Getting away for a change of scenery works wonders on stir-crazy, social-distanced spirits, as I recently discovered. I was in no rush to get on an airplane anytime soon, but I am all about the regional road trip. So, after a five-month hiatus from travel, I broke my quarantine seal with an overnight stay at The Surfrider Malibu. It did not disappoint.
Originally a 1950s-era motel, The Surfrider sits right on the Pacific Coast Highway across from its namesake Surfrider Beach and the iconic Malibu Pier. A few years ago, new owners completely transformed the property, reimagining it into an easy-breezy California beach house with an earthy yet refined vibe.
The Surfrider is particularly appealing for our current COVID circumstances because you don’t have to come into close contact with other guests. There are only 20 rooms, all with their own outside entrance. I received an email in advance of my stay that detailed all of the ways they are keeping their guests and staff safe.
Upon arrival, I did a contactless check-in at the lobby/shop, where I received my personalized welcome packet. A staff member wearing the hotel’s uniform indigo-dyed mask (which they should sell!) walked me to my room and did a quick orientation, pointing out the beach basket filled with large, saffron-colored towels (which they do sell!) and reminding me that surfboards and paddle boards are available to guests at no cost.
The guestrooms are quite serene and soothing, between the neutral color palette, natural textiles, and the light fragrance of their signature Malibu candle (the souvenir I went for!). When it comes to what type of room to book, you can’t go wrong with one of the upstairs rooms, some of which have private balconies outfitted with hand-woven hammocks.
The food and cocktail program is a high point of this hotel. The talented chef did a stint with Thomas Keller at French Laundry and creates accessible, artful dishes with seasonal ingredients and sustainable seafood. You’ll recognize several Santa Barbara County farms on their source list. The Roof Deck restaurant/bar/lounge is open all day from breakfast through dinner and nightcap drinks. It’s all open air, with sweeping views of the pier, PCH and beach, and there is an element of exclusivity because it’s guests-only. You can invite up to two outside guests, so I invited a friend from my quarantine “pod” to join me for cocktails and dinner.
The ceviche was a standout dish and, according to Emma Goodwin, one of the owners, they haven’t been able to take it off the menu because regulars are so passionate about it. Goodwin is Australian, so the menu reflects some of her sensibility too, with items like the Brekky Burrito, which I devoured the following morning after a sunrise walk on Surfrider Beach, watching the birds and surfers do their thing. In true Aussie fashion, their coffee game is very strong, too.
One of the coolest things about being a guest at the Surfrider is that you can leave your car parked the entire time. There’s enough going on in their neighborhood — the true heart of Malibu — that you can walk everywhere. The fishing pier is home to the original Malibu Farm restaurant, sister restaurant to the one at Rosewood Miramar in Montecito. For sushi with a view, the legendary Nobu Malibu is just down the block. If retail therapy is calling, you can stock up on the softest sweats and tees at Aviator Nation. Of course, you’ll want to exit through the hotel gift shop at the Surfrider, where they showcase a curated selection of goods, many of which you’ll get to road test as a guest.
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