Known for its wicked waves and global surfing competitions, Huntington Beach is heaven for surfers. Indeed, surfing plays such a significant role in Huntington Beach’s identity that the city literally bought the trademark “Surf City, USA.” You don’t have to be a surfing enthusiast, however, to have a phenomenal time exploring this popular beach.
From nature preserves to beautiful boutiques, there’s plenty to keep you busy on a trip to Surf City. In this piece, we’ll let you in on the 13 best things to do in Huntington Beach organized into the following categories: beaches, nature reserves & zoos, unique attractions, museums, and shopping & dining. Here are a few highlights we’ll explore in greater depth:
- Huntington State Beach
- Huntington Beach Pier
- Sunset Beach
- The Reptile Zoo
- The Surfing Walk of Fame
- The World’s Largest Surfboard
- Old World Village
- Pacific City
So, what are you waiting for? Grab a board and crank up those Beach Boys hits, because going on a cruise through America’s surfing capital.
Why You Should Visit Huntington Beach
Although Santa Cruz residents might argue with you, few coastal cities better exemplify the laid-back surfing vibe than Huntington Beach. Whether you’re an expert surfer, a total beginner, or nostalgic about Jan & Dean, Huntington Beach is the place to experience the iconic Californian sun, surf, and sand.
Of course, Huntington Beach’s mild weather certainly helps bring in the crowds. No matter what month you visit, the chances you’ll enjoy sunny days with temps between 60-70°F are pretty high. Just bear in mind winter is California’s rainy season.
Another nice feature about Huntington Beach is its proximity to Anaheim and Los Angeles. Only a 45-minute drive from Disneyland, Huntington Beach is a great way to escape Mickey mania for a day or two.
13 Things To Do In Huntington Beach
You can’t walk far in Huntington Beach without coming across its rich surfer heritage. Although surfing-related attractions take center stage, Surfer City also has a high reputation for its nightlife, volleyball, and shopping centers. Let’s take a peek at 13 awesome things to do in Huntington Beach.
Huntington Beach Beaches
1. Huntington State Beach
Measuring over 120 acres, Huntington Beach boasts some of the largest stretches of sand in the Golden State. Probably the best way to take in the majesty of this coast is to bike, rollerblade, or jog along the 10-mile paved Ocean Strand. A ride along this coastal path will reward you with picture-perfect panoramic views of Surf City.
No trip to Huntington Beach is complete, of course, without trying the city’s iconic sport. As you’d expect, there are many qualified surf instructors in the city more than willing to teach you the basics of the board. For those who’d rather watch daredevils from a distance, consider visiting during the Vans US Open of Surfing Competition in the summertime.
Other popular activities along Huntington Beach include volleyball, fishing, swimming, and sunbathing. For a sweet end to your day, use one of the hundreds of free bonfire pits to roast some tasty s’mores.
2. Huntington Beach Pier
Constructed in the early 20th century, the Huntington Beach Pier has witnessed many of the city’s defining events. Most memorably, surfing icon Duke Kahanamoku first challenged Huntington Beach’s waves from this very spot in the 1920s.
Although battered by multiple hurricanes, the reconstructed 1,850-foot pier is standing strong. Guests visit this concrete pier every day to take advantage of its unrivaled views and superb fishing opportunities.
You can walk across Huntington Beach Pier free of charge any day between 5AM – 12AM. Just be sure not to bring pets, skateboards, bikes, or cigarettes on your visit.
3. Huntington Dog Beach
Anyone traveling with a furry friend to Huntington Beach should rest assured: there is a dog-friendly beach where your pooch can play. The Huntington Dog Beach is a privately-funded area with plenty of grassy areas, picnic benches, and complimentary doggie bags.
While it’s free to visit this beach, you will have to pay a parking fee of $1.75 per hour. The Huntington Dog Beach is open between 5AM – 10PM seven days a week and is located at 100 Goldenwest Street.
4. Sunset Beach
Located at the northern extreme of Huntington Beach, Sunset Beach is ideal for history lovers. Measuring about 1.5-miles, this area is beloved for its well-preserved buildings, charming shops, and wide coast perfect for flying kites and (obviously) watching the sunset.
By the way, don’t worry too much about parking here. A nice feature about Sunset Beach is that it offers complimentary parking in the designated lots.
Huntington Beach Nature Reserves and Zoos
5. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
The best place to admire the local flora & fauna is at the 1,300-acre Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. A 10-minute drive north of the pier, this reserve offers guests 4 miles of hiking trails for either self-guided or expert-led tours.
Birdwatchers will especially love a tour of this reserve as there are over 200 bird species here. Other animals you might see around these marshlands include rabbits, rattlesnakes, and coyotes.
You can find out more info on tours by visiting the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve’s website.
6. The Reptile Zoo
For those who aren’t afraid of slimy snakes, consider a visit to The Reptile Zoo in nearby Fountain Valley.
As you might’ve guessed, hundreds of reptiles, spiders, and amphibians are housed in this delightfully different zoo. After watching an educational film in the Reptile Theater, it’s time to pet a few pythons, tortoises, and geckos. You could also feed the fish swimming in the zoo’s pond.
Tickets to the Reptile Zoo cost $10 per adult or $8 per child. Standard hours are 10AM – 7PM Mondays through Saturdays and 10AM – 6PM on Sundays.
Unique Attractions in Huntington Beach
7. Surfing Walk of Fame
Everyone knows about the Hollywood Walk of Fame, but non-surfers have probably never heard of Huntington Beach’s Surfing Walk of Fame. Hey, considering LA isn’t all that far from Huntington, is it any surprise Surf City decided to celebrate its heritage in a similar fashion?
