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Huntington Beach Is The Laidback Beachside City You’ve Been Looking For

Move over Malibu, because Huntington Beach is the coastal Californian getaway on everyone’s lips. Officially known as ‘Surf City USA’, this surf-centric city has everything you could ask for in a beachside getaway; all just 40 minutes drive from LAX (on a good traffic day).

From beach volleyball and surf lessons, to the hunting for the perfect baja fish taco, here’s everything you need to put on the list for when you hit Huntington Beach.

What to do in Huntington Beach

 

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You can’t go to ‘Surf City USA’, and completely ignore the surf. No need to stress if you’re a total kook though, because the experts at Toes on the Nose will have you riding a wave in no time. Tucked away on the Hyatt Regency property along the Pacific Coast Highway, this surf shop offers more than just cute bikinis to get you beach ready. They hire out boards and wetsuits, and take group or private surf lessons for anyone who needs guidance.

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If you’d prefer to get involved with the surf culture without getting sandy, head to the International Surfing Museum. It’s a little museum, marked by a huge surf board outside (we’re talking a 13m-long kind of huge). Inside, there’s all sorts of surf memorabilia, including a short documentary about the surfing Guinness World Records set in Huntington Beach.

On your way there, stop by the surfing walk of fame at 101 Main St. Our very own Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore have been immortalised beside other greats, like Kelly Slater and Andy Irons.

 

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Surfing isn’t the only sport you’ll find people getting involved with along the Huntington Beach beachfront. There are bikeriders cruising up the coast (check out Wheel Fun Rentals to hire your own bike), and umpteen games of beach volleyball going on at any given time. The nets down by the pier are free to use, just BYO ball, or hire one from one of the stores along the beachfront.

Post game, pull up around one of the 530 concrete bonfire rings on the beach. They’re the perfect spot to get to making some gooey, melty s’mores. DIY the bonfire and s’more ingredients, or leave it up to the experts at Waterfront Adventures to do all the hard work for you. They’ll set up your bonfire, tend to it for the night, and provide everything you need for the perfect s’mores.

Where to eat

 

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Everywhere in California is going to try and tell you they do the best baja fish tacos, but we’d put our bets on Ola Mexican Kitchen actually taking out that title. The tacos here are good. Real good. Wash down a baja fish, lobster, or asparagus and shitake taco, with a spicy “el dragón” cocktail (it’s watermelon, jalapeño, and tequila), and catch a stunning Californian sunset over Huntington Beach.

Budget-conscious travellers need to make a beeline for Duke’s during their “aloha hour”. The name is a bit misleading (aloha hour goes for 2+ hours each day), but absolutely no one is complaining. During the aloha hour(s), you can get select wines for US$7 (AU$10.25) select beers for US$5, and US$4 off all local favourite dishes (baja fish tacos included).

While you’re there, grab some mates and give the hula pie a fair crack. It’s a huge serve of moreish macadamia ice cream, on a chocolate cookie base, with cream, chocolate sauce, and extra macadamias. Holy heavenly dessert!

It’d be rude to not explore the world of agave while in California, and Pacific Hideaway is the place to do it. If you want to know the difference between tequilas and mezcals, blanco, reposado, and añejo, they’ll walk you through it. Before you get stuck into it, line your stomach with something from their Southeast Asian, Pacific Island, and Latin and South American inspired menu.

Did you even go to the States if you didn’t sink your teeth into at least one diner meal? Before you leave Huntington Beach, it’s essential you have a “Mamas on 39” experience. The menu here is as big as the portion sizes, and damn, it’s the stuff of all American diner dreams. Where else in the world can you order loaded tater tots, piled with bacon and 2 types of cheese, a battered, deep fried steak, and a boozey, salted caramel milkshake for breakfast?

Where to stay

 

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The most important thing to remember when looking at accommodation in Huntington Beach, is that the hotels are super dog friendly. We’re talking more than just having a water bowl and somewhere to tie up your floofer. Hotels here welcome pups in room, and some even have dedicated playgrounds for your four-legged friend. If you want to see one of the playgrounds in action, hit up the Pasea Hotel.

As well as having the cutest doggy playground ever, this hotel has a prime spot on the Pacific Coast Highway. That means there’s ocean views from most of the rooms, and, if you’re lucky, ocean views from your bed. Crack the complimentary bottle of wine in your fridge, and soak it all in while you can.

For more perfect doggo spotting accommodation, head a little closer to the pier and check into the Kimpton Shorebreak. It’s a super crisp, surf inspired hotel, with bonus amenities like a surf photography gallery, and a hotel gym to rival all gyms (it has a climbing wall!). With it’s pro-dog approach to accommodation, there’s generally always some sort of floof wandering through the lobby for you to sneak a pat.

The writer travelled at the expense of Visit Huntington Beach.

(Image: SvetlanaSF / Shutterstock)