20 Best Things to Do in Huntington Beach, California

The wide sand and rolling waves of Huntington State Beach south of the Huntington Beach Pier

The Southern California coastal town Huntington Beach’s nickname is Surf City, USA. That pretty much captures the identity of this laid-back, beachy, west coast town.

Located in Orange County, Huntington Beach is about 45 minutes south of Los Angeles and about 30 from Anaheim and Disneyland. There are over eight miles of shoreline with wide stretches of sandy beaches. On one side of them, you’ll find burrito bars, beach cruisers, and bronzed locals; on the other, consistent sets rolling across the surface of the Pacific – setting the ideal scene for surf culture.

Needless to say, one of the main reasons to visit Huntington Beach is to catch a wave or learn how to do so. However, there are a ton of other unique outdoor activities and interesting things to see in this iconic California town.

You could spend a day, a week, or even more when visiting Huntington Beach. We’ve put together some of the awesome things to do in Surf City, along with great places to stay, eat, and drink – read on to plan your stay!

TLDR

Category Recommendation
Most significant landmark Huntington Beach Pier
Best park Huntington Central Park
Best free activity Beaches & Huntington Beach Bike Trail
Activity for kids Surfing
Activity for adults Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum
Best food Duke’s Huntington Beach
Place to stay Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort

Things to Do in Huntington Beach, CA

1. Huntington Beach Pier

The Huntington Beach Pier in Huntington Beach, California.
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

We should definitely start with one of the most iconic and romantic things to do in Huntington Beach: its famous pier. You’ll find it right in the middle of town, where Main Street meets Huntington City Beach, extending far across the wide beach and past the breakers.

You’ll find a few souvenir shops and art displays that are fun to explore along the pier, as well as plenty of places to watch surfers and fishermen from above. You can grab a meal or drink at Huntington’s on the Pier (halfway point) or Broad Street Oyster Company (at the end). Most of all, this is the spot to soak in the views of the sun-drenched palm trees, golden sand, wavy water, and busy seafront that make Huntington Beach so special.

Duke’s Huntington Beach is at the beginning of the pier and has to be one of the best places to eat in town – where else (on the mainland) is more appropriate for a laid-back, surf-themed Hawaiian restaurant with frequent live music and a view?

And if you want to stay as close as possible to this awesome spot, the Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort is right across the street and happens to be one of the nicest hotels around.

2. Bolsa Chica State Beach

Bolsa Chica Beach, Huntington Beach, Southern California
rouda100 / Adobe Stock

The three miles of sandy shoreline in Huntington Beach’s north is Bolsa Chica Beach, which makes for another great beach option besides the busy Huntington City Beach near the pier. Thanks to fewer crowds, this is an especially popular spot for surfing, kite surfing, and surf fishing. Bring a beach blanket and a picnic, and you could watch these guys and girls all day!

SeaLegs at the Beach should be your go-to spot for some casual sandwiches and drinks on the sand over here. Bolsa Chica State Beach is also the end of the Huntington Beach Bike Trail, one of the most scenic biking trails on the Southern California coast – definitely grab a rental in town and pedal to this beautiful spot.

See Related: San Diego vs Los Angeles: What’s the Difference?

3. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

a long brown wooden bridge over a lush green marsh surrounded by vast blue ocean water with a gorgeous clear blue sky at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach California USA
Marcus Jones / Adobe Stock

On the other side of the sand is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, which protects 1,300 acres of coastal wetlands home to around 200 bird species. Take a break from your beach day to explore a few trails and scenic overlooks, or stop by the interpretive center to learn about the importance of this haven for so many animals.

If you’re into bird watching, this is the best spot in the Huntington Beach area. Mornings are when many species are most active, while the receding tide brings more that try to hunt for critters in the exposed sand. And even if you’re not a birder, the easy, accessible hiking trails around the preserve are still a beautiful way to appreciate a little piece of pristine nature.

Read Also: Best Flea Markets in Los Angeles

4. Sunset Beach

Yachts and boats along Huntington Beach harbour with waterfront homes and docks. Amazing views at the seaside community with blue sky and clouds overhead.
Jason / Adobe Stock

Sunset Beach is yet another one of Huntington Beach’s prime spots to enjoy the sea and forms the northernmost part of the town. Sunset Beach is its own little community, centered around Huntington Harbour, and makes for a bit of a quieter spot to stay.

Local beach bars and grills can be found on both the seaside and the harbor side of this neighborhood, as can vacation rental homes like this historic beach house. The sand and sea here are perfect for swimming, surfing, paddle boarding, and other activities, while the harbor provides a unique setting for boating and even romantic gondola rides.

