15 Best Things to do in Huntington Beach 2024

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If you’re looking for the best things to do in Huntington Beach, California, you may be surprised at your choices. Many people refer to Huntington Beach, California, as Surf City USA, but the destination is much more than catching waves.

Whether you’re looking for nature or adventure, Huntington Beach activities are suitable for people of all ages and travel styles. From shopping to adventure and the beach, you might be surprised at how many fun things Huntington Beach offers. 

How to get to Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach is located about 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles and 95 miles northwest of San Diego. When there’s no traffic, the drive from Los Angeles is only 40 minutes, but since there’s always traffic, the drive is closer to 60 – 80 minutes. Most people rent a car to get to Huntington Beach, as there’s no easy way to get there via public transit. A taxi or Uber from LAX will easily cost you US$150+.

The closest airport to Huntington Beach

John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana is just a 20-minute drive from Huntington Beach. Since you won’t be coming from Los Angeles, there’s often no traffic. In addition, the car rental companies are located within the airport (at LAX, they’re offsite). Many U.S. budget airlines fly to John Wayne Airport. Canadians that live in Vancouver or Calgary have direct flights to John Wayne Airport, the closest airport to Huntington Beach.

For reference, flying into John Wayne is usually cheaper than flying to LAX. If you’re flying within the U.S., you can expect to pay less than US$300 for a round-trip flight to John Wayne Airport. However, if you’re flying from Canada, that flight will likely cost you in the CA$500 (US$370) range.

Things to do in Huntington Beach

How long to stay in Huntington Beach, California

Deciding how long to stay in Huntington Beach, California, is a personal decision. If you’re there to check out the local attractions, you likely only need two nights. That said, if you plan on using Huntington Beach as a base to explore Southern California or even L.A., you could easily spend five nights or more.

The best time to go to Huntington Beach

September through November is the best time to go to Huntington Beach as the weather is still warm, and the crowds will be significantly less than the summer months. May and June can also be good months to visit. You might need a light jacket, but the weather will still be nice. Keep in mind that many of the best activities in Huntington Beach are festivals and events that happen throughout the year. In other words, if there’s a specific event you want to attend, then you won’t have a choice about your dates.

Huntington beach hotels

Many people are surprised to learn that Huntington Beach only has four properties downtown by the water:

None of the hotels have direct beach access, as Huntington Beach is completely open to the public. That said, the hotels are across the street from the beach. In addition, each hotel has its own pool. Some of the hotels, such as the Hilton and Hyatt, even have waterslides. Weekend rates for these hotels during the popular months can easily range from US$400 – $600 a night.

There are cheaper hotel options if you stay further north on the Pacific Coast Highway. In addition, going inland can save you a lot. The SpringHill Suites by Marriott Huntington Beach Orange County offers good value. You could also consider staying in Irvine, where there are even more budget-friendly hotels.

The best things to do in Huntington Beach

Deciding on the best things to do in Huntington Beach will depend on your travel style and the group you’re travelling with. Those travelling with kids might seek out family-friendly activities, while solo travellers may be looking for more adventure. What’s excellent about Huntington Beach is that there are so many activities to choose from that you’ll never get bored.

Fun things to do in Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach Pier

Originally built in 1904, the Huntington Beach Pier is easily the most photographed location in the city. Admittedly, you won’t spend much time here, but it’s a great spot to enjoy the views and watch people surf. If you’re up early, this is a great place to listen to the crashing waves. Alternatively, there’s no better spot to catch the sunset. It’s impossible to miss the pier as it’s located at the base of Main Street and the Pacific Coast Highway.

Unique things to do in Huntington Beach: Rent a boat

Renting a boat is one of the Unique things to do in Huntington Beach. It’s unique because Huntington Harbour Boat Rentals has duffy boats. Coming in 8, 12, and 16-passenger configurations, duffy boats are electric and can be operated by anyone with a driver’s licence. These boats are meant to be operated within the marina / inner harbour, so you don’t need to worry about ever being out on the open water. Rentals start at US$200 for 2-3 hours. You’re also provided with a cooler and Bluetooth speaker.

Surf City USA

Learn to surf

One of the best fun things to do in Huntington Beach is to learn to surf. They do call Huntington Beach Surf City USA, after all. There are various surf schools available, including Corky Carroll’s Surf School, HB Surf School, and Little Surf Co. Each surf school offers various lessons that are suitable for people of all levels. You can dip your toes into surfing by taking a lesson that lasts a few hours, or you could sign up for a multi-day experience. All the surf schools include equipment, so all you need to do is show up.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

One of the more interesting Huntington Beach activities is a trip to the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. The reserve is a nice break from the beach as it gets fewer visitors. With 1,300 acres of wetlands and five miles of trails, visitors will have much to explore. One of the best things to do here is birdwatching. Since the reserve is the largest saltwater marsh along the coast of California, many birds use the area as a stopover when they’re migrating. There’s also a small visitor centre on-site where you can learn more about the wetlands. Free parking is available.

