Does Malibu, CA Have Jellyfish? (Types, Photos & Stings)

Malibu is an iconic surf town along California’s southern coast, boasting a strip of coastline over 20 miles long that is home to several renowned beaches, many of which are well-known for their surfable waves.

Home to many of Hollywood’s A-listers and second home to many of the world’s elite, it’s also a legendary vacation destination, offering unbeatable ocean views and beachgoing experiences, with a remnant of old-school, small-town charm.

The impressive coastline allows for plenty of swimming, scuba diving, fishing, and surfing. While Malibu is home to a very comfortable surf culture that caters to beachgoers, the beach isn’t the only way to enjoy the ocean here.

With the mountains in its backyard, Malibu also offers plenty of opportunities for countryside strolls and hiking, all with spectacular ocean views.

But if you’re planning a trip to scenic Malibu, you might have one lingering question:

Does Malibu, CA have jellyfish?

tensaibuta/Flickr

Malibu, and most of the California coast, has far fewer jellyfish than beaches on the warmer waters of the Atlantic. However, depending on the season, a few of the jellyfish you might see in Malibu include:

  • By-the-wind’ jellies
  • Moon jellies
  • And black sea nettles

Jellyfish are commonly referred to as a beachgoer’s woe, but with the right knowledge and care, jellyfish go from being frightening creatures, to immensely interesting ones.

Plus, the vast majority of jellyfish found in the region spanning the California coast are considered harmless to humans! Stings in Malibu are relatively rare.

Let’s take a look at Malibu jellyfish, photos, sting history, seasonality, and more!


Types of Jellyfish in Malibu, CA

Jellyfish are marine invertebrates — they’re not actually fish at all!

In fact, they’re more closely related to sea anemones and corals than they are to fish. They have a web of tentacles that they rely on not just to sting and trap food, but also for movement.

That being said, they are only capable of moving vertically on their own. The rest of the time, they are simply carried along by ocean currents.

Humans tend to fear jellyfish because stings, but the majority of jellyfish stings are either harmless to humans or lead to only minor discomfort — after all, we’re not their food!

A jellyfish sting comes from the toxins found in their tentacles. Usually, simply brushing against a tentacle causes contact with the toxin, leading to a sting (there is not actual action of a jellyfish targeting something and then choosing to sting it).

The California coast has lower volumes of jellyfish than beaches along warmer waters like the Atlantic.

They are still common, but you’re much less likely to have a beachtime encounter with a Malibu jellyfish.

Here are a few of the species that are found in this region — though you might have to stop by an aquarium to see them!

“By-the-Wind” Jellies

By Jymm – Own work, Public Domain

These jellies “sail” in with the tide. They have several names, including wild blue jellies, by-the-wind jellies, and by-the-wind sailors, but these Malibu jellyfish are officially known as “Velella Velellas.”

They are small — about the size of the palm of your hand, and a rich blue color.

Their beautiful coloring isn’t the only unique part of their appearance.

As you can imply from their colloquial name, these jellies are known for “sailing” along the water, and their body is made up of a single, vertical, sail-like protrusion, with tiny deep blue tentacles.

With their small tentacles, wild blue jellies are entirely at the whim of the tides.

The water brings them in during high tide, and leaves a wash of blue jellies behind on the beaches.

Fortunately, by-the-wind jellies are totally harmless to humans. Similar to moon jellies below, they do have a sting — it’s just too small to have any harmful effects on us.

Moon Jellies

By Alexander Vasenin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Moon jellyfish are some of the most common jellyfish not just along the California coast, but throughout all the world’s currents!

They are also often seen in aquariums, thanks to their unique and intriguing appearance and docile behavior.

Moon jellies in the Malibu area are generally fairly small, usually ranging between 9 inches and up to 24 inches in diameter (they are found all over the globe, and very greatly in size depending on the location!).

Moon jellies are completely transparent, and are only visible thanks to their bodies catching the surrounding light, making them appear luminous.

Moon jellies are also considered completely harmless to humans. They do technically have a sting. However, our skin is too thick for it to penetrate.

(It’s mostly harmful to small marine life like plankton and small fish).

Like many jellies along this cold Pacific coast, they’re not as common as they are along the East Coast, but every once in a while they are carried close to shore in droves, where they “invade” a beach.

Black Sea Nettle

By Jim G from Silicon Valley, CA, USA – DSC26402, Black Sea Nettle (“Chrysaora Achlyos”), Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California, USAUploaded by Josve05a, CC BY 2.0,

The black sea nettle is the most dangerous of the known species of Malibu jellyfish.

It’s extremely recognizable for a few reasons.

First, it’s size. Black sea nettles are huge relative to other jellies on the west coast, with a bell that can reach three feet across and tentacles that can reach 20 feet long.

It’s also very unique in coloring for the region — it’s the only dark colored jellyfish in this part of the Pacific, and its tentacles are pinkish with a lacy texture.

