17 Exciting Things to Do in Huntington Beach CA

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When you think of Huntington Beach in California, your mind instantly conjures up images of surfer dudes riding epic waves no matter what the weather or time of year.

In fact, Huntington Beach is nicknamed Surf City, because of the surfing culture that has made the city so famous.

looking at Huntington beach from the water with people on the sand and colorful buildings

But there are more things to do in Huntington Beach CA besides surfing. With its beachy community and laid-back California vibe, you’ll find there are plenty of attractions in Huntington Beach that offer a quiet escape to nature or allow you to simply take in the sophistication and culture of the area.

Huntington Beach is our favorite beach in California and one of our favorites in the USA. We often recommend visitors skip Santa Monica and Venice and go here instead.

HB has the perfect beach lifestyle vibe for us Aussies – not too pretentious, or busy. It’s laid back with a touch of sophistication and has the surf and the beach as the focus of life!

It’s also one of the cleanest in California one of the best Southern California beaches for surfing.

If you’re thinking of adding Huntington Beach to your Southern California trip but you’re not sure what to do, then consider adding the following attractions to your itinerary.

Things to Do in Huntington Beach, CA

1. Hit the Surf at Huntington Beach

aerial view of Huntington Beach Pier.

Huntington Beach is most famous for its perfect waves, year-round sunshine and warm weather, making it a top destination for surfers looking to ride some of the best surf in the country. It’s also the place where the annual ISA World Surfing Games take place each August.

While Huntington Beach attracts hardcore surfer enthusiasts, the waves vary in intensity and size, so you’ll find there are spots suitable for any skill level. 

Beginners should stick to the shore break, whereas more experienced surfers tend to enjoy the bigger waves near South Side or North Side Huntington Beach Pier.

Even if you don’t want to surf, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes along the long stretches of sand where you can sit and watch some of the most skilled professionals do their thing. 

2. Wander the Huntington Beach Pier

girl posing on camera on Huntington Beach Pier

Perhaps the most iconic landmark in Huntington Beach is the Huntington Beach Pier. 

The pier stretches 1,850 feet out into the Pacific Ocean, making it the longest public pier on the West Coast. 

At the very end of the pier, you can take in breathtaking views of the ocean and at the right season, even see some migrating whales or seabirds off the shore. 

Not only is there stunning scenery to take in, but you can cast a line off the side and try your hand at fishing, or head over to the Bud & Genes cafe for some delicious fish and chips!

  • Hours: 24 hours
  • Address: Huntington Beach, CA 92648

3. Explore Huntington Harbor

boats in Huntington Harbor with snow capped mt baldy in the distance
My Baldy overlooks Huntington Habor

If you’re looking for things to do in Huntington Beach on the water, then you’ll find plenty of water-based activities to enjoy at Huntington Harbor. 

Nestled in a quiet area away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Huntington Beach, Huntington Harbour is a scenic and picturesque harbor where you can simply enjoy being on the water.

The harbor is filled with luxury yachts and massive sailing boats, but it’s also a place where you can rent a charter boat, an electric boat, or even a stand-up paddle board or kayak if you don’t feel like venturing too far from land.

If you feel adventurous, see if you can paddle out to one of the five man-made islands which have more than 500 beachfront homes owned by the rich and famous.

If you’re looking for a great escape from city life then Huntington Harbor should be your go-to place.

4. Check Out The International Surfing Museum & Surfers Walk of Fame

girl looking at surfboards at the Surfing museum in Huntington Beach

Of course, with all the surfing culture in the area, it would be a shame to not learn all about it at the International Surfing Museum.

Located in downtown Huntington Beach, the International Surfing Museum is a world-class museum dedicated to everything surfing.

The museum was founded by Natalie Kotsch, who has never surfed in her life. Natalie recognized the importance surfing has to the local residents and so she started curating a collection of surfboards and surf memorabilia, to create the museum you see today.

