If you want to put a pin in a city that best represents iconic California, all signs point to Huntington Beach—which rightfully touts itself as Surf City USA. Yes, you'll find killer waves and sun-kissed beaches here, but that's just the start. Believe it or not, Surf City USA isn't just about making waves.
As it turns out, there are plenty of other activities to fill a vacation in Huntington Beach:
1. Unleash the fun at Huntington Dog Beach. If all dogs go to heaven, they're probably going to Huntington Dog Beach. This stretch of sand sits along the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) between Seapoint Avenue and 21st Street, and it's a great chance for Spot to stretch her legs and snag some play time with other beach-lovin' dogs while you catch some sun. And extra time along the PCH is never a bad thing. The adjacent Huntington Dog Beach Trail clocks in at a round-trip distance of 1.6 miles for those who prefer to keep things moving.
Bonus: You may run into So Cal Corgi Nation Beach Days or a doggie wedding (!!)
2. Start your day with some sugar. The vibes at Sugar Shack Café are super mellow and epitomize the Huntington Beach feel.
Here, breakfast is served all day and with good reason: it's their specialty. This family-owned joint does all of the AM delicacies one could want, from breakfast burritos (try the Main Street, a tortilla-wrapped combo of eggs, cheese, avocado, mushrooms, onions, and sprouts) to French toast (go for the Peggi's Variety made with raisin bread). Heck, get both!
3. Stop and see the sights. Touristy as it may sound, you can't visit this SoCal spot without a stop at the Huntington Beach Pier.
For starters, the pace feels slower and simpler walking along the 1,850-foot concrete landing. Grab a shake at Ruby's Surf City Diner (Salted Caramel is the bomb), scout out your favorite busker, or rent fishing essentials to try your hand at casting a line.
Pro tip: On Friday afternoons you'll see an awesome farmers market next to the pier.
4. Enjoy waterfront dining and sleeping. The Waterfront Beach Resort's location is ideal. Every single room offers ocean views and a relaxing beach breeze, so you can doze off to the sound of the waves and wake up to a gorgeous sunrise over the Pacific Ocean. And with several options for dining in-house (and duh, all overlooking the water), you'll never want to leave!
But should you want to venture off the resort for more scrumptious food, LOT 579 is a waterfront food hall where dreams come true. Grab a latte (check out the art on top before inhaling) from Portola Coffee or a cold one from the aforementioned The Dude's Brewing Co. Pre-game with an Aussie meat pie from Pie Not and then live out The American Dream with one of their epic burgers. Of course, there's plenty of veg, seafood, and pizza options, too.
For drinks, head to surf-shack-turned-bar-and-restaurant Pacific Hideaway, located on the corner of 5th and PCH. And since cocktails pack more punch the higher up you go, you should also check out Offshore 9 Rooftop Lounge. It's a new addition that launches you nine stories in the air over the Pacific. And then Popbar and Petals & Pop for dessert and champagne.
5. Get muddy with the kids. Huntington Central Park is home to Adventure Playground, a primitive-looking section of the park that lets kids ages 5–12 live out all of their muddy dreams. Like a real-life Tide commercial. There's a mudslide prime for skidding, a small pond for rafting, and plenty of raw materials—like plywood—to build one's very own fort. (Note: This particular playground is only open during the summer months.)
6. Eat cheesecake at a spa. Because nothing says "zen" like eating dessert through the hole in a massage table.
Pacific Waters Spa, located in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, is a Mediterranean-inspired space that evokes a feeling of calm the minute you walk through its doors. The treatment menu has all the fixings—tons of massage options, pampering for the face, body, nails, and hair—and the only thing that rivals it is the food menu. There's modern and gourmet "spa cuisine," like gazpacho with crab meat and of course, uber-creamy avocado-lime cheesecake.
The Aarna Spa, not far from Main Street, also spells luxury. They're one of the best hotel spas in the county (which, for Orange County, is saying something), and yet they've got mean last-minute deals. Whatever you schedule, leave time to ascend the glass-encased staircase to the rooftop, over-the-ocean lounge and grab a drink.
7. Learn about the local culture. Even if you're not one to take to the waves yourself, visit the International Surfing Museum. It's home to the world's largest surfboard—this bad boy managed to carry 66 people on a wave for 12 whole seconds on June 20, 2015. You're witnessing a legend in its own time.
While here, also check out the museum's new Surf 2 Skate exhibit. It showcases local SoCal legends and vintage boards of both the surf and skate variety.
8. Hop on a different kind of board. Surf City, sure, but if waves aren't totally your thing, take advantage of the calmer waters in Huntington Harbour and try your hand at SUPing. You can rent everything you need at OEX Sunset Beach—and if you're a first-timer, they offer both lessons and group tours.
Pro tip: If you refuse to settle for anything less than cheesecake-level zen, check out one of Prince Charters' private boat tours. Captain Doug will take the wheel (err, helm) while you literally float on the Pacific on a private booze cruise
9. Get wild in the wetlands. Huntington Beach proper provides some truly gorgeous scenery, but dig deeper at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, and you'll find some seriously stunning wetland habitats. We're talking mudflats, coastal dunes, freshwater marshes, and tons of views you had no idea were hiding in Southern California.
You can either treat a visit to the reserve as an educational experience or as a moderate hike on the network of trails that loop over four miles. If you're a bird lover, keep your phone or camera at the ready to snap some pictures of the many feathery creatures that live within the reserve.
10. Chill out with a cold brew. For a state largely known for its wine, California also brings it in terms of the fine art of craft beer. Four Sons Brewing generates some delicious options—try their Surf City Pale Ale for immediate transport to the tropics, or sample their Land of the Hopportunity, a tasty blood orange IPA.
Another to watch out for is The Dude's Brewing Co. Go for Grandma's Pecan English Style Brown (you know, just like grandma used to make) or their JuiceBox Series: Blood Orange Amber & Peach Berliner Weisse. Riip Beer Company is another local brewer, and they take it up one very, very convenient and important notch: They deliver. (Literally. Like to your house or Airbnb. But metaphorically, too.)
Ready to plan your trip to Huntington Beach, California? Call the Visit Huntington Beach Administrative Office at 714-969-3492 or 800-729-6232, send an email to email@example.com, or visit www.surfcityusa.com.