Fortunately, black sea nettles aren’t particularly common.

This species doesn’t appear by any means on a seasonal basis, though its presence is influenced by weather.

Rather than seasonally, though, these jellies tend to show up along the Southern California coast during warm weather years like the El Nino cycle, and even then, not during every cycle.

Regardless, you’re unlikely to encounter one during a trip to Malibu — the last three years they were spotted in the region were 2013, 1999, and 1989.

(Before reading on, learn more about sharks in Malibu.)


How Common Are Jellyfish Stings In Malibu?

Jellyfish are less common along the west coast than they are along the east coast, if you look at it from a strictly numbers perspective.

However, when the ocean conditions align, jellyfish can still appear in Malibu and the rest of Southern California in huge numbers.

Jellyfish are carried by currents — they are found wherever that water reaches, meaning in deeper water, shallow water close to shore, and washed up along beaches themselves.

When this happens in high numbers, it’s referred to as a “jellyfish invasion.”

Fortunately, when this happens in California it is usually easily traceable.

Large numbers of jellyfish usually first appear around the San Diego area, then move predictably with ocean currents into the Santa Monica Bay and Malibu, and then farther north.

With this ample warning, officials and beachgoers alike can prepare to take more caution in and near the water.

Even during the peaks of jellyfish activity, reports of stings remain extremely low.

The most reported is a small handful in a day — next to nothing compared to the hundreds in a week during peak season along the Atlantic beaches.

Plus, the jellyfish species that are common here are generally harmless to humans. Those that do cause a sting cause only mild discomfort that usually subsides in less than an hour.


Does Malibu Have a Jellyfish Season?

Generally, Malibu and the waters along the west coast are not home to large numbers of jellyfish.

In warmer summer months from late June to August these numbers increase, but are still not particularly notable or dangerous.

In fact, the biggest “seasons” for Malibu jellyfish don’t follow a predictable pattern at all, unlike in regions like Florida and the Carolinas where jellyfish appear in huge volumes like clockwork during the heat of summer.

The Pacific ocean is several degrees colder than the Atlantic, and even summer doesn’t warm the water enough for jellyfish numbers to peak.

Malibu does experience droves of jellies as an anomaly, which is traced to anomalously warm water likely due to climate change.

Most of the time, this simply increases the numbers of relatively harmless jellyfish.

That being said, the same warm weather phenomena can also bring more dangerous species along the California coast.

In years with known El Nino and La Nina weather patterns, there have been reports of encounters with black sea nettles, though exceedingly rare.

If you couldn’t tell from these two paragraphs, jellyfish appear in higher numbers in warmer ocean water.

While large ocean currents move in steady patterns on a huge scale, smaller and internal ocean currents are influenced by water temperature, with warm water flowing towards cold water, carrying everything suspended in it with it — including jellyfish.


Avoiding Malibu Jellyfish Stings (Tips & Things to Know)

While jellyfish in Southern California are considered mild and almost never require medical attention, it’s still good to keep in mind some precautions for beachgoing when jellyfish are nearby.

The first is simply to always keep an eye out along the beach for jellies or parts of jellies.

Jellyfish can wash ashore during high tide, so even a stroll on the beach isn’t safe from these marine animals.

Plus, parts of jellyfish are common along the shore — “parts” meaning broken tentacles. It’s not uncommon for tentacles to become separated from a jellyfish, and it’s important to know that tentacles, whether they’re attached to a jellyfish body or not — are still toxic.

Similarly, dead jellyfish with tentacles can still sting as well.

If you do experience a sting, the first step is to remove the tentacles and any barbs. The longer they’re in contact with skin, the more toxin is released.

Don’t wash the area with water. Instead, rinse the area with a solution of vinegar and saline to both kill any remaining stinging cells and to relieve any pain.

If your vacation calls for lots of beach time and notices say that jellyfish are in peak, it’s a good idea to carry a solution with you. If not, all lifeguards will have it on hand.

In all, Malibu jellyfish stings are usually mild.

There is one case, however, where stings will need immediate medical attention, and that’s if the person stung is showing signs of an allergic reaction, like hives or wheezing.

A case like this can quickly turn a mild sting into an emergency situation.


Wrapping Up

Malibu jellyfish are a common concern when planning a vacation here, but vacationers and residents shouldn’t be too concerned about them.

With the right care, beachgoers in the region have little to worry about.

In fact, most of the Malibu jellyfish are actually of more entertainment and educational value than dangerous, with all of the common species here being well-known as harmless, and making many appearances in the world’s acquaria.

While more dangerous jellyfish can exist in the area, simply taking adequate caution to adhere to advisories, and staying aware of the right course of action in the event of a sting will keep you and your family and friends away from needless discomfort.

Instead, you’ll be able to enjoy Malibu’s unbeatable beaches and ocean views, and take part in a vacation that won’t soon be forgotten.

For more jellyfish guides, check out:

Hope this helps!

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