Be sure to check out the Surfer’s Walk of Fame just a short walk down the road from the museum near Huntington Beach Pier, which features a memorial to some of the world’s best surfers in the sidewalk.

  • Hours: 11.00am – 5.00pm Thursday – Sunday
  • Address: 411 Olive Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

5. Go on a Whale Watching Cruise

humpback whale

Huntington Beach, and nearby Newport Beach, are blessed to have whale visitors in their warm waters all year round.

From the giant blue whale visiting in the summer and fall, to finback whales and grey whales in the winter and spring, no matter what time of year you visit, you’re likely to spot some of these magnificent sea giants.

Minke whales, humpback whales, seals and many species of dolphin, also like to play in the warm Cali waters throughout the year.

Head over to nearby Newport Beach Harbor to find boat cruises setting sail daily to some of these mammals favorite haunts.

6. Shop and Eat at Pacific City

Pacific City, Huntington Beach, California
Pacific City Shopping

Pacific City is a modern retail, entertainment and dining space overlooking Huntington beach.

And Pacific City was the original name of the early oceanfront village that we now know as Huntington Beach.

It was named in honor of that village to once again bring to life a vibrantly rich place that celebrated the unique and natural beauty surrounding it.

It’s a beautiful space and definitely has a vibrant and celebratory style while keeping in tune with the natural beauty of Huntington.

You get outdoor lounges, fire pits and Huntington Beach views from every plaza, patio and deck.

Pacific City, Huntington Beach, California
Shopping with views

It’s a real gathering place of visitors and locals and I can see why.

Pacific City, Huntington Beach, California

Lot 579 is a modern food hall featuring burgers, and beer, coffee and our favorite the Pie Not, An Aussie bakery filled with meat pies, sausage rolls and lamingtons.

7. End the Day with Sunset and Beach Bonfires

sunset over Huntington beach pier

Can you finish a Southern California day in any other better way than watching the sun set from the beach? In Huntington, beach sunsets are just as spectacular as anywhere else on the California coastline.

But one of the best things to do in Huntington Beach that makes them unique is their traditional beach bonfires.

More than 500 free Huntington beach fire pits are available at three Surf City USA beaches: Huntington City Beach, Huntington State Beach, and Bolsa Chica State Park.

It’s first come-first served. Be sure to grab firewood and s’more ingredients on your way there!

8. Cruise along the Huntington Beach Path

People walking along the Ocean Strand Huntington Beach

Choose your mode of transportation: bike, feet, or skateboard/ roller blade wheels, and burn off some of those vacation calories with the fresh salty breeze on the Huntington Beach Bike Trail, also known as the Ocean Strand.

It runs for 10 miles along the Huntington Beach coastline in between Bolsa Chica State Beach in the north, and past Huntington State Beach in the south.

Go as far as you like. We used to to move between different locations along the strand. Beautiful views the entire way!

The path has beach concessionaires lined up the path offering bike and beach rental, there is an all-inclusive playground, and food and cafes are always close by across the Pacific Highway!

This ADA-accessible paved beach path was voted one of the top 10 coastal trails in the United States by Coastal Living Magazine.

I mean have you really been to California if you have not cruised by on a beach path!

9. Make your own Pair of Havianas

making havianas inside store

Here is a unique thing to do in Huntington Beach – make your own pair of Havianas. This much-loved dress requirement of surfers and beach lovers may have started in Brazil, but its first US store stared in downtown Huntington.

Not only is it a bright and fun store with flip flop inspired stools, chandelier also made from mini sandals, and Havianas in every shade of color and style adorning the walls, but you can make your custom designed pair.

Step up to the permanent customization station, choose a strap and contrasting foot bed, and decorate it with a Swarovski crystal charm before clamping it in to place with the machine!

Now you have a souvenir that serves a purpose and tells a unique story!

