Is the sun, sand, and surf of Southern California calling your name? Check out the best things to do in Huntington Beach, CA, for your perfect beach getaway. Cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway with a stop in Surf City USA for the classic California beach town holiday.
Huntington Beach has made a name for itself as a West Coast wonderland for surfers. You’ll find professionals ‘hanging ten’ and novices getting their balance. Catch a wave with lessons from Corky Carroll’s Surf School, then stop by Surf City Nights for a taste of local art and music. This Orange County surf town has an abundance of beautiful beaches, and nature enthusiasts will want to check out the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.
Not sure how to plan the ultimate Southern California beach vacation? Discover the best places to visit in Huntington Beach, CA, with this complete guide.
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Huntington Beach Pier
A visit to the Huntington Beach Pier is the best way to start your Orange County holiday. The 1850-feet-long pier is ideally situated near Main Street. Stop by to admire the glorious seaside views, watch surfers rolling through the waves, and enjoy some of the top tourist attractions in Huntington Beach on the pier.
As you walk from Main Street, you’ll pass through Pier Plaza. If you happen to be here on a Tuesday evening, you can catch a portion of the Surf City Nights market. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, you’re likely to catch the Surfin’ Sundays live music show hosted by the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum.
After enjoying any events in the plaza, you can finally enter Huntington Beach Pier itself. About halfway down, you’ll find shops selling souvenirs and snacks.
At the end of the pier is the famous panoramic view of Huntington City Beach, the horizon, and surfers riding the glittering Pacific Ocean waves.
Huntington State Beach
Huntington State Beach is ideal for beach loungers, sand castle architects, boogie boarders, and surfers. Many choose this state beach for its amenities such as restrooms, changing rooms, and snack shacks. There’s even a paved trail that will bring you to the city’s other popular beaches.
You could easily dedicate an entire day to Huntington State Beach. Play around on the volleyball and basketball courts, bob up and down in the waves, or go surfing. As sandbars in the water can create some powerful currents, certain areas are suggested for experienced surfers only.
Hungry? Use any of the public grills to cook up some grub. In the evening, roast up some s’mores in one of the beach’s fire pits. Sun up to sundown, the 121 acres of Huntington State Beach have you covered for outdoor fun.
Bolsa Chica State Beach
Imagine waking up to the roar of ocean waves, the distant squawks of seagulls, and a view of the dazzling Pacific. Sounds nice, right? RV camping at Bolsa Chica State Beach is a fantastic way to experience the natural beauty of Huntington Beach. Go for a day of fun in the sun, or stay overnight at their RV camp.
Arrive early at Bolsa Chica State Beach to stake out your spot along the three miles of coastline. Get ready for a day of beach sports, from volleyball to (you guessed it!) surfing. Surf fishing is also extremely popular here. Fishermen and women frequent this beach to try their luck at hooking a catch of the day.
Wind down in the evening with tropical cocktails, beer, or wine at a restaurant in the Bolsa Chica State Beach area like SeaLegs at the Beach, or the Pacific Kitchen. These coastal eateries have fresh food, brews, and lovely views.
Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum
What better time to learn about the history of surfing than while you’re in Surf City USA? Stop by Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, just off of Main Street, for a lesson in surf culture.
The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum is small but mighty. It houses an incredible collection of unique surfboards, including the World’s Largest Surfboard, sitting just outside. Browsing the retro photographs and memorabilia, you’ll feel the laid-back surfing vibes rooted in the city.
The museum also sponsors Surfin’ Sundays at Pier Plaza, featuring live music and entertainment during the summer months.
Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum is owned by a Canadian woman who fell in love with Huntington Beach when she visited, especially with the sport of surfing. She loves the city’s warm, friendly, and relaxed attitude.
She’s a firm believer that just as baseball or football fans don’t need to get home runs or touchdowns to root for their teams, you don’t need to be able to surf a wave to love the sport and appreciate its cultural significance.
Huntington City Beach
Home to the iconic Huntington Beach Pier is Huntington City Beach. Its location at the end of Main Street makes for easy access to restaurants, cafes, and bars, while its pristine sands welcome you for a day of beachy fun.
Before you make your way down to Huntington City Beach, you’ll notice grassy sections of land. They’re perfect for a picnic without the threat of sand in your sandwiches.
Once you’ve arrived on the sandy beach, throw down blankets or beach chairs to laze in the sun, enjoying the fresh salty air and palm trees swaying in the slight breeze.
Or, you can hit the water. Huntington City Beach is a popular surf spot for its impressive swells. If you’d like a surf lesson, this is your chance! On Main Street, you’ll see a number of surf shops offering their services for lessons on this beach.
Shipley Nature Center
Attention all nature lovers: Huntington Beach is more than just beaches! This city is full of stunning parks, wetlands, forests, and more. Head inland a bit to find Shipley Nature Center, an educational nature sanctuary and one of the best places to go in Huntington Beach for outdoor activities.
