Surf Road Trip to Malibu and Santa Barbara

Malibu surf road trip

Surf trips aren’t always just about surfing. A lot of the times its the adventure along the way and the other pit stops you make, that make the surf trip complete. This is especially the case if you happen to get skunked and there aren’t any waves.

Malibu is one of the premiere classic point breaks in Southern California and it’s first point is well known for being a prime long boarding spot. I’ve lived in California for 11 years now and I have always wanted to try surfing there and check that spot off my surf sand bucket list.

This is a long post, so I’ll outline it for you right here, so you can jump to the parts that interest you the most:

  • 1st Surf/Road trip Stop – Latigo Point in Malibu
  • 2nd Surf/Road trip Stop – Paradise Cove in Malibu
  • 3rd Surf/Road trip Stop – Carpinteria
  • 4th Surf/Road trip Stop – Santa Barbara
  • 5th Surf/Road trip Stop – Jalama Beach
  • 6th Surf/Road trip Stop – Refugio State Beach
  • 7th Surf/Road trip Stop – Santa Barbara Bowl Iration Show
  • 8th Surf/Road trip Stop – Thornill Broom State Beach
  • 9th Surf/Road trip Stop – Neptune’s Net
  • 10th Surf/Road trip Stop – Surfing Malibu Point Day 1
  • 11th Surf/Road trip Stop – Malibu – The M Malibu Hotel
  • 12th Surf/Road trip Stop – Surfing Malibu Point Day 2
  • 13th Surf/Road trip Stop – Doheny Beach

Planning the Malibu/Santa Barbara Surf/Road Trip

It took me a while to actually plan and make a surf trip to Malibu. I really prefer staying close to the surf spot I’m surfing and places around Malibu, even Air BnB’s, just seemed unrealistically priced. Most lodging in Malibu averages $500+ a night, especially during the prime wave season of summer for the spot. I was also a bit concerned on where I could park in order to easily drag my big long board to and from the beach. I’ve always seen PCH highway parking next to Malibu on my other road trips up the Cali coast, but I get anxiety with parallel parking.

Well, it turns out, that I did more research Googling places to stay near Malibu First Point and I actually found a hotel that was priced within reason (not cheap, but within reason) and super close to the surf spot. It was The M Malibu. Then, I decided I really wanted see my favorite band, Iration, play at The Santa Barbara Bowl, and check that spot of my bucket list for hearing them play, especially since that’s where the band started.

Once I bought my Iration ticket, I decided to make it a combo trip, part road trip/exploration adventure and part surf trip to Malibu. I also wanted to check out some camping places by the surf/beach that I had seen Iration post about on social media. Iration was playing on Sunday, so I decided to stay in Santa Barbara for the weekend, and then head back down to Malibu during the week, when hotel prices were lower, and hopefully the infamously crowded Malibu Point wouldn’t be so crowded.

1st Surf/Road trip Stop – Latigo Point in Malibu

I started out from San Diego as early as I could (as I’m not a morning person), and made my first pit stop in Malibu at Latigo Point.

Latigo Point is a lesser known surf spot/point break for long boarders like Malibu point, but it’s supposed to be much less crowded and mushier wave, perfect for a mushy wave lover like me. I used my da Surf Engine app to route me to the spot and arrived at the entrance to a ritzy neighborhood where I saw the sign for the beach access point.

You’re not allowed to park at all in the neighborhood, on its street, as you have to park up on the PCH highway and walk down. The waves were pretty much non-existent and I knew I wouldn’t get a chance to surf it, but I just wanted to check it out. I stopped my car for a bit and peeked my head down at the beach before the security guard approached me and I then told him I was leaving & just checking it out. Latigo Point doesn’t break often, so I wasn’t expecting to surf it, but it’s good to know exactly where it is now in my mind!

2nd Surf/Road trip Stop – Paradise Cove in Malibu

At this point I was tired of driving and wanted to get out and walk around and stretch my legs for awhile. I was driving and noticed the Paradise Cove entrance on my left, so I decided to check out this infamous beach hangout. This is the spot where the Beach Boys got inspired for their Surfin Safari song. It’s a beautiful place to relax and enjoy the calm ocean views, but not a surf spot at all.

Paradise Cover Malibu

Parking there can be quite expensive and a bit tricky so be cautious. I thought I saw something on the sign that parking was $8 with validation. Therefore, I bought a drink and walked around the place to check it out, and was ready to continue my journey, when I went to pay at the machine and it was charging me $50. Apparently you needed to buy $30 worth of stuff on the weekend to get the $8 rate and there are different prices for the cafe vs. beach areas as well.

