5 Best Photo Opportunities in Malibu

Photo Opportunities Malibu

Lee Van Grack

Malibu used to be just a sleepy fishing village along the scenic California coast. But even after being discovered by celebrities, who snapped up oceanfront lots to erect their mega-mansions, now-trendy Malibu somehow manages to retain the charm of its humble origins. Given Malibu's natural beauty, there's hardly a spot in which Pacific Ocean vistas don't come into play – it's a photographer's paradise. Whether you're a seasoned pro or a novice with your first digital camera, your batteries will be quickly worn out by the abundant photo opportunities. Malibu, you'll discover, is as photogenic as a place can be.

1. The Romantic Photo: The Getty Villa

Long before colossal Getty Center dominated the L.A. scene, art lovers were being charmed and seduced at The Getty Villa, the family's romantic museum on the coast. In 2006, it emerged from a nine-year renovation project, which returned the magnificent property to its original grandeur.

While the scenic Malibu setting can be distracting, The Getty Villa showcases a permanent collection of more than 44,000 antiquities from Greece and Rome, dating as far back as 6,500 B.C. Ancient busts and figurines share gallery space with luxurious vases, jewelry and coins from the beginning of civilization.

The remarkable mansion and its 64-acre coastal site, inspired by the 1st-century Villa dei Papiri near Mount Vesuvius, is the star for most shutterbugs. A formal courtyard, with a serene reflecting pool surrounded by endless rows of graceful columns, offers some of Malibu's best photo ops, but any view of the Pacific from this site begs to be captured on film.

The Getty Villa
17985 Pacific Coast Hwy
Pacific Palisades, CA 90272
Thu-Mon 10AM-5PM
Free admission

2. The Quirky Photo: Saddle Peak Lodge

Nestled in the rugged Santa Monica Mountains near Malibu is Saddle Peak Lodge, a truly unique restaurant.

Its pedigree is colorful, having evolved from a Pony Express stop to a hunting lodge attracting Golden Age movie stars. Some local historians suggest it was once a brothel, but today the only major sin practiced at Saddle Peak Lodge is overeating.

Guests enjoy a sophisticated cuisine amid rough-timbered construction and mounted stag heads. Wild game is the main attraction: New Zealand elk with sauce chasseur, buffalo short ribs and ostrich with truffles and foie gras. The best photo ops at this Malibu institution include mountain views from the patio.

Saddle Peak Lodge
419 Cold Canyon Rd
Calabasas, CA 91302
Wed & Thu 4PM-9PM, Fri 4PM-10PM, Sat 5PM-10PM, Sun 10:30AM-2PM, 5PM-9PM

3. The Family Fun Photo: Malibu Lumber Yard

Before the movie stars and Fortune 500 CEOs moved in, Malibu shopping consisted of unassuming mom-and-pop retailers and a local hardware store in the center of town. Now, the old Malibu Hardware & Lumber Yard has been transformed into a collection of chic designer boutiques catering to well-heeled residents and visitors.

Among the shops here are Tory Burch and alice + olivia, celebrity-driven women's boutiques carrying leopard-print booties, $100 Ts, and Sevan Bicakci jewelry favored by Lady Gaga. At Planet Blue Kids, Hollywood A-listers buy designer jeans for their toddlers.

However, Malibu Lumber Yard offers many family-friendly experiences. The photogenic wood-planked plaza features eight-foot-tall aquariums, cushy furniture and kid-pleasing food. Terrific red velvet cupcakes are sold at Crumbs bakery, a New York import, and the Chocolate Box Café offers hot chocolate infused with ginger, chili pepper or mint.

Malibu Lumber Yard
3939 Cross Creek Rd
Malibu, CA 90265
Store hours vary
Free admission

4. The Scenic Photo: Carbon Beach

Malibu's Carbon Beach is not as famous as Surfrider or Zuma, but it is home to the priciest real estate in town. Producer David Geffen, billionaire software entrepreneur Larry Ellison and actor John Travolta have all bought luxury pads on Malibu's scenic Carbon Beach. Like most beaches in California, Carbon is public, so you can stroll the sand with the rich and famous, while discovering some of the best photo opportunities Malibu has to offer. Just be sure to use one of two designated walkways from PCH so you don't get nabbed for trespassing. The best time to shoot, of course, is sunset!

Carbon Beach
Pacific Coast Hwy, between Carbon Canyon Rd and Malibu Pier
Malibu, CA

Surfrider Beach
23050 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA

Zuma Beach
30000 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA

5. The Classic Photo: Pepperdine University

One of the best photo ops in Malibu is not the town itself, but its stunning 27-mile coastline that hugs iconic Pacific Coast Highway. A great vantage point for Malibu visitors into travel photography is the lovely campus of Pepperdine University, perched on a hill overlooking the Pacific. Every kid should be so lucky to attend school at a place like this!

The small university keeps a low profile, save for a men's basketball program that competes with big league powerhouses, a respectable business school, and the campus' magical setting. This is SoCal, so drive up PCH in a convertible – you can snap photos all the way. Then tour the campus and point your camera to the coast for that winning shot!

Pepperdine University
24255 Pacific Coast Hwy
Malibu, CA 90263
Free admission
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