This article highlights El Matador, one of the prettiest beaches in Los Angeles.
Everybody has his/her own definition of the perfect beach.
I prefer lots of palm trees, from where hammocks can be hanged, warm water and soft sand. In California, a beach culture of surfing, pier walks, bike riding on designed paths, and frigid waters rule. Others dream of white sands, turquoise waters, and clear skies.
It doesn’t matter what your preferences are. The good news is that your perfect beach exists somewhere in the world (not sure if this sentence is positive or negative).
Luckily for me, I think I have found my perfect beach not so far from home. As a slap in the face, on that beach, there are no palms in sight or bathtub temperature waters.
This beach has certain features I am beginning to enjoy more and more: cliffs, rock promontories, and sea arches. I am kind of obsessed with wild and rugged places on the coast.
That is why I felt so energized after having the opportunity to finally visit El Matador State Beach. In this article, I am sharing all about this gorgeous beach!
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El Matador State Beach
El Matador is considered a “pocket beach” and it is part of the larger Robert H. Memorial State Beach. Make no mistake, this beach has been voted many times the most beautiful strand of sand in the Los Angeles area.
Located at the west end of the city of Malibu, it can be considered a “cove that emerges during low tide.” This part of the coast is characterized by 150 feet tall cliffs. When the water recedes at certain times during the day, a small pouch peppered with huge boulders is revealed.
The views from the top of the cliff are incredible. In one direction, it is possible to admire the deep blue waters filled with kelp forests (look for dark spots). In the other direction, mansions line a long strand of sand till Point Dume.
A steep dirt trail goes down to a series of stairs that take you to the bottom. This is where you get your first glimpse of the numerous rocks. As you continue going down, the water looks clearer with turquoise and emerald tones
Once at the bottom, I discovered many caves formed by the waves crashing against the cliff. It was also interesting to imagine forms in the rocks. There are many arched rocks in here so it is easy to “see” elephant silhouettes here and there. Another rock looks like a bent index finger.
What to Do at El Matador
Well, most people visit the beach to lay in the sand, bathe in the sea, picnic, take pictures and spend a good time with family and friends.
Others go to witness the natural scenery. As mentioned, the awesome views start right at the top (in both directions).
Once at the beach level, you can walk south to Lechuza Beach and keep walking to Broad Beach. In theory, you can continue to Zuma and Westward beaches. The distance between El Matador and Westward Beach is about 5 miles one way. Of course, you can walk as much as you want.
If the tide is low enough, you can walk north to El Matador’s sister beaches, La Piedra and El Pescador. These beaches are gorgeous too.
What to Do Near El Matador
Before or after checking out El Matador, you can visit other beaches, viewpoints, or hiking areas. Here are some ideas on how you can spend a day in Malibu (including a stop at El Matador, of course):
- Nicholas Canyon Beach (2.4 miles)
- Leo Carrillo State Park (4 miles) – Walk the easy trail between North Beach and South Beach
- Broad Beach (2 miles) – If you do not want to walk from El Matador, you can access the beach from one of the public entry points located on Broad Beach Road
- Zuma Beach (4 miles)
- Westward Beach (5 miles)
- Point Dume (6 miles) – Walk the easy trail at the top of the promontory for incredible views of the area
Another idea is to complete a hike in the morning and spend time on the beach in the afternoon. I have a massive article with tons of info on the Best Hikes in Malibu. Make sure to check it out!
For an entire day in Malibu, I recommend a scenic drive along the coast (from Santa Monica to Point Mugu) stopping at the Malibu Pier, Point Dume, El Matador, and Point Mugu. That is an itinerary hard to beat in terms of awesomeness.
Camping in the area is another activity worth your attention. Leo Carrillo State Park has one campsite (one of the best I have ever stayed in) and Point Mugu State Park has two campsites.
When going back to Los Angeles (or Santa Monica) through the Pacific Coast Highway, try to spot the viewpoint where the famous sign (“Welcome to Malibu. 21 miles of scenic beauty”) is located. Stop there for amazing views of the coast.
Where to Eat Near El Matador
If you are looking to spend some time at El Matador, or the northern part of Malibu, I recommend bringing your own food, snacks, and water.
There are not a lot of options when it comes to food in the area.
The closest “eating area” is located at the Trancas Country Market. There are some restaurants and small markets located there.
The other option is the Point Dume Village (5 miles). In that shopping center, you will find Lily’s Malibu (incredibly good burritos), Le Cafe de la Plage (ice cream, coffee, and light eats), a Starbucks, and a supermarket (Pavillions).
Neptune’s Net, a Malibu classic, is located 5 miles away. They have a full menu (seafood, burgers, hot dogs, and all sorts of drinks).
El Matador Location and Parking Tips
El Matador Beach is located 4 miles north of the famous Zuma Beach (or 24 miles north of Santa Monica) on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). Be attentive to the signs since the entrance point is sometimes difficult to spot.
