Thirty-nine miles away from Downtown LA along Pacific Coast Highway is El Matador State Beach, an enchanting spot on the Golden State’s alluring coastline.
Last year, I’d seen a number of breathtaking images of the beach on social media that convinced me to add it to my bucket list. And one afternoon, I finally decided to grab my camera and make my way up PCH to Malibu to spend some time there.
I came on a Friday afternoon, and after having seen tons and tons of photos of the place online, I was actually slightly underwhelmed by it.
Sometimes, this is why it’s okay not to do an extensive amount of research before going to destinations.
But after letting go of those expectations and ignoring the memory of glamorous pictures I’d seen of the beach with dramatic sunsets in the background, the experience became free of the anchors of social media photos and ended up being pretty good and relaxing.
Getting there & parking
When finding El Matador State Beach, it’s easy to nearly miss the sign that indicates where it is. Coming from Downtown LA, once you’re on Pacific Coast Highway, start paying close attention for the sign once you pass Broad Beach Road. (It’s about a half-mile away from the beach.)
There are two ways to go about parking when visiting El Matador: you can attempt to find a spot in the lot at the end of El Matador Beach Road and pay a fee, or you can park along Pacific Coast Highway for free. There were no spots available in the lot when I went, so I parked across PCH. Parking is limited there as well, and it can be kind of scary because the cars driving on the road go real fast. With that said, it’s helpful to be able to parallel park well and quickly. But if not, it’s okay – cars coming can see from a good distance away if another vehicle is trying to parallel park.
After successfully securing your car in a spot, you can cross the highway to get down to the beach. BE CAREFUL WHEN CROSSING & MAKE SURE THE ROAD IS CLEAR! Cars are moving at speeds of probably at least 50mph, and while there is a sign before you get to El Matador that warns drivers to watch out for pedestrians, you really can’t exercise enough caution when walking/jogging/running across PCH.
At the beach
Once you make it to the parking lot, you’ll have to descend several stairs to get to the shore. It’s not as daunting as it looks, but it is the only way to get down, so it’s not really an accessible beach for those who aren’t able to climb stairs.
Then you can find a spot to settle down and walk around and explore the fascinating sea caves. One tip I have for finding a spot is to be careful when sitting close to the bluffs because sand/small rocks might fall down on you.
I spent a couple of hours just soaking up the sun and reading a book while I was there, and it’s always relaxing to do that while listening to the waves crash on the shore. The Friday afternoon I went, it was moderately busy and some people were doing some sort of shoot. I also lost count of how many people had cameras with them – including myself, but it’s not surprising because it’s a prime location for taking photos. I spent a good amount of time snapping away and admiring the various rock formations on the shore, especially right before sunset because of the ideal lighting conditions at that time.
El Matador State Beach doesn’t attract quite the crowd that more popular beaches like Santa Monica see (which is fine because it probably be extremely crowded if it did and maybe not even fit everyone). But it’s definitely a spot in LA County that’s worth journeying to.