Before You Visit El Matador Beach: Essential Tips and Insights


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El Matador Beach in Malibu, California, is a popular sought-after destination amongst tourists and locals alike.

And for good reason, you can thank influencers for that.

Influencers have made this beach famous with their stunning photos and videos across social media.

The scenic beauty is breathtaking.

For example, the rock formations, sea caves, and coves make this beach a unique place that makes you appreciate the wonders and beauty of nature.

However, before you plan on visiting El Matador Beach, you should be aware of a few things before visiting.

Like not having to pay $73 for a parking ticket that my sister and I got, but let’s dive right in!


What to Expect from El Matador Beach

Entrance of El Matador Beach in Malibu, California.

This beach is not for everyone.

It’s more of a secluded place that offers a few activities.

As previously mentioned the beach offers breathtaking natural rock formations, tide pools, and sea caves.

Don’t be caught off-guard like many others. Equip yourself with our top favorite 5 essential beach must-haves and avoid common beach pitfalls! 🏖️🌞🌊

1. YETI Wheeled Cooler: Keep your drinks and snacks chilled under the sun.

2. Kelty Tent: Seek refuge from the sun with a lightweight, easy-to-set-up beach tent.

3. BeachBub Umbrella: Stay cool and protected with a durable, stylish UPF beach umbrella.

4. Trailhead Chair: Sit back and relax with a comfortable and sturdy beach chair.

5. CGear Sand-Free Mat Sand Blanket: Keep the sand at bay and stay comfortable with a sand-resistant blanket.

Because of its natural beauty, there are crowds of tourists who hog the rocks and take hundreds of pictures, while you wait for your turn so you can show off on social media as well.

It’s not uncommon to see people taking photographs so definitely bring those cameras!

El Matador Beach is located below the entrance.

To reach the beach, you have to walk down a dirt trail followed by stairs.

This beach is not accessible for those individuals who have mobility issues!

Unlike, Moonlight State Beach and Topanga State Beach offer access mats and free rental wheelchairs for those individuals who are mobility challenged.

Note: El Matador Beach can get high tides!

The first time my sister and I visited this place the hide was high and up the stairs.

In addition, this beach has many rocky formations!

Be careful when getting close to them or climbing on these sea caves.

The last thing you want to do is head to the hospital because you got hurt!

Getting there

Jeanette walks down the dirt trail into the beach of El Matador.

There are a few options to get to El Matador Beach: car, yes even by bus kind of!

Each has its pros and cons, I recommend going by car.

Getting by car:

Getting to El Matador Beach by car is always straightforward and offers the flexibility to explore at your own pace.

**There are taxis and private tours to El Matador Beach.

If you’re traveling from Los Angeles by car, take the scenic route west on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH).

You’ll pass Santa Monica along the way with stunning coastal views that foreshadow your impending beach adventure.

Once you’ve reached the PCH, look for the well-marked turnoff for El Matador Beach.

From other nearby cities, simply plan your route to connect with the PCH, then head either north or south, depending on your location!

**Important tip: You should not have an issue with cell reception along the PCH and be fine around this area, unlike, places like Big Sur.

We had no cell reception while checking out McWay Falls in Big Sur, but thankfully had downloaded Google Maps, in case you are worried, be sure to download Google Maps offline.

Overlooking the beach at El Matador in Malibu, California.

Getting by bus:

Believe it or not, you can get to El Matador by bus, I won’t go into much detail because in my opinion it’s not worth it and dangerous!

But if you must know here it goes: You have to take the bus METRO 134.

From bus Metro 134 to the bus stop you need to get off on Trancas Canyon / Pacific Coast Hwy and then walk for about 3 miles!

You will pass Trancas Canyon Park, but you will still have to walk on the side of Pacific Coast Highway.

There is no designated pedestrian trail.

People drive crazy on this freeway nowadays and fast!

Facilities and Amenities

Parking meters at El Matador beach in Malibu, California.

Unfortunately, this beach doesn’t make the list of our recommended places worth visiting if you’re looking for beaches that offer plenty of activities, accessibility, or amenities.

You’re better off visiting two of our favorite beaches Moonlight State Beach or Zuma Beach.

Beach Facilities and Amenities before getting to the beach:

  • One lifeguard tower (lifeguards are not present dailylimited by season)
  • 2 Porta-Potties (when my sister and I visited)
  • Trash and recycle bin
  • Small parking lot (less than 50 parking spots I would say, however, didn’t count)
  • Picnic tables
El Matador has a few beach amenities.

Beach Facilities and Amenities on the beach:

  • One trash bag (honestly, think this is just a visitor or a local maybe doing this! The few times my sister and I visited this place – we saw only once a large black bag tied to the stairs).

El Matador Beach Parking and Access

The parking lot of El Matador.

As previously mentioned there is one parking lot found here at the entrance of this beach.

