MALIBUAutumn is an excellent time to enjoy Southern California beaches. The weather is still warm but the beaches are far less crowded than in summer. Malibu is among my family’s favorite beaches.

Although Malibu is synonymous with beaches, glamour and celebrities, there’s (perhaps) surprisingly nothing pretentious (not much anyway) about this beautiful, 27-mile stretch of coastline. We walk around in shorts and flip-slops and fit right in with the rest of the tourists and residents who are here for the same thing – pristine beaches and a fun environment.

ZUMAIf we’re planning to just soak up sun and splash in the surf, we go to Zuma in Malibu, one of the largest and cleanest beaches in L.A. County. It’s got wide, sandy beaches, great waves for boogie boarding, lifeguards, two food huts, outdoor showers and restrooms. The food huts, plopped right at the beach, have grilled burgers, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, chips, candy and drinks. Zuma parking is usually $10.

But there’s much more to Malibu than endless summer days. A must-see is the beautiful Getty Villa Malibu. Although admission to the Getty is free (parking is $15), you must schedule your visit online and print out your timed tickets at home. Walk-ins are not allowed. Allow about two hours to explore the grounds and galleries of this museum, which houses thousands of antiquities from 6,500 BC – 400 AD representing the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria.

If you’re traveling with young kids, drop by the Family Forum on the main floor. The space is furnished with hands-on discovery stations to acquaint youngsters with Getty artifacts

Getty Villa_MalibuWe especially enjoy the outdoor gardens and lavish fountains. The smaller East Garden features a fountain made with shells and theater masks. The larger, formal garden has sitting areas and bronze statues.

From here, we usually go to the Malibu Country Mart, an outdoor shopping and dining area that’s walking distance to the Malibu Pier. John’s Garden, a casual snack shop and deli, makes tasty sandwiches, soups and salads. Take the food to go or eat at one of the outside tables.

Next, you can either drive or walk to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) to reach the Malibu Pier. In summer, finding a parking spot near the beaches in this part of Malibu can be challenging. But in fall it’s not as difficult.

From the pier, you get awesome views of the Malibu coastline and can watch surfers at popular Surfrider Beach.  There are two restaurants on the pier. Ruby’s Shake Shack serves up burgers and shakes, and The Beachcomber cafe offers an assortment of seafood, fish, chicken, and steak dishes.

A nice place to visit is Malibu Lagoon State Beach. On the west side of the Malibu Creek Bridge, you’ll find picnic tables, a nature center and saltwater marsh. The Adamson House, a National Historic Site, is known for its gardens, Malibu Potteries tiles and Malibu artifacts.

Malibu Beach_InnIf you’re in the area and want to stay in the hub of things, consider spending the night at the Malibu Beach Inn, located on the exclusive shores of Carbon Beach (billionaires beach). My kids and I spent one night in a room with a balcony and view of the Malibu Pier, which is easy walking distance from the inn. The strip of beach was small but private. We enjoyed our visit and would stay there again because of its location and comfort. (I just have to add this: I was disappointed that after I realized I had left behind my favorite pair of sandals – under a pull-out couch I think – they were no-where to be found, according to hotel staff.)