See Related: Best Hotels in Solvang, California

5. Huntington State Beach

The wide sand and rolling waves of Huntington State Beach south of the Huntington Beach Pier
Cavan / Adobe Stock

Let’s finish off the last of the four main beaches of Huntington Beach: stretching from the pier to the Santa Ana River, Huntington State Beach forms the southern portion of the town’s shoreline. It’s another sandy beach ideal for swimming, lounging, surfing, and more, and it has a paved walking and biking path running its length.

A few of the top hotels in Huntington Beach are on this part of the shoreline, including the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa and the Paséa Hotel & Spa, making this a great place to play and stay for luxury seekers. The beach has lifeguards, bathrooms, showers, and even fish-cleaning stations.

One of the most popular activities at Huntington State Beach is having a beach bonfire in one of its many free fire pits. It’s the perfect way to end a coastal California day, and you just have to bring some firewood and friends to watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean in this stunning setting.

6. Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum

The International Surfing Museum, Huntington Beach, Orange County, California. The museum's goal is to preserve the history of the surfing culture.
Steve Cukrov / Adobe Stock

Address: 411 Olive Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Even if you’re not a beach person, you can still enjoy Huntington Beach and the famous sport it’s known for. The International Surfing Museum in downtown Huntington Beach was founded by a lady who’s never even surfed! But most people in this surfy town, and from everywhere else around the world, can agree that surfing is still fascinating to watch and appreciate, and that’s why this museum exists.

Visitors can see all kinds of surfing memorabilia here, ranging from old longboards to surfing art, photographs, and stories. Guides can lead you through all kinds of surfing history and introduce you to the sport that Huntington Beach claims to be the capital of (which may be disputed by a handful of other places).

This is a fantastic activity for any couple, family, or solo traveler and is an easy stop whether it’s a rainy day or not. The surrounding streets of central Huntington Beach are packed with burrito bars, Hawaiian poke shops, and other tasty eateries and cafés.

See Related: Things to Do in Santa Cruz, California

7. Surf Lessons

surfers at the famous huntington beach pier catching waves
jc / Adobe Stock

Therefore, if there was ever a place to take a surf lesson, Huntington Beach is it. Plenty of surf schools are lining the beaches, ready to provide their expertise, whether you’re a young kid who wants to get into it or an old person who has no idea how to surf.

Check out Corky Caroll’s Surf School or Surfrider Academy for two of the lesson providers that have long been serving the community. Total beginners are welcome, as are those with some experience but want to improve. You’ll learn on easy-to-paddle longboards in unintimidating waves, and don’t worry – falling in is part of the fun.

8. Catch a Performance by the Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra

Conductor and musicians playing at the Huntington Beach Orchestra Symphony
Huntington Beach Orchestra Symphony / Huntington Beach Orchestra Symphony

Huntington Beach may be a little beach town, but it has a talented symphony orchestra that performs frequent concerts for local fans and visitors alike. The Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra does tributes to musical legends, classical themes, holiday hits, and more.

So, if you’re a fan of the musical arts, check out the orchestra’s website to see its upcoming shows and specials, which are played at venues all around Huntington Beach. A common one is the Academy for the Performing Arts, which is just a mile-and-a-half up Main Street from the downtown area, making it a quick drive or Uber ride for most.

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9. Shop or Dine at Pacific City

Pacific City shopping center in Huntington Beach, California seen from Pacific Coast Highway
K KStock / Adobe Stock

Address: 21010 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

It’s okay to want to bring home some nice things from one of California’s nicest places! Just a few steps from downtown Huntington Beach, you’ll find Pacific City, an indoor-outdoor shopping center packed with high-end retailers and simple surf shops. There are also lots of tasty dining and fun entertainment outlets, including a popular mini golf course.

Pacific City is an excellent choice for dinner, thanks to a few restaurants on the second floor with views straight to the beach. Watch the sunset, the surfers, and the busy Pacific Coast Highway from a table at Ola Mexican Kitchen or Bluegold, for example.

10. Shop Some More or Simply Explore around Old World Village

The cobblestone streets and European-style buildings in the Old World Village Shopping Center
Old World Village / Old World Village

Address: 7561 Center Ave #50, Huntington Beach, CA 92647

On the northern outskirts of town is Old World Village, a unique mall with European-looking buildings and cobblestone streets connecting them. There are more boutiques and surf shops here, along with appropriately European restaurants, including a crêperie, a delicatessen, a biergarten, and an English tea room.

Across the street from Old World Village is Hotel Huntington Beach for those who want to stay nice and close to this little transplanted village from Europe or who prefer this part of town in general. It also puts you closer to Disneyland and the other attractions of Anaheim just up the road.

