With an enticing Spanish name and relatively calm waters, El Matador State Beach
dodges the sand-kicking set with its steep half-mile trail access. One of three pocket strands in Robert H. Meyer Memorial State Beach, El Matador is a winter-white crescent under flower-dotted cliffs. Rock outcroppings with keyhole cutouts intersect the beach in places, creating covelets for undisturbed sunbathing. Partially submerged boulders cup glimmering tidal pools. Although weekends may bring additional traffic and the limited bluff-top parking can fill quickly (there’s always El Matador’s two equally tempting sister beaches, El Pescador and La Piedra), the rhythm here is established not by boom boxes but by kelp beds swaying lazily in the mild swells.
BONUS: Sunset is your cue to drive a mile southwest to the locally favored Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Patio Café, where a menu complementing the shoreline view can bring the day to a flavorful finish.
El Matador State Beach is 2.5 miles northwest of Zuma Beach along Pacific Coast Highway—look for the sign on the right side. Self-serve fee parking is available at the trailhead. (Rangers check for parking receipts often.) Lifeguard on duty only during busier weekends. No dogs.