Editor’s note: This post is part 2 in a 3 part series that explores three distinct beach destinations in Southern California. be sure to see our earlier write up on Long Beach !
When you pull into Huntington Beach, you instantly feel the laid-back fun beach vibe. Cruising down the PCH, with panoramic views of the ocean, the long white sand beach and non-stop lifeguard towers, you instantly get that Huntington Beach is all about, togetherness surrounding their esteemed beach.
Dubbed “Surf City USA”, Huntington Beach is home to year-round 75 degree weather, professional surfers, skaters and people of all ages who are laid-back and appreciate the slower pace of life in this sun-drenched community. Huntington Beach sits in Orange County just above Newport Beach and is home to the U.S. Open of Surfing and the International Surfing Museum.
In case you’re not apt to being on a board, there’s still plenty to do. Huntington Beach residents love cycling on beach cruisers down the flat endless beach and volleyball is an ever-popular activity, with pick-up games happening all the time with players of all ages and skill levels.
Our Huntington Home Base
The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel hosted our overnight stay in Huntington Beach. Just 3 blocks south of downtown Huntington Beach (where Main St. meets PCH), the Waterfront Beach Resort (WBR) is situated with a front-row view of the Pacific Ocean, which is directly across the street.
One cool thing: every room at Waterfront Beach Resort has a view of the ocean. Unlike resorts in Hawaii where a mere glimpse of blue makes a room “ocean view”, there’s no fudging going on here.
The resort also has a wonderful pool with cabanas, pool toys for the kids and a stunning view of the beach and PCH. And for families who want to swim after dinner, the pool is open until 10:00 PM! Onsite dining is fully taken care of with the on-property restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Our room was very comfortable and featured all the expected amenities including in-room coffee, free WiFi for Hilton Honors members, a beautiful bathroom and in-room refrigerator which is perfect for left overs and early-morning yogurts for hungry little ones.
For a slightly different flavor, consider the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach next-door to the Waterfront Beach Resort. The Hyatt Regency is luxurious and anointed with beautiful Spanish architecture. This high-end beachfront report spans 3 blocks and features multiple outdoor pools, an adult-only spa area.
I was able to tour Pacific Waters Spa at the Hyatt Regency. This beautiful spa offers a Mediterranean experience in it’s 20,000 square foot facility. The spa features sea salt rubs, mud wraps, full massage and a salt-water hot tub. It’s the perfect escape for travel-worn individuals who need some ‘me’ time.
More fun at the waters’ edge!
During our on-site visit to the Hyatt Regency, my wife and I were able to spend a day playing at the Slyders Water Playground with our 3 little kids. Slyders is the perfect water park for little kids, with three water slides that drop you into 2 splash pools, they’re a ton of fun.
Our kids, aged 3 – 8, were new to waterslides. The three slides range in ‘scaryness’ from small to medium to large. The small slide is about 20 feet long and is pretty straight. The medium slide is probably 50 feet with two turns. My 5-year-old went down this slide with no trouble at all and was quickly wanting to go down the ‘big’ slide that was roughly 70 feet long and featured 3 turns.
If sliding isn’t your thing, there’s a ribbon shaped main swimming pool that has a depth of 4 feet, which is perfect for new swimmers. The family friendly water playground features a café with snacks and full bar for the adults.
I’d recommend renting a cabana at Slyders, as this unlocks a private area to rest in between swims with bottled water and much-needed shade if you happen to get too much sun.
If you want to have a fantastically amazing meal, you don’t even have to leave the property while at the Hyatt Regency. We walked over to Pete’s Sunset Grille and dined outside for a fun family lunch. I had the best fish tacos and my wife had grilled fish. Our kids had chicken strips and a hamburger. Pete’s dishes were freshly cooked and filled.
Dining at the Pier – Duke’s and Sandy’s
After more pool fun, we dined at Duke’s in Huntington Beach. With a prime spot right at the foot of the Huntington Beach Pier, Dukes offers steak, seafood and outstanding cocktails. The server knew how dining with family goes and brought the kids bread as a snack before the meal. The only thing better than my steak that night was the sunset which is easily viewable from almost every table in Dukes.
Dukes shares a building with Sandy’s, which prides itself on being California on a plate, with fresh seafood and California-grown produce and vegetables.
Where Duke’s has a familiar menu, Sandy’s feels more ‘local’ with craft beers from San Diego and beyond, wood-fired pizza and a more casual beachside feel. Sandy’s was our favorite meal in Huntington Beach because of the endless flavors and beach-front views where you could see cyclists and walkers by going up and down the beach.
Beach front fun
During our time in Huntington Beach, we participated in three activities that were so much fun! First off, on our second evening in Huntington Beach, we were lucky enough to experience a sunset beach bonfire. Over at Waterfront Adventures across from the Waterfront Beach Resort, they have beach fire pits set up.
The beauty of these bonfire packages is that you merely show up. The fire pit is already set up and upon your arrival, an attendant comes and greets you. A nearby table has the fixings for hot chocolate, coffee, soda and of course, s’mores! As the warm Pacific breeze blows, the fire is lit. You don’t have to lift a finger as the attendant checks in every 20 minutes or so to ensure you have enough wood on your fire and s’more supplies.
One tip: fires start at 8:00 PM and Huntington Beach city laws dictate that fires are to be out by 10:00 PM. Don’t be ‘casually late’ and show up at 8:00 in order to maximize your beach bonfire time.
The next day, before we left Huntington Beach, we were able to take part in the ultimate Southern California two-wheeled activity – cruising on beach cruiser bikes!
We were outfitted over at Toes On The Noes at the Hyatt Regency hotel. If you have little kids, you’ll be happy to know they have cruisers with child seats on the back. My 3-year-old and 5-year-old were each able to ride with my wife and myself on our bikes. Our 8-year-old rode a kid-sized cruiser.
Cycling is the ultimate way to see the 12 mile boardwalk that spans the beach. We rode under the pier, along the boardwalk and watched joggers, other cyclists and beach volleyball players.
Every ¼ mile along the Huntington Beach Boardwalk, there are vendors selling everything from ice cream to fish tacos to coffee. If you cruise the boardwalk, be sure to stop and talk to the shop owners. In addition to selling yummy items, they also have fun stories of Huntington over the years and personalities they’ve met.
Before leaving Huntington Beach, we meandered to Huntington Beach Harbor to visit our friends at Huntington Beach Harbor rentals. There, we were given an hour to cruise around the harbor in a small duffy boat, which is a small covered boat with an electric motor. It’s peaceful and fun to cruise around the harbor and see the huge yachts, fishing vessels and even stand up paddleboarders. The staff told us it’s possible to see dolphins in-harbor, but our search was fruitless.
Duffy boat cruising is a fun way to explore the water in a way you simply can’t from the shore. And, there’s no boating experience required ahead of time!
Have you been to Huntington Beach? What was your favorite activity?
Disclosure: Thank you to Visit Huntington Beach and their local hotel/attractions partners who graciously provided accommodation and activities assistance for this trip.
My opinions, however, can never be bought. 🙂