Huntington Beach made its name as the epicenter of Southern California surfing culture. But the classic beach town, known as Surf City USA, has more than just big waves. Its small-town feel is a welcome alternative to the hustle and bustle of nearby LA and the overly posh vibe of the rest of Orange County. The oceanfront spot, which lies along the famous Pacific Coast Highway, is a getaway with a laid-back luxury feel.
Where to go:
Spend the day lazing at the beach. Although the Pacific Ocean is on the colder side, a dip in the water feels refreshing, and the nearly 10-mile beach is well-maintained. Most hotels offer beach chairs and towels free of charge, and there’s even a “dog beach” to bring your pooch. Water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding abound. End the beach day by catching the sunset on Huntington Beach’s famous pier, one of the longest on the West Coast, or hanging out at a nighttime bonfire.
Explore Huntington Beach’s surf history at its International Surfing Museum (closed Mondays, $2; 411 Olive Ave., 714-300-8836, surfingmuseum.org) and Surfers’ Hall of Fame (300 Pacific Coast Hwy., 714-841-4000, hsssurf.com), both of which are located in the city’s thriving downtown, full of bars, restaurants and specialty boutiques.
What to eat:
The SeaLegs Wine Bar (21022 Beach Blvd., 714-536-5700, sealegswinebar.com) serves California-style cuisine like pan-seared local halibut topped with tomato jam ($28) and is home to a library of 4,000 wine bottles.
For brunch, check out Tanner’s (21080 Pacific Coast Hwy., 714-698-6130, tannershb.com), in the Pasea Hotel & Spa for bottomless mimosas for $20 with SoCal-influenced options like ahi poke tacos with avocado ($17). At night, the Treehouse Lounge upstairs is the spot for hand-crafted cocktails and DJs spinning top 40 favorites.
Another notable dinner spot is Ola Mexican Kitchen (21040 Pacific Coast Hwy., 714-969-7300, olamexicankitchen.com), in the Pacific City mall. The waterfront dining spot is well known for its tacos ($17 for three), with fillings like lobster and filet mignon.
Where to stay:
Huntington Beach’s newest addition, the Pasea Hotel & Spa (21080 Pacific Coast Hwy., 866-478-9702, meritagecollection.com/paseahotel) opened this summer with ocean views from almost every room. The space brings the coastal style indoors, using wood, stone and even carpet to mimic the sand and water just across the street.
The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa (21500 Pacific Coast Hwy., 714-698-1234, huntingtonbeach.regency.hyatt.com) is a stone’s throw from the water. Its Pacific Waters spa is considered one of the best spa resorts in Southern California.
The Kimpton Shorebreak Hotel (500 Pacific Coast Hwy., 877-212-8597, shorebreakhotel.com) is also located on the oceanfront. Its surfing-inspired decor reflects the area’s beach vibe, and the hotel’s amenities include free loaner bikes, a complimentary nightly “wine hour” and yoga mats in each room.