Huntington Beach California Vacation Guide

Things To Do And See in Huntington Beach

This guide to Huntington Beach California is filled with information on where to stay and what to do while visiting.

There is seemingly endless sand to lay or play on and great waves to surf or body surf in (which are bigger in winter). There is over 8 miles of uninterrupted beachfront with a two lane trail on which to walk, jog, skate or bike.  Beach volleyball is popular, while others like to walk out on the pier.

The 2 main beaches:  Huntington State Beach stretches for about 2 miles of this coast, and comes complete with lifeguard stands, restrooms, showers, bike and beach rentals, snack shacks and fire pits.

Huntington City Beach is similar, but smaller, and includes the Huntington Beach Pier where people fish, roller blade and people watch. The pier is also host to a variety of events such as a farmer’s market, art festival and even an annual rubber duck race. The city beach is also where the international surfing championships are usually held.

Surfing In Huntington Beach

The big surf competitions are generally held near the pier. You can rent surfboards and bodyboards at Zack’s Beach Concessions, which is located near the pier. You can also rent wetsuits. If you want a surfing lesson, they can hook you up with that as well.

Speaking of surf lessons, many Southern California beaches offer summer surfing camps for kids.

International Surfing Museum

Just off the pier on Main Street is a couple of blocks of surf shops, cafes and eateries. Around the corner at 411 Olive Street is the International Surfing Museum in a very cool looking Art Deco building.

The museum is small (2000 sq. ft.), but sweet, with an in depth look at the history and culture of surfing, not only in Huntington Beach, but around the world. There is a collection of unique surfboards, contest posters and surfing memorabilia of all kinds. They charge a mere $2 to get in and browse around.

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

North of downtown, across from Bolsa Chica State Beach is the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve where you can take a stroll out on trails through the wetlands and do some bird watching.

The reserve is not within the State Beach, but is worth mentioning because if you are camping at Bolsa Chica (or staying anywhere else for that matter), it is another thing to do besides hang out at the beach, especially if you enjoy wetlands nature and birdwatching.

There’s a small parking lot off of Pacific Coast Highway that is free, but for visitors of the reserve only.

A footbridge takes you across the water inlet, and trails circle the wetlands. All sorts of birds love this place, and each season brings a different assortment.

There’s an Interpretive Center at 3842 Warner Ave. to the north. The Bolsa Chica Land Trust (714-860-1001) and the Amigos de Bolsa Chica (714-840-1575) both offer free monthly tours with trained guides who tell you all about the history, the birds and the ecology of the area.

Where To Stay In Huntington Beach California

Accommodation options include hotels, motels, a hostel, beach house rentals, and two waterfront resorts. For camping in Huntington Beach, there are 3 campgrounds for RVs only. One is at Huntington State Beach, another is at a private campground across the highway and the third is at Bolsa Chica State Beach, just to the north.

For hotel accommodations, there are many, but the Hilton Huntington Beach resort is right across from the beach.

Huntington Beach Camping Options

The RV campgrounds where you can enjoy Huntington Beach camping include Sunset Vista RV Park, Huntington By The Sea RV Resort and Bolsa Chica State Beach. There really isn’t any place for tent camping in Huntington Beach. The closest place would be at Newport Dunes in Newport Beach.  But if you are spending your vacation in Huntington Beach, you will want to see these local campgrounds.

Sunset Vista RV Park

Located south of the pier on Pacific Coast Highway, between First Street and Beach Boulevard. It’s a prime location, right near the pier, restaurants and all the old town shops. This popular campground isn’t open in summer, it’s only open October through May. Amenities include electrical and water hookups, dump station, outdoor showers, fire rings and restrooms. There phone number is 714-969-5621.

Huntington By The Sea RV Resort

This is a mobile home park as well as an RV park.   They allow short visits as well as long term stays. Rates depend on the size of your RV, and whether you are paying by the day, week or month. They also offer AAA discounts.

