12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Huntington Beach, CA

Written by Brad Lane
Jun 6, 2019

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One of the best beaches in Southern California, and one of the friendliest communities on the Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach is a generous slice of paradise in Orange County. A popular place to visit, Huntington Beach is home to 10 miles of sandy beaches and scores of surfing competitions, including the U.S. Open of Surfing. The primo waves of Huntington Beach and the overall laid-back atmosphere of this coastal city lend credence to its preferred nickname: Surf City U.S.A.

Beyond the beach, you can easily find things to do, regardless of your interests. The Huntington Beach Pier is the centerpiece attraction and local landmark of the city, extending 1,800 feet into the ocean and connecting to Main Street and the downtown district. Main Street and the Huntington Beach Pier are buzzing with activity throughout the day and into the night, providing great spots to catch the sunset, ride some waves, or enjoy the local flavor of the community. Every Tuesday evening, Surf City Nights takes over Main Street with live music and locally made goods.

City Beach
City Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The adjacent Pacific City outdoor mall features more ocean-facing storefronts, and the postcard perfect Huntington Harbour is a great place to visit for chartered fishing adventures and boat rentals. Farther inland, places like Huntington Beach Central Park features beautiful open space to explore, including a Secret Garden, as well as a stunning Central Library and Nature Center. Farther north along the shore, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Preserve invites avid birders and photographers to experience the natural environment.

Find the best places to visit in Surf City, U.S.A. with our list of the top attractions in Huntington Beach, CA.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Huntington Beach Pier

Huntington Beach Pier
Huntington Beach Pier

Extending from downtown Main Street, the Huntington Beach Pier is an iconic landmark of the city and a must-see attraction. The longest pier on the West Coast, The Huntington Beach Pier extends 1,800 feet into the ocean and is lined with fishing poles, photo opportunities, and miles of shoreline on either side. About halfway down the pier, a specialty kite store proudly demonstrates the abilities of their high-flying kites and streamers.

Other businesses on the pier include the Surf City Store, specializing in souvenirs and beach gifts, as well Let's Go Fishing, a fishing rental and tackle shop. On either side of the pier, surfers can be seen catching waves and sometimes riding beneath the pier if the timing is right. Ruby's Diner, at the far end of the pier, is a great place to grab a milkshake and enjoy the view.

Location: Main St. and Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, California

2. Huntington City Beach

Huntington City Beach
Huntington City Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The postcard backdrop of the downtown district, Huntington City Beach extends for over three miles and provides all the necessities for a fun day in the sun and so much more. Alongside ample beach space and highly trained lifeguards, tourists to this city beach also encounter volleyball nets, fire pits, concession stands, and public restrooms with showers. Beach rentals including fishing gear, and kites are available on the Huntington Beach Pier, the centerpiece attraction of the beach.

The Huntington Beach Bike Trail parallels the sand and the Pacific Coast Highway, enabling driverless access to other scenic beaches on the shore. To the south of the city beach, Huntington State Beach offers similar appeal, and to the north, the Huntington Dog Beach is popular with pet owners. Huntington City Beach hosts millions of visitors each year, as well as professional sport competitions including the U.S Open of Surfing.

3. Downtown Huntington Beach

Downtown Huntington Beach
Downtown Huntington Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Shops and restaurants pair nicely with the palm trees on Main Street, as does the sound of the ocean nearby. Surf shops, souvenir stands, and vintage apparel comprise much of the storefronts found in this downtown district of the city, as well as the latest in beach fashion and design. Every Tuesday evening, shopping stands and food trucks take to Main Street for Surf City Nights, a weekly community celebration with live music.

Shopping and dining can also be found on the adjacent Fifth Street, as well as cultural establishments like the International Surfing Museum. Connected to the end of Main Street, the Huntington Beach Pier provides a direct avenue to the ocean. Farther south on the Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific City offers even more retail shops to explore with comfortable seating areas to enjoy the view.

4. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

A popular spot for birders and photographers, and even more popular for birds and wildlife, the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a 13,000-acre coastal estuary north of downtown. A fluctuating landscape of salt marshes, coastal dunes, and wetlands, the reserve encompasses a four-mile network of trails linking scenic viewpoints. The Interpretive Center operated by the Bolsa Chica Conservancy provides additional information about the critical habitat, as well as free docent-led tours on the weekends.

