Sunset on the surfrider malibu hotel rooftop deck
Nicole Franzen | The Surfrider Malibu

Inside Look: The Surfrider Malibu

Good vibes meet simple sophistication in Malibu's intimate beach house hotel.

Since opening in 2017 as a beach house concept, The Surfrider Malibu has quickly secured itself as Malibu’s forerunner for a private yet authentic experience, capturing the very essence of Malibu. Transformed from a rundown 1950s motel to today’s design-forward coastal Californian retreat, The Surfrider Malibu has created a spacious and light-filled setting priding itself on a surprisingly difficult concept to achieve: simple sophistication. 

Our Editorial Director, Sarah Ludwig, had the pleasure of visiting the property this spring. Despite the moody weather outside, it was anything but inside — warm and inviting tones, high attention to detail, intimate guest experience, and a sustainable ethos at its core. 

Continue on to learn more about her time at the hotel and what makes Surfrider such a magical place. 

First Impressions: Hotel Design + Rooms 

Tucked away unassumingly alongside the Pacific Coast Highway, the hotel’s only indication is its mod 50s-style “Surfrider Malibu” sign peering out from a lush wall of greenery. Step inside, and the warm glow of the family-dining-room-style reception will immediately take you in. It’s natural materials provide an immediate sense of calm — teak wood floors, plant fiber rug, woven light pendants, and a locally made ceramic vase overflowing with Orange Wattle — all accented by a fresh pop of cheery yellow from a bowl of lemons, a signature touch found throughout the property. 

Every corner of the hotel reflects the neutral palette of the sea and the sand, complemented by original artwork and local artisanal goods. Expect an elevated beach house combining modern luxury with the comforts of home, including a cozy library where guests can enjoy games, cocktails, and light bites for relaxing indoors if it happens to rain. 

Now the rooms: the hotel offers 20 residential-style guest rooms and suites, all but one with a private balcony and views of the Pacific. Surfrider prides itself on “barefoot sophistication,” which is especially apparent in the rooms. Regardless of room type, you’ll find Bellino linens, custom wooden bedframes, and plenty of natural light. The hotel’s masterpiece, the Surfrider Suite, features a double balcony, Belgian linen couch, and handwoven hammocks to soak in the panoramic view of the sunset. 

Sustainability Details

The sustainability lengths to which Surfrider goes are incredibly impressive. First things first, the hotel does not carry single-use plastics. 

Equally impressive is the engagement with the local community. The hotel partners with local businesses and nonprofit organizations to regularly host beach cleanups (typically with their organic, regeneratively sourced coffee partner Gnarwhal) and events (like their most recent gathering with Women Making Waves). 

Then, there’s the small details that might go unnoticed without a closer look: uniforms by Outerknown (if you want to see changemakers in the clothing industry, this is a company to know about), minibars stocked with items like Finabar (made from ethically sourced cacao and compostable plastic with wrappers doubling as native California wildflower seed packets), and hand-selected local and fair trade items in the gift shop (like Tara Noelle’s limited edition Single Fin Surf Necklace, made from fair-mined mercury-free gold and sold exclusively through Surfrider). 

What is abundantly clear is the team’s active connection to the community and desire to continue to learn, grow, and engage. 

Food + Drink: 

The highlight of the hotel is definitely the guest-only roof deck, where you’ll find the laid-back vibe continuing alongside panoramic views of the water and Pier. Guests can soak up the sun all day long up here, enjoying locally sourced, sustainable, and organic produce from The Roof Deck Bar and Restaurant’s California-inspired menu. A lengthy list of local farmers supply the restaurant, which is a member of the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurant Program and practices zero-waste principles. If you prefer a more intimate setting, you can order meals in to enjoy on your private balcony. 

Surfrider suite four-poster bed and couch
Sarah Ludwig
reception living room at surfrider malibu hotel
Sarah Ludwig

In the morning you’ll be treated to coffee delivered to your room, giving you ample time to sleep in without the rush — food service runs all day long, ready for when you need it. You’ll especially enjoy the curated Picnic offerings for your outings. In the evening, take in the sounds of the waves by the fire with a hand-crafted cocktail (N/A spirits from local B Corp, Optimist Drinks) or a glass of natural wine. 

Guests are also invited to the hotel’s happy hour, ‘Malibu Hour,’ on the roof deck to grab a complimentary cocktail and mingle with other hotel guests or to venture over to Surfrider Beach for the food and beverage team’s beachside offerings, Monday to Saturday. 

Surfrider surf wagon in front of surf boards
Sarah Ludwig

Location + To Do 

Overlooking Malibu Pier and Surfrider Beach, the hotel sits alongside the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), directly facing the water and mere footsteps away from the beach. It’s a prime location within the central part of Malibu, about 30 miles from Downtown LA. 

Hotel guests are encouraged to explore the coast in one of the complimentary MINI Coopers, accompanied by the Surfrider Sounds playlist. You’ll find the hotel staff, comprised of locals, eager to arrange experiences that deepen your interaction with the area: surf lessons with local legend Pete, sound healing in partnership with Malibu’s Five-Senses Collective (if you are new to sound baths, then you simply must try one while in Malibu), horseback riding in the Santa Monica Mountain canyons, or (almost) anything in-between. But with so much available at the hotel itself (including in-room Après surf massages), you could easily spend the entirety of your stay on-site. 

It’s not surprising that Surfrider sees guests returning time and time again — many of whom have built relationships with the hotel team. It was quite difficult to leave the internal sense of presence this place evokes (even after a short visit), but my Blakely Made “Citrus and Cocktails” print from the Surf Shop has brought a little bit of the lemons and good vibes home. 

Special thanks to General Manager Arielle and the wonderful Surfrider team. Check out The Surfrider Malibu for yourself. 


Address: 23033 E Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265 


Phone: 310-526-6158 Instagram: @thesurfridermalibu

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