19 Best Things to Do in Huntington Beach (in 2023)
You won’t have to dig deep to find the best things to do in Huntington Beach. Most of them are within walking distance of the surface… specifically the surface of the Pacific Ocean!
Known as Surf City, USA, this Orange County, California beach burg has unquestionably nailed the branding. Living a mere 45-min away has given me ample opportunities to discover the best of Huntington Beach, CA and I’m stoked to share.
Whether you want to hang ten or just hang out, the 19 awesome Huntington Beach attractions we’ll go over in this guide are going to make your visit epic. Wondering where to stay on your beach vacation? Check out my guide on the best places to stay in Orange County.
Table of Contents
- 19 Best Things to Do in Huntington Beach
- Huntington State Beach
- Huntington Beach Pier
- Huntington Central Park
- Sunset Beach
- Surf Lessons
- Downtown Huntington Beach
- Sugar Shack Café
- Huntington Harbor
- Surf City Nights
- Huntington Beach Art Center
- Old World Village
- Shipley Nature Center
- International Surfing Museum
- Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
- Surfing Walk of Fame
- Huntington Dog Beach
- Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra
- Duke’s Huntington Beach
- Bolsa Chica State Beach
- FAQs About What to Do in Huntington Beach, California
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. See our Advertising Policy for further explanation. Thank you!
19 Best Things to Do in Huntington Beach
Huntington State Beach
Frolic in the sand & sea on one of California’s best beaches
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 536-1454 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 10 pm daily | Entrance: Free
Consistently ranked among the top beaches in Southern California, this is the classic West Coast beach scene. Sunshine, warm sand, great surf, and surfers to match. You’ll need to get here early to stake out a spot, but once you’ve got one simply unfurl your beach blanket and enjoy.
Dozens of restaurants & shops are within walking distance. In the summertime, you can grab fresh fruit, cold water, and other goodies from wandering snack vendors. In addition to being well-stocked on surfboards, local rental shops can set you up for outdoor activities, from beach volleyball to biking trails.
You may come across material referring to this area as Huntington Beach State Park, but don’t be misled. There is no such place in Huntington Beach, California (that’s in South Carolina!).
🏖️ Pro Tip: If you park at a meter, set an alarm. Once you’re here, it’s hard to leave.
Huntington Beach Pier
Enjoy a leisurely stroll and extraordinary views on one of the longest piers on the West Coast
📍 Google Maps | Website | Hours: 5 am – midnight, daily | Entrance: Free
It’s no wonder this striking structure is the most photographed spot in Huntington Beach! Be it barnacle-clad pylons, expansive Pacific Ocean views, or a stunning sunset silhouette, every angle of the Huntington Beach Pier is a good one.
A new ‘sea-to-table’ restaurant has opened in place of the Ruby’s Surf City Diner that occupied the end of the pier for decades, which closed in 2021. Those longing for a taste of Ruby’s classic charm can still get their fill on the nearby Balboa Pier.
Piers are a prominent feature of California beach towns, but curiously you won’t find one in ever-desirable Laguna Beach. You will, however, find a whole bunch of other wonderful things to do in Laguna.
🚶 How to Get There: The Huntington Beach Pier is situated at the heart of the main beach area. It’s an easy walk from downtown Huntington Beach. Just head straight down Main Street towards the ocean, cross Pacific Coast Highway via the very well-marked crosswalks, and you’re there!
Huntington Central Park
Romp and play in a spacious recreation area with plentiful activities, public concert venues, and an urban forest
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 536-5486 | Website | Hours: 5 am – 10 pm daily | Entrance: Free
With so many drawn to the dazzle of beachside attractions, even the largest city-owned park in Orange County qualifies as a largely undiscovered gem. You’ll have all the space you need to escape your worries along miles of paths and trails winding around the ponds and meadows of Huntington Central Park East.
Fun activities & amenities here include, but are not limited to: a disc golf course, four playgrounds, Shipley Nature Center, fishing, horseshoes, viewpoints, lakes, equestrian trails, dog park, picnic tables, exercise course, newly renovated restrooms, three restaurants, and the Huntington Beach Central Library.
🎼 Love Music? Huntington Central Park features an amphitheater and bandstand, which hosts a summer concert series. The Central Library Theater hosts performances by the Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra.
Give yourself (and your wallet) a break in this peaceful neighborhood bordered by wildlife refuges and Huntington Harbor
Those searching for serenity will love this northernmost beachfront area in Huntington Beach, California. It’s an ace base for outdoor pursuits and home to some of Huntington Beach’s best bargains on food & lodging.
You’ll find plenty of chilled-out bars, burger joints, and pizzerias along PCH. Splurge-worthy seafood at Captain Jack’s is served alongside sailboats gliding to and fro in Huntington Harbour. The view pairs equally pleasantly with a cocktail from the bar, which features live music Thurs- Sat.
