Guide to Malibu's Hidden Beaches--Pt. 2 (Thanksgiving edition)

Like to walk off the turkey dinner on a Malibu beach? Tired of Zuma, Surfrider, and the rest of the 7 miles of beaches that have parking lots and are easy to find? Want to see the other 20 miles of the stunning Malibu coast--the beaches that are lined with private development?

Herewith Part 2 of the Malibu Beaches Owner's Manual, for public owners who want to enjoy their extensive public lands on beaches that aren't always easy to find or use. Part 1 covered the three westernmost beaches with accessways--Lechuza, Broad, and Escondido. This second installment continues east to the Latigo Shore, Malibu Rd., and Malibu Colony beaches.

This is a great time of year to go. The sea turns to painterly grays and dark blues, and crowds are nonexistent. And the winter months bring spectacular super-low tides, generally around the full moon. Check the tide tables in the L.A. Times (look for negative ##s, esp. lower than -1), or on one of the tide prediction websites.

And do check the tables, because these beaches are very narrow--as are all the beaches east of Broad--and along many stretches, the tide often comes up to the houses. The obvious downside is that you often can't use them at high tide. The good news, though, is that while all these beaches are public to the "mean high tide line" (working definition: the wet sand), there often isn't a lot of private dry sand to worry about.

All these beaches offer plenty of public easements on whatever dry sand there is, too. Unfortunately, while the Coastal Commission has drawn up wonderfully user-friendly easement maps for Broad Beach, they haven't done so yet for the rest. The more technical maps are hard to read--but not impossible (go to p. 23 of the PDF) , if you want to find out where you can play volleyball or plant your umbrella. Or just call the Coastal Commission to find the easements on any particular stretch of beach--805-585-1800.

Use the same # to report any access troubles. Most visits are trouble-free, but problems are not unknown....

From west to east:

LATIGO SHORE -- The beach below Latigo Shore Dr. should get a lot easier to operate very soon. According to the Coastal Commission, this road is public. Well, right now it's plastered with "private st." and "no parking" signs, but the state is in the legal process of opening it up. Caltrans gave up ownership of this piece of the old PCH several years ago, and the homeowners snapped it up--but the public actually had the right to do so first, and the state treats the transfer as illegal and therefore invalid.

Access For All--the tireless nonprofit that works for access all along the Malibu coast--is working to bring the signs down, too, and is planning to open more accessways along the road.

How to operate: The current single accessway is a half-minute walk down the road from the PCH. You can park on the road, since it is public, but you might get a ticket from the city. For now, I'd park on the PCH, and just wave at the "no parking" signs that we hope are not long for this world. Also wave at the ones on the PCH just west of the road: they're among many unofficial "no parking" signs that have mysteriously been appearing near public accessways along the Malibu coast, and that the Coastal Commission has asked Caltrans to remove.

On the beach, the condos just west of the gate all have dry-sand easements (courtesy of the state and Access For All). As do several properties west of there, so the sign that says the "beach west of this sign is private" to the tide line is inaccurate. As are the signs that claim the tide line lies a certain # of feet "seaward from this sign"--which you can figure out yourself, since the signs themselves are so often in the sea.

At low tide, you can run all the way west to Point Dume. But run fast.

Advanced features: The county owns the pretty bluff just west of the first set of homes. While I wouldn't park just yet on this public road lined with "private st." signs, walking on it doesn't bring the risk of a ticket. If anyone objects, you can explain that the Coastal Commission assures you that the road is public and that you're off to enjoy a visit to your very nice bluff.

MALIBU ROAD -- The great thing about the 2.5 miles of beach along Malibu Rd. is that there are 6 accessways along the 1.5 miles on the western end. The bad news is that this beach seems to be a breeding colony for inaccurate signs and bad faith.

How to operate: This beach teems with dry-sand easements (check the maps or call the Coastal Commission--see above). So the signs that say the entire beach is private above the tide line are inaccurate. Just ignore the illegal signs, too, that say the private beach extends 50 or 70 or 80 ft. seaward--unless you've brought your scuba gear. And the signs that say your right to pass is "by permission and subject to control of owner." And the sign that tells you not to lie on the sand.

And my favorite--"No stopping." Ignore that sign too.

Worth stopping for: the 7 (yes, 7!) various signs on the house in the 24600 block of Malibu Rd.

Troubleshooting: The access paths tend to be next to storm drains, so you may want to walk a few houses down before wading into the water.

Advanced features: There's a 7th entrance near the road's eastern end, through a 200-ft. roadside parcel that the CA Coastal Conservancy has owned since 2002. A lock mysteriously appeared on the gate, and the Conservancy staff removed it. A bigger lock appeared, and then a bigger one--and so on, until last spring, when the state halted the arms race and tore down the entire fence. A trail leads through the property to a viewpoint, and you can scramble down boulders to the beach.

Malibu Rd. can be entered only at the east end (from Webb Wy. off the PCH). The viewpoint is next to 24016 Malibu Rd. The 6 entrances--all very easy to miss, so watch for them--are next to 24314, 24436, 24604 (slightly wider beach here), 24712, 25120, and 25446 Malibu Rd. Park on the road.

MALIBU COLONY -- The storied Colony may be one of the most famously gated communities in the L.A. area, but the beach is easy to access from Malibu Lagoon State Park on the eastern end.

How to operate: An amazingly simple beach to use. It's easy to walk or duck under the fence at the entrance, and the signs inside are few. The "private beach to the mean high tide line" sign at the entrance is inaccurate, since some properties have dry-sand easements. But more germane, it's hard to say whether this narrow beach has any private sand--since the high tide washes daily against the wooden seawalls.

Bonus feature: Malibu Lagoon is one of the richest shorebird and waterbird areas in the county.

Access from the Malibu Lagoon State Beach parking lot (off Cross Ck. Rd.): take the trail to the right, and stay to the right through the lagoon. $10 to park in the lot--or park free on the PCH.

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