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Malibu Beach Scenic Drive, Part II

Billionaires Beach, Zuma Beach . . .

Seeing L. A. like a native


Update, November 2018: The Woolsey Fire destroyed much of the Santa Monica Mountains portion of this drive. The coastal portion of this drive through Malibu remains very worthwhile to drive.


Your Malibu Beach scenic drive continues with Malibu's best beaches and top celebrity areas. Start with Part I, if you have not read it.

In this section, you visit —

  • Zuma Beach.
  • Carbon Beach aka "Billionaires Beach,"
  • Charles Manson's former "home,"
  • Broad Beach Road celebrities
  • Leo Carillo State Beach,
  • Point Dume,
  • Sycamore Cove,
  • Verizon's iDon't "Magic (Oh, Oh, Oh)" highway,
  • County Line Beach ("Surfing USA").

Point Mugu

When last spotted in Part I, you were chillin' in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and then turning back past Point Mugu now headed toward Malibu's most beautiful beaches.

Continue "southbound" (actually eastbound) on Pacific Coast Highway, California Highway 1. Enjoy this rugged coastline.

I like the Verizon iDon' t Droid song "Magic (Oh, Oh, Oh) " video filmed along Highway 1 between Point Mugu and Zuma Beach.

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Sycamore Cove State Beach

Sycamore Cove State Beach offers pleasant picnic areas, camping spots, nice views toward Point Mugu, and best of all a less hectic beach atmosphere. I like its setting.

There are no lifeguards here in the off season.

Watch for the easy to spot entrance. Save your parking stub as it may be valid at other state parks today.

Continue on Highway 1.

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County Line Beach

After the intersection with Yerba Buena Road, watch for County Line Beach—a super popular surfing location.

  • "If everybody had an ocean
    Across the U.S.A. . . .
    You'd catch 'em surfin' at Del Mar
    Ventura County line . . .."
    —Surfing USA, Beach Boys, 1963

You will find no entrance and no sign, usually just a long line of parked vehicles as Highway 1 runs on a very slight bank above but adjacent to the ocean.

As of this writing, there are no lifeguards and no vendors.

You have left Ventura County and returned to Los Angeles County.

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Leo Carillo State Park

Continue "southbound" on Pacific Coast Highway.

Nature lovers love Leo Carillo State Beach.

Leo Carillo offers a picturesque setting with tide pools, rock formations, and coastal caves at the foot of the Santa Monica Mountains.

Leo Carillo provides a wonderfully rich and interesting environment for children, but please use some care. The surf becomes rough at times and the rocks are sharp.

As with Sycamore Cove, this park extends across Highway 1, with hiking, bird watching, and limited public camping available.

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Broad Beach Road

After El Matador State Beach, turn right off of Pacific Coast Highway onto Broad Beach Road, the first major celebrity area in Part II.

This is optional. You don't really see that much, unless you use the public access walkway to the beach at 31200 Broad Beach Road.

If you use this beach as well as other celebrity ones in Malibu, be sure not to approach homes too closely. Otherwise, you may be cited or even arrested. Property lines extend out to "mean high tide," and I have never been able to determine where that is.

Broad Beach parallels Pacific Coast Highway on the beach side. As you drive eastward, the first homes do not generally front the beach. However, soon you are driving past the entrances of Goldie Hawn, Robert De Niro, Danny De Vito, Dustin Hoffman, Van Halen, and similar celebrities, who may still live here.

Living in somewhat isolated Malibu, even in areas not as far from the studios as Broad Beach, works best for huge celebrities who do not have to show up at film studios or television facilities daily.

Broad Beach Road runs back into Highway One, the Pacific Coast Highway. Turn right.

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Zuma Beach

Now comes Zuma Beach, my favorite Malibu area public beach. Watch for the longest beach you have seen so far on this drive as the highway descends to sea level.

Even on the hottest days, Zuma Beach seems to have space for everyone, especially if you walk toward Point Dume to the east. You will seldom feel terribly crowded. Moreover, the usual traffic along Southern California beaches intrudes less here.

My sole complaints are the overly large changing room and concession structures that somewhat hinder the otherwise natural setting.