Although… if it’s epic entertainment you’re after, the top attractions of Los Angeles are under an hour away.
🐦 Love Nature? Nestled between the ocean and harbor, this small strip of land meets Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in the south and Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge immediately to the north.
Get expert local guidance on the signature activity of Huntington Beach, CA
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (310) 910-9099 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm daily | Entrance: $129 & up | 👉 Private Group Surf Lessons in Huntington Beach
Unsurprisingly, a fair few attractions in Surf City, USA are based around surfing. Which makes this a pretty obvious choice among the best things to do in Huntington Beach!
Whether you prefer gentle beginner waves or an advanced clinic at Surfside, experienced instructors will coach you on how to most safely maneuver on your board and in the water. Two of the most popular schools in Huntington Beach are Banzai Surf School and McKinnon Surf & Sup.
Those interested in exploring other nearby surf zones will find a lot around the best beaches in Malibu.
🏄🏾♂️ Pro Tip: Beginners looking to practice after their lesson will find the water near Bolsa Chica State Beach relatively gentle and uncrowded.
Downtown Huntington Beach
Stroll between sidewalk sales, surf shops, and entertainment outlets (day drinking optional, but not discouraged)
Beloved by locals and tourists alike, the palm-lined boulevards of downtown Huntington Beach, California pair party with picturesque. Though the biggest crowds flock to this zone in the summer months, you can find all-day margarita specials and bangin’ breakfast burritos around here anytime.
Most of downtown Huntington Beach, CA lies west of Orange Ave between 6th Street and 2nd Street. The most popular strip is Main Street directly opposite the Huntington Beach Pier, where outdoor sale racks and souvenir stands hawk deals aplenty. Full-fare goods skew more towards the quality and price range of Santa Monica attractions than the $5 bargain racks found in Hollywood or Venice Beach.
Downtown continues along Pacific Coast Highway, extending a few blocks on either side of Main Street. To the south, you’ll find the area’s bougiest options, such as upscale mall Pacific City and the luxe Paséa Hotel & Spa. Though nothing around here is super cheap, your options become more affordable heading north, towards Sunset & Seal Beach.
🏖️ Pro Tip: Post-beach is the perfect time to hit a local cantina, so park for the end of your day, not the start. Parking structures off of Walnut or Olive Ave are less than a 10 min walk to the beach and you can pay an all-day rate instead of minding the meter. Plus your car won’t bake in the sun all day. ☀️🚗
Sugar Shack Café
Satisfy your hunger at this low-key amazing local favorite for all-day breakfast
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 536-0355 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 2 pm daily
One of my closest friends in college was a surfer. When one of us needed a serious mental health boost, we’d split the cost of gas and drive four hours to Huntington Beach. We’d arrive at sunrise to watch surfers do dawn patrol. From there it was just a five-minute walk up Main Street to Sugar Shack, where Lola would order an egg salad sandwich, every time.
The egg salad is top-notch and their breakfast is even better. And no matter what you order, you’ll get one of the best bargains around from some of the quickest servers in the biz.
👉 Pro Tip: You can pretty easily nab a table on weekdays, but weekends can get very busy. The goldilocks zone is roughly 6:15 am – 8:45 am.
Launch all manner of ocean adventures from this pleasant marina in Huntington Beach, CA
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 433-6400 | Website
Placid and easy to navigate, Huntington Harbour is better suited to entry-level enjoyment than busy Newport. Compound fitness with fun on kayaks or paddleboards. Groups can designate a driver and cruise around with a full cooler on a Duffy boat.
Rental agencies will be happy to set you up, just make sure you stick to the harbor. Nearby Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a no-boat zone. Rules about that are all the more strict in Seal Beach National Wildlife Refuge, which borders a military base.
For outings further from shore, charter a private boat for sailing or fishing excursions.
Surf City Nights
Get turned up on a Tuesday at this lively weekly street fair & farmers’ market
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 536-8300 | Website | Hours: Tuesdays, 5 pm – 9 pm (spring/summer), 5 pm – 8 pm (fall/winter)
Rarely if ever will one stumble across a more fun weekly shop than Surf City Nights. Whether you’re in the market for fresh produce or handmade jewelry, the stalls here will have it. Add live music and margarita specials and you’ve got a school night to remember.
This event takes place right on the main drag in Huntington Beach, California. You’ll find it right at the center of town, on the three blocks of Main Street between Olive Ave and Pacific Coast Highway.
🛍️ Pro Tip: If you had your eye on something in one of the posh boutiques of Pacific City, pick it up before heading to the street fair. There are some great places to shop in California, but these shops in particular often close up early for Surf City Nights.
