and a must!

Insider’s Tip: “Aloha Hour” runs Mondays 4pm-close and Tuesday-Friday 4-6pm.

21150 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

The Details:

So, we cheated a LITTLE bit during our Malibu Day. We drove from Malibu Seafood to Malibu Country Mart and back down PCH to Duke’s later in the day (we walked between spots otherwise). Pacific Coast Highway provides the perfect Southern California drive though, and we recommend renting a convertible or motorcycle here for the full wind-in-your-hair, sun-on-your-face experience.

A map of our day looks something like this:

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