Borrow one of the center’s maps for a self-guided tour of the hiking trails. Enjoy lush greenery and active wildlife. The butterfly garden is possibly the loveliest part of the Shipley Nature Center. The plants growing here attract many beautiful butterflies. Take a seat on a bench and look on as they flutter around you.
Take a spin by the Interpretive Center to learn about the local plants and animals. Here, you can observe the taxidermy displays to better understand the local species. The Bird Detective display pays ode to the many diverse kinds of birds living on Shipley Nature Centers’ 18 acres.
It’s important to plan ahead for your visit to the Shipley Nature Center; it’s currently only open to walk-ins on Saturdays and Fridays.
Huntington Dog Beach
Traveling with a furry friend? Huntington Dog Beach is a California dream for dogs of all sizes. Located along Goldenwest Street, this pup-geared beach has ample room for playing fetch and splashing in the waves.
At Huntington Dog Beach, surfing isn’t reserved for just humans. Here, you can find some impressive doggies who can ride the waves right alongside their human companions. It’s tough to think of something cuter than a bulldog surfing in a life-vest!
On second thought, over 1,000 corgis frolicking on the beach might come close. Huntington Dog Beach hosts a number of pooch surfing competitions annually, including the SoCal Corgi Beach Day.
If you need a dose of cuteness while on vacation in California, Huntington Dog Beach will be your go-to among the top points of interest in Huntington Beach.
Surf City Nights
If your holiday lands on a Tuesday, you’ll want to stop by the Surf City Nights market. Boutiques, restaurants, food trucks, craftsmen, and farmers sell their locally made goods here every Tuesday night. Get a real taste of Huntington Beach culture as you stroll through the first three blocks of Main Street.
Downtown Huntington Beach comes alive as shops open their doors wide and put their beach-themed items on display. If you’re in the market for clothes and accessories, you’ll find vendors with a selection of sparkling hand-crafted jewelry and beachy clothes. Browse the local artists’ skillfully made stained glass and paintings for some unique souvenirs.
Once you’ve had your fill of shopping, you can groove to the beachy beats of the live music, or simply sit back and enjoy the show. Enjoy some fresh treats like homemade candies, bread, and fruits from the area. There’s something for everyone at Surf City Nights.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Situated in Anaheim Bay is 1,300 acres of bird-watching bliss, otherwise known as Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. This reserve is one of the most peaceful places go in Huntington Beach for trail walking, as well as a hot spot for bird-watching.
Many of the routes at Bolsa China Ecological Reserve are on level ground, so it’s great for a relaxing stroll along the four miles of hiking trails. Making your way along the paths, you’ll meet protected wetlands, salt marsh, coastal dunes, and the wildlife who call these home.
You can get a tour of the reserve from one of the local organizations dedicated to the preservation of this land, such as Amigos de Bolsa Chica or Bolsa Chica Land Trust.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is considered an Important Birding Area on the National Audobon Society’s radar. This well-deserved title comes from the almost 200 species of birds living on the reserve. Many of these are endangered species.
Come for Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve’s marine life and birds, and stay for the stunning scenic overlooks.
Huntington Beach Art Center
Are you an art lover? Spend a few hours at the Huntington Beach Art Center for a peek into the community’s love for its city. Citizens of Huntington Beach regularly submit their work to showcase in the museum, while other professional artists can be found in other exhibits.
Due to the public’s involvement in the Huntington Beach Art Center, you can get a real sense of the city’s laid-back way of life when you visit. From surf-inspired photography to graffiti-themed pieces, and sunset oil paintings, the diversity of the art here is astounding.
The art museum rotates the exhibitions regularly. They even display featured artwork from the local public schools like paintings of the beach, drawings of wildlife, and showcases of the performing arts.
Newland House Museum
Take a step back in Huntington Beach history with a visit to the Newland House Museum. Spanning a section of Beach Boulevard and dating back to the 1800s, this Victorian-style farmhouse has been immaculately restored by the Huntington Beach Historical Society.
This sprawling property was originally home to the Newland family and their lima bean and chili pepper crops. Each room in the house appears frozen in time as if the family just left for an afternoon at the beach.
In the kitchen, you’ll see Mrs. Newland’s homemade canned goods and the children’s vintage toys in the playrooms. The antique record player in the parlor is complete with the family’s comedy and opera records.
Each year, volunteers from across the country flock to the Newland House Museum for reenactments of The Revolution and The Civil War. History truly comes alive here.
Huntington Central Park
If you’re wondering what you can do at Huntington Central Park, a better question is what can’t you do here? Split by Goldenwest Street, this 356-acre park includes two halves: Central Park West and Central Park East.
To fuel up for your day of park activities in Huntington Central Park, consider breakfast or brunch at Mary Kay’s Lakeview Cafe (closer to Central Park West) or The Park Bench Cafe (in Central Park East).