10. Take The Kids to Bolsa Chica State Beach

Great blue heron (Ardea herodias) in flight with its wings spread, is a large wading bird in the heron family. Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve
Great blue heron in flight with in the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve,

Spending the day on Bolsa Chica State Beach is one of the top things to do in Huntington Beach with kids since it offers miles of beautiful coastline with wide beaches and plenty of open space to relax in.

The beach gradually slopes into clean and clear water, making it ideal for young kids to go swimming. There are also fire pits where you can light a bonfire in the evening, and well-maintained toilets and showers.

If you want to do something more active, you can rent bikes and cycle along the boardwalk or head to the other side of the highway to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and meander through the wetlands where you may find some bird watching opportunities.

On a calm day, you may even spot some dolphins from the shore!

11. Take in The Sites of Huntington Central Park

Huntington Central Park is an amazing place to get out and enjoy nature. Located in the heart of the city, the park has plenty of attractions and things to do to keep you busy all day.

You can head out on the lake with paddle boats, take the kids to several playgrounds with jungle gyms, and sports grounds with tennis courts, basketball courts, and places to throw a frisbee.

If you’re looking for free things to do in Huntington Beach, then put on your best walking shoes and walk along the walking trails that wind through the park’s lush green lawns, forests and flowering plants. 

Head over to The Huntington Central Library which has a beautiful botanical garden outside or walk around the 18-acres of the Shipley Nature Center which features native plants and animals – all completely free.

With something for everyone to enjoy, Huntington Central Park is the ideal spot to spend quality time with friends or family, or just relax and take in the beautiful SoCal weather. 

  • Hours: 5.00am – 10.00pm daily
  • Address: 18381 Goldenwest St, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

12. Shop Til You Drop at Bella Terra

For shopping enthusiasts, you’ll find some great places to shop in Huntington Beach. One of the best places to shop (that isn’t going to break the bank) is Bella Terra.

The Bella Terra shopping mall not only has several stores from named High Street brands, selling everything from clothing to books to homewares, but it’s also a place to find excellent entertainment on the weekends.

Head over on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday evening to catch some live music on the lawn, or take the kids during the daytime for the Maker Market. It’s definitely worth checking out the ‘what’s on calendar’ to see what’s happening at the Bella Terra during your visit.

  • Hours: 10.00am – 9.00pm Monday – Saturday, 11.00am – 6.00pm Sunday
  • Address: 7777 Edinger Ave, Huntington Beach, CA 92647

13. Step Back In Time at Newland House Museum

For history buffs looking for more educational things to do in Huntington Beach, a trip to the Newland House Museum is a must.

Newland House Museum is a historic farmhouse that was built in 1898, making it one of the oldest structures in the city. 

It once belonged to local community leaders William and Mary Newland and their 10 kids and has been lovingly preserved to look like the home as it was once lived in by the Newlands.

It’s unique architectural style resembles a midwestern take on a  a Queen Anne architectural style, with the most interesting architectural component being the octagonal turret which was Mr. Newland’s office.

Inside, visitors are taken on a journey through history with displays, artworks and antique furnishings that bring the past to life. 

The museum has a suggested donation of $2 to visit, which makes it one of the best cheap things to do in Huntington Beach.

  • Hours: 12.00pm – 4.00pm on the 1st and 3rd Saturday and Sunday of the month
  • Address: 19820 Beach Blvd, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

14. Enjoy Oktoberfest at Old World Village

If you happen to be visiting Huntington Beach in fall, then you must make sure to check out the Oktoberfest celebrations at Old World Village.

Old World Village is a Bavarian village turned into a restaurant that offers German and European cuisine. There is some form of live music or entertainment every weekend, so even if you do miss the Oktoberfest dates, you’ll want to head here on the weekends.

Old World Village is the official home of Oktoberfest celebrations in Orange County and so you can be sure the experience will be nothing short of exceptional. 