I was a bit alarmed at the $50 for just being a paying customer for a little bit, but fortunately the workers there were very understanding of my situation and waived my parking fee altogether. I understand the need for the $50 fee if you just wanna chillax on the beach for a couple hours and not buy anything as real estate in Malibu is pricey, but was just again so glad they were understanding.

3rd Surf/Road trip Stop – Carpinteria (small beach town south of Santa Barbara)

I follow my fave band Iration on social media and have been curious to check out some of the beach/camping areas they have posted about. Beach camping in California is really rare (true on shore beach camping, not up on a cliff or on the ground, separated from the beach) and this is one of the places I’ve seen them reference to camping at.

Carpinteria the town is somewhere I would totally live if I worked and lived in Santa Barbara, as it does have a very casual, laid back feel, kind of like where I live in Pacific Beach, without the young/rowdy college crowd reputation. It’s also super close to the infamous point break, Rincon, which you can tell by some of the restaurant/shop names.

The beach there looked pretty fun and surfable, although I didn’t have time to surf it at that point. There is also camping at this beach, but it is a bit separated from the actual shore break. I didn’t stay there long, just long enough to get some Instagram photos. Then I proceeded to my final destination of the weekend, Santa Barbara!


4th Surf/Road trip Stop – Santa Barbara

It was about sunset time when I got to Santa Barbara and I was hungry for something to eat.  I wanted to check out something around State Street downtown, but as I was Googling places to eat near me, The Endless Summer Cafe popped up and caught my interest.

I’m not sure why that restaurant popped up, as it certainly wasn’t as close to me as others, but for some reason I think Google might just know a little too much about me which is why they suggested it. At that point I was tired of driving and didn’t want to deal with parking as it was getting darker so I took a Lyft down to the Harbor where the restaurant was.

As you walk into the Endless Summer Cafe and walk up the stairs to the venue, you are immediately greeted with surf inspired design. When I got to the restaurant, you could see the surfboards hanging from the ceiling, there was a musician playing classic surf type music, and the ceiling was a mix of Hawaiian/Floral designs, which I thought was pretty cool. I got the Hawaiian type poke meal which was very good.

Endless Summer Cafe

The sun then set and I went back to my hotel, to get a good nights sleep, as driving all day can make you tired.

5th Surf/Road trip Stop – Jalama Beach

I woke up on Sunday, the day of the Iration show, and ventured out about an hour an a half north up to Jalama Beach, to check out this surf/camping area that I’ve seen the band post about on their Instagram photos.

The drive to Jalama Beach was definitely a journey! It was perfectly sunny in Santa Barbara, but as I started driving north it got really foggy and cool. Then, as I turned off the PCH to continue my drive to Jalama, it got sunny again. Once I had been driving awhile, my final turn was onto a smaller winding road that took about another 20-30 minutes to arrive at the destination. It felt like riding a go cart on the hills as I was very cautious, as it was indeed a bit scary for me to drive (great thing I got my two front tires replaced that were balding before I went on this trip and got my breaks fixed). However, the drive is worth it once you enter the camp ground area.

Entrance to Jalama Beach

Jalama Beach camp ground is what I would call the “almost” perfect place to (legally) camp right on the actual beach. I mean camping on the actual soft sand (aka Wheeland Brother’s Sand in My Sheets song) where you can look out and see the waves as you get up in the morning. Not all the camping spots have this view, but if you get your reservation in early enough, you can snag one of these epic camping spots.Even if you’re not a hard core camper, they have these super cute little cabins up on the hill that also have amazing surf beach views.

Jalama Beach Camping
Camp on the beach or Glamp up the hill!

The reason this spot isn’t a “perfect” surfing beach camp spot is because the waves there can get super dangerous with the strong currents and there are signs posted where surfing really isn’t recommended. However on the day I was there, it was 2-3 foot and I even saw a few surfboards, including a foam board out there. The surfer with the foam board was just really boogie board surfing it, which is what I was planning to do if I went out there with my long board. However, I wimped out and decided not to try surfing there that time, as I needed to head back out to discover another place I’ve seen Iration surf/camp at.

I relaxed and chilled there for a bit and soaked up the sun, but was definitely made aware of the signs bewaring people of snakes, as you walked through the sand dune area to the beach. I’ve never heard of snakes on a beach, I mean planes and hiking type areas, yes, but was definitely educated on that part of Jalama.

Prime beach real estate and documenting my presence with a selfie

6th Surf/Road trip Stop – Refugio State Beach

Iration’s show started at 5:30 and I didn’t have much time left, but I needed to check out the Refugio State Beach area as I hear it is another point break to surf up in the Santa Barbara area and it had camping as well. The camping there is really somewhat separated from the beach shorebreak area and on harder dirt which didn’t appeal to me as much.

