Malibu: home of Barbie, 27 miles of SoCal coast, and some of the world's wealthiest, it's a playground for Hollywood's rich and famous.
But what does it have for the everyday holiday maker? Well, quite a lot as it turns out. It's the ideal place to relax and recuperate, while soaking up gorgeous sunrises and breathtaking sunsets. Not forgetting sampling some delicious local wares of course.
The staff are the friendliest and most accommodating you'll ever meet, the views breathtaking, and the food even better. Dine in the restaurant accompanied by stunning views of the Pacific Ocean; time it just right and you can watch the sunset too.
The fish is so fresh the chefs don't even have it on the menu - it just depends on what's in season. If, like me, you're not a big seafood eater, don't let their reputation of being one of Malibu's best fish restaurants put you off.
I had the Maui onion soup, which was mouthwateringly scrumptious (even in the heat), while my partner had the hummus trio - a delightful cacophony of flavours from red pepper and edamame to the gloriously textured macadamia nut.
Next up was the prime rib steak, served with creamy, salty mash and, after a week of burgers, some much needed greens. The steak was more like a hunk of roast beef - but it was a beautiful cut, cooked to perfection. Subtly flavoured, it cut like a slab of butter - and oozed with juices.
The rack of baby ribs were to die for - the meat, which was slathered in a deliciously sweet barbecue sauce, melted away from the bone and served with jalapeño corn bread, which crunched on the first bite then crumbled in the mouth - and which I am still dreaming about two weeks later.
Despite being stuffed to the brim, I was implored to try a dessert, with our waiter recommending Hawaii's favourite dish Malasadas - pastry tossed in sugar and cinnamon and served with sweet cream ice cream drizzled with caramel. So simple, yet so scrumptiously moreish. The crisp yet chewy hot pastry balls combined with the rich, buttery ice cream truly was a mouthful of heaven.
- 21150 Pacific Coast Highway | dukesmalibu.com
Malibu Beach Inn
Here is luxury at its best. Walking into your room and being greeted with the sight - and sound - of the crashing ocean is enough to send shivers down your spine. We had a top floor room, meaning even with the balcony doors and curtains wide open, we had utter privacy and only the sea to keep us company.
The rooms aren't large, but they don't need to be as you'll most likely spend most of your time on the beach or the balcony, while the bathroom is small but perfectly equipped - and the Molton Brown miniatures form the icing on the cake.
Not normally being someone who enjoys spending their holiday in a hotel room, instead preferring to get out and explore, it was a struggle to tear myself away from lying on the bed and staring out to sea, or lounging on the balcony and soaking up the sun. Every morning we got up at dawn and watched the sunrise, lighting up Malibu pier and setting the ocean ablaze with colour.
The hotel is relatively small, having a reception, small sitting area, a narrow restaurant and its outdoor terrace. But it shouldn't be any bigger - with the ocean literally on your doorstep, what more do you need? The building is the perfect complement to the stunning landscape.
Guests are treated to their own exclusive beach, with the hotel providing sun loungers, towels and waiter service, so you really can get away without even leaving it. Make sure to dine out on their terrace, so you can soak up the gorgeous views even more.
- Rates start from $385 | 22878 Pacific Coast Hwy | malibubeachinn.com
There are 27 miles of glorious coastline in Malibu, so you're certainly spoilt for choice. During the week is the best time to go, as the weekends are rammed with locals.
Amble down the coast, starting from Carbon Beach and stopping off at Malibu Pier for a spot of breakfast. Diners at the cafe-cum-restaurant can indulge in fresh, organic produce while watching paddle-boarders and surfers glide across the glittering water.
Mere minutes from the pier is Malibu Lagoon State Beach. World famous for surf, and a celebrity hotspot, it also provides quieter, more rugged scenery which is a breath of fresh air from some of the picture-perfect spots.
Point Dume beach holds all the drama; dramatic cliffs plunging into the ocean frame a gorgeous little cove which is perfect for a picnic on the sand or a dip in the ocean.
El Matador is the don't miss spot in Malibu. It's romantic, breathtakingly beautiful and is provides a stunning backdrop for a beach stroll. Stick it out til sunset and you'll be rewarded with the glowing rays of the dying sun illuminating the piece de resistance of the beach; the hunk of rock stranded in the ocean complete with a carved archway.
It doesn't look much from the outside, but then that's the beauty of it. Step inside however, and the walls are decorated with pictures of the D'Amore family and their celebrity friends and customers - everyone from the Rock to Lindsay Lohan.
We couldn't resist ordering the jumbo chargrilled vegetable number - 12 slices of juicy, fresh veg piled high onto oozing cheese and a crisp crust. We ate out looking over the waves crashing onto the rocks of Carbon Beach and for $27, it was a pretty amazing experience.
- 22601 Pacific Coast Highway | damorespizza.com
The Pacific Coast Highway
Or PCH, as any self-respecting SoCal resident calls it. Miles upon miles of winding roads set against a gorgeous backdrop of beaches and crashing waves, the only way to drive this famous route is in a convertible. We picked a Ford Mustang for our journey, and cruising along with the wind in your hair, inhaling the fresh sea air was an unmissable, unforgettable experience - and one of the highlights of the trip.
If you've got the time, do the mammoth drive from Malibu to San Francisco; if not, settle for a round trip up the former's coast and make sure to stop off at the various laybys to gorge yourself on the panoramic views of the glittering Pacific Ocean.
Virgin Holidays' Californian fly-drive package starts from £1,269pp, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic direct from London Heathrow to Los Angeles and car hire with Alamo including basic insurance | virginholidays.co.uk | 0844 557 3859