With palm trees, sunshine, and ravishing stars of the big and small screens, Los Angeles is the epitome of a velvet escape–full of natural beauty and glamour all at the same time. I love it for its exclusive shopping, Hollywood-themed highlights, hot lounges, and celeb-chef-driven restaurants, not to mention the stunning hills-meet-sea topography. But of course, to experience all the city has to offer, one has to contend with LA’s notorious traffic and–especially when the weather is hot–smoggy haze.
Malibu: an escape from LA
That’s why when I’m looking for a Los Angeles escape, I head to Malibu. Spread over a prime strip of coast hugging the Pacific Ocean, the city encapsulates everything that’s fabulous about LA, minus the metropolitan drawbacks. Natural beauty? Check. Lush green foothills spill into palm-tree-lined beaches, and there’s nothing like a mango-tinted Malibu sunset. Glamour? Check, check! Malibu is chock full of celebs and their private beachfront mansions, so the shops and restaurants here are just as glam as those in Beverly Hills. But Malibu still has that laidback beach town feel, set far from LA’s gridlocked freeways. And with all that sea air at your back, there’s no smog to speak of. If LA rolls out the red carpet for visitors, then you might say Malibu rolls out the velvet carpet.
The sand will definitely feel velveteen beneath your feet at Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, a chainlet of three cliff-foot “pocket” beaches: El Pescador, La Piedra, and El Matador. Though each has its own special features, all offer lovely secluded strips of sand to lay out on, spectacular views, and some cool cliff-side hiking. If you’re here on a quiet day, you’ll feel like you’ve got your own private oceanfront paradise.
To drink in even more of the sweeping coastal views, plan for a drive along Pacific Coast Highway. The winding highway twists through the heart of Malibu and down into Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica. Dramatic cliff-side curves, picturesque coastal villages, and breathtaking vistas of the Pacific make for a memorable ride. You’ll definitely want to rent a convertible for this one!
Along the way, you’ll want to make a couple of key stops for a dose of culture amid the nature. Getty Villa Malibu is a treasure trove of ancient art housed in a copy of a Roman villa. We’re talking one of the world’s finest collections of ancient Roman, Greek, and Etruscan pieces. Lush surrounding gardens display ancient statuary and timeless views of the Pacific. It’s a lovely spot for strolling, art-spotting, and snacking in the upscale cafeteria.
Another must-hit is the Malibu Country Yard and Lumber Mart. It may sound like a rustic construction supply center, but don’t be fooled! It’s actually a diverse collection of high-end shops, restaurants, spas, and galleries that attracts its share of local celebs (don’t mind the paparazzi staked out in the parking lot). Specialty designer boutiques like Maxfield, Intermix, and Madison abound, while eateries run the gamut from softball-sized cupcakes at Crumbs Bake Shop to sushi at Nobu Malibu.
The perfect way to end the day in Malibu is, of course, with an eye on the sunset, and the deck at Moonshadows makes the perfect vantage point. This laidback Pacific Coast Highway hotspot pulls in well-heeled beach bunnies and post-surf power punters with its panoramic views of the Pacific and coolly creative seafood dishes. After sundown, the attached lounge gets festive with a DJ on weekends. But even amid the thumping music, the vibe stays mellow. Like the umbrella-topped cocktail in your hand, Malibu is perfectly chilled.
About this week’s guest writer:
Jenn Garcia-Alonso is a Co-Founder of The Purple Passport, a collection of online city guides for the hip traveler. She blogs at the companion site, The Diary of The Purple Passport. She is a New Yorker living in Abu Dhabi that has spent lots of time in Los Angeles (and lots of other places!) for both work and play.