Zuma Beach provides a popular place for local college and high school students bask along these shores. Families also feel welcome.

I highly recommend Zuma, but be especially careful when the waves are large. They can slam down extremely hard here. I nearly broke my back body surfing at Zuma Beach.

Because Zuma faces south, you may experience rough conditions particularly during the late summer and fall Mexican hurricane season, as well as during winter storms. Rip tides pop up all year all along the southern California coast.

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A cautionary tale

Rip tides become especially powerful at Zuma Beach. Here's what Los Angeles Magazine had to say during October 2010,

"[Dick Heinrich, who like a number of Zuma lifeguards often slept overnight on the beach,] woke up . . . one morning and saw an actual school bus disgorging a load of students onto the sand . . . Half asleep, Heinrich watched the unbelievable occur: The students running from the bus jumped into the water and, in one giant bobbing mess, were sucked out to sea by a huge rip current.

"Heinrich grabbed his rescue can—a red torpedo-shaped floatation device—and dove into the water after them. He was the only lifeguard on the beach."

Luckily, someone on shore noticed and used a loudspeaker to wake up dazed guards who ran in after Heinrich and the students. "We pulled 30 kids out that day." Heinrich said.

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Rip tide safety hints

Take care at nearly all California beaches, which are known for their powerful rip tides, strong currents that run from near the shoreline out toward the open ocean. California lacks the barrier reefs and continental shelves that foster gentler conditions on some coastlines.

  • When gripped in rip tides, swimmers panic and exhaust themselves by swimming against the current trying to reach shore. Instead, remain calm—easier said than done—and remember that unlike the Zuma one mentioned above rip tides nearly always run in narrow bands.

  • For your safety, swim perpendicular to the current, NOT against it, until you reach calmer water. Then you should easily be able to swim toward shore.

    Rip tides are not express routes to the Far East. At some point—usually quite quickly—they lose momentum and turn back toward shore.

  • Swim where there are lifeguards.

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Point Dume

As mentioned, Point Dume anchors the eastern end of Zuma Beach. Highway 1 veers inland to avoid following the rugged shoreline of Point Dume.

If you park after Highway 1 once again reaches the coast past Point Dume, you may see a small pier as you look back toward Point Dume in the distance. On his television program "The Rockford Files," actor James Garner "lived" in a trailer adjacent to that pier. That area is called Paradise Cove.

On the bluff above, prices for true mobile homes in a true mobile home park once started at $600,000, although as of 2011 this has declined to a mere $325,000 in the economic downturn.

These "entry level" prices get you a small Airstream travel trailer or an older "single wide." Most larger ones sell in the millions. Your money buys the mobile home and the right to park it, but not the land and space fee. You do get a spectacular view from portions of the park.

A gatehouse prevents public entry from Paradise Road.

Continue on Highway 1 toward Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

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Pepperdine – a controversal location

Again we pass Pepperdine University—this time on your left—whose location remains controversial, and not merely for environmental reasons.

After the deadly Watts riot of 1964, Pepperdine turned its back on South Central Los Angeles and moved its largely wealthy student body to Malibu, in contrast to University of Southern California nearby, which stood pat.

Pepperdine feared its enrollment would suffer if it did not uproot.

In my opinion, USC students, who did not leave South Central, got a much richer educational experience, as they and their university found numerous ways to interact with and to improve their troubled neighborhood.

After the Watts riots, the university grew truly multicultural, taking in more disadvantaged students than any other large private university in the United States, while SAT-type scores of its entering first year students rose to surpass those of Pepperdine and UCLA.

During 1999, Time Magazine named USC its university of the year based in large part on relationship between the university and its community.

In the interest of full disclosure, I graduated USC and completed a not for credit course at the Pepperdine campus in Malibu.

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"Billionaires Beach"

After Pepperdine, we again pass the Malibu Pier and Surfriders Beach. Stop if you could not find parking earlier or want photos in different light.

Malibu Pier marks the beginning of Carbon Beach, nicked named "Billionaires Beach" for the rather incredible collection of the rich and famous who live there.