See Related: The Ultimate Weekend in Los Angeles Itinerary

11. Huntington Beach Art Center

Paintings, sculptures, and other art in the interior of the Huntington Beach Art Center
Huntington Beach Art Center / Facebook

Address: 538 Main St #98, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

You’ll find art displays scattered around Huntington Beach, but the Huntington Beach Art Center is the formal place to see the works of locals and artists from far away. This community gallery is just a few blocks from the beach on Main Street.

The beautiful beach scenes of Huntington Beach are the perfect subject for paintings, and quite a few artists from all over the world have painted them, as have local residents. These paintings, plus others and some sculptures, are displayed in the gallery, with frequent special exhibitions that bring in all kinds of work. Check out the Huntington Beach Art Center website to see what’s happening during your stay.

12. Explore Surf City Nights

Surf City Nights Certified Farmers' Market and Street Fair in Huntington Beach
Surf City Nights Certified Farmers’ Market and Street Fair / Facebook

Address: 315 3rd St Ste E, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Some might argue that the Surf City Nights weekly street market offers even better shopping, food, and entertainment than any mall. Every Tuesday evening, three blocks of Main Street are shut down so local artisans, farmers, restaurants, musicians, and more can set up.

You can come here to buy fresh produce to bring home or full meals and snacks to eat amid the friendly atmosphere. There are even games for kids, and many boutiques offer special sales at Surf City Nights. Some great items to bring home, like local surf brand clothing, artisan jewelry, fresh and organic goods and cosmetics, and much more.

See Related: Things to Do in Santa Monica, California

13. Huntington Central Park

Huntington Library & Botanical Garden
Kirk Wester / Shutterstock.com

The largest city-owned park in Surf City, USA, is Huntington Central Park, located a few miles inland in a vast green space. There’s a large network of walking trails around the lakes, playgrounds for kids, picnic areas, and some cafés, plus even more unique ways to enjoy nature.

The Shipley Nature Center is a fenced-off park within the park that preserves local flora and fauna; it’s totally free to visit, but a small donation to their efforts is always appreciated. Public art displays and an amphitheater often provide spectacles to enjoy, while there’s a dog park on the western side if you’re bringing your pet along. This is a great place to catch a break from the coastal crowds in Huntington Beach.

14. Newland House Museum

HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIFORNIA - 02 MAR 2023: Newland House is an 1898 farmhouse in Queen Anne architectural style, the oldest residence in HB and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Steve Cukrov / Adobe Stock

Address: 19820 Beach Boulevard, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

The Huntington Beach Historical Society preserves places of important historical and cultural significance around the town, and one of its most important sites is the Newland House. This is a late-1800s Queen Anne-style Victorian farmhouse that was one of the first in Huntington Beach.

The house sits right off Beach Boulevard, the main thoroughfare of Huntington Beach, and it has been carefully restored to match its original glory. Once belonging to William and Mary Newland, the property farmed beets, celery, and chili peppers after its construction in a place largely barren of any other civilization.

It’s amazing to think of Huntington Beach this way nowadays! You can look at this piece of the past from the street or check out the website to see what days the historical society is offering tours.

See Related: Where To Stay In Los Angeles: Best Areas & Neighborhoods

15. So Cal Corgi Beach Day

Two welsh corgi pembroke dogs sitting next to each other on the beach
Justyna / Adobe Stock

Even if you couldn’t care less about surfing, the beach, or anything else we’ve mentioned, no one can resist a gathering of hundreds of adorable corgis! “The Biggest Corgi Beach Party on the Planet” takes place at the Huntington Dog Beach every year, bringing together 1200+ corgis as well as hundreds more honorary corgis (all dogs are welcome) to the shore.

You don’t have to have a dog to attend. The beach gets packed with game stands, contests, prizes, food trucks, and corgi. There are even corgi races so the pups can fulfill their outdoor pursuits.

It’s the most adorable thing you can do in Huntington Beach, and your phone memory may well fill up from the photo opportunities. Check out the event’s official website to see when it’s happening.

16. Whale Watching

Newport Beach Whale Watching Tour
Davey’s Locker / GetYourGuide

One of the great things about the waters off Huntington Beach is that whales live here all year. You can see massive blue and finback whales in the summer and fall, while grey and humpback whales come in winter and spring.

There are a ton of whale-watching tours that depart from Newport Beach, the town just south of Huntington Beach on the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, thanks to its larger marina. They can be as short as two-hour excursions or full-day events.

Before you head back to Huntington Beach for the day, check out the fun attractions of this little town – there’s a pier, an amusement park, and a $1 ferry to Balboa Island for its boardwalk. Newport Beach also has some great places to stay, like Lido House, an Autograph Collection Hotel, if you’d like to spend your nights on this side of the bridge.