Huntington Beach Art Center
Pause for creative contemplation in a vibrant yet tranquil Main Street art center showcasing local and national artists
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 374-1650 | Website | Hours: 12 – 6 pm Tues/Weds, 12 – 8 pm Thursday, 12 – 5 pm Fri/Sat, Closed Sundays & Mondays | Entrance: Free
A five-minute walk from the busiest section of downtown, visits to Huntington Beach Art Center are a two-fer. 1) A lovely cultural enrichment moment. 2) A clean, quiet, thoroughly air-conditioned respite from the summertime heat & crowds. All free of charge, no less!
That said, many of the works on display at the art center are available for purchase. So now you’re also getting a one-of-a-kind souvenir or gift and becoming a supporter of the arts, thereby upgrading your two-fer to a four-fer. Prices range from accessible (around $100) to investment ($10,000+.)
🎨 Love Art? Add an LA day trip to your Huntington Beach travel plans with the help of our guide to the best museums in Los Angeles. The Getty and LACMA are just two of the world-class art institutions you can reach in under two hours by car.
Old World Village
Browse a whimsical collection of shops, pubs, and eateries styled to resemble a European village
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 895-8020 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 6 pm Mon – Weds, 9 am – 8 pm Thurs – Sun
While any time is the right time for fresh-made crêpes and craft coffee, Oktoberfest is when the cobblestone streets of Old World Village shine brightest. Billed as Orange County’s Biggest Party, the annual beer & brat festival takes place from mid-September through the first week of November.
One of only four spots on this list located more than a mile from the shore, the abundant charms of Old World Village make the trip 5 miles inland worthwhile. To taste the less touristy side of HB year-round, pick up picnic provisions at German Deli and head to Huntington Central Park.
🚗 How to Get There: (To Old World Village) From the south end of Huntington Beach, California, take Pacific Coast Highway to Beach Boulevard and head in the opposite direction of the ocean. Turn left on Edinger Ave, right on Gothard St, and right on Center Ave. Old World Village will be on the right.
Shipley Nature Center
Glimpse the natural wonders of early California in habitats designed to be a microcosm of California in its natural state
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 842-4772 | Website | Hours: 9 am – 1 pm Fridays & Saturdays | Entrance: $3
Every time I drive over Cajon Pass in the San Bernardino Mountains I can’t help but wonder what the land here looked like once upon a time, before the advent of tract homes, shopping plazas, and freeways. Apparently, former Huntington Beach Mayor Donald Shipley had a similar yearning. Thus Shipley Nature Center was born.
Created with assistance from members of the Acjachemen Nation, the center aims to preserve a reflection of what this land looked like in the mid-19th century. You can meander 4,000 feet of well-maintained trails in this wildest section of Huntington Central Park, all leading through the Eight Habitats of Shipley Nature Center.
These are oak & southern oak woodlands, meadows, redwood grove, coastal sage scrub, riparian woodland, Torrey Pines, and natural freshwater wetland Blackbird Pond.
⚠️ Safety Tip: Keep an eye out for noxious local flora Stinging Nettle in the riparian woodland habitat. Not likely to send you to the hospital, but it causes a nasty rash.
International Surfing Museum
Drop in to check out the world’s largest surfboard
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 960-3483 | Website | Hours: 11 am – 5 pm Thurs – Sun | Entrance: Free, small donations encouraged
Exhibits in the International Surfing Museum weave the tales of local history, illustrating legends with surfing memorabilia that holds historical and cultural significance to the surf community. It’s an interesting visit for anyone curious about Surf City lore, and a hot tip for surfers looking for the inside line.
It’s hard to imagine a better home for an international surfing museum than Surf City, but HB isn’t the only Southern California spot to earn a place in their mentions. Head just about an hour north to check out Surfrider in Malibu, one of LA’s best beaches.
Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Wander footbridges and trails through marshes, coastal dunes, and fields of wildflowers teeming with animal life
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 846-1114 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 8 pm daily | Entrance: Free
Directly across Pacific Coast Highway from the main entrance to Bolsa Chica State Beach, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve is a wonderland for bird-watching and photography.
A coastal estuary, this refuge for local wildlife is home to more than 200 avian species. Pelicans, egrets, and sandpipers are commonly spotted species. Others are remarkably scarce, such as the last bird on this list, the endangered Least Tern. (There are better puns for that… sound off in the comments 😂)
Look for stingrays and turtles in the waters below the bridge. A variety of reptiles and a few furry land critters can also be seen here. Those most interested in sea mammals will find elephant seals on day trips from Los Angeles, and sea lions are among the top attractions in San Francisco.
🦆 Pro Tip: Check out the Bolsa Chica Conservancy’s Interpretive Center to learn more about the wildlife you’ve spotted out on the hiking trails. (Located at the corner of PCH and Warner Ave.)
