Visiting NW L.A. County Beaches


The last official summer holiday weekend may be over, but there’s still plenty of reason to make the trek out to the coast to enjoy a great beach day. With a drive just over an hour and change westward on the 101 and through one of the canyons to Pacific Coast Highway, several great beaches past the city of Malibu await.

Along the western edge of the Malibu coastline, just inside the Ventura County line, lie some of the most picturesque southern California beaches: Leo Carrillo, El Pescador, La Piedra and El Matador state beaches. Neptune’s Net restaurant is always a fantastic spot for fresh seafood and tasty food in the area.

The tide pools, coastal caves and reefs of Leo Carrillo State Beach are a popular draw year round. Hours can easily be spent here checking out the sea stars, crabs and a multitude of sea life. The beach is rather rocky, so it may not be the best choice for those who want to relax on soft, clean sand. But surfers can often catch some good waves here.

Parking for Leo Carrillo State Beach is easy, with two large lots, exiting PCH to the right for those headed towards Ventura from Malibu. The fee is $12. A pedestrian tunnel decorated with colorful murals runs under Highway 1, connecting the parking area and its decent restroom facilities with the beach. There are additional restrooms and showers located on the tide pool part of Leo Carrillo State Beach, just east of the tunnel access to the parking lot.

Past Lifeguard Station No. 3, the northwestern part of Leo Carrillo is dog-friendly, so furry companions on a leash are welcome. It’s one of the few beaches in L.A. County where dogs are allowed.

A few miles east of Leo Carrillo, the trio of state beaches – El Matador, La Piedra and El Pescador – are easy to miss while driving on PCH. They pop up all in a row, just west of Trancas Canyon. A collection of pocket beaches, they make up the Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach.

While the views from the bluff tops overlooking the beaches are easier for the very young, the elderly and the handicapped to access, the actual beaches all have a fairly taxing descent to the sand below. All three also have small, gravel-topped parking lots that often fill to capacity on the weekend. Pay the $8 honor system fee because park rangers do stop and check for compliance frequently. Parking along PCH is free, but crossing PCH is very dangerous.

The word has gotten out on El Matador and the beach can be very busy. Be prepared for a trek down the cliff side on eroded paths. The final approach to the beach is down a steep wooden staircase.

Once at water’s edge, massive rocks and crashing waves greet beachgoers. Dolphins are a fairly common sight, along with the usual complement of pelicans and other sea birds.

La Piedra’s access is even trickier. No staircase to the sand here, just some very worn steps in the steep cliff side. The trail starts near the portable restroom at the parking area.

But those willing to make the descent are rewarded with a generally quieter, more secluded experience. A wide stretch of sandy beach stretches out as perfect waves roll in.

El Pescador also has stairs down the cliff side to the beach, a combination of clean sand and very rocky areas in the water, which make for some great photos. This beach is also usually not as crowded as El Matador.

All three of these state beaches have portable restrooms located at the parking areas on the beach side of PCH. Picnic tables dot the cliff tops near the parking lots as well, so one does not have to hike down to the water for some gorgeous views.

Before or after a trip to one of these state beaches, make sure to enjoy the quintessential casual California coastal vibe of Neptune’s Net. With daily fresh seafood including peel-and-eat shrimp, crab legs, Dungeness crab, lobster, clams and Pacific oysters, it’s a popular spot. Ceviche, shrimp cocktail and clam chowder in a bread bowl are also on the menu.

Neptune’s Net also serves up fried seafood platters and a number of sandwiches, burgers and sides, including corn on the cob. Wash it all down with a wide selection of soft drinks, beer or wine.

The outdoor patio tables are often crowded and shared community style. The clientele is generally mellow, friendly and out having a great time along the coast, so the atmosphere is convivial and chill.

Portable restrooms with foot-pumped water for washing hands are located behind the restaurant. Parking is available in a large lot along the side of PCH towards the hills.

The restaurant is located right along PCH with an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean. Popular with bikers, there’s a whole section of parking area just for those on motorcycles. Surfers also find the ocean directly across from Neptune’s Net a great place to catch some waves.

These farthest reaches of Los Angeles County hold some excellent options for a memorable beach day. One can lie in the sand, explore tide pools, hang out with Fido, surf, cruise on a bike or explore some gorgeous California coastline.

Leo Carrillo State Beach, 35000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu,
El Pescador State Beach, 32900 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu
La Piedra State Beach, 32628 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu
El Matador State Beach, 32350 El Matador Beach Road, Malibu
Neptune’s Net, 42505 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu

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