There is a designated public parking lot at the top of the cliffs. Parking is $3 per hour or $12 for the entire day.
People who want to avoid the fee, park on the Pacific Coast Highway. Since the parking lot fills fast, parking on the street may be the only option. With time, it has gotten more difficult to park in PCH. Now, there are a lot of signs prohibiting parking in certain stretches Make sure you park where it is allowed. If you do not follow the parking instructions, you can be fined and/or towed.
There is a portable restroom next to the parking lot. Be prepared and bring toilet paper (or napkins, gulp!) just in case.
The trail going to the beach is short but steep. Do not get distracted while walking it.
There are no trash cans at the beach level. The trash cans are located in the parking lot area (at the top of the cliffs). Please, do not leave trash on the beach. Pack your trash and drop it before getting on the car or dispose of it at home.
And, let me say that if you are doing a “photo shoot” on the beach, it is not ok to leave parts of your props in the sand. I have seen too many balloons, paper, ribbons, and glitter in the area. Leave the place in a better condition than you found it.
Since we are talking about beaches, let me remind you that all beaches in California are public per the state’s constitution. Without getting technical, you are permitted to be where the sand is wet.
Malibu’s residents, and even businesses, are notorious for blocking access to the beaches. The Our Malibu Beaches app tells you exactly where the public access points are located.
Just writing this post made me eager to return to El Matador. At least, I don’t have to go that far to experience my perfect beach.
As I spend a lot of time on the beach, I have my gear packed and ready to throw in the car. Here is an idea of what I take to the beach.
- Easy Set Up Beach Tent – This is essential since most beaches in California do not have shaded areas. >Check out this great tent option here
- Big Portable Umbrella – Sometimes, we prefer to use an umbrella since we want to sit on a chair verse lying on the floor. Plus, I find it easier to adjust/move the umbrella to block the sun. >Buy a beach umbrella
- Walking Shoes – Comfortable walking shoes are a must. My go-to brands are Clarks, Tevas, and Sketchers.
- Flip Flops – Flip flops are a must on any beach trip. I am partial to the Tevas brand. >>Take a look at these beautiful flip flops
- Water Sandals – If you want a more polished look, check out these leather-made salt water sandals.
- Sweatshirt – A sweatshirt is a must to keep me warm during chilly mornings and nights. >Click to see this California appropriate option here
- Sun Block – Do not leave the house (or the car) without applying sunblock. I repeat, always wear sunblock when outdoors. >Buy sunblock here
- Lip Balm with Sunscreen – Protect your lips by applying a balm with sunscreen. >Get one of the best lip balms here
- Wide Brim Hat – A wide brim hat is a great way to protect your scalp, face, and neck. The ones manufactured by FURTALK come with an anti-UV function. >Buy this amazing hat here
- Sunglasses – These are another must when it comes to protecting from the sun. A polarized, sporty pair works better outdoors. >Take a look at this wonderful pair
- Towels – This is the accessory I always forget about. WETCAT’s Turkish Towels take minimum space and dry fast. >Buy a Turkish towel here
- Foldable Chairs – Portable chairs allow you to set camp at the beach, park, winery, and even a parking lot. A classic Coleman portable chair is a solid choice. >>Buy portable camping chair
- Beach Blanket – For laying on the sand, a beach blanket is necessary. Good ones are waterproof, sandproof, and light. The blankets manufactured by Wekapo fit several adults and are durable. >Buy this nice beach blanket here
- Soft Cooler Bag – A soft cooler bag with enough capacity is great for having drinks and some food items at hand. I love my CleverMade collapsible cooler bag. >Take a look at my cooler here
- Water Bottle – Do not forget to bring water! Keep yours cold by taking a beautiful Hydro Flask water bottle. >Check out the insane options here
- THERMOS Tumblers – I have been a fan of the THERMOS brand since I received a tumbler as a gift. The tumblers keep drinks hot for hours. >>Buy THERMOS insulated tumblers here
- Dry Bag – Keep your valuables (and electronics) protected by bringing a dry bag. >These dry bag is awesome
- Beach Bag or Large Tote – Carry all your gear on an amazing beach bag. Get one with tons of pockets (I love pockets). >>>Check out my beach bag top pick
- Camera – I have never gotten used to taking pictures exclusively with my phone. I prefer to use the Sony Alpha a6000. It is compact and takes gorgeous pictures. >Buy Sony Camera here
- Tripod – A compact tripod to take your photos and videos to a different level. >>Check out this popular option here
- Portable Power Bank – It is a pain to keep phones charged on beach trips. Having a power bank is a lifesaver. The Anker portable charger can charge a phone 5 times. >Buy this incredible power bank here
More of Malibu
More of Los Angeles
Los Angeles itinerary: 2, 3, or 4 Days
Have you visited El Matador Beach? Do you enjoy beaches with big boulders and sea arches?
Ready to pin? Let’s do this!