However, the surf spot itself is something I’ll definitely have to come back to and try surfing at in the future. The day I was there the waves were super small but from the looks of it, it seems like a super fun mellow long boarding wave.

Chill waves at Refugio and another selfie for me documenting my presence

7th Surf/Road trip Stop – Santa Barbara Bowl Iration Show

Finally, it was time to see Iration play at the Santa Barbara Bowl. I knew it was somewhat close to my hotel but I was unsure of the parking situation so I just took a Lyft there. It was probably like a 30 minute walk from the La Quinta Hotel I was staying at and was a super short ride, but I had just eaten a great meal and I was full and it was hot.

I got to the venue and they had an area where you could purchase a beer or wine before you entered the venue, which was a great idea, as the lines were really long for beverages inside. The venue was absolutely beautiful and it’s such a great place to see a show, I don’t really think there’s a bad seat in the house! You could see the ocean from the top of the venue and see the sun setting off to the west.

Santa Barbara Bowl

Iration had a few openers come on, Katastro (who I missed unfortunately), Fortunate Youth, and Pepper. It’s funny, as Iration got their big break opening for Pepper and now Pepper was opening for them! It’s good to see the bands don’t have egos for those type of things. Pepper is known for their live shows though with the way they really work the crowd and engage with them. They made a funny reference to the fans being the real fans vs. the people backstage, etc. which was funny, as I’ve never heard a band talk straight to that effect.

Iration’s show was amazing as always and I had a great view of the entire thing! After a day full of exploring and adventure, it was nice to just “Chill Out” and take in their amazing music, live in person! After the show I just went back to my hotel and crashed. Normally I would try to find out where the band might be having their after party and sorts, but I guess I’m getting older and all the activities of the day made me tired!

Iration Concert at Santa Barbara Bowl

8th Surf/Road trip Stop – Thornhill Broom State Beach

Monday I woke up and started my drive back down to my final destination of Malibu, but on the way I discovered another beach surf camping spot that appeared to be right on the actual beach and had to pull over and check it out. I didn’t want to pay to enter yet a 3rd campground to just check it out, but I did get a close up view and took a couple pics as I had never heard of this beach camping spot before and was definitely curious to research more later that night. It has a huge sand dune type hill on the other side of the PCH as well which drew my attention.

When I did more research I found out that it’s mostly an RV spot but they do allow for beach tent camping as well, but the beach can be a bit rockier on the south side and it’s not really an ideal spot for surfing, as it’s mainly shore pound. Oh well, there goes my hopes for that. However, I might try camping there, and checking out Leo Carrillo State Park nearby that has good surfing on my next road/surf trip.

The absolute best place for legal beach camping in Southern California is much closer to me, San Onofre (not San Onofre Trails up on the parking lot type of camping, but in between San O State Beach and Churches surf spots), but you have to have military connections to camp there. I’ve done that once and it was amazing!!

9th Surf/Road trip Stop – Neptune’s Net

In addition to being an Iration fan, I’m a huge Veronica Mars fan. Veronica Mars is based in the fictional town of Neptune. With that in mind and the fact that this was a place was filmed in the original Point Break surf movie, I had to check it out and stopped there for lunch. It was great timing as I had a small breakfast as I was planning to stop here on the way down.

Neptune’s Net is also a notorious place where bikers stop to eat and specializes in sea food – one of my faves! I had a shrimp and calamari basket, took in the seaside view, and snapped a few pics and was then on my way to my final destination.

10th Surf/Road trip Stop – Surfing Malibu Point Day 1

I was super eager to get some surf on with this surf/road trip finally and drove right up to the Malibu Point and found perfect parking for me at the time, in a lot next to the pier. It was $10 or something which was less than I expected which was cool, so I parked and was on my way to surf this infamous spot.

I had to walk a bit from the pier and found an opening in the fence past this residential house where I went down to the beach area and set up day camp. It was closer to the pier, further away from the point, but it was hot and I wanted a place to set up asap.

I chilled out for a bit on the beach, watching the surfers, getting a sense for the lineup and the surf spot and places to sit. Then I went out and tried to get some surf myself. Point breaks are a bit harder for me to surf, as everyone’s huddling around the same spot and just when you think you have a wave you know you can catch, you see someone coming down the line. It wasn’t extremely crowded, but there were still lots of people given it was a Monday afternoon and school was now in session.

Chillin Out at Malibu beach

The waves were around 2-3 feet that day, so not too shabby for me, but I decided to paddle out a bit further, more to like 2nd point, and try to get some less crowded waves there. The waves at the 2nd point seemed much more powerful, more powerful than I’m used to surfing. Usually I can catch a bit of the corner’s whitewash of a wave and get the wave, no problem. However, the whitewash of this wave was more than pushing me, it was coming on top of me and it was a bit of a different feel to get used to. I ended up paddling back to 1st point to give that another try. I caught a few waves there and then decided to call it a day.