Unlike the other two Huntington beach camping spots, this campground is across Pacific Coast Highway, so you must cross over (or drive) to get to the sand.

Located on Newland Street, half a mile south of where Beach Blvd. meets Pacific Coast Highway. Call 714-536-8316.

Bolsa Chica State Beach Campground

Bolsa Chica State Beach is about seven miles further up the coast from the Huntington City Beach and offers beachfront camping.  There is no tent camping here, and the RVs must be fully self contained.

The three mile long beach has a bike trail which extends further up and down the coast. Campers can enjoy surfing, swimming and fishing. Also, bird lovers will enjoy hiking the trails over on the other side of the highway. This natural wetlands area is a great place to go for a walk or bird watching.

There is lots and lots of sand at Bolsa Chica and it’s not nearly as crowded as Huntington State Beach can get, so it’s very peaceful.

The Bolsa Chica State Beach campground is at 17851 Pacific Coast Highway, 1 1/2 miles south of Warner Ave. in Huntington Beach. Call 714-846-3460.

Huntington Dog Beach

Love Los Angeles, love the beaches, but wish you could take your dog off leash to run like a nutjob in the surf? Me, too. The beaches in Los Angeles don’t allow dogs to run amok for several good reasons (less mayhem and less poop come to mind) but dog owners appreciate the unbridled joy on their pups’ faces when running around off leash in the waves and sand. Huntington Dog Beach is an hour or less away, making it a perfect Los Angeles day trip for those of us with a yen to treat our dogs to a grand day at the beach.

The Huntington Dog Beach is, obviously, in Huntington Beach. It’s right off the Pacific Coast Highway between Seapoint Ave and 21st Street, less than a mile north of the main “Surf City” part of Huntington Beach. You don’t need a dog to play around or soak up the sun at Huntington Dog Beach, but be warned; the place is very, very dog friendly, and they are everywhere. Some people keep their more nervous or agitated dogs on leashes, while non-stressed-out dogs do tend to joyously frolic. It’s so much fun to see the dogs playing with each other, leaping into the ocean, chasing sticks, etc. The dog beach is open every day of the year, from 5:00AM to 10:00PM (and the parking lots close at 10:00PM too).

There are some rules at Huntington Dog Beach. Complying with them ensures that the positive canine and human energy will continue.

  1. Maintain control of your dog at all times.
  2. Pick up after your dog and throw away the bags. There are trash cans for this purpose on the beach.
  3. City ordinance 13.08.070 actually states that dogs must remain on their leashes. However, only the owners of potentially dangerous dogs have been cited or made to leave the beach — if your dog is getting stressed out, use your common sense and get the leash back on.
  4. If your dog is new to Huntington Dog Beach, take it slow. Don’t remove the leash until you’re sure your dog will be friendly with other dogs and human beach-goers.
  5. If your dog has a history of aggression towards other dogs or people, again use common sense. Huntington Dog Beach is not the right place for your dog.

Now, I really like that there aren’t that many beaches around that allow dogs to run around off leash. I’ve seen fights break out between dogs on the beach on the east coast a few times, and it’s scary. Because the off-leash dog beaches in Southern California are few and far between, dog owners seem to respect the rules more and be practical about their dogs. The matter of cleaning up after dogs is also followed, thank goodness. The city maintains cleanup of Huntington Dog Beach, and it’s clean and safe. While there may occasionally be someone who doesn’t respect the rules of the beach, those guys are few and far between. Almost everyone there loves dogs, and most of the dogs and people at Huntington Dog Beach have a terrific time.

Annual Events

In February is the Huntington Beach Kite Party, a festival for kite lovers. It’s a casual event, where people bring all kinds of unusual kites and fly them just to the north side of the pier. Expert kite flyers and a kite team do demonstrations to music.

Getting There

Huntington Beach California is located in Orange County, south of Long Beach and north of Newport Beach. The most convenient airport to arrive by is John Wayne-Orange County Airport in Santa Ana, but LAX and Long Beach Airport are other possibilities.

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