  • Hours: 9.00am – 6.00pm Monday and Tuesday, 9.00am – 8.00pm Wednesday – Sunday
  • Address: 7561 Center Ave #50, Huntington Beach, CA 92647

15. Learn About Local Whiskeys at Bonetree Distillery

If you’re looking for more unique things to do in Huntington Beach, then a trip to the Bonetree Distillery to sample some locally made whiskeys is one of the most special activities you can do.

Bonetree Distillery was founded in 2017 and moved to Huntington Beach in 2019, and is dedicated to producing some of Cali’s top-class whiskies. 

When visiting Bonetree, you can learn all about the process of the artistry, from how whiskey is made to the different flavors and types.

You don’t need to book for tasting experiences but since it’s a popular activity, it’s a good idea to make a reservation to avoid disappointment. 

  • Hours: 1.00pm – 8.00pm Saturday, 1.00pm – 6.00pm Sunday
  • Address: 15557 Graham St, Huntington Beach, CA 92649

16. Admire Local Art at Huntington Beach Art Center

Art lovers will enjoy spending time at the Huntington Beach Art Center which has been open as a community art center since the mid-90s, and represents local artists creating masterpieces in all forms.

It has exhibitions of paintings, photography and video screenings, and often has lectures and educational programs.

HBAC is where local artists can share their talent with the world. Who knows, you may even find a new favorite artist!

  • Hours: 12.00 – 6.00pm Tuesday and Wednesday, 12.00 – 8.00pm Thursday, 12.00 – 5.00pm Friday and Saturday, Closed Sunday and Monday.
  • Address: 538 Main St #98, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

17. Learn About Exotic Reptiles at The Reptile Zoo

people holding a baby crocodile
This was actually in Australia, but still a reptile handling!

If you’re visiting Huntington Beach with kids, then they may enjoy a trip to the Reptile Zoo. 

The zoo provides an educational space for families to learn about reptiles, arachnids and amphibians from around the world.

If you’re brave enough, the zoo’s handlers may even let you hold one of their animals, teaching you the proper handling techniques, as well as interesting facts about each animal.

  • Hours: 10.00am – 7.00pm daily
  • Address: 18818 Brookhurst St, Fountain Valley, CA 92708

STAY: Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel

View of Huntington Beach from the Kimpton Shorebreak Resort, Huntington Beach
Look at that view!

The Kimpton is one of the best beach hotels in Southern California. You’ll want a bit of time to enjoy this hotel when you check in. A room with an ocean view is a magic way to start the day.

The hotel is just steps away from the Pacific Ocean and offers lively entertainment and nightlife options for those wanting to stay near Huntington Beach.

family sitting at table eating
What a pretty breakfast setting

Pacific Hideaway is its fantastic onsite restaurant that serves Latin American and Asian cuisine and delciious healthy breakfasts. Locals often come here to eat as well.

the Kimpton also has a fitness center, climbing wall for the kids, and yoga studio, and is pet friendly!

people sitting on chairs in kimpton courtyard

Outside, you can relax around one of the fire pits and sip cocktails from the on-site bar. They even arrange bike rentals so you can explore the area. What more could you want from a place to stay?

Click to Book your Stay at the Kimpton

Tours of Huntington Beach

Need inspiration for tours to take? Here are some of the best tours of Huntington Beach.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Huntington Beach CA

life station on huntington beach

Huntington Beach is an amazing place to visit with miles of pristine beaches and a lively downtown area with restaurants and shops, as well as plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy.

Whether you enjoy surfing, swimming, or simply walking in nature, there’s something for everyone in Huntington Beach. 

We hope this guide helped you to plan your visit to Huntington Beach and offered some suggestions for what to do. 

No matter what you plan to do, we’re sure you’ll have an unforgettable time here!

More Ideas for Orange County + SoCol

silhouette of girl at sunset on Huntington beach near volleyball courts

Huntington Beach’s location makes it an ideal place to stay when exploring Orange County and even most of Southern California.

It’s 35 minutes to Anaheim, an hour to Hollywood and 90 minutes to San Diego.

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