Driving California's Malibu Coast
Santa Monica to Oxnard on California Highway One
Distance: 49 miles
From our nominal starting point of I-405 and I-10 in Santa Monica, you'll be going north. Take I-10 west to its end, then turn north onto Hwy 1.
If you're going south, you'll be on the ocean side of the highway, with better views. It's also easier to make a beach or photo stop because you won't have to cross traffic. Just reverse the directions below, exiting US Hwy 101 at Harbor Blvd. in Ventura or taking CA Hwy 1 south through Oxnard.
Traffic is busiest on weekends, but it never hurts to check. Local radio station KNX (1070 AM) gives frequent traffic reports.
Between Santa Monica and Oxnard, California Highway One follows the sliver of land that separates the Santa Monica Mountains from the Pacific Ocean, along the edge of the continent. For more than half of the distance, it runs through the town of Malibu.
Except for its extraordinary views and multi-million-dollar mansions, Malibu is a small town with little to interest tourists. The nicest part of the drive is between Malibu Canyon Road and Mugu Rock, with plenty of opportunity for gawking, whether it's at the scenery or the hillside homes. In other spots, and especially in the more commercial parts of Malibu just north of Santa Monica, oceanfront residences obscure the seaward view.
You'll find plenty of nice beaches along the way, good spots for a picnic or a walk. State Parks charge an entrance fee that may seem a bit steep for a quick stop, but areas marked Beach Access are free (albeit without amenities).
A little north of Mugu Rock, Hwy 1 turns inland, running about 10 miles through Oxnard to connect with US Hwy 101. Instead of slavishly following Hwy 1 to reach US Hwy 101, try this: Turn left off Hwy 1 onto W. Channel Islands Blvd. Near the Channel Islands Harbor, the road curves and merges into Harbor Blvd. Follow it north and you'll connect with US Hwy 101.
Points of Interest
Side TripsTake any of these roads away from the ocean for a scenic trip across the Santa Monica Mountains to US Hwy 101. They're listed in order from south to north.
Food is easy to find along this stretch of highway. Although they don't serve the best cuisine on the planet, we like the ambiance at Paradise Cove. Further north, Neptune's Net is a classic seafood shack with nice outdoor tables.
You'll find gasoline in the main part of Malibu, but there are no stations between there and Oxnard.
Driving the Coast on Highway One
If you're going north, Continue driving on US 101 to Santa Barbara.
If you're going south, Highway One continues as a city street, going south through the Los Angeles beach cities, then through Orange County before merging with I-5 near Dana Point.