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Malibu vs Venice Beach – Which One Should You Visit?

Both Malibu and Venice Beach are popular beach towns located on the California coast. 

This post will look at the differences between them to help you decide where to visit on your next vacation! It covers hotels, activities, atmosphere, nightlife, beaches and more!

Summary – Malibu vs Venice Beach

MalibuVenice Beach
Upscale & relaxedEdgy & artsy
Luxury 5-star hotelsClean & comfortable
hotels (less luxury)
Quiet, sandy
Busy, crowded
Little nightlifeVibrant nightlife
More expensiveLess expensive
Great for families
& people looking
to relax
Great for young
Surfing, hiking,
Surfing, street
performers, music

Malibu is a relaxed, affluent beach town not far from Los Angeles, whereas Venice Beach is an edgy, artsy beach town located right in Los Angeles itself. 

Malibu is well known for its celebrity homes and stunning, white sandy beaches. It’s a popular spot for surfing and long walks on the beach. 

You can also head out on a hike through the nearby mountains. 

Venice Beach is a buzzing beach town known for its funky shops, street performers and colorful murals. It’s a foodie hotspot and also has tons of stylish boutiques. 

Malibu is much quieter than Venice Beach. You’ll find quiet, long stretches of beaches in Malibu and it’s much less crowded. Venice Beach is much more busy and always has lots going on.

Malibu has a more upscale vibe than Venice Beach. It’s home to a variety of wealthy residents including Hollywood stars and top athletes. You’ll find a range of top 5-star hotels and high-end restaurants in Malibu.

Venice Beach also has a range of good hotels but they’re not quite as luxurious as Malibu. Venice Beach has a more edgy, street vibe – you’ll find skateboarders, rappers, street food vendors and much more in this area. 

Venice Beach has better access to Los Angeles so you can easily spend a day seeing the top LA sights. Malibu is about an hour out of the city.  

Which Is Bigger? Malibu or Venice Beach

By area, Malibu is bigger than Venice Beach as it covers 51.5km2 whereas Venice Beach has an area of just 8km2

Venice Beach is a lot more crowded and busy as it has a much higher population of 40,000 people. Malibu, however, has just 12,600 residents. 

Which Has Better Activities? Malibu or Venice Beach

There are a lot more activities available in the Venice Beach area compared with Malibu.

Activities In Malibu

Malibu is largely a residential area with lots of wealthy residents who own large homes there. Having said that, it is still a major tourist spot and there’s lots of things to do.

Top activities in Malibu:

  • El Matador Beach
  • Mountain biking
  • Adamson House
  • Malibu Pier 
  • Malibu Lagoon Museum
  • Whale watching
  • Malibu Creek State Park

Hands down, the top activities in Malibu are all beach related – sunbathing, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding etc. Paragliding over the hills of Malibu is also an experience you’ll never forget.

Malibu is a super popular surfing spot and you’ll often see surfers catching some waves on its many beaches. If you’ve never surfed before then get yourself a surfing lesson and learn! You could also try tandem paragliding if you prefer.

In winter, you can often spot migrating whales from Point Dume at Malibu’s north end.

Another popular activity is heading along one of the trails that weaves through the canyons, waterfalls and grasslands of the Santa Monica Mountains. End your hike with a glass of wine

Activities In Venice Beach

There’s also lots to do in Venice Beach. It’s a very arty and trendy area with a wide range of activities to keep you occupied. 

Top activities in Venice Beach:

  • Oceanfront boardwalk
  • Shopping on Abbot Kinney Boulevard
  • Venice Beach Skatepark
  • Venice Canals
  • Mosaic Tile House

There are lots of fun things to do in Venice Beach. The mile-long Abbot Kinney Boulevard contains tons of high-end restaurants, galleries, stylish boutiques and more. This area is a hotspot for foodies!

The beach itself is a vibrant mix – head to Muscle Beach to see all the bodybuilders working out on the sand or head over to the skatepark to see some epic tricks. 

Venice Beach is also a popular surfing spot. If you’ve not surfed before, get yourself a surfing lesson and learn from the best. 

In Venice Beach, you’ll also find street performers and artists lining the oceanfront boardwalk which runs parallel to the beach itself. 

