El Matador State Beach: Malibu’s Best Kept Secret

Along the coast of Malibu are some of the best beaches in the entire United States, all of them are pretty flawless but for my money, the best beach is El Matador State Beach. If you can find parking in the super small lot, then you are in for a real treat. The beach is packed with long stretches of sand, sea caves and massive rocks.

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  • 8 dollars for parking
  • 8 AM – Sunset
  • Only 20 spots in the lot
  • Steep walk down to the beach
  • Bathroom at trailhead

El Matador State Park-1

While driving on Pacific Coast Highway past Point Dume and before Leo Carrillo, you will want to watch for the small sign on the right telling you El Matador State Beach is ahead. It doesn’t have a lot of great signs, so you want to make sure you are keeping your eyes peeled. Turn into the dirt parking lot from there and hope there is parking. People often park on the street but if you do this be very careful as I have seen cars get tickets often for parking in the wrong section.  

El matador State Beach-4

After finding a spot make sure to pay for the parking pass then head to the overlook for a beautiful coastal view before walking down to the beach. 

El matador State Beach-2

The walk to the beach is relatively steep but easy for most people. The beginning is all dirt then it has a series of stairs before another section of dirt and more stairs. From there you are officially on the beach. Do remember that the bathrooms are up in the parking lot if you need to use them.

El matador State Beach-3

The beach is beautiful in every direction with massive rocks, birds, and seaweed covered stones. 

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I love seeing all of the birds flying around the beach and nesting on the big rocks.


You usually have no problem finding a beautiful spot to relax here as the lack of parking makes it difficult for it to get overcrowded. 

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The main attraction here is the massive rock that had a series of small arches. A few of them are big enough to walk through and others you would have to crawl under. Here is a picture from inside of the arch at low tide.

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This beach is especially fantastic at golden hour when the sun is setting in the distance and lighting up the beach with a golden hue.

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If you go at sunrise or sunset, you will see a lot of photographers. This is to be expected as the geological rock formations here are some of the better ones in Southern California.

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Here is a shot of the beach from afar where you can see all of the rocks that run along the coastline.


The North section of the beach is worth visiting as well, it is less busy, and there are more places to explore.

El matador State Beach-1

If you haven’t been, then you need to go as it is incredible and I guarantee it is worth finding parking so you can experience it yourself. Let me know what your favorite beach is in the comments.

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  • Christine Eaves

    This is also my favorite beach in Southern California!

    • Great minds think alike!

  • Love your post man! Haha although it may not be Malibu’s best-kept secret much longer. 😉

    Have you ever been to Staircase Beach? It’s just a mile or two further up PCH, and it’s even less crowded than El Matador.

    • Thanks for the comment! I will have to check out that beach next!

  • Sara Khan

    Hi!! When is low tide? Or how do you determine that?

  • Thang Tran

    Hi! If the hours are from 8am-sunset, will I be able to get on the beach for sunrise? How strict are these hours?

    • Most parks say this as they don’t want people parking cars overnight. If there was a gate that was closed then you could park on the street. Just make sure to watch for signs if you do that so you park in the right place.

  • Natalie Vasquez

    Do you need a permit to take engagement pictures at el matador beach??? If so, where can I get one??

    • I apologize, I am not sure about this.

    • Davy Rothbart

      I always see people taking engagement photos here and would be surprised if they were permitted. I would think that any professional photos (for monetary gain) would need permits — i.e. film crew, fashion shoot, etc. But for personal use, probably not an issue.

  • Jeffrey Holmquist

    Is there a lifeguard station at/near the beach?

    • I do not remember but I will look next time I visit

  • We visited El Matador Beach a few years ago on the recommendation of a local. We could not find parking in the main parking lot and so we parked on the street. Fortunately we didn’t run into any ticket inspectors on the day. Good to know we were just lucky. Beautiful beach and worth the journey.

    • Thanks for the comment, I agree it is an amazing spot!