See Related: Things to Do in Venice Beach, California

17. See the Magnificent Orange County Coast from Above

The beautiful coastline of Orange County, California from a sightseeing plane
Joy Air Tours / Viator

Finally, there’s nothing quite like seeing a beautiful destination from the air, and the coastline of and around Huntington Beach is definitely not an exception. You can take a plane specially designed for sightseeing on an aerial tour of the Orange County coast to get a whole new appreciation for this scenic shore.

Besides Huntington Beach’s sandy shores, pier, and busy streets, you’ll also get to appreciate Dana Point, Laguna Beach, and Newport Beach, plus numerous spots further inland that your pilot is happy to point out. The tour takes off from the small and convenient John Wayne Airport and will be personalized to whatever you like and want to see. Just bring a camera, because you’ll definitely want it.

See Related: Must-Try Fighter Jet Experiences in Your Lifetime

18. Have a Pint at Four Sons Brewing

Four men drinking beer and wearing branded t shirts at Four Sons Brewing in Huntington Beach
Four Sons Brewing / Facebook

Address: 18421 Gothard St Suite 100, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

The craft beer scene is strong in California. One of Huntington Beach’s hottest taprooms is Four Sons Brewing, just a few steps from Huntington Central Park.

This place is run by a literal family – mom, dad, and four sons, who only began experimenting with beer in 2014 but quickly became a hit. It’s the first stop on a local Orange County craft beer tour.

You’ll find everyone in their taproom, from barefoot surfers to suited businessmen. There are 20 different beers on tap, with a new one rotated in each week. While they don’t have a kitchen, food trucks line up in the parking lot to take care of that part, providing all kinds of tasty and budget-friendly bites. Stop by this place for a tour, a drink, and a good time!

See Related: Best Breweries in San Diego, California

19. Sip on Whiskey at Bonetree Distillery

A small bar and distilling equipment at Bonetree Distilling in Huntington Beach
Bonetree Distillery / Bonetree Distillery

Address: 15557 Graham St, Huntington Beach, CA 92649

If beer isn’t your thing, or you need something a little bit stronger, Huntington Beach has its own local liquor production at Bonetree Distillery. This place is even newer, having been opened by a local couple in 2021, and produces small-batch whiskeys, rums, and other liquor in northwestern Huntington Beach.

Stop in to try a flight of their American Oak-aged single-malt whiskey, bourbon, or dark rum, each aged for 12 months. They’ll show you the master distiller methods of creating these libations as well. Be sure to check their website or call before going, as they aren’t always open for visitors.

20. Hike Around Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park in Laguna Beach California with cliff and blue ocean. Beautiful coastal landscape with mountain covered with greenery and cloudy sky in the horizon.
Jason / Adobe Stock

Lastly, while Huntington Beach is a whole lotta beach, hikers don’t have to settle for the trails of the city’s park or ecological reserve. While it isn’t in Huntington Beach, Crystal Cove State Park is just a few miles south and offers many more elevation and unpaved paths.

It’s not a mountain, but the cliffs and hills of this rocky spot along the coast make up 2,400 acres of natural space for hiking, biking, and camping. Try El Moro Canyon Trail if you’re in decent shape and want to see some sweeping ocean views from up high. Afterward, you can jump in and cool off at one of the small, hidden beaches on the shore!

FAQ

What are the top attractions in Huntington Beach?

The Huntington Beach Pier is one of the most iconic, as it’s where you can find awesome food, interesting art, and fantastic views of the waves and the surfers. The beach scene is a top attraction with fun activities like volleyball and bike rentals. Don’t miss the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum – this is Surf City USA.

Are there any surf competitions in Huntington Beach?

There are a number of annual surfing championships in Huntington Beach, including the US Open of Surfing, the world’s largest surfing competition. That one is the most famous, and it takes place every summer; it’s free to watch from the beach. There are frequent smaller competitions all the time – ask around some of the surf shops if any local contests are going on.

What are some family-friendly activities in Huntington Beach?

The Huntington Beach Pier is family-friendly for dining, souvenir shopping, surfer-watching, and fishermen-watching. Better yet, get in the water yourselves on a family surfing lesson. You don’t have to catch a monster wave to have much fun, and kids of all ages will have a blast!

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Woodrow Matthews
WRITTEN BY

Woodrow Matthews

Woodrow is a travel writer who enjoys sharing experiences, tips, and tricks from his vacations. He’s been to 40+ countries, all 50 US states plus Puerto Rico and the USVI, and lived for several years in France, from which he explored many parts of Europe. Woodrow is an expert in travel hacking, finding bargain flights, and coined the term "upgrade engineering" referring to his talent to upgrade simple hotel room bookings into suite stays. Woodrow loves scuba diving, hiking, beaches, and all things aviation.