The coastal city offers myriad opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
It’s no secret that the California coastline has its charm, and every city along the ocean offers its unique brand of beach life. Huntington Beach might sound like just another city to drive by along the Pacific Coast Highway but stop here for a few days and you’ll be glad you visited. Apart from its worldwide fame as Surf City USA, there are many attractions and activities to indulge in.
Enjoy the Outdoors
Hard to miss if you are walking around or driving into Huntington Beach is the fact that the area is steeped in surfing history and culture. From the number of surfers you’ll see on any given day to surf shops and surf-themed references in local businesses, you’ll quickly learn it simply is a way of life here.
This is certainly a city you want to make plans to visit if water sports are your motivation. It’s no wonder that the US Open of Surfing—a seven-day celebration of surfing and surf culture attracting some of the biggest names in the sport today—has been held here annually since 1959.
The who’s who of surfing descends upon Huntington Bay each year for a chance to catch the waves and top honors. You can learn more about the history of the sport at The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, which displays a small but meaningful collection of surfing memorabilia that follows the rise of the sport.
Local travel enthusiast Nathan Fluellen is leading the way in promoting the Black surfing community, hosting the largest gathering of Black surfers in history at A Great Day in the Stoke scheduled for June 2022. The event includes a surfing competition and demos, free surf lessons and awards.
Aside from surfing, the natural landscape is an invitation to any visitor to enjoy the outdoors in any way they can. Surf City Marathon, held here in February, is an award-winning, Boston-qualifying course that is considered one of the best courses in the country. Add to that the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve – the largest saltwater marsh along the coast of California and a worthy playground for birders and photographers where plant and animal species unique to the area can be sighted through the year.
Support Local Businesses
“For pet lovers, Huntington Beach is truly dog friendly. Many of the local shops and restaurants are very welcoming of furry travelers, and they often have special offerings just for your pets,” says Omark Holmes, chief marketing officer for Visit Huntington Beach.
“Huntington Central Park and Huntington Dog Beach are a must, or if you’re looking for accommodations, all four of our oceanfront resorts are pet-friendly.” Among the properties, he refers to is the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa, an upscale venue set right on the beach with direct access for guests via a walkway. Located just 10 miles from the iconic pier, the hotel also features the Pacific Waters Spa and the on-site restaurant Watertable, where apart from the locally sourced fare, the communal ambiance and breathtaking views are a big hit.
“What I like as a resident is the access to the outdoors, the parks are amazing, the beach, everything is within reach,” says Key Hill, owner of AOSA Coffee, who lives in Huntington Beach with her husband. Located within the Huntington Harbour Mall, a neighborhood shopping area, AOSA Coffee serves acai bowls, coffee, vegan pastries, and other vegan goods.
Other Black-owned eateries in Huntington Beach include Beale’s Texas BBQ owned by Brett Beale, offering slowly smoked meats with a variety of sides, and Hambone’s Bar & Grill, where chef Keenan Handy’s secret blend of aromatic woods and spices highlights authentic California barbecue.
For dining options along the water, head to Duke’s (named after surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku), which serves up Hawaiian-inspired dishes or Bluegold, located in the Pacific City mall, where chef Tin Vuong presents elegant seafood preparations in an intimate setting.
Events for Everyone
An oceanfront dining, shopping, and entertainment venue right along the beach, Pacific City also houses a modern food hall concept spotlighting several small businesses. A hidden gem here is Bella Sophia Chocolates, owned by self-taught husband and wife duo JD and Steph Shafer, specializing in award-winning luxury handcrafted chocolates.
You are sure to find a few other local treasures along the Pacific Coast Highway, especially during one of the many citywide events hosted. Taste of Huntington Beach in April showcases the best of the area’s culinary talents and the region’s top wineries and breweries.
Oktoberfest at Old World Huntington Beach is held in the fall and features German food, music, beer and more. Surf City Nights, held every Tuesday, is a community street fair and farmer's market filled with local artisans and merchants.
“Visit Huntington Beach’s current #BeHere brand campaign amplifies its reputation as a welcoming beachside destination that embraces all travelers regardless of one’s background, and not because of it. As we look to target new opportunity markets, our message remains transparent and authentic while promoting destination experiences that are available for anyone to enjoy,” says Holmes, on efforts to attract a diverse tourism base to the area.
To that end, Huntington Beach has a Human Relations Task Force to promote and celebrate diversity in the community through education and understanding. The city also installed two Mobi-Mats in 2021 to improve beach access for visitors with disabilities, parents with strollers, and others with limited mobility. This stable, portable, non-slip walkway is made with recyclable materials that safely lead guests across the sand and to the water’s edge during high tide.
As you can tell, though the beaches are a huge draw, there is a lot more that makes this a great destination to add to your plans if traveling to Southern California. From family-friendly and pet-friendly venues to diverse-owned eateries and global cuisine and a plethora of outdoor activities to choose from, putting together your itinerary to experience Huntington Beach is a breeze.