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TraceRouda/Getty Images

Key Info

18000 Pacific Coast Highway

Price & Hours

Free
9 a.m.-4 p.m. daily

Details

Natural Wonders, Free, Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend

scorecard

  • 5.0Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.0Atmosphere

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.

Since the reserve sits a few miles outside of Downtown Huntington Beach, you should plan on getting to it by car. Both of the public parking lots are free to use, and there is no entry fee for the reserve. Complimentary guided tours led by local nongovernmental organizations are available every month on select Saturdays and Sundays. The property is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check out the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website to learn more.

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#1 Huntington City Beach and the Huntington Beach Pier

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).

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