If you’re into horseback riding or disc golf, you won’t have to forego these hobbies while on vacation. In Central Park West, you can pop by the Huntington Beach Equestrian Center or the dedicated disc golf course. At the equestrian center, rent a horse for a picturesque ride through their trails.
Central Park East is home to The Huntington Beach Central Library, and a sports complex where you can batter up or score a few goals. If you’re traveling with kids, they’ll love romping through the adventure playground here, including a ropes course and pond rafting.
Corky Carroll’s Surf School
Surfing is life here in Huntington Beach. After all, it didn’t get the nickname Surf City USA for nothing! Corky Carroll’s Surf School has been sharing its love of the sport for over 25 years. Locals and visitors, young and old, rely on this surfing school to learn how to catch waves and enjoy the process.
Whether you want to hit the water solo or practice with a group, Corky Carroll’s Surf School offers private and group lessons at Bolsa Chica State Beach.
Either way, the surf instructors will give you a personalized and detail-oriented experience. They provide hard or soft-top surfboards, wetsuits, and the know-how to help you go from paddling to riding your first waves.
Sunset County Beach
By now you’re well aware of Huntington Beach’s surf scene, but maybe you’re on the hunt for the quirkier side of this city. You can find exactly that at Sunset Beach, one of California’s top beaches and a historic area.
Before it became a part of Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach was a separate town. Today, it’s iconic for its eccentric beachy shops, a wide and spacious beachfront, and scrumptious restaurants and breweries to chill out at the coast.
Relax on the beach for a while and enjoy the oceanscape, with boats dotting the horizon, surfers in the distance, and kite surfers gliding along.
Sunset County Beach is popular for kitesurfing because of the area’s strong winds. Since many guests at this beach typically come to swim, surfing isn’t quite as popular here as it is in other areas of Huntington Beach.
Ride bikes or stroll through the paths of The Green Belt, adjacent to Sunset Beach. Take time to appreciate the flourishing local plants and landscape.
Once you’re ready for a bite, head to one of Sunset Beach’s cafes or bistros. Harry’s Rooftop Grill is ideal for beach eats and ocean views.
Riip Beer Co.
There’s nothing quite like sipping a fresh craft beer and gazing upon the ocean horizon with a gentle breeze blowing through your hair. (If you’re bald, the breeze on your head is nice, too!) If this sounds like your idea of a good time, you’re in luck with Riip Beer Co. Near Sunset County Beach off of the Pacific Coast Highway, this brewery specializes in IPAs and great beach vibes.
The brewery started as a group of buddies experimenting with homebrewing. Today, Riip Beer Co. has grown its business to offer about 23 unique beers on draft.
If you’re a fan of hops, you’re going to love this craft brewer. Their IPA selection is second to none in the area. The famous Super Carol IPA has won awards in the Great American Beer Festival, notorious for being highly competitive.
Riip Beer Co. has a phenomenal view of the ocean, too. Sitting on their patio with a delicious frosty beer is a glorious feeling—and taste. You can get a flight to test a few of their brews, or even order a growler to take with you.
You didn’t expect Surf City to make just any old boring shopping mall, did you? The relaxed coastal atmosphere and surf-shopesque architecture at Pacific City make for a one-of-a-kind Huntington Beach shopping experience. Conveniently located next to the Pacific Coastal Highway, this is one of the most popular places to see in Huntington Beach.
Walking around this open-air concept mall, you’ll find many big brands and designer clothing shops, as well as lifestyle, makeup, haircare, and beachwear boutiques. Lot 579 is possibly the most interesting store at Pacific City, selling local food, handmade art, candles, jewelry, and exclusive California-chic apparel.
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When you’re ready for a break from your retail therapy, choose from a number of tasty eateries. Sip fruity cocktails on the patio of The Bungalow while overlooking the ocean, grab a cone from Han’s Homemade Ice Cream, or show off your chopstick skills with sushi at The Backhouse Restaurant.
Harbor House Café
Sandwiched between Huntington Harbor and Sunset Beach, just off of the Pacific Coastal Highway, you’ll find Harbor House Café. This restaurant is a classic diner with an Orange County flare.
Established in 1939, Harbor House Cafe is a cornerstone of the local food scene. It has a reputation for serving fresh, homemade, and simply delicious meals.
Looking for soups, sandwiches, or salads? You got it. Maybe you want biscuits and gravy? No problem. How does a juicy burger by the beach sound? What about omelets or pancakes? Order up!
This local restaurant serves as a morning coffee shop, brunch spot, lunch or dinner joint, or your midnight snack go-to. That’s right: This popular spot is open 24 hours a day!
While in Huntington Beach, come to Harbor House Cafe to enjoy fresh, homemade food any time that suits your schedule. You can eat indoors or on their patio with a scenic view of the Pacific.