Southern California has been an iconic destination for decades, brimming with well-trodden attractions like the Walk of Fame and Venice Beach. And while those sights are notorious for good reason, there are other ways to experience our Golden State in places not so discovered by the masses.
Here are a few of the best-kept secrets in Malibu and Los Angeles, including some eclectic finds just up the road from Malibu Beach Inn.
Hidden Beach: Staircase Beach
Photo Credit: Californiabeaches.com
There’s a myriad of beaches to choose from in SoCal, and while we are partial to Carbon Beach just outside our doors, a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to Staircase Beach is more than worth your while. Beautiful rock formations, near-vertical cliffs, great left and right breaks for surfers, and swathes of white sand make this coast a hidden gem in Malibu—truly hidden, so make sure you have great directions before setting out. At day’s end, stay for a stunning sunset over the waves and rocks.
Inspired Dining: n/naka
Photo Credit: Zen Sekizawa
Food is all about the experience. Such is the belief of Chef Niki Nakayama at n/naka, where the traditional Japanese culinary art form of kaiseki reigns supreme. The unassuming Palms eatery offers modern kaiseki tastings in thirteen courses—with each presentation inspired by the ever-shifting rhythms of the earth—and there’s an incredible list of wine and sake from around the world to complement the fare. The resulting experience is truly extraordinary, and although under the radar, n/naka has been featured on the Netflix original series “Chef’s Table.”
Romantic Walk: Venice Canals
Some California locals aren’t even aware of the lovely network of canals near Venice Beach. The manmade waterways were created to mimic the famous canals in Venice, Italy, and while they aren’t exactly like those found in Europe, a leisurely stroll alongside the water and over the pedestrian bridges affords a pleasant contrast to the streets of LA. The sides of the canals are lined with lush gardens and charming homes, and gondolas are replaced with quaint rowboats and canoes.
Outdoor Films: Electric Dusk Drive-In
Photo Credit: Electric Dusk Drive-In Facebook
The classic feel of The Electric Dusk Drive-In harkens to another era entirely. ‘80s favorites and cult classics play on the big screen, which is framed by the lights of high-rises, and patrons tune in to audio in their vehicles or sprawl out on the front-row lawn. As the only outdoor movie venue in the city, the drive-in is quickly becoming an LA icon and favorite unexpected weekend activity—so much that we recommend arriving early to grab your veggie burger and prime viewing spot.
Laidback Shopping: Montana Avenue
Photo Credit: Montana Avenue
Chic bohemian style abounds in the 150-plus distinctive boutiques of Montana Avenue. Located on the northwest edge of Santa Monica, the charming shopping area has a welcoming, relaxed vibe compared to some of the busier districts in LA. Don’t miss Margaret O’Leary’s elegant cashmere sweaters, luxurious skincare products at Kiehl’s apothecary, designer jewelry collections at Moondance Jewelry Gala, and much more.
Family Hike: Malibu Creek State Park
You’ll have to really head off the beaten path for this one, but the drive alone is beautiful enough to warrant an excursion. Take the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu Canyon Road, which hugs the edge of a valley in the mountains and overlooks Malibu Creek below. When the two-lane road turns into Las Virgenes, look for Malibu Creek State Park and then hike to Rock Pool. The cool, freshwater swimming hole, surrounded by sycamores and bay trees, provides a nice change of scenery from the beach, and the relatively flat hike is only 1.5 miles—perfect for families with children.
Dinner with a View: Saddle Peak Lodge
Photo Credit: Rico Mandel
Modern fusion cuisine and stunning mountain vistas are the highlights of Saddle Peak Lodge, an elegant eatery in the Santa Monica Mountains known for serving exotic wild game. On the dinner menu, you will find delicacies like elk tenderloin, emu flat iron steak, and jumbo scallops served with delectable sides such as sautéed wild shimeji mushrooms and brown butter Yukon potato purée. Incredible views and a rustic ambiance make this hidden dining lodge one of our LA favorites.
Handmade Boutique: Séfari Outpost
Photo Credit: Séfari Outpost
A passion for the sea and African safaris inspired this unique Malibu shop on the PCH where visitors discover handmade, vintage, and one-of-a-kind wares. Walk among Moroccan Berber rugs from the High Atlas Mountains, Japanese ceramics, African-inspired luxury travel bags, surfboards made from recycled materials, and much more. Séfari Outpost and owner Jobi Manson both exude creative energy and an innate connection to nature… two things we love to see in SoCal.