This dirt beach parking lot is pretty small, with less than 50 spots at least.

P.S. I did not count the lots, but from being here and looking at them I am guessing it’s less than 50.

You do have to pay to park here!

The daily fee to park here is $10 (as of 2024) and you can get the latest pricing through the California State Parks site.

Parking hours are from 8 a.m. to sunset 7 days a week.

Street parking in front of El Matador Beach.

Note: Because of limited parking or those not wanting to pay you’ll notice while visiting this place that many park on the street on the Pacific Coast Highway.

There are city signs, however, that state “no parking on the Pacific Coast Highway” -however, people still park here.

Funny story, my sister and I were one of those people, and in my defense, the sign was quickly confusing as to what side you could or couldn’t, needless to say, we got stuck with a $73 citation parking ticket.

parking ticket from malibu
Parking ticket at El Matador beach in Malibu, California.

The crazy part is we got a ticket within 10 minutes of parking.

We had just walked down to the beach when I told my sister I forgot to bring my water bottle and went back to get it in the car and there was the ticket.

Not once did we see any parking enforcement officer – it was like they were in hiding and waiting.

Our car was one out of 6 cars that all had parking tickets displayed on their dashboards I noticed as I walked up to the car.

**P.S. When paying your parking citation you can’t claim you can’t afford it or didn’t know.

They are not considered valid reasons, but you can appeal within 21 days of the citation notice.

As for access as previously mentioned as well expect to walk a little to get to the beach.

The beach requires you to walk down a dirt trail as well as stairs.

Nearby Attractions & Accommodations

Big rock structures can be found at El Matador.

This beach doesn’t offer any nearby attractions or places to stay.

It’s a relatively secluded place, but there are a few things worth mentioning that are less than 2 hours away from here:

Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish Market & Patio Cafe

Is a well-known seafood restaurant known for its oceanfront dining experience, featuring fresh catches and open-air seating with scenic ocean views.

Leo Carrillo State Park

sustainable tips for the beach at Leo Carrillo State Park
Overlooking Leo Carrillo State Park.

A short drive north of El Matador Beach, Leo Carrillo State Park features a beautiful beach, tide pools, hiking trails, and picnic areas.

It’s a great spot for exploring nature.

Zuma Beach

Boat sitting at Zuma Beach in Malibu, California.

Just south of El Matador Beach is Zuma Beach which is one of the most popular beaches in Malibu.

It offers a wide expanse of sand, great waves for surfing, and ample space for beachgoers.

Malibu Wine Safaris

For wine enthusiasts, this unique destination is a must-visit.

Located slightly inland from the coast, it offers a vineyard experience combined with the opportunity to encounter exotic animals such as zebras and giraffes, reminiscent of a safari adventure.

7 Tips for a Great El Matador Beach Trip

View of El Matador beach from above.

These are our 7 tips I believe are worth mentioning to prepare you for visiting this place:

Arrive Early:

To secure a parking spot and enjoy the beach before it gets crowded, aim to arrive early in the morning or on weekdays.

Check Tide Schedules:

Be aware of the tide schedules to plan your visit effectively, as high tides can limit access to certain areas, especially sea caves.


Since you must walk down to get to the beach it’s a good idea to wear sturdy footwear with good traction.

The beach is uneven and rocky.

We put together a list of our top: Best Shoes for Walking on the Beach for those looking for some ideas.

Pack Essentials:

This should be a no-brainer, but having a checklist with essentials keeps you prepared and protected.

Sunscreen, water, snacks, beach games, beach gear, and layered clothing should be included in your checklist.

My beautiful sister Jeanette walking along the coastline of El Matador.

Leave No Trace:

I’m giving the benefit of the thought and truly believe some people forget and don’t leave trash at the beach on purpose but please practice responsible beachgoing.

Don’t leave any litter behind if you visit this place, pack it up and throw it in designated trash cans.

Leave Wildlife Alone:

I can’t believe I have to say this, but if you see any marine life – respect them and keep a safe distance away.

In addition, don’t feed any wild animals either because you are altering their natural diet as well as making them dependent upon human food thus affecting the ecosystem.

Don’t be that person!

Beware of Caves:

You’ll probably be tempted to take a picture near the sea cave or even want to climb it, but be careful.

They have slippery surfaces and be mindful of the water waves splashing on them.

The last thing you want to do is get hurt.

Check for Updates:

Be sure to check out the California State Parks site for the latest updates or restrictions this beach might have.


Unique rock structures can be found at El Matador State Beach in Malibu, California.

Is El Matador Beach worth visiting?

If you’re wondering whether it’s worth visiting this beach or not depends on personal preference in my opinion in what you look for in a beach.

It’s worth visiting if you are into nature and looking for a unique beach that features:

Scenic Marvel: El Matador stands out with its breathtaking sea caves, rocky formations, and picturesque cliffs that paint a mesmerizing coastal panorama.

