Along the coast near the Santa Monica–Pacific Palisades town line, you'll find the most famous gay beach in greater Los Angeles, located at the nearly 2-mile-long Will Rogers State Beach (15900 Pacific Coast Hwy., at Temescal Canyon Road). A festive atmosphere prevails on most sunny days, especially around the gay section, known affectionately as "Ginger Rogers Beach" - to find this area, head toward the southern part of the beach (closer to Santa Monica, and roughly across from Patrick's Roadhouse restaurant, which has a bit of a GLBT following. It's a zoo on weekends, when the volleyball courts are packed with gorgeous creatures. Passing through this stretch is a 20-mile biking, jogging, and in-line skating path. You can rent bikes at the Santa Monica Pier. One happy perk about Will Rogers State Beach: you can usually find free parking along Pacific Coast Highway.
The rugged coastline now occupied by Malibu wasn't developed until the late '20s. It remained a bit of a backwater until moneyed movie-industry types began trading their inland estates for seaside palaces, constructing some of the most expansive and expensive homes on the West Coast. The area, which is occasionally plagued by floods, wildlife fires, and mudslides, is home to the Getty Villa section of the Getty Center art museum, a re-creation of the 1st-century Roman Villa of the Papyri, which had been preserved for 1,700 years under the lava crust of Mount Vesuvius. Appropriately, the museum contains one of the nation's foremost collections of Roman, Greek, and Etruscan antiquities. The gardens surrounding the museum are also laid out to resemble those of Ancient Rome. Admission to the Getty Villa is free (parking is $7), but by reservation only, and it's advisable that you book well advance (at least one month). Note that the museum's post-classical collection are housed in the dramatic, Richard Meier-designed Getty Center in nearby Brentwood.
Pacific Palisades developed into something of a European think tank during the 1920s through the 1940s, when artists, architects, and intellectuals settled in the area, many of them having fled the terrors of Nazi Germany. Stunning homes built during this period still dot the rocky hills and sharp canyons above Pacific Coast Highway. The winding lanes off Chautaugua and Sunset boulevards are ideal for checking out the scenery.