Address: 18000 CA-1, Huntington Beach, California

Official site: https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Bolsa-Chica-ER

5. Huntington Beach Central Park

Huntington Beach Central Park
Huntington Beach Central Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The largest city-owned park in Orange County, Huntington Beach Central Park spans an impressive 350 acres and provides nearly endless opportunity to enjoy the natural space. The beautiful Huntington Beach Central Library is located inside the park, as well as the Shipley Nature Center featuring bird, butterfly, and hummingbird gardens. A player-favorite disc golf course is also within the park, including a mobile pro shop selling Frisbees and snacks.

Simply strolling or biking the trails is a great way to enjoy this massive park, and multiple routes lead to different areas on both sides of the busy Goldenwest Street. A great place to pack a picnic, the bike paths are lined with benches and scenic sitting spots. Exercise stations also line the route for 1.2 miles, providing 18 different fitness stations that encourage some cross training.

Address: 18381 Goldenwest Street, Huntington Beach, California

6. Pacific City

Pacific City
Pacific City | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Overlooking the ocean and the Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific City is a vibrant collection of retail, service, and dining establishments clustered together on beautiful grounds. Whether it's chic clothing brands, fresh flavors, or a resort-like gym that brings you to Pacific City, everyone enjoys the comfortable lounge and seating areas spread throughout. The American food hall, Lot 579, satisfies multiple appetites at Pacific City, and scheduled events like movie and yoga nights are worth noting on the calendar.

Address: 21010 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach, California

Official site: https://www.gopacificcity.com

7. Surf City Nights

Surf City Nights
Surf City Nights | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Every Tuesday after 5pm, Surf City Nights takes over three blocks of Main Street in downtown Huntington Beach. Featuring live music at every intersection, and two long rows of locally made crafts and organic produce, this community festival really picks up as the sun sets on the neighboring Huntington Beach Pier. Food trucks also join in on the fun, purveying street fares like burritos, empanadas, and burgers. The good energy and cheer is nearly electric during this community celebration, and simply watching the people walking by is part of the experience.

Official site: http://www.surfcitynights.com/

8. Pacific Coast Highway

Pacific Coast Highway at night
Pacific Coast Highway at night

Huntington Beach is a prominent stop along the state-spanning Pacific Coast Highway, also referred to as California State Route 1. Separating Main Street and Huntington Beach Pier, this iconic roadway connects major metropolitan areas and curves around 600 miles of the California coastline. Cementing California State Route 1 as a top-rated West Coast road trip, numerous state parks, national forests, and places to spend the night can be found up and down the Pacific Coast Highway.

Directly south of Huntington Beach, other worthy stops on a road trip include the postcard cities of Newport and Laguna Beach. To the north of Huntington Beach, outside of Los Angeles, State Route 1 connects with Long Beach and Santa Monica. Extending as far north as Mendocino County, other prominent stops on California State Route 1 include Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and San Francisco.

9. Huntington Harbour

Huntington Harbour
Huntington Harbour

Near Seal and Sunset Beach on the northwest tip of the city, Huntington Harbour is a collection of man-made islands and places to park a vessel. Two-hour guest slips are available for those who want to park their boat and enjoy the boardwalk, and the on-site Peter's Landing Marina offers a variety of boat rentals. Accessing the ocean is easy from Huntington Harbour by navigating under the Pacific Coast Highway via a bridge. Peter's Landing Marina also offers chartered fishing expeditions.

10. Huntington Beach Central Library

Huntington Beach Central Library
Huntington Beach Central Library | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Huntington Beach Central Library is a stunning piece of public utility, worth the visit whether you want to check out a book or not. Within the 350-acre Huntington Beach Central Park, the Central Library entails an interior design featuring indoor fountains, labyrinthine rows of books, and a surplus of study space lined with outlets. Out the back door of the library, a Secret Garden within Central Park engulfs visitors with a vibrant Southern California xeriscape garden.

