Getting Around Malibu: Paradise Cove

March 2003 satellite image of the Paradise Cove area, centered on the pier.
March 2003 satellite image of the Paradise Cove area, centered on the pier.

Paradise Cove Neighborhood

Paradise Cove beach and pier, as seen looking east from the hillside.
Paradise Cove beach and pier, as seen looking east from the hillside.

The area known as Paradise Cove is located at the mouth of the Ramirez Canyon watershed. The topography of the area ranges from sea level to approximately 200 feet. The boundary lines are the Pacific Ocean to the southeast, Pacific Coast Highway on the northwest, Zuma View Drive and the western watershed on the west, and a short distance east of the driveway on the east. It is approximately 80 acres in size, contains two watershed areas and consists of two large parcels and four smaller, single family residential lots located on Zuma View and Pacific Coast Highway. Approximately 30 acres of the property lie in the Ramirez Canyon flood plain, which drains a watershed of 2880 acres. The area within the flood plain includes 71 mobile homes, a restaurant, parking lot, guard house, Managers office, and the remnants of the fishing pier.

Ramirez Creek is a Blue Line Stream that generally runs year round, and is the major drainage course into Paradise Cove. Although the portion of the stream bed within the park has been converted into a cement drainage culvert, the area still contains some ancient Sycamore trees. The western portion of the property contains a 314-mile long watershed, about 8-10 acres in size. This area is basically unspoiled and still contains riparian vegetation, including coastal sage scrub and malay willows. Because of the abundance of vegetation in the western watershed, it supports a variety of wildlife such as raccoon, possum, bobcats, gray and red foxes, coyotes, bats, and birds such as hawks, owls, road runners, including the local flock of Pt. Dume parrots, and many types of lizards, snakes, frogs and toads. This stream bed is basically seasonal, and during the dry months is a much-used wildlife corridor. Additionally, Paradise Cove contains hundreds of eucalyptus and pine trees that are home to many of the birds in the area.

Paradise Cove is a place of great cultural and archaeological importance, as the entire area is thee site of the large Chumash coastal village of Sumo, one of the largest Chumash sites in the Los Angeles County area. It is second only to the Chumash village of Humaliwu located in the Malibu Lagoon area. Exploration indicates that Sumo was a major fishing and trade village, as it's protected location on the leeward side of Point Dume afforded shelter, good fishing and easy access to the Channel Islands. Major research over the past 50 years, indicates that this site is at least 8,000 - 9,000 years old, and contains a 7,000 year old cemetery and more recent sacred burial grounds of the Chumash Indians. Many Chumash Indians that were baptized at Mission San Fernando and Mission San Buenaventura, show in the ancient registers as residents of Sumo, here in Paradise Cove.

In more recent times, the "cove" was used as a small port by the early settlers of the area, and once contained a portion of the "Hueneme, Malibu and Port Los Angeles Railway", installed by the Mrs. Rindge in 1906 to keep the Southern Pacific Railway from laying track through the area to Santa Barbara. Traces of the Rindge rail line still exist adjacent to the Mobile Home Park Clubhouse. When the Marblehead Land Company was formed and subdivided the area in the 1940s, creating the Malibu Riviera's #1 - 4, Paradise Cove was a favorite picnic and fishing spot.

The Paradise Cove lower section was built by Frank Wilson and Al Camp, starting with a Club House (Sandcastle restaurant and now the Paradise Cove Beach Cafe) and laundry/restroom building before WW II, but their plans were stalled by the war. They sold to Bill Swanson in 1945 who completed it and opened the trailer park described on its own page of

The geology of Paradise Cove is complex. The southern splay of the Malibu Fault is shown on the September 1992 Hazards Map as traversing the property in an easterly to westerly direction, entering the property east of the pier and exiting just south of Zuma View Drive. The mouth of Ramirez Creek, where the restaurant and the 71 mobile home residences are located is a liquefaction area.

The area surrounding Paradise Cove on the ocean side, outside the mobile home park, is developed with single family wood frame homes on approximately 1.5 to 3.0 acre parcels, with homes ranging in size from 1600 square feet on Zumirez Drive, to 9,000 square feet on the beach bluffs. The cliffside homes are some of the most expensive in Malibu, with pools, tennis courts, and beach cottages with private stairs to the ocean.

The style of architecture in the area is eclectic. There are small, older, ranch style residences, intermingled with large Mediterranean homes, and a variety of other styles, such as Cape Cod, Barn, and French Normandy. Due to the topography and abundance of vegetation, few of the residences are visible from the scenic corridor of Pacific Coast Highway. On the land side of Pacific Coast Highway, you find two churches, some single family residences and-four condominium complexes, including one 69-unit complex built in 1995.

Located at the mouth of a major watershed subject to wildfires and containing hundreds of towering eucalyptus trees many of which are overhanging homes, Paradise Cove is considered an area of major fire hazard, especially during the autumn season of the Santa Ana winds. And, in fact, 47 homes were lost in the major wildfire that swept the area in the fall of 1982.

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe

The area of Paradise Cove Pier and Bob Morris' Paradise Cove Beach Cafe (originally Sandcastle restaurant) was once a haven for nude bathers, and this private Malibu beach has been the set for a number of movies and television shows, including Gidget, Beach Blanket Bingo and Malibu Run. The location remains a favorite for filming with its lush, tropical beach look. You can park at the Cafe and the high fee is validated for you if you eat at the restaurant. You can also park on Pacific Coast Highway and walk down the mile-long access driveway. At the Cafe, don't miss their extensive collection of historic Malibu photographs and memorabilia.

Sources: Information on this page was adapted from the City of Malibu, General Plan, November 1995

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