Surfing Walk of Fame
Amble among tributes to famous surfers and pay your respects to the most rad in the game
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 369-0825 | Website | Hours: 24/7 | Entrance: Free
You’ll find these tiles along Main St and PCH, commemorating surf champions in bronze-inlaid stone. Each bears the surfer’s name, an etching, and associated accolades. Sort of a Huntington Beach, CA version of one of Hollywood’s top attractions.
Huntington Dog Beach
Pamper your puppers with some seaside playtime
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 841-8644 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 10 pm daily | Entrance: Free
While they would undoubtedly love it, dogs are strictly prohibited from the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve – for a lot of very good reasons. However, Huntington Beach, CA has more than made up for it by providing this gorgeous beach just for our four-footed friends.
Pups can romp and play sans leash. They can even chase any gulls with the nerve to brave this part of the shore, though their humans should call them back from the waves. The gulls will win that one.
Huntington Dog Beach is on the west side of Pacific Coast Highway between Bolsa Chica Beach and lifeguard tower 14. It’s bordered by the Huntington Beach Bike Trail, which breaks at the beach before continuing southward to join the Santa Ana River Trail.
🐕 Love dogs but aren’t traveling with one? Get your furball fix at the wiener dog races in Old World Village. It’s more a playful and spirited event than an earnest competition, of course, but those lil’ sausage dogs sure do love to run!
Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra
Enjoy a performance by a beloved Huntington Beach musical institution
📍 Multiple Locations | Phone: (714) 274-5524 | Website
Led by internationally accomplished maestro Grant Sevdayan, the annual concert series performed by Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra is a highlight of the local cultural calendar.
Classical music lovers are sure to find this one of their favorite Huntington Beach things to do. As the Huntington Beach Symphony Orchestra performs at various venues, the easiest way to find upcoming performances is on their website.
Duke’s Huntington Beach
Dine on Hawaiian-style cuisine at the foot of the Huntington Beach Pier
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 374-6446 | Website | Hours: 11:30 am – 9 pm Mon – Thurs, 11:30 am – 9 pm Fridays, 10 am – 10 pm Saturdays, 10 am – 9 pm Sundays
Named for surf and sea legend Duke Kahanamoku, Duke’s mango bbq ribs and hula pie are longstanding faves of Huntington Beach, CA food lovers. Located directly across from Pacific City and right next to the pier, the dining room & deck feature ocean-view seating.
Though not as exclusive as some of LA’s best restaurants, this restaurant is very in-demand. You may be able to get in at the bar, but dinner reservations are recommended.
Bolsa Chica State Beach
Lounge on a large, easy-to-love beach with ample amenities that include 200 oceanside fire pits
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (714) 377-5691 | Website | Hours: 6 am – 10 pm daily | Entrance: $15 p/vehicle Mon-Fri, $20 Sat & Sun ($30/$40 for oversized vehicles)
While the most famous stretches of sand lie near the pier, you’ll find over eight miles of gorgeous beach in Huntington Beach, CA. Stretching northward toward Seal Beach, Bolsa Chica State Beach is well-suited for group beach days.
A popular Orange County beach for birthday picnics and family get-togethers, Bolsa Chica is served by a large parking area and several public restrooms. The water near shore stays mostly shallow, with good waves for surfing or bodyboarding.
Though it’s not free of summer crowds, you’ll get more space here than in areas closer to downtown. When it is busy, it tends to stay that way into the evening. Fire pits on Bolsa Chica State Beach are first come, first served. Get there well before sunset to claim one.
👉 Pro Tip: Plan to pay for parking. You won’t find any street spot along this section of Pacific Coast Highway.
FAQs About What to Do in Huntington Beach, California
How do you spend a day at Huntington Beach?
To spend a day at Huntington Beach and sample the high points, hit Huntington Beach Pier, Main St, and Huntington Dog Beach.
Is Huntington Beach known for anything special?
Huntington Beach, CA is known as Surf City, USA, earning this special designation for its thriving surf culture and desirable waves. Not to mention the annual surfing championships held near the Huntington Beach Pier.
Is it worth visiting Huntington Beach?
Huntington Beach, CA is well worth visiting! You’ll find dozens of fantastic things to do in Huntington Beach, including sandy beaches, excellent waves, and parties aplenty during Surf City Nights.
Which is better Huntington or Newport Beach?
Each OC beach town is uniquely charming, but Huntington is better for hanging on the shore while Newport Beach is better suited for heading out to sea, generally speaking. You’ll lots of water-friendly activities in Newport.
Dude, sweet! You’re on board with 19 of the best things to do in Huntington Beach, CA. I hope your next visit is totally rad. Keep in mind that L.A. is less than an hour north of Surf City, and we’ve got you covered with all the best Los Angeles places to stay during your visit!
Help us help you travel better!
Your feedback really helps ...
What did you like about this post? Or how can we improve it to help you travel better?