Best Of :: Malibu
Best Moment of Zen: Malibu Hindu Temple
Cruising along windy roads in the Santa Monica Mountains, there's a palette of green scrub brush and dusty earth. Then on a stretch of road between Calabasas and Malibu, a gleaming white building seems to emerge from the landscape, flaunting sculptures of fantastical creatures and deities that wouldn't be out of place at the top of Daenerys Targaryen's wedding cake. It's the Malibu Hindu Temple, which is dedicated to Venkateswara, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu. Built in 1981, the building glows as if it was built yesterday. It's a peaceful oasis away just a short drive from L.A. On a recent visit, a man came over as we removed our shoes, and he walked us around the temple, introducing the various gods and deities ensconced in the walls. He led us to the main hall, where a family was performing a ritual, leaving offerings and money at the foot of a statue. We had been there only 15 minutes, and they invited us into their family, chanting in front of the flower-adorned altar. It's this welcoming nature that makes the temple not just a eye-catching monument but the nexus of ever-welcoming community.
Locals and tourists do not always think alike, but surely we can agree on this: Malibu is a magical place. Cruising the undulating roadway that leads to the coastal enclave can be a transformative process on its own. As I drive, thoughts of coffee meetings and unanswered emails are drowned out by beauty — the silhouettes of surfers gliding toward the sand, pelicans swimming in the sun. Believe it or not, the destination got even better this year with the opening of Native Hotel, a revamp of the 1947-built Malibu Riviera Motel. Each of the property's 13 bungalows is simple but chic, thanks to the curatorial efforts of L.A.-based creative agency Folklor. Exposed white beams, brass bathroom fixtures and a Dutch door leading to a private patio are just a few of the details I found myself wanting to replicate at home. Guests can add a touch of luxury to their trip by booking a massage, among other treatments, in the wellness center. Very soon, Ludo Lefebvre will lure foodies from all over with waffles and coffee served from a trailer parked on-site. Combine the above amenities with the property's proximity to Zuma Beach, Point Dume and multiple state parks, and it's a wonder people manage to return their room keys.
The best parts of Malibu are way better than what Baywatch may have led you to believe. Instead of a beach populated by Pamelas and Hasselhoffs, the top spots in Malibu reflect the region's historically sleepy vibe, dabbed with a touch of class. Malibu Farm Cafe is the perfect collision of these two worlds. Perched on the edge of the Malibu Pier, the cafe is an Instagram-worthy outpost offering farm-to-table food with a side of insanely gorgeous sunsets. Helmed by rancher-restaurateur Helene Henderson, the cafe offers an unmissable mix of hearty items such as a grass-fed beef burger topped with Havarti and a cauliflower pizza on lavash. Grab some tumblers and a pitcher of peach sangria and head up to the patio, where you can breathe the fresh ocean air and gaze over surfers, or the young boardriders of the surf school, navigate the curling waves below. Everywhere you look, there's a heart-stopping view that could foment FOMO in even your most envy-impervious friends. For a moment, among the golden rays and rumbling waves, you could be forgiven for thinking that all those Beach Boys songs were actually about you.
Fans of old-timey California dining spots and seekers of secluded, intimate, low-key, exclusive fine-dining have known about the Old Place for decades. This rustic gem, hidden in the hillside hamlet of Cornell (near Agoura and Malibu Hills) opened as a locals' sanctuary in 1970 and is still run by members of the Runyon family (of Runyon Canyon fame). But what not many people know is that the Old Place is also hallowed ground for Twin Peaks devotees: The building served as the location for the Bookhouse, the clubhouse of Sheriff Truman's secret society (some would less charitably say "gray-area vigilante posse"), the Bookhouse Boys. Where else can you enjoy a hearty plate of exotic game right next to the very spot where Agent Cooper interrogated Bernard Renault? Seating is extremely limited, so make a reservation well in advance or try your luck at the small, first come first served bar area. Alas, coffee, regardless of what Sheriff Truman told Coop in that episode, is not free.