Huntington Beach Travel Guide

USA  #13 in Best California Beaches
Credit

Courtesy of mdesigner125/Getty Images

Best Things To Do in Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach appeals to both active travelers and R&R-seekers, making it an excellent destination for all kinds of fun in the sun. The city's

... READ MORE

Huntington Beach appeals to both active travelers and R&R-seekers, making it an excellent destination for all kinds of fun in the sun. The city's highly regarded surf scene is the main reason why you should visit, though there are many ways you can experience the sport. Head to Huntington City Beach for a surfing lesson by the city's famous pier, visit Huntington State Beach to watch local pros ride gnarly waves or check out Huntington Dog Beach to catch a glimpse of surfing pooches. When you need a break from the sun, sand and sea, learn more about the city's favorite pastime at the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. Before the day comes to an end, retreat to one of Downtown Huntington Beach's oceanfront eateries or rooftop bars to view an incredible California sunset.

How we rank Things to Do

Updated September 24, 2020

  • #1
    Things to do in Huntington Beach
    View all Photos
    #1 in Huntington Beach
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    If you've seen a photo of Huntington Beach, chances are it's of its main beach and famous pier. The beach's 3 ½ miles of gorgeous sands is a haven for professional surfers and volleyball players, and draws locals and tourists eager to learn how to surf and stroll the 1,850-foot-long pier. The impressive pier, which is one of the longest on the West Coast, is an excellent place to fish and catch a sunset. Meanwhile, the beach itself features all kinds of amenities, including fire rings for beach bonfires, restrooms with outdoor showers, an information kiosk, water sports equipment rentals and beach volleyball courts. When you need a break from the sand and sea, cycle along the Huntington Beach Bike Trail or explore Downtown Huntington Beach. Both sit within walking distance of the beach and pier.

    According to previous visitors, the city's main beach and pier are two of its can't-miss attractions. Not only will you enjoy incredible ocean views (especially at sunset), but you'll also discover a laid-back ambiance ideal for relaxing outside. In fact, many highly recommend coming here to simply watch the surfers and walk up and down the pier. If you're hoping to avoid large crowds, past beachgoers recommended visiting on a weekday and outside the busy summer season. The beach also tends to get crowded during its annual events, so consider planning around popular events like the AVP Huntington Beach Open (in May), the Vans US Open of Surfing (in August) and The Great Pacific Airshow (in September).

  • #2
    View all Photos
    #2 in Huntington Beach
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Cafes, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Cafes, Neighborhood/Area, Shopping
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Whether you need a break from surfing or fishing at Huntington City Beach or are looking for something to do by your beachfront hotel, Downtown Huntington Beach is the place to go. The city center is the dining and entertainment hub of Huntington Beach thanks to its plethora of restaurants, bars, shops and attractions. Shopaholics will find everything from trendy brands (think: Urban Outfitters, H&M and Free People) to casual surf shops. Meanwhile, foodies can visit the weekly farmers market, grab a bite to eat at one of numerous restaurants or relax with a beverage and light bites at Orange County's highest rooftop lounge. Downtown Huntington Beach is also home to the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, so be sure to save some time for perusing the property's surfing-focused exhibits.

    Overall, previous visitors heaped praise on this part of the city, citing its diverse selection of shops and restaurants as reasons to return. However, a few lamented the lack of parking, particularly at night and on weekends, so consider arriving early or walking to the area. If you can only squeeze one visit into your itinerary, past travelers suggested going on a Tuesday between 5 and 9 p.m., when the popular Surf City Nights street fair and farmers market takes place.

  • #3
    View all Photos
    #3 in Huntington Beach
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of Huntington Beach's most popular shorelines is Huntington State Beach. At this beautiful beach 2 miles southeast of the Huntington Beach Pier, you can enjoy activities like surf fishing and swimming. Plus, the beach is a haven for California least terns (an endangered species) and snowy plovers (a threatened species), making it a top spot to go bird-watching. However, the beach's main draw is its superb swells. From late spring to mid-fall, Huntington State Beach boasts steep, curled waves that are excellent for surfing. But remember, the beach's large swells are not recommended for beginners; only experienced surfers should ride the waves here.

    Although a few past visitors wished the beach still permitted overnight camping, many praised its ample amenities (think: a paved bike path, barbecue grills, beach volleyball courts and outdoor showers) and wide shore. What's more, several previous beachgoers raved about Huntington State Beach's sunsets. To dial up the ambiance when you visit, claim one of the beach's fire rings – which are available on a first-come, first-served basis – so you can sit by a fire and savor s'mores as you watch the sun set. Make sure you arrive early during the warmer months to guarantee access to a fire ring. Also, keep in mind that the beach's three concession stands are only open on weekends and summer weekdays, so firewood is only available to buy on-site at those times.

  • #4
    View all Photos
    #4 in Huntington Beach
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Spend a few hours at Huntington Dog Beach if you're traveling with your four-legged friend or enjoy watching pooches play. Considered one of America's top dog-friendly beaches, this stretch of sand welcomes dogs and their owners to run around and play with few restrictions. Plus, it hosts three of the area's most popular pet-friendly events: Surf City Surf Dog (a dog surfing competition) and the spring and fall editions of So Cal Corgi Beach Day (a corgi get-together featuring costume contests and fun photo-ops).

    Recent visitors highly recommended checking out this beach, especially if you're looking for a fun event to attend. Because Surf City Surf Dog occurs annually in September and the spring and fall So Cal Corgi Beach Day events take place in April and October, respectively, you'll want to plan your trip accordingly. If a spring or fall vacation is out of the question, don't let that dissuade you from visiting. Past beachgoers said Huntington Dog Beach is excellent to visit year-round thanks to its clean sand, no leash policy and lack of crowds.