The best place to start your walk along the Surfing Walk of Fame is by the massive Jack’s Surfboards shop at 101 Main Street. Once you reach this touristy area of Downtown, look down at the dozens of plaques to learn more about surfing royalty.
8. World’s Largest Surfboard
Honestly, where else on earth would you expect to find the World’s Largest Surfboard?
Measuring 42 feet in length and 11 feet in width, this heavy surfboard is the proud recipient of two prestigious Guinness World Titles. Not only is this the World’s Largest Surfboard, but it also successfully carried the most people (66, to be exact) on a wave.
You’ll find this selfie-worthy stop outside the International Surfing Museum on Olive Street.
Huntington Beach Museums
9. International Surfing Museum
Those interested in better appreciating Huntington Beach’s surfing lore must visit the informative International Surfing Museum. According to its founders, the International Surfing Museum’s mission is to preserve precious relics from people who’ve contributed to the global spread of this Polynesian sport.
In addition to surfboards from the pros, this museum houses music and film memorabilia that helps tell the story behind surfing. Entrance into the museum is only $2 per person.
10. Huntington Beach Art Center
Founded in the mid-90s, the Huntington Beach Art Center (HBAC) is a wonderful destination for those interested in seeing creative interpretations of Surf City. In addition to sponsoring painters, HBAC holds many fascinating events and exhibitions showcasing locally produced films, photography, and eye-popping installations. The HBAC is also the proud home of the Surf City Arts Fest every October.
HBAC is located at 538 Main Street very close to Triangle Park. Hours vary by day, but the center is always closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Shopping and Dining in Huntington Beach
11. Downtown Huntington Beach
The center of Huntington Beach’s shopping & dining district is sandwiched between Main and 5th streets. Within this Downtown area, you’ll find plenty of eateries, shops, and (of course) surf shops to suit your taste and budget.
The best place to begin your shopping spree is on Main Street between Jack’s Surfboard’s and the equally massive Huntington Surf & Sport. Along the way, other hot retailers you’ll find include Vans, Havaianas, and Quicksilver.
In terms of eating, you’ll find restaurants ranging from refined dining to casual beach grub. A few historic names on Huntington Beach’s food scene include Bruxie Original Fried Chicken and the Longboard Restaurant & Pub.
12. Old World Village
Feel like taking a trip to Germany while in the Golden State? If so, we’ve got the place for you! Huntington Beach’s outdoor Old World Village is modeled on a medieval German town complete with cobblestone streets, authentic architecture, and cozy European markets.
The centerpiece of this area is the German Restaurant that hosts a wild Oktoberfest every year. Although Old World Village really comes alive during Oktoberfest, there’s usually something exciting going on here, so be sure to check the area’s website before visiting.
13. Pacific City
If you don’t care for the shops Downtown, then travel along Pacific View Avenue to the hip Pacific City area. Located along the coast, this fashionable outdoor mall has many unique boutiques, restaurants, and even a mini-golf course.
Although there are big-name brands here like H&M and Sephora, most of the businesses at Pacific City aren’t mainstream. This makes Pacific City perfect for anyone in the mood for a more adventurous shopping experience.
Best Things To Do In Huntington Beach, CA At Night
It’s no secret that Huntington Beach locals like a good party. Here are a few awesome “after dark” ideas all you night owls should check out.
Join HB’s Hot Nightlife Scene
Whether you want to chill in an upscale lounge, hear live music, or dance the night away, you’ll find the perfect place for a nighttime excursion in Huntington Beach.
It’s impossible to list all of Huntington Beach’s clubs in one piece, but here are a few names to keep in mind:
- The Old Crow Smokehouse: Well known for its live country music and karaoke nights.
- Perqs: Long-standing bar with karaoke and live rock.
- Black Bull Chop House: Mid-range steakhouse perfect for romantic couples.
- 4 Sons Brewing: Craft beer company offering evening tasting tours.
Visit The City’s Farmers Market
Most cities are lucky to have one Farmers Market, but Huntington Beach hosts two every week. First off, there’s the Surf City Nights Farmers Market, which takes place on Main Street every Tuesday from 5 PM – 9 PM. As you’re looking over the fresh foodstuffs, keep your eyes peeled for free samples, live entertainment, and amazing artistic demonstrations.
Can’t make it to the Tuesday market? No problem! Head over to the Huntington Beach Pier on Friday evening for another fabulous farmers market. In addition to food vendors, this Friday event hosts dozens of local artisans who sell their hand-made artistic goods.
Free Things To Do In Huntington Beach, CA
Yes, it’s free to visit Huntington Beach, but that doesn’t mean your wallet won’t take a hit. Interested in having a memorable trip to Surf City without breaking the bank? Here are two great options to consider.
Light Up A Beach Bonfire
An iconic way to spend your night in Huntington Beach is to roast a bag of marshmallows on a bonfire. As mentioned above, there are hundreds of free fire rings available throughout Huntington Beach, so take advantage of this free service on your visit.
Check Out Corgi Beach Day
Dog lovers, listen up: Huntington Beach is the home to the ultra-cute Corgi Beach Day. Organized by local corgi enthusiasts, this free festival includes corgi costume contests, corgi limbo, and (of course) corgi surfing.
There are actually three Corgi Beach Days per year: one in spring, one in summer, and one in autumn. To find out the precise dates of this year’s festivals, visit the SoCal Corgi Beach Day website.