The beach offers an ideal backdrop for photography and boasts awe-inspiring vistas of the Pacific Ocean.

Serenity Amidst Nature:

Despite occasional peak-season crowds, El Matador Beach maintains an overall peaceful and secluded ambiance compared to many other Southern California beaches.

It’s an excellent choice for those seeking a serene escape.

El Matador State Beach is known for its unique sea cave structures.

Geological Wonders:

The beach is celebrated for its exceptional rock formations and accessible sea caves, which beckon visitors to embark on low-tide explorations.

These geological features infuse a sense of adventure into your beach experience.

Tide Pools:

During low tide, you can delve into the beach’s tide pools, teeming with diverse marine life.

It’s a rewarding and educational opportunity for nature enthusiasts and curious minds.

Sunset Magic:

Sunsets on the West Coast are magical in my opinion.

El Matador Beach is no exception to this.

You’ll find many locals and tourists around sunset time here.

Capturing the beach’s natural allure that often casts a memorable and romantic setting.

However, just remember this beach has limited parking, not many amenities, rocky terrain, and is known as a popular destination.

Nevertheless, if you’re into nature and looking for the charm of the natural coastal landscape you can’t go wrong with viewing this place once in your lifetime.

Do you have to pay for El Matador Beach?

As previously mentioned in the section of El Matador Beach Parking and Access you do have to pay to park here.

Please, do pay, don’t be like my sister and I were in the end we got a parking citation thinking we would be fine to check out the beach for

Is El Matador Beach safe to swim?

Birds flying along the coastline of El Matador in Malibu, California.

This beach in my opinion after having visited several times with my sister I would say in terms of safety proceed with caution!

The beach itself has a rocky terrain, both from within underwater and above.

I first witnessed this as I went in the water only up to my waist so it doesn’t hurt to wear water shoes if you can at this place.

In addition, the waves here can be strong and the tide can get high.

High up to the stairs I noticed a few times in the afternoon while visiting.

Lastly, the lack of lifeguards all year long makes me recommend you be mindful when going in to swim here.

Note: Never swim alone, nor at night because it can be dangerous and increase the risk of accidents.

What was Filmed at El Matador Beach?

El Matador Beach’s stunning beauty has attracted the attention of Hollywood, earning its place in the spotlight as a filming location for various movies, TV shows, and commercials.

Among the notable productions, the romantic classic ‘The Notebook,’ starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling, stands out.

In a memorable scene, actress Rachel McAdams, portraying Allie, finds herself on the beach, whimsically claiming to be a bird and encouraging her love interest, Noah (played by Ryan Gosling), to do the same.

Can you camp at El Matador State Beach?

People enjoying the beach at El Matador.

Camping is not allowed at El Matador State Beach; however, if you’re looking for nearby camping options, you’ll find several campgrounds within driving distance.

Leo Carrillo State Park Campground, situated just a short drive north of El Matador Beach, offers both RV and tent camping opportunities amidst a scenic natural setting.

Point Mugu State Park, to the west of the beach, also provides camping facilities with stunning ocean views.

Keep in mind that these campgrounds may require reservations, so it’s advisable to plan and secure your spot for a memorable coastal getaway.


Stairs leading into El Matador Beach.

Hopefully, this comprehensive guide has provided you with valuable insights and essential tips to ensure a memorable visit to El Matador Beach in Malibu, California.

From understanding the unique features of this captivating destination to practical advice on safety and tide schedules, we’ve covered it all.

Whether you’re planning a day trip to explore the sea caves, indulge in the natural beauty, or witness a breathtaking sunset, your visit to El Matador Beach promises to be a remarkable experience.

By following these tips and being mindful of the environment, you’ll not only have a fantastic beach day but also contribute to the preservation of this remarkable coastal gem.

So, pack your essentials, and be sure to plan your journey wisely!

Let us know in the comments below if you have ever been to El Matador State Beach.

Until next time, safe beach travels!


Jess & Jeanette

Jess and Jeanette, two sisters who founded Unseen Beaches, were inspired by their family’s beach vacations while growing up.

Their passion lies in guiding you toward the most remarkable beach destinations across the U.S., while also protecting and preserving these beautiful coastal treasures! 🌊❤️

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Don’t be caught off-guard like many others. Equip yourself with our Top Favorite 5 Essential Beach Must-Haves and avoid common beach pitfalls! 🏖️🌞🌊

1. YETI Wheeled Cooler: Keep your drinks and snacks chilled under the sun.

2. Kelty Tent: Seek refuge from the sun with a lightweight, easy-to-set-up beach tent.

3. BeachBub Umbrella: Stay cool and protected with a durable, stylish UPF beach umbrella.

4. Trailhead Chair: Sit back and relax with a comfortable and sturdy beach chair.

5. CGear Sand-Free Mat Sand Blanket: Keep the sand at bay and stay comfortable with a sand-resistant blanket.

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