Malibu is a great place for an all-day or half-day date when you want to get away from it all without straying too far from the Los Angeles area.
You get beautiful beaches and mountains, as well as great restaurants and other attractions. Check out these date ideas in Malibu, Topanga, and the Pacific Palisades.
1. The Getty Villa
Modeled after a first-century Italian villa, the Getty Villa is an amazing destination for a date when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles.
The highlights include the gardens, buildings, and museum, which features mostly Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art and artifacts. Admission is free but parking is $15.
The Santa Monica Mountains offer some of the best hiking trails in Southern California, and they’re just a short drive away from the city.
Note that most of these parks don’t have a lot of tree cover, and they can get pretty hot in the middle of the day. I suggest going in the morning or late afternoon when it’s cooler. And, be sure to bring water!! Also, some of these parks charge for parking, so bring cash.
A very easy hike with great views is at Will Rogers State Park. For a bit more challenge, check out Temescal Canyon, which features a cool landmark (and potential make-out point) called “skull rock”. Just a little further up Sunset Boulevard, near where it meets PCH, is the Los Liones Canyon trail. This is probably my favorite of the three trails that are off of Sunset in this area.
Sandstone Peak is the highest point in the Santa Monica Mountains and offers some great views. You get to it from the Circle X Ranch. At this point, you’re pretty far from Santa Monica (almost to Camarillo!), but you’ll be rewarded with cool views and more privacy.
A great overall guide to hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains is this page. Check out this complete map of hiking trails in the Santa Monica Mountains.
After your hike, drive along PCH and stop for lunch at one of the casual seafood restaurants that I mention below.
3. Nobu Malibu
If you really want to impress a foodie (or anyone else for that matter), and have the budget to match, look no further than Iron Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Nobu in Malibu. The sushi and other Japanese dishes are simply amazing. The location, right along the edge of the ocean, is ideal, especially at sunset.
4. Inn of the Seventh Ray
Nestled in the middle of the woods off of Old Topanga Canyon Road, Inn of the Seventh Ray has got to be one of the most secluded and romantic restaurants in the L.A. area. You’ll dine outside under trees adorned with white lights. Even more amazing is that the California cuisine, made from seasonal organic ingredients, is actually just as impressive as the setting.
We went in the middle of the week, and it was pretty empty, which was surprising to us. But, I suppose it is quite a trek to get up there during the week if you work in the middle of the city.
The decor is somewhat “New Agey” with Buddhas displayed around the grounds.
5. Horseback Riding
For a really unique date idea, how about horseback riding for an afternoon in the Santa Monica mountains?
I went with an operation called Malibu Riders, and we had a fantastic experience riding in the Paramount Ranch area. While the sets there were destroyed in the recent fires, and some of the trails are closed, the Paramount Ranch ride is still open.
You don’t need any riding experience, and they supply everything you need.
I had never ridden a horse before but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
After your ride, have lunch at The Old Place, a local restaurant which looks like a western saloon, or the Malibu Cafe (see below).
6. Geoffrey’s Malibu
For an outdoor dining experience with sweeping views of the Pacific, Geoffrey’s Malibu is the place to go to. This place is definitely romantic and perfect for special date occasions! The service and California cuisine get high marks on Yelp, so it’s not just a hyped up restaurant with a good view.
7. Mastro’s Ocean Club Malibu
If want a classic old-school steak and seafood experience in an amazing location, check out Mastro’s Ocean Club Malibu. The food, service, and atmosphere will not disappoint!
8. The Sunset Restaurant
The Sunset is a modern but charming restaurant overlooking Point Dume which features New American cuisine and seafood. It faces West, so you’ll always have a view of the sunset (hence the name). It’s a great choice if you want a great Malibu experience with ocean views, at somewhat more affordable prices than some of the other uber-high-end restaurants on this list.
9. The Malibu Cafe
Located in Calamigos Range in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains off of Kanan-Dume Road, the Malibu Cafe is a quirky and fun outdoor dining spot which offers outdoor games and new American cuisine.
The outdoor dining here is definitely romantic at night, with a unique, fun, and less formal atmosphere. Great if you don’t like stuffy restaurants with white tablecloths.