Bike rentals in Huntington Beach

Rent a bike

If you prefer to stay dry, one of the best Huntington Beach activities is to rent a bike. A regular bike costs about US$25 for half a day (4 hours), or you can get an e-bike for about ($99 for 4 hours). What makes a bike ride appealing is that Huntington Beach has many trails nearby. If you head south, you’ can’ll end up in Newport Beach. However, if you head north, it’s a more scenic ride. You can even head north along the Santa Ana River Trail junction. If you prefer things at a slower pace, you can rent a bike that seats five or six. Some popular bike rental stores include EV Rideables and Ray’s Rentals.

Fun things to do in Huntington Beach: Take your dog to the beach

Those travelling with their four-legged friends should head to Huntington Dog Beach. This is one of the most dog-friendly beaches in southern California. It’s located north of downtown, between Seapoint Avenue and 21st Street, so you’ll see fewer crowds. This is perfect for your furry friends as they can run off-leash. It’s also worth mentioning that there are even dog-themed events, such as the SoCal Corgi Beach Day, sometimes referred to as Corgichella

Things to do near Huntington Beach: Theme parks

Things to do near Huntington Beach: Theme parks

For those looking for things to do near Huntington Beach, theme parks should be at the top of your list. Disney is just a 30-minute drive away in Anaheim and features two theme parks: Disneyland and California Adventure Park. You can try out some of the most recognized rides, such as Space Mountain, Star Wars Smuggler’s Run, Radiator Springs Racers, and the Grizzly River Run. If you prefer a theme park with fewer crowds, consider heading to Knott’s Berry Farm. Located in Buena Park, this theme park has more roller coasters than Disneyland and features many Snoopy-themed rides. 

Downtown Huntington Beach

Downtown Huntington Beach, California, only spans a few blocks, but this is the city’s entertainment hub. You’ll find plenty of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and stores here. Many restaurants have outdoor seating, so it’s a great place to people-watch while having a meal. Besides food and drinks, you’ll also find the Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum, which showcases everything you need to know about the sport.

unique things to do in Huntington beach

Get your yoga on

Instead of lounging the entire time you’re in the city, why not take a yoga class. There are some unique yoga opportunities, such as trampoline yoga, where you can strike a pose in the air. Yoga on the beach is also popular since it’s available daily at Tower 14. Regardless of your experience level, finding a yoga class that’s right for you won’t be hard.

Explore Europe at the Old World Village

Another one of the unique things to do in Huntington Beach is to check out the Old World Village. Located about a 20 minutes drive from the beach, The Old World Village is an outdoor shopping, entertainment, and dining complex. What makes it unique is that the buildings are built to look like Europe, specifically Austria and Germany. As you can imagine, you’ll find many European-themed events and restaurants, including a Biergarten, a German bakery and a creperie. 

Fun things to do in Huntington Beach, California

Get some shopping done

Shopping is one of the best things to do in Huntington Beach since everyone can use some retail therapy now and then. Huntington Beach doesn’t have a huge shopping mall, but Pacific City is a great place for shopping and dining. It’s located right beside downtown Huntington Beach and sits right on the Pacific Coast Highway. This outdoor mall has some of the most popular restaurants in the city, a food hall, a spa, and more. Alternatively, Beach Blvd. has many major stores and independent stores.

Visit one of the art galleries

The Huntington Beach Art Center is located downtown and allows local artists to show off their work. Admission is free, so a look inside is well worth it if you’re downtown. The Art Centre also hosts six exhibitions annually, allowing you to see works by different local artists. If you’re near Sunset Beach, you may want to check out the Anderson Art Gallery. Local artist Bill Anderson owns this tiny studio. He’s a former art teacher with a wealth of knowledge about all things art.

huntington beach activities farmers market

Check out the farmers’ market

From March to November, many farmers and artisans from around Southern California come to Huntington Beach and head to Main Street on Tuesdays from 5PM to 9PM to sell their local products. The market is also open from December through February but closes at 8PM. Local merchants also get involved during the market, so you’ll find things like fresh fruit, hand-cut flowers, baked goods and jewellery. You’ll also find live entertainment where you can dance the night away.

Take a walking tour

Huntington Beach has a surprising number of historical sites. The good news is that you can do a self-guided walking tour of the historic downtown in about 90 minutes. This will give you a nice understanding of Huntington Beach’s 100+ year history. Alternatively, to maximize your time, you could opt for the Sunset Beach walking tour. This tour will take you two to three hours, but you’ll learn about the prohibition era and the area’s history. Another tour worth considering is the Barrel Trail. If you purchase the Surf City USA Barrel Trail Passport, you’ll get to sample some of the city’s best breweries, distilleries, and wine bars.

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi

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