Join an electric bike tour and cycle through these famous streets seeing all of Venice’s best sights including the boardwalk, the skatepark, the canals and the beach itself. 

Venice Beach is also much closer to central Los Angeles so you can easily enjoy the wide range of activities there including visiting the famous Hollywood sign, Beverly Hills and more. 

Book yourself onto a Los Angeles tour so you can see all of LA’s top sights in one day. 

Malibu is much further out from LA. It takes about an hour (depending on traffic) to get to central LA from Malibu.   

Which Has Better Accommodation? Malibu or Venice Beach

There’s tons of amazing hotels in both Malibu and Venice Beach.

Accommodation In Malibu

Malibu tends to have more upscale hotels that come with a bigger price tag. You’ll find a range of luxury, 5-star hotels here. 

Best Hotels In Malibu:

In Malibu, you’ll also find many hotels directly on the beach itself. These are great places to stay as you’ll get scenic views of the Pacific Ocean right from your balcony.

Accommodation In Venice Beach

Venice Beach also has a good range of hotels. They are not quite as luxurious as the ones in Malibu but they tend to be much cheaper and are still modern, clean and comfortable.

Best Hotels In Venice Beach:

Which Has Better Beaches? Malibu or Venice Beach

The beaches in Malibu tend to be much quieter than Venice Beach. This is mainly due to Malibu being slightly outside of Los Angeles. 

Venice Beach is a very busy area with lots going on from rappers performing on the boardwalk to skateboarders skating around on the Skate Park so the beach always tends to be busy. 

There is much more beach area available in Malibu with 21 miles of coastline (compared with Venice Beach’s 3 miles). You’ll have more privacy on Malibu’s long stretch of beaches.

Beaches In Malibu

Malibu is home to some of the most scenic beaches in the Los Angeles area. 

Zuma Beach is one of the most popular. This beach has excellent waves so is a favorite of surfers and body boarders. It attracts locals and families year round.

Another popular surfing beach is Surfrider Beach, located just off of Malibu Pier. Carbon Beach is known to be one of the quietest and secluded beaches in Malibu. It’s a great spot for a quiet walk.

The beaches in Malibu are clean and have lots of wide open space, perfect for families. Many people stay until evening for unforgettable sunset views.

Some of the beaches are blocked by homes as Malibu is an area of wealthy residents. Many of the large homes in the area block the views and limit beach access.

Beaches In Venice Beach

Venice Beach is home to 3 miles of sandy coastline. The beaches are popular with swimmers, surfers and sunbathers. 

Venice Beach is accompanied by an oceanfront boardwalk where you’ll often find street performers, artists and vendors. 

The street performers are really good, you’ll find a mix of different performances from mimes and juggling to musicians. 

Most people will enjoy a day on the beach, take a stroll down the boardwalk or even join a workout session on Muscle Beach.

Which Is Better for Nightlife? Malibu or Venice Beach

Venice Beach has a much more exciting and vibrant nightlife than Malibu.

Nightlife In Malibu

Although nightlife options are more limited in Malibu compared to Venice Beach, there are some great bars where you can enjoy a sunset drink along the Pacific Ocean.

If you’re after a relaxing glass of wine in the evening or a hand-crafted cocktail, then Malibu is the spot for you, however, if you’re looking to party all night long then look elsewhere.

Nightlife In Venice Beach

Venice Beach has a vibrant nightlife scene. You’ll find a good selection of bars along Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Main Street. 

Many of the bars do awesome happy hour deals so you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a good time. 

Head over to the High Rooftop Lounge for a bird’s eye view of the area and a swanky cocktail.

Which Is More Affordable? Malibu or Venice Beach

Anywhere you visit in or around Los Angeles is going to be pricey. 

In general, Malibu is more expensive than Venice Beach as it is an affluent, luxurious area away from the hustle and bustle of LA. 

You pay extra for the privacy, secluded beaches and relaxed feel. It’s literally the home of Hollywood stars so you’ll pay more to vacation in this exclusive area.

Venice Beach is much cheaper as it has a much younger, edgier feel. It’s not an area for the super rich like Malibu. 

Venice Beach has much more affordable hotels and the restaurants/bars tend to be cheaper too. 

Both Malibu and Venice Beach are fantastic vacation destinations. 

I hope this article was helpful in highlighting the main differences of Malibu vs Venice Beach.

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