No article about Malibu would be complete without mentioning the beaches, which are more secluded and less crowded than the ones in Santa Monica and to the South.
My favorite “secret” beach is Lechuza Beach, but of course there are many others in the area to explore! Go for a walk, lay out in the sun, or check out the waves.
11. Roadside Casual Seafood Restaurants on PCH
After a hike or visit to the beach, there’s nothing better than having lunch at one of the casual “biker” picnic table seafood restaurants on PCH.
Furthest out, but one of my favorites, is Neptune’s Net, a classic biker hangout on PCH featuring fried clams, fried shrimp, and French fries. Note, the restrooms here are port-a-potties so this is definitely a casual place, but the food is so good after a long hike.
Another great after-hike casual lunch spot is Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Patio Cafe. The menu is similar to Neptune’s Net, and you wait in line to order, then eat at picnic tables outside. It’s located a little past Pepperdine on PCH as you are driving away from Santa Monica.
My last pick in this category is The Reel Inn Malibu, which offers a larger variety of fish and indoor picnic-table seating. It’s located just past Topanga Canyon Blvd.
12. Lake Shrine
If you’re looking for a peaceful oasis to escape from your troubles, or to chillax with someone special, Lake Shrine offers an amazingly beautiful setting with a trail that wraps around a picturesque lake.
Lake Shrine has religious symbols and statues devoted to the world’s most popular religions including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. It’s kind of strange (to me) to see these religious symbols all together in one place, and it definitely has a New Agey feel, but you can’t deny that the setting is beautiful. Admission is free.
Note that this place is intended for quiet meditation, so don’t come here to break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend or anything like that!
13. Malibu Farm Restaurant / Cafe at the Malibu Pier
Malibu Farm Restaurant is located at the start of the Malibu Pier, whereas the Cafe is located at the far end.
The Cafe is a more casual restaurant offering counter service with indoor and outdoor seating. It does not take reservations.
The Malibu Farm Restaurant is a full-service restaurant with bar and patio and dining room seating. They will take dinner reservations.
Both offer American cuisine in a unique location on the pier; ideal for a casual lunch or dinner (at the Restaurant only). Parking can be a bit hairy though; you might have to park on PCH and walk a bit.
14. Palisades Village and Surrounding Area
Palisades Village is a charming outdoor shopping mall brought to you by the same developer that built the Grove and Glendale Americana (Caruso). It opened with much excitement in the Palisades. It’s definitely charming but it’s VERY SMALL, nowhere near as big as the Grove.
It’s fine for a quick stop to grab a bite or smoothie, but you can walk through the whole place in minutes. Still, it has charm and the grounds are beautiful, just like the other Caruso properties, and it’s worth checking out if you happen to be driving through the Palisades on Sunset.
It’s located in the heart of “downtown” Pacific Palisades, so there are lots of other shops and restaurants to explore if you wish.
15. Malibu Country Mart
Just before you hit Pepperdine when going up PCH is the Malibu Country Mart, a large outdoor mall consisting of restaurants and upscale shops.
The east side has a rather ordinary minimall layout with a parking lot in the middle and stores along the sides. It has great ice creat at Grom though. For a real meal, check out Broad Street Oyster Co. or have brunch at Marmalade Cafe.
The west side has more charming styling, with a kids’ playground in the middle and very high-end stores. For authentic Mediterranean food, check out Tra Di Noi (Italian), Cafe Habana Malibu (Cuban), or Taverna Tony, which features live music every night and a belly dancer on weekends. All have charming patio seating. For a formal (i.e., expensive) white-tablecloth experience, check out Mr. Chow Malibu.
Not officially part of the Malibu Country Mart, but directly behind it is a newer mall anchored by Whole Foods. This has a cool outdoor vibe with plant walls and gardens. Notable here is Blue Bottle Coffee.
I wouldn’t make a trip to Malibu just to visit the Malibu Country Mart, but it’s a fine stop if you’re already in the area for a hike, beach trip, or just a scenic drive. Note that parking can be a little difficult in the middle of a weekend day. If there’s no parking, continue back to the Whole Foods area where you should find some spots.
These are my top date ideas in Malibu and the Pacific Palisades! Any questions? What do you think of these? What did I miss? Please leave a comment below. – Brian