Huntington Beach, California, may be known best as the surfing mecca of the west coast, but there is so much more to this charming coastal town. I recently spent the weekend in “Surf City USA” to enjoy all it offers. From fishing to biking to eating and shopping, these are some of the best things to do in Huntington Beach, California.
Eat: One of The Best Things To Do in Huntington Beach
My stomach often leads me to new places, and Huntington Beach did not disappoint my gastronomic needs. While the seafood was plentiful, there were also other great dining options to be had if seafood is not your thing.
Duke's Huntington Beach
Right next to the Huntington Beach Pier is Duke's Restaurant and Barefoot Bar. The interior is paneled in a warm, welcoming surfboard-esque wood, but your eyes will immediately be drawn to the giant windows that give guests a great view of the Pacific Ocean. The restaurant is named for the famous Duke Kahanamoku, often referred to as the father of international surfing.
Once you've moved past the surfing memorabilia, your first business order is to try their Mai Tai. Their catch-of-the-day is also a must-order, but make sure you save room for their famous Hula Pie. Made with macadamia nut ice cream, a chocolate cookie crust, chocolate fudge, and whipped cream, the Hula Pie is known in Hawaii as “What the sailors swam ashore for in Old Lahaina Town.”
Bluegold at Pacific City
Bluegold is a unique restaurant that I might not have stumbled upon if it weren't for the recommendation by the team Huntington Beach's Convention and Visitor's Bureau. Pacific City appeared to be a somewhat new shopping and dining location featuring popular stores and restaurants, unique eateries, and smaller boutiques.
By the time I sat down in Bluegold, I was ready to try something besides seafood. I highly recommend their braised short ribs and polenta, but any of their “Plates de Dujour” would be a fantastic choice.
Henry's Coastal Cuisine
The website for Henry's Costal Cuisine describes their meal offerings as “creative coastal cuisine inspired from French traditions, with a touch of Californian surf country.” I would agree with that assessment. Located in The Waterfront Beach Resort, this restaurant is open to all, not just resort guests.
Executive Chef Lewis Butler offers the best land and sea-inspired dishes, such as grilled octopus, pan-roasted Chilean sea bass, and sous vide Jidori chicken breast. Their extensive wine list isn't too shabby, either.
Sessions West Coast Deli
While not exclusive to Huntington Beach, Sessions West Coast Deli's location in Surf City is a prime spot for people-watching. Its intimate atmosphere and small seating area may strike visitors as more of a takeout spot, but if you can snag a bar seat at the window, it's worth it for the view (of the beach and the people).
Grab a prime spot first thing in the morning, order a breakfast sandwich or burrito with a cold brew latte, and you'll be in business.
Activities in Huntington Beach, California
Obviously, you'll want to surf in Surf City, USA, but what else can you do? As someone without an inkling of how to surf, I was excited to learn just how many more things there were to do in Huntington Beach.
Surfing The Waves
Plenty of surfers were looking for waves even without an actual surfing competition. Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned surfer, there are a plethora of shops to rent or buy gear from. Several shops that sell surfing gear also offer lessons.
Taking in a Game
If you're like me and only follow beach volleyball during the Olympics, you're missing out. The AVP Huntington Beach Open was worth visiting the area to see the competition in person. Not only is it free to enter, but you can watch from the stands, pier, or beer garden (guests must be 21 or older to enter the beer garden). Even if you don't know who is playing, the matches are still exciting to watch.
Ride an E-Bike Around Town
E-bikes, or electric bikes, are similar to regular bicycles with the addition of an electric motor that helps each pedal give the rider more power. EV Rideables, a local bike shop in Huntington Beach, showed me how to use the motor in addition to my own pedaling before I took off on my own adventure. After about 15 minutes, I gained confidence in navigating the roads and spent almost an hour riding up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.
Have a Spa Day
After all your rigorous physical activity, a spa day may be just what you need. Huntington Beach has over 65 spas and wellness centers to choose from. Thanks to the team at Visit Huntington Beach, I enjoyed a few hours at Drift, a Waterfront Spa at The Waterfront Beach Resort. No matter which spa you choose, make sure to arrive early and take advantage of all its amenities, including steam or sauna rooms, a jacuzzi, or an outdoor spa garden space.
As previously mentioned, the shopping and dining area known as Pacific City is worth a stop all it's own. However, it would be remiss not to mention all of the local shopping on Main Street. Souvenirs such as shirts, hats, and towels can be found in shops like Jack's, Huntington Surf & Sport, and Beach Island in addition to their surfboards and other gear.
Lastly, don't miss the Surf City Artisan Fair that is held most weekends in the summer near the pier. Support local businesses with every purchase during the fair's hours from 9 am to 6 pm.
Other Activities To Consider
While my personal visit only lasted one weekend, visitors could spend several days in town and still not see everything Huntington Beach has to offer. On my next trip, I plan to stop in to the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum or take a historical walking tour around town. I'd also love to try a whale and dolphin watching cruise. Though its most well-known for its stellar waves, Huntington Beach, California has so much to offer.
Sarah Gilliland is a travel journalist and managing travel editor for Wealth of Geeks with over ten years of experience writing, editing, and producing content related to family travel. She freelances for other online outlets in addition to her role as the managing travel editor at Wealth of Geeks. Sarah's beats include theme parks, family travel, cruises, and road trips. When she isn't traveling or writing freelance columns, Sarah can be found on her website, On the Road with Sarah, or binging the latest geeky thing on Netflix or Disney+.