  • #5
    View all Photos
    #5 in Huntington Beach
    Sports, Recreation
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sports, Recreation
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Though you could get an overview of Huntington Beach's surfing culture by simply hanging out at Huntington State Beach or checking out the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, you'd be remiss if you didn't sign up for a surfing lesson during your visit. Available at popular stretches of sand like Huntington City Beach, Huntington State Beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach, surfing lessons give you the chance to get your feet wet with the help of an instructor. Because there are multiple surf shops and schools offering lessons in private, semiprivate and group settings for travelers of all ages and skill levels, you'll have plenty of options to choose from, making it easy to find the right experience for you. The following are a few reputable companies that recent visitors and the local tourism board recommend for surfing lessons:

    Toes on the Nose: While this outfitter in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa may initially seem like every other Huntington Beach surf shop, it also offers surfing lessons by the pier for resort guests and other visitors interested in one-on-one instruction. According to previous participants, each private, one-hour session is led by a knowledgeable professional who will have you riding a wave in no time. Toes on the Nose lessons are available between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. in summer and from 8 or 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. in winter. Expect to pay $150 for one person or $130 per person for groups with at least two people; rates cover wetsuit and surfboard rentals during and after lessons.

  • #6
    View all Photos
    #6 in Huntington Beach
    Free, Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Parks and Gardens, Recreation
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    When you find yourself needing a change of scenery, head to Huntington Central Park. Featuring more than 350 acres of land, this green space is the largest city-owned park in Orange County. Here, you can pass the time picnicking, fishing, bird-watching, playing Frisbee golf or simply exploring various trails on foot, by bike or by horse. If you're traveling with children, you'll find multiple kids facilities on the park grounds, including four playgrounds and the largest children's library situated west of the Mississippi River. Other noteworthy amenities include three eateries, an equestrian center, a dog park and an 18-acre nature center.

    Past travelers loved visiting Huntington Central Park, calling it an "oasis in the city" and a "bird-watcher's paradise." Many previous visitors were particularly impressed with the beautiful foliage and well-maintained paths, though a few cautioned that the presence of homeless residents can make the park feel unsafe at times. Try to visit during the day and with others to avoid feeling uneasy.

  • #7
    View all Photos
    #7 in Huntington Beach
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Beaches, Natural Wonders, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Head to Bolsa Chica State Beach if you want to reconnect with nature while at the beach. This 3-mile stretch of sand, which sits 4 miles northwest of Downtown Huntington Beach, generally sees fewer visitors than other beaches like Huntington City Beach and Huntington State Beach, so you'll enjoy more elbow room when surf fishing, bird-watching and sunbathing, among other activities. What's more, the beach boasts proximity to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and features a popular recreational vehicle campground.

    Many reviewers suggested coming to Bolsa Chica State Beach to hike or bike its paved beachside trail. Several people also said the beach is a terrific place for beach bonfires (you'll have access to 200 fire rings here) and highly recommended camping overnight. If you plan on staying the night, be sure to reserve your space months in advance, especially during the summer months, to ensure availability.

  • #8
    View all Photos
    #8 in Huntington Beach
    Natural Wonders, Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Natural Wonders, Free, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve's proximity to Bolsa Chica State Beach makes it a necessary addition to any beach visit, but don't let that be the only reason why you stop by. Within this serene 1,400-acre coastal estuary, you'll find marshes, dunes, islands, mudflats and open water frequented by hundreds of species of birds, plus coyotes and raccoons, among other animals. Sea lions and green sea turtles are occasionally spotted here as well. The reserve also features 5 miles of hiking trails and an interpretive center with maps, educational exhibits and a gift shop.

    Past visitors said this protected area offers a tranquil setting ideal for jogging, hiking and biking. What's more, many appreciated the countless bird-watching opportunities the property provides. If birding is your main reason for coming, try to visit in winter (between November and February) or summer (between April and August) when you have the greatest chance of spotting birds.

  • #9
    View all Photos
    #9 in Huntington Beach
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    A trip to Huntington Beach wouldn't be complete without visiting the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum. As its name implies, this museum focuses on the history of surfing, making it an excellent place to gain some context about the sport before or after a surfing lesson. Inside, you'll find unique surfing artifacts, including the world's largest surfboard and a surfboard that belonged to Duke Kahanamoku, the man credited with popularizing the sport. There's also a gift shop that sells T-shirts, books and other surfing-related keepsakes.

    Although a couple of recent visitors bemoaned the museum's small size, most said it's worth visiting, regardless of whether or not you like to surf. Several past museumgoers also appreciated the attraction's friendly staff and commitment to regularly changing the theme of its displays.

  • #10
    View all Photos
    #10 in Huntington Beach
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Cafes, Shopping
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Entertainment and Nightlife, Free, Cafes, Shopping
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    For a taste of Europe in Southern California, head to Old World Village. True to its name, this shopping, dining and entertainment complex features an old-world ambiance that will make you feel like you're in Germany. Inside the Bavarian-style buildings, you'll find novelty shops selling everything from cuckoo clocks to glass trinkets, as well as a German beer garden and eateries dishing up German classics like apple strudel and bratwurst. Plus, the property's main restaurant and bar hosts an Oktoberfest celebration every year from early September to early November.

    Reviewers say Old World Village is a terrific place to bring kids for a dose of culture and traditional German fare. In fact, the cuisine here is so authentic that visitors who've traveled to Germany or are originally from the country claim it reminds them of what they've enjoyed back in Europe. However, a few travelers bemoaned the dated appearance of the property and its limited selection of shops.

  • View all Photos
    Tours, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Tours, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • View all Photos
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • View all Photos
    Free, Shopping
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Shopping
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

  • View all Photos
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Free
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    Read More »

Explore More of Huntington Beach

If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.

Recommended