Malibu 1st Point 2-3 foot waves

I explored a bit more around the surf spot and realized that there is much closer parking lot parking by Malibu Point when you turn off the PCH at this museum sign area. That was my big key discovery for the day, ha! I’ve seen this parking lot on Google but I’ve just never realized where exactly you need to turn off the PCH to get to it – surf spot mystery solved!

11th Surf/Road trip Stop – Malibu – The M Malibu Hotel

I was super glad I stayed at this hotel during the less crowded weekday timing. I pulled into the hotel and the parking is pretty tight and on an inclined area, but I found the perfect spot with lots of space on one side. I checked into the hotel and it was super cute and had a good view of the ocean and a cute little patio area. They also had some ear plugs waiting for me beside my bed, which I would find very useful the next two nights.

The hotel is really at the perfect location. You still need to drive down to Malibu Point as it’s quite a walk with a longboard, however it’s nearby several dining areas including the infamous Hollywood frequented Nobu. I indulged in dinner there on my last night in Malibu and had the black cod, aka butter fish and it was truly as delicious as the butter fish I get at Roy’s here in San Diego. They also had a very refreshing sunset spritzer cocktail and a great view of the ocean, from the bar-side seating I was at. They also have super comfy looking loungey areas to sit and dine at as well. The price of items at Nobu wasn’t as outrageous as I thought it would be, similar to Roy’s pricing, and definitely a better value than the $19 ice cream/watermelon water I purchased before hand on the Malibu pier!

Nobu at Malibu view

The first night at The M Malibu, I kept the windows open as I didn’t realize there was a remote for controlling room temperature and I could tell by my alarm app on my phone that tracks my sleep activity, that I didn’t get the best sleep that night due to the constant sound of traffic outside (even with ear plugs). The 2nd night was much better as I closed the windows and the ear plugs were much better utilized and my quality of sleep was much higher!

There’s another infamous pizza joint very close to the hotel that was also filmed in many movies that I went to the first night as it totally hit the spot, I was looking for something faster, easy, yummy, and cheaper and it fit the bill!

12th Surf/Road trip Stop – Surfing Malibu Point Day 2

The last day the waves at Malibu were a bit teeny – 1 foot ankle biters I would say. I brought out my Darkfin Webbed surf gloves to help give me a bit of extra power and tried to sit a bit more inside to catch people’s leftover waves, which worked for a bit at first. I felt like I definitely found the new close out section at Malibu that The Inertia referenced due to the beach erosion going on there. I had a fun day overall, but definitely feel that I need to come back and spend more time at this surf spot during the week, with better waves, to truly appreciate the classic nature of this spot.

Malibu 1st Point Flat Day got skunked

I’ve seen videos where people connect from 3rd to 1st point and can even shoot the pier, that was an impossible feat when I was there, as the waves stopped breaking before even getting to the pier.

I explored the spot a bit more and took a walk out to the end of the pier and had a lunch of ice cream and water melon water. It was a beautiful day and I always appreciate just being out in the warm sunny weather and waves, even if the waves are less than ideal at the time.

13th Surf/Road trip Stop – Doheny Beach

On Wednesday when I checked out of my hotel, I decided just to head back home to San Diego as the waves were a paltry 1 foot again and I just wanted to get back closer to home. I decided to take a surf pitt stop at Doheny Beach though as I never get a chance to surf there during less crowded weekday times.

When I got to Doheny, I felt like I had entered a tropical paradise, the water was so sparkling blue and the beach was empty. This is always a fun, easy breezy, but super crowded long boarding surfing spot I typically go to once or twice a summer. I think of it as Southern California’s Waikiki. However, it felt like a completely different spot without the crowds and barely anyone out in the water.

Doheny State Beach uncrowded surf beautiful day

The waves weren’t the best, but it was so empty out there I had to go out and catch a few waves. I got a few fun rides, given the conditions that day, but it was a great way to end this little surf/road trip.

So that’s it for this surf/road trip blog. I didn’t even bring out my Soloshot or 360 Fly to get any video footage of this trip since the waves were less than ideal, however I’ll have to go on better days next time and get some good footage.

If you’re still reading this and would like to share any of your surf trip stories, either via blog (posting on this site) or on our YouTube Channel (with video), give us a holler! We’ll even compensate you for your material if we really like it! I’m sure there are others out there that have way more interesting stories than I do, but I always enjoy hearing about other surfers adventures on their surf trips as well.

Thanks for sticking around for the end of this post 🙂

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