It was a beautiful Saturday morning – the sun shone softly, the Santa Ana winds blew through the pair of palm trees in front of our apartment. We packed the trunk of my roommate’s car with water bottles, beach towels, swimsuits and snacks and lathered ourselves in sunscreen. Driving west along the Pacific Coast Highway, ocean waves crash to our left and yellow mustard plants decorated the Santa Monica Mountains to our right.
Malibu, with a total population of less than 13,000, is a relatively small community in Los Angeles County that offers the best of land and sea. While it is primarily known as a beach city – Zuma and Point Dume are two of its most popular beaches – and a desirable locale for scouting celebrity real estate, there are also plenty of opportunities for hiking and indulging your seafood cravings. Follow prime’s Malibu exploration for a taste of that coastal California lifestyle.
For our first stop, we pulled into the parking lot of the Corral Canyon Loop, a trail just off the PCH. Our plan was to start our day with a short hike before gorging on lunch at Malibu Seafood, conveniently located less than 100 yards from the trailhead. Since the restaurant wasn’t open yet, the lot was all but empty, and we were able to quickly park, lace up our sneakers and take to the trail.
The hike is a 2.5-mile loop, and shortly after crossing a small creek, we were met with a junction. We took the trail to the right, which offered a steady incline and regular views of the ocean. We lucked out with a clear day – the water was a deep blue, and flowers ranging from lupine to small sunflowers covered the landscape. As we continued, however, the climb grew steeper and the plants thicker. The winter rains had done their job, and the trail was mostly overgrown. Instead of completing the loop, we turned back for a leisurely stroll downhill. We made friends with fellow hikers, lizards, a caterpillar and Billy the dog, whose idea of hiking was just to lie in the shade. Good thinking, Billy.
When we were almost back at the parking lot, a hand on my arm stopped me abruptly – just a few feet in front of me, a rattlesnake’s tail slid silently into the bushes. That’s a friend to watch out for, as well.
A little jittery from that close encounter, I hurried back to our car, just in time for Malibu Seafood to open its doors. The parking lot had filled up, and a line was starting to form underneath the restaurant's sign, which features the image of a red lobster in a Hawaiian shirt.
The menu has just about every kind of seafood you can think of – clams, mussels, calamari, halibut, generic unidentified fish – to go along with an order of french fries. To try something new, I ordered a grilled giant squid steak and a basket of fried scallops.
We took our buzzer and tried to find a table in the restaurant’s shaded pavilion, which was a challenge because the hot sun had deterred most customers from the outdoor options. But we managed, and our food arrived relatively quickly. My scallops all but melted in my mouth, and the squid steak was mildly chewy and wholly delicious, as long as I didn’t think about what I was eating. My friend’s mussels also looked like fried food heaven, and I had to snag a bite. Can confirm – mussels are great.
We cleaned our plates and patted our stomachs, satisfied. Although Malibu Seafood’s menu is more on the pricey end, it was a pit stop worth taking, especially before the beach.
Not wanting to get stuck on a crowded beach on a Saturday, we drove about 9 miles west of the restaurant to El Matador State Beach, avoiding popular Zuma and Point Dume.
The beach, tucked within rocky bluffs, is accessible by a steep trail and a set of stairs. I made my way down and took off my shoes, and we searched for a sandy spot to lay out our towels. There were plenty of people around, sunbathing or taking photos by the large rocks protruding from the water, but it didn’t feel too crowded. If anything, El Matador is a swell beach for people-watching.
At least two professional photo shoots seemed to be in progress when we arrived. On one side of a rock, two women wore glittery makeup, pastel dresses and seashell crowns. They posed with serious expressions for the camera, I assume evoking their inner mermaids. On the other side, a male model in red board shorts ran around in circles tossing a football to himself, while a photographer snapped the action. In the water, two surfers were trying to catch tiny waves, flipping their hair every time they emerged from the water. It all felt very LA.
But it was just a typical beach as well, with typical beach activities. We built a sand castle, spotted sea lions, explored small sea caves and ran out of the ocean screaming from the cold. The only reasons we left were to prevent sunburn and beat the traffic home.
Feeling a bit dehydrated from the sun, I was in the mood for a smoothie.
We made a U-turn on the PCH to check out a joint a friend told me about, but a big white sign with a bright red strawberry painted on it hailed us down first. Strawberries are my favorite fruit, so naturally we had to stop. We parked in a turnout next to a convertible with the top down and made our way over to the fruit vendor. The strawberries were giant, sweet and delicious. We purchased half a box, only to determine that wasn’t nearly enough, and went back for more.
It’s a shame that strawberries are seasonal fruits, otherwise this would be my go-to stop in Malibu all year round.
Back on track, I was ready for that smoothie.
The overall vibe in SunLife Organics was very no-shirt-no-shoes-no-problem, as shirtless and bikini-clad customers crowded the succulent-decorated counter, ordering fresh-pressed juices and acai bowls.
The restaurant specializes in smoothies, juices, and superfood products using ingredients like kale, bee pollen, raw cacao, chia seeds and buffered vitamin C crystals – whatever that means. I was feeling mildly adventurous and ordered the Fountain of Youth, one of their signature superfood shakes. It contained strawberries, bananas, acai, goji, resveratrol, coconut and apple juice. I only didn’t recognize two of those ingredients, so it felt like a safe pick. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from the flavor, but overall I was pleasantly surprised. It tasted as a normal smoothie should taste, but with a somewhat chalky texture reminiscent of a milkshake.
I don’t think I’m hip enough to frequent SunLife, but as I sipped my youth-preserving drink on the ride home, I found myself thinking about the next Malibu day trip and what shake I would try then – perhaps the one with grass-fed whey protein isolate? Maybe not.