Address: 7111 Talbert Avenue, Huntington Beach, California

11. Huntington Beach Art Center

Huntington Beach Art Center
Huntington Beach Art Center | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On Main Street, a short walk from the downtown district, the Huntington Beach Art Center displays a wide variety of rotating artwork. Encompassing multiple mediums, past exhibits have included "The Art and Soul of Surfing" and "The Wonderful World of Comics." Alongside ample art on display, the Art Center also hosts monthly meetups and family art days.

Education programs are also available at the Art Center, with specific classes designed for adults and teens, youth, and preschoolers, and a Summer Art Camp for ages 6-12.

Address: 538 Main Street, Huntington Beach, California

Official site: https://www.huntingtonbeachartcenter.org/

12. Newland House Museum

Newland House Museum
Newland House Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Constructed in 1898 for the Newland Family and their 10 children, the Newland House is now the oldest and best-kept residence in Huntington Beach. The museum offers an authentic glimpse into a time when there was a lot less traffic in California. Tours and upkeep of the Newland House Museum are provided by the Huntington Beach Historical Society. Tours are offered every first and third weekend of the month.

The adjacent Newland Barn features modern renovations and rentable space for special occasions.

Address: 19820 Beach Boulevard, Huntington Beach, California

Official site: https://www.hbhistory.org/newland-house-museum

Where to Stay in Huntington Beach, CA for Sightseeing

Luxury Hotels:

  • The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa is luxurious based on its location alone. On the other side of the 101 from the beach, this decadent resort is within just a few steps of the surf, sand, and everything Surf City USA has to offer. This luxury resort is also known for plush furnishing and special guest offerings. Just a few pampering amenities include spa services and a beautiful pool and cabana area.
  • Offering oceanfront rooms adjacent to the Pacific City shopping center, the Pasea Hotel & Spa offers one of the most luxurious stays in the city. Every inch of the property, including the lobby, oozes with comfort and relaxed Californian style. The guest rooms, including studios, suites, and penthouses, all share this elegant and laid-back style. Resort amenities at Pasea Hotel include spa services, outdoor dining, and live entertainment on the weekends.
  • For another seaside property, The Waterfront Beach Resort, A Hilton Hotel offers a memorable stay. It's a popular choice for luxury family travel, with several resort amenities catering to bonding opportunities. Whether it's bonfires on the beach, days spent going down a waterslide, or beautiful sunsets on a rooftop lounge, this ocean escape offers unforgettable memories. Select rooms at the resort have full and partial ocean views.

Mid-Range Hotels:

  • For an authentic Surf City experience, book a night at the Huntington Surf Inn. This popular beach hotel has a laid-back vibe and nine distinctively decorated rooms with ocean artwork on the walls. Alongside these eye-catching spaces, the hotel also provides free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, and a flatscreen TV. Beach accessories like towels and frisbees are also available at the front desk.
  • The stylish Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort is the closest hotel to the Huntington Beach Pier. Alongside its excellent location, the hotel also has an undeniably attractive Southern California vibe. And with an easy-breezy coastal decor, this pet-friendly boutique hotel also has activities galore. Perusing local art, roasting s'mores, and listening to records are just a few things to do in the common spaces of the hotel.
  • North along the coast from the downtown district, the Best Western Harbour Inn & Suites is in Huntington Harbor and provides an excellent beach vacation at a reasonable price. Coastal decor adorns all 25 rooms at the hotel, which are equipped with satellite television and complimentary high-speed internet. Room sizes range from standard guest rooms to spacious suites with additional sitting areas.

Budget Hotels:

  • The Sun 'n' Sands Motel is great value for a beachside place to stay. This cozy motel features clean and comfortable rooms, all with a light nautical theme. All rooms come with air conditioning, a mini-fridge, and cable TV. And some rooms provide ocean views. Free coffee and pastries are available in the lobby each morning, and other guest amenities include free parking and complimentary Wi-Fi.
  • The Extended Stay America - Orange County - Huntington Beach is a suite-exclusive hotel meant for longer stays or anyone that likes a little more room. Each suite at the Extended Stay comes with a full kitchen, including a stove, coffee maker, and kitchen utensils. Each room is also equipped with comfortable bedding, a desk space, and a flatscreen TV. Pet-friendly rooms are also available.

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