Likely the richest person with a home here, Oracle software mogul Larry Ellison ranked third on the Forbes list of richest people in September 2011, with an estimated net worth of some $33 billion. (Fellow university drop out Bill Gates may have $59 billion.)

Other residents may still include Jennifer Aniston, David Arquette, Bruce Willis, and film executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, the "K" in DreamWorks SKG.

Not in their financial league, I nevertheless managed to find an affordable apartment across from Carbon Beach a year after university, whose residents enjoyed a private easement that let us easily jog and sunbathe on this beautiful beach. I felt the good life had arrived!

Robert F. Kennedy spent his last day prior to being fatally shot enjoying Carbon Beach with his family. It is said that he almost cancelled driving into Los Angeles for his ill-fated California primary victory party in order to remain here.

You can access the beach by walking from its Malibu Pier end or via the public access address below. Plan to visit during lower tides.

If you walk or jog along Billionaires Beach, I again warn you not to approach beach homes in Malibu too closely.

Traditionally liberal Malibu residents may become decidedly illiberal when it comes to supporting public beach access near their homes.

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Charles Manson home

You have driven past the homes of the Malibu rich and famous, but now comes a truly notorious house.

The most truly—terribly—horrifically infamous Malibu crib (or at least property) sits on Billionaires Beach at 22126 Pacific Coast Highway.

This billionaire pad now comprises four lots and is almost entirely hidden by a huge hedge. Not that long ago, Malibu celebrities did not "McMansion" their homes into the size of the one now on this property. Living in Malibu was far less pretentious then.

I believe singer Nancy Sinatra ("These Boots Are Made for Walkin'"), the daughter of Frank Sinatra, once lived where the multi car garage now stands. Andy Williams and Claudine Longet once lived with their children in a home on the left side of this property or just to the left of that.

However, the most famous Hollywood personality to live here was actress and singer Doris Day, who owned a rather modest-sized home on what is now toward the middle of this property.

No, it's not Doris Day or the others mentioned who is infamous. Doris was one of the sweetest people to come out of the Hollywood star system. Instead, this is where Charles Manson and his satanic musician friends lived part time, with permission given by Doris' son.

Charles Manson composed music with the late Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys and others on the beach in front. Manson followers later murdered actress Sharon Tate on his command and nearly assassinated President Ford. Manson remains in Folsom Prison.

Doris Day, who never visited her Malibu home after the death of her husband, did not have a clue about what was going on.

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David Geffen

Currently, media mogul David Geffen, the "G" in studio DreamWorks SKG, owns the "Manson property." Little, if any, of the original Doris Day home seems to remain.

I do not normally reveal the name of a current homeowner, but Geffen's ownership became highly publicized due to his very high-profile and long-term court battles attempting to block public beach access in front of and adjacent to his home due to personal fears about his security.

David Geffen ultimately lost in court, and an illegally blocked public easement to the beach was opened to the right of his home at 22132 Pacific Coast Highway (at least during the day).

I sympathize with Mr. Geffen. Well-known and wealthy Hollywood personalities have been targets of threats and violence (the Manson followers above are just one example ). Moreover, far too many paparazzi do not play nice these days.

Nevertheless, unlike much of Florida, California has a long tradition of easy public beach access and one has to question how the land next to beaches as pleasant as Carbon, so close to Los Angeles, was ever allowed to become and to remain private. One also has to question the wisdom of buying next to public beach access, even if blocked at the time, if you do not want the public around.

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Traveling toward Santa Monica

Traveling this way toward Santa Monica provides markedly different views than the outbound trip. The light has also changed as the day has gone on.

As the coastline curves south in the distance, you will notice the shores of Santa Monica and Los Angeles shimmering in the distance. You may even notice flights taking off from LAX airport. These become especially visible in the late afternoon.

There may be time for a last swim at Malibu Surfriders Beach, Topanga State Beach, or Will Rogers State Beach. Or, you may wish to stop at the restaurants mentioned in Part I.

Near sunset makes an especially nice time to approach Santa Monica.

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Santa Monica Scenic Drive

Go on to our Santa Monica Scenic Drive.

In this section, we will visit one of California's most interesting cities. Even with some walking, this can be done within several hours.

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